On the 56th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, U.S. courts are still divided about African Americans’ right to wear their natural hair in the workplace. When the EEOC was founded fifty-six years ago, the federal government’s primary concern was that black people be granted equal access to public workplaces. It didn’t foresee that black hair would need equal access as well. As a result, wearing natural black hair has become a weapon in the fight for racial equality, as well as a public declaration of self-love and solidarity within the black community.
This exhibition featured three guest speakers who addressed issues surrounding the trending topic of black hair. Tuesdae Pelt-Willis, Co-Manager of the UCO's Women's Research Center, shed light on the historical context of Black hair defining terms long used in the Black community. She educated the audience on the cultural appropriation of Black hair and the recent natural hair movement in the United States. Author and photographer Gay Pasley followed with an essay telling the emotional story of her life-long search to find women who looked like her. Wrapping up the program was local civil rights icon Ayanna Najuma who shared some Black hair experience from her college days. She ended with a call to action for everyone to step out of their comfort zone and learn something new.
In addition an art exhibit curated by UCO graduate student Amena Butler was on display. The works of eight local Black artist were presented including Edward Grady, Nathan Lee, Beverly Kirk, Skip Hill, D.B. Brown, G. Mesfin, Jaive Farrell and James Ere. For more information, read the exhibition booklet at the link below.
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Amena Butler, Graduate Assistant (Museum Studies)
Opening reception - February 12, 2020