SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) — Eunice Boateng has experienced the highs and lows of having natural hair. As the owner of The Hair T(hair)apist, Boateng understands how one’s hair can impact outlook on life and personal perceptions. Boateng also said how empowering others had helped with her growth.
“You don’t usually see representation of 4b or 4c hair or the type of hair that I was used to touching,” Boateng said.
On Feb. 8, Boateng took part in the State of the Black Hair Experience, hosted by Syracuse University as a part of its Black history month events to celebrate Black hair and the culture. The State of the Black Hair Experience included raffles for hair products, demonstrations featuring Black hairstyles from hair braiding to locs to barbers, and a panel.
Stylists like Boateng are using their skills to empower people by giving them resources that have not always been available, with stores like Walmart locking up hair products mainly purchased by Black people and the inability to find products in general.
SU sophomore Nurielle Auguste said she had had difficulty finding products for her hair.
“Being on campus, sometimes it’s very difficult to get access to Black hair products, but they are also very expensive, so as a college student, it’s hard to get access to them and pay for them,” Auguste said.
Auguste also emphasized the importance of events like the State of Black Hair Experience for the campus community.
“It gives people the experience to learn about Black culture and also celebrate Black culture, so it is very meaningful to me,” Auguste said.
With the increase in legislation like the CROWN Act, currently passed in 20 states, that fights against race-based hair discrimination, spaces like these are valuable for clients and hairstylists.
“It’s able to give you a community, with people that you relate to,” Boateng, a 2022 SU graduate, said. “When I first started hairstyling here, it definitely gave me and other people an outlet to be able to express themselves and relate to other people, and I feel like to be your full self… it’s extremely important for us to continue to have these events so that there is a safe space for minorities or just Black people in general when they do come here.”
The event, which included a panel discussion of seven local hairstylists with various specialties, gave the audience a chance to learn about the experiences of stylists of varying skills. This space was also beneficial to the hairstylists who participated.
Nanda Parker, a loc specialist with over three years of experience, was forced to adjust her business due to COVID. Parker said it was empowering for her to tell her own story and listen to others tell theirs.
“It was fun hearing that my experience wasn’t just my experience. Other business owners go through the same things that I go through and feel what I feel,” Parker said.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the employment of barbers, hairstylists, and cosmetologists to grow 11 percent from 2021-2031. This is a faster projection than the average increase for all occupations. With the growing industry, other hairstylists also touched on how beneficial this event was for small business owners and students on campus.
Irving Muhammad, a barber since he was twelve, has seen the industry change and understands how these events can benefit students who lack access to resources.
“People care more about their hair now,” he said. “They might not be from a town where they have Black barbers or hair stylists, so this representation is good.”