What does Black hair mean to you? For me, it is a revolution and that's on PERIODT! Black hair has evolved over many years and we have seen it, in all its glory, take center stage to highlight the uniqueness of Black women. The styles, looks, the texture, the expression, all of it is an important component of how Black women make a statement in any room. It is our revolution, our rebellion, our beauty, and our crown. As a young girl, there are many instances where your hair experiences were a rite of passage that gave way to womanhood. Your first appointment to the salon, first relaxer, the first time being burned by a hot comb, the first time getting your hair straightened, we can go on and on here. I can distinctly remember the first time I went to the hair salon, my first stylist's name was Alandra and she was my introduction to loving my hair.
The power of a hairstyle can change a woman's perspective.
As the saying goes, when a woman cuts her hair, she is about to change her whole life. Every Black woman has her story about her hair and the many twists and journeys they have taken to own their independence by creating a look that fits them. Even still, there have been many instances of discrimination of our hair in the workplace, in media, in the schools and yet we still show up proudly with our tresses in tow. We have seen culture vultures take Black staple hairstyles like cornrows and braids and rebrand them as their own unsuccessfully. The resilience of Black hair culture has triumphed in legislation, such as the CROWN Act to end race-based hair discrimination passed on September 21, 2020, and mainstream culture to protect our rights to wear our hair however we see fit.
It is truly absurd for me to not wear the hair that I grow out of my head naturally in any way that I feel beautiful.
Black women have blazed a path in trend-setting our creativity and innovation in the beauty industry and we should be celebrated for that fact. In celebration of our hair and our story, The Black Hair Experience walks us down memory lane of all the things that make Black hair magical. According to The Black Hair Experience website:
"The Black Hair Experience is an interactive adventure that combines a pop-up art exhibit and a series of instagrammable spaces all in the name of celebrating black hair."
The Atlanta-based interactive pop-up was created by two friends, Elizabeth Davis and Alisha Brooks, who have a shared affinity for Black hair and pop culture. The two women collectively have a background in photography and graphic design that helped them bring this two-year vision to life. Elizabeth's original idea consisted of a photo passion project that documented the stories around Black women and their shared hair experiences. She shared this idea with Alisha who took it up a notch by imagining an interactive experience around Black hair and Black hair culture to elevate the storytelling.
Alisha shared, "We started focusing on what we really wanted people to get from the experience and focusing on self-love and reinforcement of Black hair being beautiful regardless of how you are wearing your hair and women owning that and us connecting through those shared experiences. That is really how the Black Hair Experience was born."
It is not only a celebration of Black hair but a reminder of all the nostalgia of the hair and culture that make Black women, Black people so vibrantly beautiful.
We have seen some tough days this year but out of that, there has been an elevation of Blackness that is undeniable. Whether it is has been social justice movements or Black women leading the grassroots efforts in the election, Black people have seen a helluva year. We deserve something that shines a light on us. Elizabeth touched on why this time was the right time for this installation despite the obstacle from the pandemic. She shared, "We both felt like this year was just so heavy, just in terms of the social justice movement and the way things have gone. The message we were trying to send with the experience was really about positivity within our community of self-love and acceptance and really rejoicing in some of our most valued moments in our life. We felt like we really wanted to put a smile on our communities face while keeping them safe."
Our hair is a part of that story and it is just so fitting to create such a fun and interactive experience for those of all ages to come, enjoy, and be reminded that, "Black hair has always been poppin!"
Opening this pop up has not come without its challenges, the original open date was June 2020 but COVID pivoted many of those plans. However, the co-owners decided they would not be deterred and continued forward to open with a plan of safety and a sense of duty to their community. "The decision was a hard one. We wanted to make sure that people knew that we were here and they had something to look forward to. We wanted to make sure that we hired cleaners, had air disinfectants, people wearing masks, and only had a certain amount of people in the space at a time," Elizabeth revealed.
"Once we felt confident in that and found a location that could accommodate the social distancing in the way that we wanted, we made the decision to move forward. Also, doing it for a shorter time as well, so people could recognize that we were here and have a moment with us. They could also join this journey with us until we open the bigger installations for us to be able to travel."
I had the opportunity to visit the pop-up and it was everything that I expected it to be and more. Keep scrolling to learn my top 3 Reasons you should visit The Black Hair Experience:
1. Black Hair Representation Is Important.
This activation has 15 fully immersive and vibrant installation curated for your instagrammable pleasure. There is everything from a swing that is adorned with braids, to a mini beauty supply store, to a small replica kitchen with hot combs as the theme. We asked the co-owners how they created each installation, Alisha stated, "We wanted to pull out the installations that tapped into nostalgia the most but also reinforced our concept of self-love. It was about finding the balance between the nostalgia and also reinforcing that message about loving your hair and accepting your hair."
2. Support Black-Owned Businesses For The Long Haul.
Not only will you be supporting two Black co-owners and their Black-owned business by purchasing tickets to The Black Hair Experience, you will also have the opportunity to spread the wealth by stopping by the retail space before you leave. All the vendors that are featured in the store are Black-owned businesses. They have everything from candles to combs to graphic tees, and all of them are absolute must-haves. This is also a part of a bigger plan to expand the retail space and includes many more Black-owned hair care businesses and more. This reflects a bigger idea because as we know Black hair is a multi-billion dollar industry that is not controlled by us. The Black Hair Experience aims to put that money back into our community.
3. Black Girl Joy Is Manifested Here.
It's really about the community, and more than that, being a vessel of joy for that community. As Elizabeth puts it, "We wanted to have a sense of joy was really a big part of it. We felt that the love that we have gotten from people and the joy that we have seen on their faces and the women who have cried in our space have made it worth its weight in gold for us to be able to open right now."
Black hair is more than just what is on top of our heads, it is a part of who we are and our lived experience. And that should absolutely be treasured.
There are future plans that the co-owners have to continue with the success of this Atlanta opening. First, there are plans to create a permanent location that will host more installations and the installation will change over time. The pop-up model will be traveling to other major markets in the US once COVID has been contained and reduced. Lastly, the co-owners really want to open the space to young women to host workshops on how to care for their hair. But most importantly, they want young women and girls to know they have a space the represents them and to know that Black hair is beautiful.
The interactive pop up is currently open in Atlanta until December 20. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit The Black Hair Experience webstie.
Featured image by Amer-Marie/Instagram