I had the privilege of being on the speaking panel at this year’s Curly treats festival 2017 which is one of the biggest natural hair and beauty events in the UK. Other people on the panel included Lekia Lee (Billboard Campaigner and founder of Project Embrace), Aaron Wallace (Founder of UK’s first Black Owned Grooming Brand for Men), and Jay and Tri of Curlture UK.
The event was in one word phenomenal! There were over 500 attendees. Being at an event like this was personally liberating and inspiring. I remember arriving and having a little walk about before going on stage to speak on the panel, and the sense of joy and pride that I felt could not be put into words. I think that was partly because of the thoughts and feelings that the atmosphere aroused: seeing black dolls, black hair products: created by black entrepreneurs, fashion, jewelry, and most importantly bold black people who were unashamed to wear their hair naturally and proudly! For me it was super exciting to see that kind of environment.
I can never compare my childhood in London to the experiences of the generations before me . Nevertheless, I can certainly say that back at school being really “dark” like myself was not the coolest thing neither do I remember having a black doll as a child! I suppose that explains the liberating and proud feeling that I must have felt going around and seeing all the stands and the beauty that everything represented .
For those who may struggle to understand the importance of festivals like this (Believe me there will always be someone who has a negative opinion or doesn’t quite understand the importance of events like this, that is not a problem I think it is actually healthy to look at things from various perspectives that is the whole point of education right?).
Festivals like Curly treats are very significant. I have already mentioned the liberating feeling ,but another thought I had while walking around was just how glad I am that my “future kids” will one day have the opportunity of growing up in a society where they will also be considered beautiful and have all the resources and knowledge that they require to freely and proudly be who they are. Events like this certainly create such as strong support network for black women helping educate and inspire them.
One of the things I shared on the panel which was titled (Black Beauty: Entangled in politics) was the importance of nurturing good supportive networks within black communities but also encouraging high standards within black businesses. This was NOT in any way said to rein enforce some of the already condescending narratives that are already associated with black businesses ,but it was said in order to continually encourage those who are maintaining high levels of excellence as well as setting a bar for those who are looking to go into the industry of offering products and services that cater not just to black communities ,but the wider community. Maintaining a reputation for excellence is the key to helping establish the reputation of black businesses and products whether they are in the beauty, hair industry or not. I also shared on the importance of supporting one another speaking positively about ourselves and encouraging one another to succeed.Because if one person succeeds everyone succeeds.