by GRACE ALTENHOFEN
The African and Caribbean Student Association, ACSA, held a natural hair and skincare exposition Oct. 27.
The event, which took place in the Black Cultural Center, was an expansion of the natural haircare expo the ACSA held last year.
“Last year, they had a natural hair expo that was just with natural hair,” said Mutoni Patience, ACSA’s UNITY Roundtable representative. “It was just kind of very surface in my opinion.”
However, after attending the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) over the summer, Patience was inspired to broaden the scope of the event.
“With that, there was a conference that I attended, it was based on a children’s book called ‘No Mirrors in My Nana’s House,’” Patience said. “So like when she would go into her nana’s house, it had no mirrors, and I guess her grandmother was a reflection of her. This is of a black person, and when you go into the world, no one really looks like you. So we discussed certain things around that.”
With that story in mind, she took on the task of expanding the hair care expo this school year, with the ultimate goal of increasing conversations surrounding representation at Drake.
“When it came this year, knowing what I know from the NCORE conference, I was really inspired to do more with the natural hair and skincare, but really just have the discussions be the key goal of it, because there is a lot,” Patience said. “It’s ACSA, so a lot of the people are from Africa and so everyone looks like them, then you come here and no one really looks like you. So just to talk about that and there isn’t much representation.”
This expansion of the program was seen in a few different ways, according to ASCA Marketing Officer Thandeka Nkomo.
“This year, we’ve tried to broaden what topics we touch base on and we’ve incorporated skincare and self-care attributes that we will be discussing on the day,” Nkomo said. “We’ve also incorporated men’s health and self-care to make it more inclusive.”
Past haircare expos helped Nkomo personally discover what products work best for her.
“From a personal [point of view], these events really opened my eyes in terms of knowing what products fit best for me as I’ve struggled with understanding that not every product is 100 percent effective for everyone,” Nkomo said.
According to Patience, many stores lack diversity in hair and skincare products, promoting a beauty standard that straight hair is the ideal.
“When you go into stores, there are all these products for people with straight hair, and then there’s a little section for us. It’s just things like that and how that makes us feel and just talk about those things,” Patience said. “So just to talk about that and there isn’t much representation. Yeah, it’s becoming better, but there still isn’t much representation of black girls and how so many times, we’re sexualized in a sense. We can’t be beautiful with just the standard and things like that.”
To help counter this narrative, the ACSA invited a guest speaker who has made her own line of products.
“I met a lady through a friend of mine, she makes her own products and she has kind of a little nonprofit with that, so those are all natural. I’ve been using her products for a year and they’re amazing for me,” Patience said. “So we’re having her come and speak and she’s going to give away samples and we’re going to try to raffle her products as well.”
Patience encourages everyone to attend events like the hair and skincare expo, regardless of whether they are personally affected by those topics.
“Honestly, Drake is a white space, but the world isn’t. Even here, if you go out of the Drake bubble, you’ll see that there’s a lot of people within our community,” Patience said. “While I was working at Mid-K [Beauty Supply], there was a white couple that adopted a black child and they had no idea what to do with their hair. If anyone ever has a passion for the inner city or even educators, I think that’s something really important to know just to always be an ally for black people.”
According to Nkomo, having an understanding of other cultures is important for success in a global society.
“Drake preaches diversity and as we’re a part of a new age where cross-cultural communication is important to thrive in this global economy, learning what even might be considered “small” in terms of one’s culture or different lifestyle is a huge achievement,” Nkomo said. “We just want everyone to have a taste or glimpse into what we consider important factors of our lives.”
Her message for white allies: education and self-awareness are key, and it can begin with attending events like this.
“Recognize your privilege and how to use it to promote or assist those with less of a privilege,” Nkomo said. “Be mindful of spaces that may seem unfamiliar to you and educate yourself as best as you can. Create settings in your environment that allow for diversity and openness to flourish. Step out the box and practice healthy habits of listening to different opinions and considering new ideas.”