Graphic by Olivia Schanck

The Black Student Union is bringing back the Hair Care Fair on Feb. 25, 2023. As an African American student, I find this event extremely important for my physical and mental health. There is a feeling of much-needed rejuvenation whenever you get your hair done. A new style can make all the difference in confidence and self-expression. 

The Black Student Union is a social club at the University of Maine that organizes events meant to make Black people feel a little less alone. They hold weekly meetings and discuss current topics that plague the culture. It is a safe space where anyone is allowed to voice their opinions, and allows a chance for better understanding. Above anything, the club has a community feeling. It is Maine students supporting Black people, no matter the circumstance. 

With the lack of diversity on the Maine campus, it has been tough finding people who know how to deal with textured hair. My worst fear has been trusting a person who claims to know how to handle my coils, but is only looking for business. There has to be a level of trust between customer and hairdresser. The difficult part has been finding the right person, or any person at all in Maine, who can do my hair with conviction. Not only does the Hair Care Fair give African American students options for talented hair stylists, but it also gives hair stylists exposure for business. This fair becomes a networking event. 

To many Black people, their hair is like a crown. It is worn with pride. One of the tough things that come with attending a predominantly white institution (PWI) is that there are not many options for the people of color who live in the area. There are not many Black businesses or products for sale. It has become a trial finding the correct products that are healthy for textured hair. In addition, when walking through stores like Walmart or Target, it is always tricky to find the tiny aisle that reads “for textured hair.” Half of the time, they will not have what you came in looking for.

Every college student may face different challenges when trying to get their hair braided, straightened or cut. Some students may not have access to transportation. Others may be so caught up in school work that hair health could become less of a priority. Some students may want a new specific style, but cannot find anyone to reenact it. The students who have not had their hair done for months can finally take a breather, and the Hair Care Fair becomes a much-needed occasion. The best part is that the event is entirely free.

The Hair Care Fair only happens in the spring semester, but I believe that it should be something that also happens in the fall. Since Black students only make up around 2% of the Maine student body, I think a little more attention to that population would go a long way.

African American hair styling has a rich history in the United States. According to a Cornell study by Helen Bradley Griebel, it was expected that many Black female slaves cover their natural hair, preferably with head wraps, also known as “head rags” and “head handkerchiefs.” To many, the head wrap symbolized poverty and enslavement. In fact, in South Carolina, it was law in 1735 that Black women were not allowed to wear jewelry and that their hair must be bound in a kerchief. There has been this disregard for textured hair for centuries, and even today there is pushback for natural, protective styles. The CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act is a piece of legislation that prohibits discrimination of Black women in the workplace based upon hairstyle. According to SHRM.org, as of this month only 20 states have enacted the act. 

The Hair Care Fair celebrates the self-expression for African American hairstyles in a world that continues to push the narrative that there is no beauty in textured hair. According to Dove, 80% of Black women feel a need to change their natural hair to assimilate into social or work environments. Despite there still being a struggle of accepting Black hairstyles, the Black Student Union and the Hair Care Fair are pushing against the negative stigma and providing Black students an opportunity to have pride in their hair.