Education and admiration will mix to highlight local Black businesses and pay homage to Black self-expression.
Residents can celebrate the cultural significance and evolution of Black hair and style at the African American Cultural Center of Long Beach’s (AACCLB) hair and fashion expo Friday evening.
As part of the seventh annual World Afro Day, the AACCLB has been inviting the community to learn about the history of Black hairstyles and fashion trends all September. The global day of celebration was created by Michelle De Leon in 2017 to honor the identity of afro hair, which is referred to sometimes as “a natural hairstyle” highlighting the coils and kinks of Black hair.
Since the 18th century, Black hair has been the target of discriminatory laws, restricting how Black people were allowed to express themselves at work and in everyday life. The most significant progression from this past was the California passage of the Crown Act on July 3, 2019.
The law prohibits discrimination based on hairstyles and texture, such as braids, afros, twists, cornrows and locs and was added to its Fair Employment and Housing Act. California was the first state to pass a version of the Crown Act, and it has been passed in 22 other states since then.
“The importance of celebrating Black hair and fashion is deeply rooted in expressing our identity and deeply connected to family, the community and African American history,” said Jhaki Quarles, program director for the AACCLB. “It should be celebrated and respected. It is important in the context of appreciating our historical culture, recognizing and expressing our beauty and sharing it with the world.”
The exhibit on display in the Expo Art Center’s gallery room includes traditional African garb, hairstyles on models from throughout the centuries and multiple educational components.
Residents can learn about the necessary, historical evolution of hairstyles such as head wraps that were born out of the 1784 Tignon Law in New Orleans that required Black women to cover their hair in a scarf to identify themselves as “slave class,” though most of these women were not slaves at the time.
Creole women had previously fashioned their hair in elaborate styles and started to cover their hair with intricate fabrics and jewels in response to the law. The style continues today and has evolved over the centuries.
“Celebrating Black hair and fashion is not about resisting and rejecting society’s beauty standards, but more about standing in our own power and embracing who we are,” Quarles said.
The Black hair and fashion expo will highlight various local businesses that provide services and products catered to Black fashion and hair care. Businesses such as the Guudseed Company, Village Treasures, A Touch of Cali and others will be selling clothing as well as hair and makeup products.
Two local barbers, Dre Cutz and Style In Beauty and Barber Salon will be giving out free haircuts for attendees. The barbers performed a dozen free haircuts and groomings at the Bixby Knolls First Fridays event, which kicked off the exhibit.
Residents will have the chance to speak with the small business owners about their products, backgrounds and journeys with their businesses.
The Black Hair and Fashion Expo will take place on Friday, Sept. 15 from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. at the Expo Arts Center gallery room at 4321 Atlantic Ave. The event is free, and residents are asked to RSVP on Eventbrite.