Curly Girl Collective Sparks Educational Revolution, One Head at a Time
2 months ago
With communal learning around natural hair, Curly Girl Collective is a model for Black communities, organizations.
In spring of last year at Chelsea Modern in Manhattan, Tracey Coleman stood in front of dozens of women to talk about the beginnings of the natural hair bonding and networking organization, Curly Girl Collective. Frizzy strands of her afro looked as if she’d been dancing or -- as would have been more likely -- as if other women had been running curious, manicured fingers through her curls. It was a seemingly endless email chain between friends, she explained, that spurred the idea to host events for natural-haired women. The friends -- who stretched across the U.S. and parts of Africa and Europe -- helped each other troubleshoot issues and give advice.
“We did that all day, everyday, for weeks,” Coleman said at the event, titled Collective Expressions: A Celebration of Textured Beauty. Later she alluded to the volume of questions women have when they cut all their chemically-altered hair off, or transition. “We wanted to find, to connect more people together in a larger setting, hence this event.” And then she waved her hand like a fairy godmother.
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In one area of the packed room, a dry erase board with block letters that read “I love my hair because,” drove women to give their testimonials; there were no questions this time. Only affirmations. The transition, so to speak, of the Collective as an email list for questions and answers to a full-fledged network of young women in direct contact with each other, in many ways illustrates natural hair’s increased popularity in the past 10 years.
But perhaps the most significant component of the cultural revolution is a more subtle study in socio-anthropological behavior. What the organization embraces, and what we are witnessing across the ever-expanding spectrum of natural hair, is the democratization of education and learning. For women who straightened and chemically altered their hair since childhood, the prospect of wearing one’s natural look in adulthood can be a daunting one. That's partially why CGC’s model mirrors the manifesto of Skillshare, the New York-based company that allows anyone to sign up to teach almost anything to anyone who wants to learn it. Its manifesto,"The future belongs to the curious,” means this communal-based education -- not traditional institutions -- will eventually change the way the world learns.
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What do black women know that other black institutions and communities can learn from?