HAIRitage Conference celebrates black history, culture, beauty


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In light of Black History Month, Livingston Campus will be hosting its first annual HAIRitage Conference, a three-day series of workshops, presentations and attractions that will celebrate the history and culture of black and Afro-Latino hair.

Modinat Sanni, the chairman of HAIRitage and residence life coordinator at Livingston Campus, came across the idea when planning the usual traditional Black History celebration for the University.

“I knew I didn’t want to do anything we’ve all typically seen. I didn’t want to do a speaker series, or talk about historical figures like we all have since elementary school,” Sanni said. “Someone in the meeting suggested we talk about hair. While we all laughed it off at first, as I thought about it a little deeper, I thought, ‘Wait, this could be really good.’”

After months of jotting down ideas, a once-a-month ritual turned into a three-day-long concept that is aiming to change the way we celebrate Black History Month.

Sanni believes the HAIRitage conference is important to the Rutgers community as it will not only embrace the diversity that Rutgers already has, but it will also help establish inclusivity and unity the Rutgers community needs.

“If you ask any student what they love about Rutgers, the first thing they will say is that it’s so diverse. But is everyone included here? Does everyone feel like they have a voice in every space? They tell you no,” Sanni said.

Sanni hopes that the HAIRitage conference will bring different groups of people together.

“It’s going to be an indirect way to talk about what the University has been pushing for a long, long time, and I think HAIRitage will accomplish that through something we all have — hair,” she said.

On Thursday, Feb. 9, the conference began at Rutgers Cinema with a 7:30 p.m. screening of Chris Rock’s 2009 documentary “Good Hair,” followed by a discussion that covered understanding the emotional and financial processes of perming, braiding and maintaining natural hair.

The discussion will also encourage audiences to analyze the concept of “good hair” in the black community, as well as what effect the term has on society’s beauty standards as a whole.

On Feb. 10 representatives for the event will be tabling at all four Rutgers student centers to celebrate Black History Month and to encourage students to RSVP to Saturday’s all-day conference.

Passersby will have the opportunity to write and speak about what they love about their hair and what it means to their identity, and responses will be posted to the event’s official Instagram and Snapchat Story that will be viewable for all Rutgers students in the area.

Saturday’s conference will be held at Lucy Stone Hall on Livingston Campus opened with an address at 9:30 a.m. from Keynote Speaker Anu Prestonia, a renowned beauty innovator and founder of “Khamit Kinks,” one of the first black-owned natural hair salons in New York City.

Student-run organization Curly in College will present its “D.I.Y. Curly Kitchen” segment that will touch on keeping natural hair healthy with common household ingredients such as avocado, eggs and coconut oil, a practice that ensures natural and affordable haircare for college students on a budget.

A segment focused on entrepreneurship will be presented by Prestonia, Livingston Campus’ The Wright Cut Barber Shop’s Larry Marshall and celebrity hair colorist Mohan Jean-Mary, where panelists will discuss all the things aspiring business owners should consider when owning a salon or hair brand.

While hair is an important aspect of beauty for women, the conference will not forget what hair means to men. The Razor Sharp segment, presented by barbers from The Wright Cut, will give an insider’s perspective on the do’s and don’ts of barbering and hairstyling, as well as an insight to their experiences cutting hair on a college campus.

The Fade is another segment geared towards men. It will serve as a platform for audience members to discuss expressing masculinity through hairstyling.

Several segments that both men and women will enjoy will explore the politics of natural hair and what it means to be “clean shaven” or “clean cut” in the workplace, as well as the limitations and prejudices black people may face at work because of their hair.

Sanni is also calling on students who don’t identify as black or Afro-Latino to attend the event, as it will raise awareness and education about natural black hair for those who don’t experience it themselves.

Registration for Saturday’s conference will begin at 8:30 a.m. in Lucy Stone Hall and students are encouraged to RSVP on Friday at a Rutgers Student Center or on the HAIRitage’s official Facebook page. The three-day event will be free of charge and is open to Rutgers students and non-students alike.


Clarissa Gordon


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