As the Bat-Signal calls the superhero batman into action likewise the Natural Hair Expo posting signaled women of color across UVM campus to action. On March 27th, 2017 the Davis Center instantly became the mecca of Burlington, drawing all who sought to improve and learn more about their Natural Hair Journey. But what is Natural Hair? And what is the phenomenon surrounding it? “The natural hair movement is a movement which encourages women of African descent to keep their natural afro-textured hair” (Wikipedia) . The natural hair movement believe it or not started in the late 1950’s. It was spawned by female artists, dancers, and college students who followed the civil rights movement. They believed that unstraightened hair expressed their feelings of racial pride. (Fashion History) However, this movement took a slow decline in the 1980’s and picked back up in the late 90’s, early 2000’s alongside the black counterculture movement which involved the rise of Neo Soul and R&B. Being that our school is in the 2nd whitest state in the country, it came as a surprise to many that the Natural Hair Expo was even happening at the University of Vermont. This couldn’t have happened however, without the Womyn of Color Coalition (WOCC), a club on campus that focuses on empowering, uniting, and encouraging those who identify as Women of color. What do groups like the WOCC and the Natural Hair Expo mean to W.O.C on campus?
First you must understand that Women of Color are double minorities, and in the case of transwomen of color, triple minorities. Throughout history women of color have been placed in an awkward space, trapped between enclosing walls labeled gender and race. W.O.C face oppressive institutions such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and trans-phobia. It is never just one or the other. The WOCC gives W.O.C an infinity space to speak on the oppressive systems that face us daily, such as sexism and racism just to name a few. But what does this have to do with the Natural Hair Expo? Just that! The Natural Hair Expo broke down many barriers that many Women of Color face daily. By bringing this event to a nearly all white campus, the Womyn of Color Coalition challenged European standards of beauty pertaining to skin color and hair types. This expo not only educated us on how to treat our hair, but it showed us that our hair is beautiful, that we are beautiful! And to end I leave you with a quote from Mikka Taylor, the country’s leading authority on beauty and style for women-of-color.
“When will our hair cease to be political? Every other group of women can do what they want with their hair, and it’s not seen as making a statement. We’re over that, and we wish everyone else would be over it, too.”