I will be in New York City today. While in Brooklyn, I will get my hair done.
Yes, I know TMI.
Last weekend, I attended a panel discussion, “Good Hair Revisited: The Politics of Black Women’s Strands,” at the Celebration of Black Writing Festival.
The panelists included Dr. Akosua Ali-Sabree, founder of the International Locs Conference; Lori L. Tharps and Ayana D. Byrd, co-authors of “Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair”; and Yvette Smalls, the director of “Hair Stories.”
I will be hard-pressed to view a trip to the beauty shop as an opportunity to catch up on my reading -- or doze off under the dryer. Now, l have to think about the economic and political implications of my choice of hair salon.
For the last seven years, I have been going to Dominican salons because their prices are much lower than African American-owned salons. As important, I’m in and out in a fraction of the time.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported on how African American stylists are facing stiff competition from Dominicans:
Armed with a blow dryer and brush, deft wrist action and shrewd promotional tactics, immigrants from the Dominican Republic are snipping away market share from African-American stylists whose mastery of black women’s hair ensured for generations that their customers wouldn’t, or couldn’t, leave them. Promises of seemingly healthier hair, swifter service and far lower prices are wooing away a growing number of black women.
Like a barber shop, a hair salon is more than a place to get one’s hair styled. They are institutions in the black community, where news, information and gossip are shared -- and politicians stump for votes.
Indeed in 2008, Barack Obama’s voter mobilization effort included a Beauty and Barber Shop program.
The loss of market share is worrisome. So, I will have to rethink my choices.
At the same time, African American stylists must re-imagine the beauty shop of the 21st century. Truth be told, buy black may not be enough to ensure their survival.