Black hairstylists fulfill minority student need
By Melana Yanos
Published on Tuesday, August 13, 2002
The "Black Hair" salon service offered this past Sunday in Collis may have proved to be a small but crucial step towards meeting the needs of minority groups on campus.
Professionals specializing in hair services popular among African-Americans and other minority groups--such as dred locks, braids, weaves and extensions--were brought to campus, giving members of the Dartmouth community an opportunity to receive hair care that local salons in Hanover do not commonly offer.
This is the second time that the event has taken place. An entire subcommittee within the Student Assembly has been dedicated to this project alone.
Angela Vasquez, chair of the Hairstylist Service committee, remarked that establishing this event as a permanent service for students "sends a huge message to kids of color on campus." She emphasized the importance of demonstrating to students that not only will their needs and concerns be heard, but also acted upon.
"This makes you understand just how difficult it is for minorities when such a simple thing like getting your hair done requires the whole transportation of a small business to Hanover," said Vasquez. "It really does show that there are certain things that minorities are lacking on campus."
Members of the Dartmouth community who took advantage of this service were grateful for finally being able to get the hair service they needed without the extra hassle.
Heidy Abreu '04 had come to the event to get her hair straightened. She explained that she doesn't "have the typical kind of hair" and that local salons "do not know how to deal" with her type of hair.
"I really need a professional who knows what he or she is doing," said Abreu.
For David Hinton '02, the hair care service kept him from having to leave town to get his hair cut.
He said that bringing the hair service to Dartmouth was "a lot more convenient than going down to Boston, which is what I usually do." He also added that in the immediate area "they really don't have the right hairstyling service here."
And it is not just students who benefited from the event. Tucker Foundation employee Rita Hall, who had come to the event for a hair weave, said that this service was a "godsend".
"One of the things I miss about home is going to the Beauty Shops," Hall said. "This fills one of those needs for me."
African-American student advisor Dawn Hemphill had been actively involved in working on the administrative tasks that this project required. She pointed out that issues like finding the right hair service may "seem little, and maybe they are, but when you put them together they are contributors to this larger feeling that people have about their Dartmouth experience that isn't positive."
She also added that advertising for and holding the event in a central place like Collis, and the support and leadership of the Student Assembly were "very strategic" in making it clear to the entire Dartmouth community that a need for something as simple as a hairstyling service was being realized and met accordingly.
Diana Thai '04, Chair of the Student Assembly's Service Committee, from which the Hairstylist committee stems, explained that meeting the needs of a diverse student population had not been a major priority of the Student Assembly in the past but that now "we are prioritizing it."
"This sets precedent to create more services that strive to meet and respond to the needs of the minorities," Thai said.
Jackie Berry '04 , a member on the Hairstylist committee, commented that "just the fact that Dartmouth has put the effort in bringing these people to campus shows that they are paying attention to the minority needs -- and it's been a need for a really long time."
She also noted from personal experience that "African-American hair is hard to take care of," and that she was glad that Dartmouth was investing in this service.
James McMillan a visiting hairstylist from "Diversity Hair and Nails" in Burlington, Vt., said that their services are in demand for a broad range of people of different backgrounds.
"The salon is a place where African-Americans can know that they have a place they can go for quality service, but only about 40 percent of our clients are African-Americans," said McMillan. "75 percent of the people that come to get dred locks are Caucasian."