Black hair is controversial. Our coifs can be political statements, assimilations into mainstream culture, and even odes to ancestors. Some black women purchase their hair while others wear it chemically-altered. But no matter how we style our tresses, our hair is a visible representation of our identity.
The University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Africana Studies and Tulane University’s Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race and Politics in the South convened some of academia’s brightest scholars, including Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry, Dr. Tanisha Ford and Dr. Noliwe Rooks, to interrogate the political implications of black women’s hair. The day-long symposium will also investigate and deconstruct the social cues and messages black women receive about their manes.
Academic conversations about our bodies as space for contention are important in the “natural awakening” era. But it is also vital to engage these questions as black women and girls are assaulted in the media and on neighborhood blocks for not conforming to perpetuated notions of beauty. A symposium of this stature is in honor of the Nina Simones of the world that faced the criticism and still strutted with pride. These conversations are essential for our self-esteem and that of our little black girls who will contend with these issues in childhood and reconcile them in adulthood.
The politics of black hair are extensive, complex and consistently evolving. I hope this conference highlights the importance of having these dialogues at universities and dinner tables and sparks a national conversation outside of the academic tower.
You can live-stream the event here and tweet using the hashtag #BlkHairPenn.