In the African American community, women’s hair is serious business. There has been many a debate about what type of hair is considered beautiful and en vogue: natural hair, relaxed, or sewn in extensions.
Recently, there has been a movement in the black community for women who want to embrace their natural hair. Hair care has been a particularly hot topic for Millennials, and groups encouraging black women to wear their hair naturally can be found on college campuses across the country.
STRANDS, Students Transitioning, Relaxed, and Naturally Developing Sisterhood does exactly that. Initially established at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee as a way to promote healthy hair care for women of color, STRANDS has grown to be much, much more.
The club has grown to include community service and mental health programs and is committed to promoting feminism, intersectionality, and acceptance everywhere they go. STRAND’s founding members want to focus their group on the experiences black women face in the world of beauty and are working to change society’s outdated view on African American hair.
Just a few years ago, there was a greater focus on getting rid of hair than embracing it in its natural state. Many women signed up for laser hair removal services, which requires four to six treatments in which the body’s hair follicles are destroyed. Now, African American women are embracing their body hair in its natural state.
When not serving their community, STRANDS still holds hair and beauty events. Hair-specific events such as “Hair Care For a Hectic Week” gives students a place to decompress during finals week. All their hard work is meant to give black women the opportunity to feel carefree and confident in their appearance.
“It gives you a chance to connect with someone who looks like you and has gone through some of the things on this campus that you’re going to have to go through,” said STRANDS co-president Kyla Stevens.
For some, STRANDS may just seem like a fun place to go to talk about up and coming beauty trends. But for others, it is a safe place where you can express yourself, have a voice, and be heard on a college campus made up of thousands.
When sophomore Amber Payne was asked why she joined STRANDS, she explained to the Vanderbilt Hustler, “Because people didn’t see me.”
Now, thanks to STRANDS, they do.