Hair is to Black women what beer is to college students: Super important.
If you are a Black woman, there is no doubt that you have experienced what it means to have your hair done and cared for. You most likely grew up with your mother, grandmother, aunt or sister doing something to your hair. Whether you wear your hair in a protective style, silk press, any kind of weave or your natural state, your hair was styled and taken care of. You most likely grew up with your hair having a designated day when it was done. And I argue that when someone you love is taking care of your hair, it builds up your confidence. Having your hair done is an irreplaceable feeling.
Like many Black women on this campus, I grew up valuing and enjoying the time and care that has been put into my hair. I was, therefore, shocked when I arrived at Shippensburg and found that there is not a single person in this township who knows how to do Black hair, nor is there a beauty supply store for the proper access to Black hair products.
For those who do not know the depth of a real beauty supply store, let me describe this phenomenon for you: This store is like a mall dedicated to all things hair related. From wigs, to extensions, to hair dyes, to shampoos, conditioners and leave-ins, it’s there. Even better, they have non-hair related items like lip gloss, makeup, eye lashes, scarves, jewelry, nail polish and other beauty related items. And the beauty supply is a gift that keeps on giving because most of the products are reasonably priced (pre-inflation, of course). But the beauty supply store is the holy grail for Black hair care.
It is a difficult adjustment coming from places where the beauty supply store is a stone’s throw away to a place like Shippensburg that doesn’t have one. Black women in Shippensburg have to learn to do their own hair, which can get difficult depending on the style. Some styles are tricky, and some take a long time to complete. I once stayed up with my cousin until 5am just trying to do my hair. This, unfortunately, is the reality for a lot of us. We were taught that taking care of our hair was important, so when a significant component of that is taken away like the access to a beauty supply store things get sticky.
Shippensburg is not completely devoid of places to get Black hair care products, and in an emergency, they can be found at Walmart or Giant. The problem is that at both of these stores, the prices are astronomical. This means that for Black women at Ship, not only is our access to hair stylists limited, but we are put into the position of having to pay extortion prices for beauty products.
So, as beer is to many college students, hair is essential for Black women. We find ways work around the obstacles and limits in our way to endure, look fabulous and take pride in the lessons we were taught as little girls. We have learned to help each other as much as we can in order to show love to our hair, our heritage and one another. We are also learning patience because handling a course load and spending hours on our hair is not for the weak. But, as it turns out, neither are we.