Smithsonian Event Grapples With Black Women’s Relationship With Our Hair
A panel discussion on the political, social and personal issues related to black women’s hair will kick off today at the Smithsonian. According to the Washington Post, the event, ‘Health, Hair and Heritage’ at the Smithsonian is being sponsored by the National Museum of African Art and will tackle “questions of beauty, authenticity and the politics of racial identity”.
It’s not clear if this event will be recorded, but you may want to check the website for the Smithsonian and the National Museum of African Art for more information.
The Washington Post article excerpt:
The panel discussion “Health, Hair and Heritage,” sponsored by the National Museum of African Art on Friday, June 7th intends to sort some of that out.
“I think there are few discussions that are of greater interest to a large number of African American women,” says museum director Johnnetta Betsch Cole. “It is no secret that we say among ourselves the struggle with the hair continues.”
The discussion comes at a time when natural hairstyles — those that don’t rely on chemical or heat-straightening techniques — are ascendant. The natural hair-care handbook “Better Than Good Hair,” which came out in January, made the Publishers Weekly bestseller list and inspired meet-ups for women to bond and share tips and hair product information. But it also comes at a time, say experts, when damage to black women’s hair, and by extension their well-being, is widespread.
“The relationship black women have or do not have with their hair largely determines their sense of wholeness,” says panelist Monte Harris, a Chevy Chase plastic and hair restoration surgeon and a member of the Sanaa Circle, a friends group of the museum presenting the discussion. A museum is a natural place to entertain questions of beauty and identity, he says, “but health is rarely woven in. For the museum, it’s a step into a 21st-century role.”
In his practice, Harris says he sees almost epidemic rates of hair loss in black women. Tightly coiled hair has more break points, making it more susceptible to damage related to daily stressors: chemical straighteners, braiding and heat. He says he tries to repair the damage and connect patients to a sense of themselves that goes deeper than hairstyle. “Having a relationship with the natural texture of your hair is really a doorway to having a deep relationship to your self. Your holistic self. I don’t think there’s a better doorway for the contemporary woman of African descent.”
Read the full article here
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