While At Home, Black Hairstylists Return to Their Roots

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

BY Jessica Cruel and Darian Harvin

“Sit down and let me do your hair.” It’s a simple phrase that, for many Black people, calls to mind memories of love, connection, and maybe a little pain. Our kitchens, bathrooms, and living rooms are often transformed into hair salons, strewn with the necessary tools: Afro picks and beads, rubber bands and hooded dryers. As COVID-19 brought the world to a pause, many professional Black hairstylists returned to this tradition of creating at home. Instead of high-profile red carpets or clients at the salon, they are braiding up family members, styling mannequins, even experimenting on themselves. The roots of Black hair have been flourishing, but at the same time it’s never been more evident how our lives are at risk. Not only have Black communities been disproportionately ravaged by COVID-19, but Black Americans continue to be targets of systemic violence, no matter what their hair looks like.

The way we do our hair, and the community we create around that tradition, is one of many things that makes Black culture so special. This intimate look inside our home lives— photographed through windows and doors, from porch steps and below fire escapes, during a time of social distancing—captures the shades of brown skin, the bend and curl to our hair, the deep bond of family. And it reveals exactly what we are fighting to protect when we shout "Black Lives Matter." — Jessica Cruel



“My daughter and I got dressed up really for the first time since we’ve been in quarantine. She’s used to going to shoots with me and hanging out. This space has given me the opportunity to see that my inspiration really comes from the world. I need to make sure, when outside opens up again, that I maximize the time that I’m out there in the world and connecting with people, because that’s when my heart is set on fire. I think a lot of us have been trying to just cope and figure out how to navigate through our new normal. The video [of George Floyd] ignited us in a way that has been historic. We all need to lend our voices to the cause in our own ways in an effort to collectively push to restructure a system that has failed us for so long. I’m hopeful that we are able to keep this energy going.” —AS TOLD TO D.H.

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