The University of Connecticut has created its first-of-its-kind organization aimed to target Black students who wear natural hair at the school.
UCurls, a natural hair club, was designed after students at the university recognized that there was a lack of resources for students who wore their hair naturally.
“Unlike city campuses like Waterbury and Stamford, there is no real access to Black hair products in [stores],” reads a report from Daily Campus, UConn’s student publication. “Besides the CVS in Storrs Center — which doesn’t have the biggest variety compared to the conventional beauty supply store — there isn’t much around. There’s also the problem for those who don’t wear their hair naturally.”
According to data compiled from UConn’s Office of Admissions, Black students represent only 9% of the enrollment population across all of the school’s campuses. Jewel Booker, UCurls’ president who braids hair on the side said that part of the reason why the organization was created was to celebrate students on campus who wore their hair naturally while providing them with the necessary tools and resources to maintain their hair while at the school.
“College is already stressful,” Booker told the publication. “We don’t need to be stressing about our hair on top of that. So we just try to help the community by teaching better ways to take care of their hair with tips and tricks.”
Sojourner Fontellio, another hair stylist at UConn said she supports the organization and enjoys styling hair for students primarily because she vividly remembers the hardships she faced when she would seek out professional services to care for her hair.
“Since I was like 14, I’ve always done my own hair because I remember I always used to go to the hair salons and I would hate it,” Fontellio said. “But then I would go home and fix it to my liking.”
In a 2020 Michigan State University study, researchers found that about 80% of Black women chose to alter their hair from its natural state because they thought it was the key to “social and economic success.”
“Because we already get stares – you get more stares when your hair’s not done. Like there’s nothing you can really do about that,” Booker said.
She further added that the club welcomes male students, too, since she found that they also deal with struggles around wearing their hair in braids, locks and other natural styles.
“I don’t understand why daughters can go to the African braiding shop and get their hair braided, but when their son wants to do it — no. That doesn’t make sense,” Booker said. “And they’re just running around these circles of ‘Long hair is cool. Long hair isn’t cool. Waves are in. Waves are out.’”
Despite the concurrent hardships, though, the organization believes “Black hair is a form of expression and freedom,” the report concluded. “It gives meaning to a part of us that is often dismissed, mocked or shamed and lets us indulge in self care and beauty, no matter who we are.”