Sans curling irons and clippers, the Cape Florida Ballroom was abuzz with talk of hair Wednesday night, as students and hair professionals addressed misconceptions and stereotypes of hair in the black community.
The National Society of Black Engineers hosted the “Good Hair?” forum as part of Black History Month. The event started with a clip of Chris Rock’s comic documentary Good Hair, in which the comedian sets out to answer the question “What makes good hair?” The same question was on the minds of audience members Wednesday night.
“I think our hair is unique and I think it’s more than just what’s on our head,” said engineering major Martisa Washington as to why hair is such a concern in the black community. “We use it as an accessory, and we use it as a statement piece, so that’s why I think it’s so important in the black community.”
Even so, hair discrimination is something many black clients of Carol Hargrove, one of the forum panelists, experience in corporate America. Hargrove co-owns a salon in Oviedo with her husband.
“[A client] has literally cried in my chair about it, but it is a big concern,” Hargrove said. “We try to minimize it, but corporate America has made it a big deal.”
In fact, USA TodayCollege reported that in 2001, a leadership course at Hampton University banned natural hairstyles such as cornrows and dreadlocks because teachers said students who had those hairstyles couldn’t land a corporate job.
But Club Kreyol’s public relations coordinator Schaina Jean-Charles believes there is no such thing as bad hair — the only kind of bad hair is unhealthy hair, the business communications major said.
“I can’t control my hair being in a zig-zag pattern, but I can control my hair having split ends,” said Jean-Charles, who embraces her natural hair.
Students also discussed whether they would change their look in order to get a dream job.
A few of the nearly 70 people who attended said they would. Others said they felt as though they would be compromising themselves.
The declining sales of hair relaxers would suggest the same pattern.
According to Mentel, the world's leading market intelligence agency, the sale of hair relaxers, the product that takes out the natural texture in black hair, has declined 26 percent throughout the past five years as black men and women increasingly embrace their natural hair.
Ty Cocroft, a senior business major and vice president of the campus Men of Integrity club, appreciates a woman who can wear her hair how it is naturally, despite naysayers.
“I really love the natural hair look because I just think it’s something beautiful about being able to embrace yourself for who you are,” Cocroft said. “We need to accept those little things people see as flaws for what they are.”
Shaquirah Jackson is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.