GUEST COLUMN: Osborn: It’s about more than just hair
I would like to preface this article with a few important things. My name is Makayla Osborn and this is my experience. I can’t say that this is the experience of every Black student on campus, this is just how I have felt. I also think it is important that I acknowledge the fact that I am not the first Black student on this campus who tried to create something like the “Black Hair Care” event.
In some ways, being one of the point people for this event has thrust me into the spotlight and afforded me some great opportunities. I feel it is crucial to point out that I am not the only person who has thoughts or feelings on this subject and that I do not wish to be seen as “the face” of those pushing for changes for Black students on campus.
I am in my third year here on Central’s campus but I’m originally from Battle Creek, Michigan. I am a Black student on this campus, which is how I know the hardship of finding effective and cost-efficient hair products/tools, exists. The summer between my first and second year, I came to the startling realization that the closest thing to a Black Beauty Supply store in Mount Pleasant was a Sally Beauty.
While Sally Beauty is a great store, it does not tend to carry brands and products that are good for Black hair or, as some call it, textured hair. There is also a very small selection of braiding and styling hair which are used for styles such as box braids, faux locs, etc.
If you’ve been on this campus for the past year, you might have heard of the “Black Hair Care” event. I’m happy to say that this event is my baby. I can’t take all of the credit for the idea of this event, though; that must go to my aunt. When I shared with her the realization I had, she helped me see this issue from more than just a personal level. I began to think about how many students on campus might be facing the same issue as me and decided I wanted to see if there was anything I could do about it.
According to Central Michigan University’s 2021 data set report, as of October 15, 2021, there were nearly 11,500 undergraduate students on CMU’s campus. Out of that, roughly 1,150 of those students were Black. This may come as a surprise to some; finding out that 10% of the university’s undergraduate students at that time were Black. However, this data set had a separate section for people who identify with more than one race, so it’s possible that number is higher.
I’m sure these numbers have fluctuated for this past school year, as more students enroll and some graduate. I give you these numbers to show you how many students are potentially facing hardship simply due to the geographical location of our university.
The first time I hosted the “Black Hair Care“ event in February 2022, I was aided by Samantha Chime, who has since graduated. After having looked up “Black beauty supply stores in Lansing”, we found a store in Lansing called Bantou Beauty Supply to support our event. With the help of the Bantou Beauty Supply and funding provided by the Residence Housing Association (RHA), we were able to offer Black students the hair products they needed. The outcome was even greater than I could have imagined. 150 people showed up to the event, and we had only been expecting half of that. Due to the overwhelming number of people who came, we did not have enough products and hair to pass out to students.
Since there was such a desire for the event, I decided to host it again, so this past February I did so with the help of Christiano Bermudez. This year, we asked for more money from RHA and partnered with Bantou Beauty Supply again, banking on having 200 people show up. In total, 250 people came out to the event to learn about Black hair and to receive resources. Thanks to the funding provided by RHA, all of those who wanted to get products and tools were able to get up to four items.
I’m forever grateful that I’ve been able to be a part of this event. The support and love that I’ve received from my community has made any stress I may have felt in the planning process worth it. This event has helped me strengthen my connection to the Black community on campus.
Makayla Osborn is the founder of the last two Black Hair Care events on campus, they are double majoring in Cultural Global Studies and Early Childhood Teaching B-K and Early Childhood Special Education.