On a clear Friday evening, 30 young Black women and girls got together, not to support the hometown high school football team, or to go to a friend’s sleepover, but to attend one of the hottest parties in town at The Black Hair Experience in Atlanta. The attendees discussed their experiences with their hair both the good and the bad, to finally achieve self-acceptance. All while being chronicled by NBC’s Today Show!
Last month, Black Girls Smile held a workshop to openly address how our hair experiences have affected our self-esteem, relationships, and our ability to overcome and build community. Many wouldn’t believe how a conversation about hair could bring about such deep insights, but it does!
Our aesthetics is our first presentation to the world and how the world in turn makes assumptions about our character. Black women have cut, curled, teased, relaxed, dyed and in some cases fried their hair into submission to fit a standard of beauty that was never meant for them. Young Black women and girls have spent hours on a Saturday waiting to get their hair done, spent thousands of dollars on hair products that are now being identified as harmful to their health, all to be respected and accepted.
The workshop participants played games that provided insight about their own hair experiences and those of the women and girls around them. They were also able to tour the interactive museum that gave a historical context of the Black hair journey through the years. Dr. Ayanna Abrams led exercises that provided tools to assist with self-acceptance and worthiness. One of the big takeaways was that our unique hair journey has instilled a sense of community amongst us. No matter how old, the socioeconomic background or upbringing there was one shared experience—at some point the participants had been told that their hair was either bad or difficult which left emotional scars and wounds that in some still haven’t completely healed. But there is hope— the new generation of young Black women are challenging and embracing their own ideology of beauty that includes straight and natural hairstyles. They are more focused on what they believe is right for them than the acceptance of others. This shift has also spilled into legislation.
The Crown Act, a law that prohibits discrimination based on hair texture and hairstyle has been adopted in 19 states and continues to be the single-most legislation to stop punishment in schools and the workplace which more widely affects Black and Brown communities. Erin Goldson from Unilever educated the participants on the Crown Act and its significance to the global conversation about hair and the unjust disciplinary actions taken because of it.
The evening was filled with so many laughs and at times some tears, but for sure this was a memorable experience for all in attendance.
Watch the Today Show segment on how Black Girls Smile was able to build community by talking about hair here.
Want to continue the conversation, use the hashtag #MyCrownIsMyGlory and tell us your hair experience.
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