In case you missed it, yesterday was the Appleby Hall Art (AHA!) Gallery Opening: I ♥ Black Hair! Every semester, the Women’s Center’s AHA! Gallery features an art show of student, faculty, staff, or community member’s art created with a vision of social justice. This spring’s AHA! Gallery show focused on Black (women’s) hair.
Renada Goldberg, one of the Women’s Center’s MSW interns, gave the opening remarks, which we are re-posting here with her permission:
This gallery theme is the birth child of our former Program Coordinator, Robin Wonsley, who constantly challenged us to reframe, reinvent, and re-contextualize traditional ideas of womanhood and the intersection of our lived experiences. Thank you Robin!
My experience: In September, 2013, my hair was in locs that I had cultivated for 5 years. To me, they embodied the energy of being a mother, a wife, a daughter, a student, of being a woman, black, married to a Jewish man, and living far from home…and also symbolized resilience, confidence, and the acceptance of my Black Woman American Life. I was enlightened.
In October 2013, I shaved my head. I was one month into my Master of Social Work program and didn’t feel enlightened at all. I was working with young women who also embodied confidence, resilience, and “sticktoitvness” despite domestic violence, young motherhood, immigrant status, and surviving in a social system not intended for thriving. My locs that once made me feel enlightened, made me feel weighed down with inaccurate understanding and misinformation. I wanted to start over. This wasn’t the first time I cut my hair off with a need to begin again, but this was the first time I saw my hair as an expression of what I project into the world. I am not my hair, but my hair is me.
The picture I submitted is one of my favorites—my hair, the way it is now, the way it comes out of my scalp, is comfortable with the ambiguous, unafraid to ask questions, and is flexible, all aspects I’m working on in this stage of my Black Woman American Life.
We hope you leave today with an appreciation that black hair needs love, and represents self-love; that our hair whether loc’d or relaxed an afro or braided radiates an energy that we’re constantly trying to shape, tweek,..get just right. The messages conveyed in all of these images are of more than just acceptance of who we are, right here and now, it’s the realization that there’s so much more in store!
The I ♥ Black Hair! AHA! Gallery will be up through May on the ground floor of Appleby Hall. We hope you’ll stop by to see it!