By 7:30 p.m. on Monday, April 24, there was already a line of people forming outside the Student Center Ballrooms for “Don’t Touch My Hair.” The event was hosted by NAACP and the Organization of Students for African Unity (OSAU), and sponsored by Miss Jessie’s, a natural hair care products company.
The purpose of the event was to unify people of color on campus and help them embrace their kinky and coily textured hair. The event also helped introduce that NAACP is back with a new E-board of students.
“It took me a while to figure out what products and styles work best for me, so now that I know, let me as a student leader encourage all of the students of color to be bold and not feel like they have to perm their hair or have to be anything other than unapologetically beautiful” said NAACP Vice President Yasmine Chisolm.
The event started with DJ Dean August playing music, while everyone got refreshments and browsed black-owned businesses that were selling merchandise there. There was sample of hair products for everyone to try as well.
Afterward, there was a spoken word performance, with a poet named Shelly Spinelli. The three poems were about empowering black women and embracing dark complexions.
Next, Rob Williams, a barber, came to talk and answer questions for the men of color who are natural. He also gave free haircuts to the students toward to the end of the event.
Later, a young woman named Ayana Gibbs shared her hair story with the audience. She mentioned how black women have an internalized idea that their hair is a problem because it does not fit the European standards of beauty. She expressed how she relaxed her hair and went through so much breakage with her hair, that she had to cut it all off and she had a “TWA” (Teeny Weeny Afro).
The experience was very different because, according to Gibbs, “you have nothing to hide behind once you do a big chop.” Gibbs was trying to prove a point that black women go through so much breakage with their hair just to feel accepted when their natural hair was never the problem. “Bad hair is untreated and unloved,” Gibbs said. “When we love ourselves, we will begin to love our hair the way it is as well.”
Deanna Townsend, a sophomore visual arts major and African-American studies minor, said Gibbs was her favorite speaker.
“What she had to say resonated with me so much,” Townsend said. “When she talked about self-love and her hair journey and how she tried to use her hair to fit in, only to realize that after causing so much damage to her hair that it wasn’t worth it to begin with, I felt like she was talking to me directly. She had my full attention.”
Overall, Townsend felt the event was very powerful.
“I am very proud of [NAACP’s] endeavors,” she said. “I know things were rough, but I’m glad they’re back and making big strides. They’re confident, amazing speakers and amazing leaders. Everyone does their job very well, from what I witnessed at the event. The event was phenomenal.”
Lastly, there was a discussion panel of students who were all-natural. They answered questions and gave advice on what oils and products to use. They also shared their natural-hair journeys, and gave advice on what they all did to help embrace their natural hair. Then, members of the two organizations helped pass out the free products for the people that attended the event.
OSAU is class I organization of the SGA. NAACP is class III, after just finishing the process of recharterment, re-establishing themselves as an active organization on campus.
“This was a great way to come back on campus and let everyone know that we are here and we are back,” said NAACP Vice President Yasmine Chisholm, a graduating senior studying jurisprudence major and African-American studies. “And we don’t want to just see you guys at our events, we want to see you guys at our meetings as well.”
The new NAACP E-board consists of Mechi A. Brown as the president and Integra Feliciano as vice president. Also, Isaiah K. Harvey as the secretary, and Adrienne as the continuing treasurer.