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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

Common Experience event opens up the discussion about identity

naturallyyou
naturallyyou

A new Common Experience event, Naturally You, will host conversations about natural hair, discussing what hair means according to ancestry and culture and how society and professionalism play a part in its presentation.
Last summer, the Common Experience Leadership Team visited the colleges around campus to brainstorm ideas for events relating to the 2022-2023 theme, Systems Thinking. During one of these visits, Nabila Cook, senior administrative assistant for the College of Liberal Arts, approached them about a conversation she had with a few Texas State Strutters. They wanted to keep dancing in the program but were asked to style their hair by straightening it to keep participating in the activity.
“For many people, their style, their hair represents more than just something that is exterior,” Nielson said. “Like, it’s connected … to their family, to their culture, again, to their very being.”
The team brought the situation to the attention of other faculty and staff, where it was revealed that such experiences on campus were not exclusive to just students.
“It allowed for a larger conversation about how can we, you know, support individuals with natural hair so that they have that sense of belonging and how can we draw in a campus-wide conversation,” Camrie Pipper, assistant director of the Common Experience, said.
The event’s name is a nod to Naturally Y.O.U., a student organization that aimed to help individuals lead a healthy lifestyle while embracing their natural beauty. The organization is currently inactive due to its members graduating. Using the organization’s name for the event would help continue what its members worked toward.
The event will consist of two parts. The first, a resource fair from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., will connect students, faculty and staff with community resources like San Marcos salons and stylists, and student organizations and services. The second event, a panel discussion from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m., will feature faculty, staff and students sharing their experiences of navigating natural hair.
“This event is celebrating everyone with natural hair and seeing individuals who have to use a scalp routine,” Pipper said. “This is also an event for people who wear wigs, not just individuals who are Black. There are many individuals and demographics who wear wigs, so we were trying to ensure that everyone was helping foster that sense of belonging.”
One of the panelists is Kelley Glover, a third-year doctoral graduate student in the School Improvement Program at Texas State. She was initially on the planning committee for Naturally You but became a panelist when Pipper approached her after she saw her class presentation about growing up in the U.S. and her experiences with internalized racism.
Glover agreed to participate because, as an educator, she wants to help make an impact on others and answer questions they may want to ask her about her hair.
“I’d like to not just teach, but I also like to teach about, you know, how history and how society affects us,” Glover said. “I want to unpack what my hair journey was, and how to me, texturism can be even stronger than colorism in not just the Black community but the Hispanic community and the Asian community.”
Glover said texturism is discrimination against someone — usually for having tightly curled, coarser hair. She experienced a similar feeling when she was three years old, as her mother would put long ponytails in her hair. A few years later, Glover told her mother about feeling like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer wearing fake ponytails and wanting her natural hair. She wanted to know why she had her wear them.
“My mom said, ‘because you and your sister were dark-skinned, I knew you would have a harder time in society being seen as beautiful so, I decided if you had long hair, you wouldn’t have that problem,'” Glover said. “And it’s true. I never got picked on for being dark-skinned.”
The experience, however, has sworn off Glover’s decision to be seen with fake hair because she wants to make a statement to be seen as beautiful with her own hair. Since then, she has tried different styles with her hair and realized its flexibility through trial and error.
Collaborating with the other panelists has also changed her perception of what groups are affected by this problem. Another panelist, who is Mexican American, has talked about how she feels pressured and still feels pressured to straighten her natural curls to appear more European looking. With this new outlook, Glover believes the panel will also open people’s eyes to their histories with hair overlapping.
“We don’t have interracial conversations with each other enough, and I think this will help us to start having those conversations with each other to see how much we have in common; how much Western colonialism has affected all of us,” Glover said. “In a nutshell, that’s going to help us start talking amongst each other more.”
Naturally You fits the Common Experience’s 2022-2023 theme, Systems Thinking. According to the website, the theme asks students to recognize the systems they live in and understand and change them. By looking at the sociocultural systems about beauty and personal style, Naturally You asks if the systems are healthy, if they are working and if they make people feel welcome.
The Common Experience Leadership Team hopes Naturally You will grow and become an annual event.
“The conversations of people’s being and how they feel about themselves and how, you know, they’re presenting themselves to the world — it’s so key for students, especially as you all are here and then move into the work world,” Nielson said.
Naturally You will be from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Feb. 21 in the LBJ Student Center Grand Ballroom. For event and volunteer registration, visit https://commonexperience.txst.edu/events/all/naturally-you.html.

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