Moizza Ul-Haq, Contributor
Last Thursday, I had the privilege of being able to attend BSN Hair Day, put on by the Black Students’ Network of McGill. It was a cold and rainy day, but the atmosphere in Savourez Restaurant, where the event took place, was warm and welcoming. As the winners of the raffle for free braiding and free cuts got their hair done from stylists across Montreal, I enjoyed listening to music, watching hairstylists like Safietou Diouf work their magic, and chatting with many of the attendees and coordinators of the event.
An event like this makes it evident that hair is not “just hair” for people of colour. It’s a representation of black culture. Especially now, this event promotes style and creativity past the norms of a predominantly Eurocentric beauty standard. It allowed people to come together to talk about the politics of black beauty and identity.
Isabelle Oke, BSN’s president commented that, “I think it’s important because sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. I think a lot of us have tried to deal with our hair in ways that have frustrated us, but when you can come together with a specific focus on black hair and talk about that it becomes a kind of skill-share. You try to get different people’s perspectives. Most of us have similar hair but we approach it differently because we’ve heard about or have been exposed to different things. It’s a way to try and put hair at the forefront of our minds and see what information comes out.”
The evening encouraged people to remember that #blackisbeautiful. I travelled around the event asking why it is important to acknowledge this. One attendee, Divine Usabase, commented that, “Overall it’s a part of a diversity. The fact that [black beauty] is unique adds to it.” Christelle Tessono, one of the project managers, also emphasized the diversity of black hair and beauty. She stated that, “Black is beautiful because it is very versatile. There are so many hairstyles that you can do and black hair is not just one thing, it’s multiple things. Even in my family, everyone has a different hair texture.” Looking around the room, it become quite clear to me that this was true. Among the 30 or so people in the room, each one not only had different types of hair, but unique styles that expresses their unique personalities. I watched as one the girl’s added purple to her braids. One attendee, as she watched people get her hair braided, mentioned that she had never braided her before, but she would love to give it a try. It was amazing to see students come together to express cultural pride, confidence and creativity. Everyone wanted to be a part of of his or her heritage through style. A community came out to experience black beauty, fashion, and culture and discover new ways to cultivate their personal style- and it was a wonderful time.
In an inclusive environment like this, people were able to express their ideas of attractiveness in ways that did not fit with traditional standards. While it takes time to unlearn and break away from imposed beauty standards, events like this (where people are allowed to openly share their ideas and experience) allow us to learn from each other. Being in an environment where style and expression was the sole focus, opened my eyes to just how beautiful and diverse black hair is. My own idea of beauty expanded to include ideas that I hadn’t known of before. As Oke had said, I didn’t even know what I didn’t know, but this event allowed me to learn.
BSN Hair Day encourages the idea of universal beauty so that, as Oke says, believing that black is beautiful doesn’t have to be a conscious movement. She sums it up very well; “[Black] just is [beautiful]! I know a lot people try and consciously tell themselves this, but you hopefully get to that point where you don’t really have to push yourself and rationalize why, you just know.”
Black IS beautiful, and undeniably so.