February 7, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 25°F


NaturALL educates college community on hair diversity

NaturALL is a newly formed, inclusive natural hair organization at Ithaca College that aims to educate people of all backgrounds about hair maintenance and acceptance. 

Junior Crystal George, NaturALL vice president and event coordinator, said the group also works to deconstruct stigmas, stereotypes and microaggressions surrounding natural hair. She said NaturALL offers a space for people with hair textures that society often overlooks or deems unacceptable to feel represented. Marsha Horsley, associate professor in the Center for the Study of Culture, Race and Ethnicity, is the adviser of the organization.

“We really wanted to create something for everyone, but specifically those underrepresented, and that’s why we thought of the name ‘NaturALL,’” George said.

Junior NaturALL president Danaya Dews said she noticed that there were a lot of students on campus that needed methods to take care of their natural hair, but there are not many natural hair stylists in Ithaca.“We wanted to start the club to give people a space to learn about their hair and learn how to take care of their hair,” Dews said. “Also [to] talk about the issues with wearing natural hair out in professional spaces.”

The organization holds biweekly meetings at 7 p.m. on Wednesdays in Williams Hall Room 218. The organization plans to discuss methods of taking care of natural hair, microaggressions and regulations directed toward natural hair. Though the group’s executive board is made up entirely of women, George said, the club is open to people of all gender identities.

“Oftentimes, hair care is seen as a girl thing,” George said. “So we really wanted it to be inclusive to men, women, nonbinary people and everyone.”

Dews said that having the organization be student-led creates an open dialogue that offers students an opportunity to form relationships with new and familiar faces. 

“It can feel more like a conversation — time for you to destress and talk about your hair and have a fun time with people that you probably see around campus,” Dews said. “And if you don’t know [them], maybe you’ll get to know them more.”

Dews also said she hopes to collaborate with students at Cornell University to host workshops and help promote student businesses. This way, student stylists gain experience and clients and their classmates would have access to affordable hair care.

George said the group hopes to partner with off-campus communities in Ithaca, working with and promoting local beauty supply businesses. She said there is a lack of natural hair care products available to students on campus.

“You really have to go off campus to Walmart or the beauty supply store in The Commons if you want natural hair products,” George said. “That means you have to pay for transportation, so that’s coming out of your pocket, just to take care of your hair.”

Junior NaturALL secretary Nabintou Toure said it is crucial and beneficial to have a safe space to discuss natural hair journeys and struggles, especially at a predominantly white institution. She said NaturALL acts as a community for people to not only learn from but also to empower one another and their beauty.

“You might feel like your hair is not beautiful, but then the next person might feel like it is,” Toure said.

Though NaturALL is aimed toward students, George said, the college administration and faculty members should also be educated on the diversity of hair. She said this could be done through workshops like those required for diversity and inclusion training. George said there are unwritten policies that affect how students and faculty of color present themselves in classroom and work settings. 

“Many POC know not to wear their hair in an afro, but it’s not written,” George said. “So no one really has the right to tell you how to wear your hair, but you know you’re going to receive backlash, and you know people are going to look at you differently if you do, so you don’t do it.”

Toure said that she has observed a lack of representation of natural hair among the college’s faculty of color. She said college-age students have gained a sense of pride and comfort in their natural hair.

“As for us, were growing into a habit where we’re getting more comfortable,” Toure said. “I don’t think [faculty of color] had that type of representation growing up.”

An event the executive board has in the works is a product swap. Dews said students will be welcomed to bring hair products that they have never used or that have tried and did not work for them to exchange with other members of the organization. She also said the organization is interested in working with other groups on campus including Sister2Sister and the Black Student Union.

Dews said NaturALL welcomes all who are interested in attending a meeting regardless of where they are in their hair journey.

“It doesn’t matter, your hair is short, long, wavy, kinky, it does not matter,” Toure said. “It’s for everybody.”

Nijha Young can be reached at nyoung5@ithaca.edu