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Black Hair Expo increases cultural awareness

| Monday, February 11, 2019

On Sunday, a “Black Hair Expo,” co-sponsored by the Multicultural Student Programs and Services, the Gender Relations Center, the Office of Student Enrichment and the Department of Africana Studies, helped raise cultural awareness and address lack of hair resources for African American students at Notre Dame in the LaFortune Student Center Ballroom.

Paige Jackson, Black Hair Expo event organizer and assistant director of diversity education, outreach and assessment, said when she first began working at Notre Dame, one of her first questions was inquiring about where she could get her hair done.

“We have to be able to recognize that this particular group of students, they continue to be marginalized because they have to go off campus to receive the same services that the majority of the students can receive at the LaFortune hair salon and barber,” Jackson said.

Looking to address those needs, local barbers and beauticians came to the Black Hair Expo to show their work and give their vendor information to students. The event also featured a panel which discussed the cultural importance of African American hair, as well as hair products, raffle prizes and a performance.

One of the greatest burdens for African American students at Notre Dame seeking hair care is the added cost of transportation director of multicultural student programs and services Iris Outlaw said.

“We have heard often from students where they had pay for an Uber to get to a barbershop, pay for their haircuts and then pay for the ride back,” Outlaw said. “A cut that could normally be $15 could end up being $25 or $30 when you factor in that their white peers can just go downstairs in LaFortune.”

Senior Melody Wilson said she has faced these issues and said that she noticed attempts to increase accessibility to her necessary hair products.

“The Huddle has made efforts to get products that are better for my demographic, but also the products are in smaller sizes because the regular sizes are not available to them at a reasonable price,” Wilson said.

The Black Hair Expo addressed these resource gaps and as well as the social stigma surrounding black hair. The event catered to the needs of black students but was open to all students of all backgrounds in order to raise awareness of African American hair, Outlaw said.

“We’ve had students talk to us about people coming up and just touching their hair which is culturally inappropriate for anyone,” Outlaw said. “I think this event will help them understand that for African American men and women, hair is kind of our crown. You wouldn’t go and touch someone’s crown without permission.”

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