Stylebook Snapshot: International Natural Hair Meetup Day festivities find a home in Pittsburgh
May 24, 2015 12:00 AM
Allison Gates of Swissvale and Anthony Williams of the Hill District, model their styles during last year's International Natural Hiar Meetup Day.
Melissa Estrade on the runway for International Natural Hair Meetup Day 2014, held at The Alloy Studios in Friendship.
Tamiah Bridgett, founder of It's a Natural Thang, organizes events that support and celebrate natural hair and healthy living.
By Sara Bauknecht / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Adeea Rogers has no doubt that what seems like more African-Americans embracing their natural hair is not just a fad.
At a time when pop culture and beauty buffs seemed to be pondering the staying power of natural hair, she spearheaded the first nationwide natural hair meetup day as a way to unite and celebrate women and men in their journey to let chemical agents and relaxers grow out, and their natural hair textures and curl patterns grow in.
International Natural Hair Meetup Day Pittsburgh
When: noon-3 p.m. Saturday.
Where: Center for Family Excellence, 409 Dinwiddie St., Hill District
“At that point I thought it would have a huge impact not only within [the natural hair] community but in the fashion and beauty industry and mainstream society and corporate American if all of these different cities held events on the same day,” she says.
That was four years ago. Since then, International Natural Hair Meetup Day, as it’s now known, has become an annual affair that not only includes Ms. Rogers’ hometown of Greenville, N.C., but also about 50 cities around the world. This year’s meetup day will take place on Saturday − with Pittsburgh to be part of the event with its own afternoon of festivities.
She credits its organic growth to what she calls “word evangelism.”
“People have gone to events, they've had an amazing time and they've told their friends,” she says.
Event hosts who organize activities in participating cities also keep her mission to inform and inspire going strong, she says. To become a host city, local groups pay a fee and complete informational webinars outlining the meetup day’s standards and values. In Pittsburgh, Tamiah Bridgett has been coordinating International Natural Hair Meetup Day events for three years. She’s a licensed cosmetologist and the founder of It’s a Natural Thang, a local group with more than 4,000 members online, which holds its own seasonal events.
“I’m doing real work every day to raise awareness and esteem of women who have natural hair,” Ms. Bridgett says, adding that her group also addresses healthy relationships and physical and mental wellness. While its primary demographic is African-American women, it’s also a resource to men with natural hair, and multi-race families seeking hair care suggestions for their children.
On Saturday, she expects at least 100 people to attend International Natural Hair Meetup Day programming at the Center for Family Excellence in the Hill District. There will be vendors selling hair care products, natural hair accessories, jewelry, food and more, plus hair styling demonstrations with a representative from Design Essentials hair care system, the international meetup’s title sponsor.
The headlining attraction will be a special presentation called “International Hair, the Diaspora Edition: The Drum, the Braid, the Dance,” which will trace hairstyle and headwrap traditions of African descendants all over the world set to live music from the Ibeji Drum Ensemble. The Natural Choice barber shop and salon in Oakland, Cafe con Leche and Adopting Identity have come on board to assist Ms. Bridgett with hairstyles and with preserving cultural accuracy in the presentation.
Each year, the meetup day has a philanthropic component as part of its INHMD Cares initiative. This year’s focus is on mentorship for young girls and women of color, Ms. Rogers says. At the Pittsburgh event, attendees are encouraged to bring at least $1 to donate to Daughters of Zion to support the group’s programs for women and girls.
While International Natural Hair Meetup Day is just that − only a day − organizers hope it sends a message that endures long after.
“When I went natural there were very little resources,” Ms. Bridgett says. “I think it’s finally at a place where people are starting to see it as a genuine part of the beauty industry. ... I think people are becoming more comfortable with it.”
For more from Post-Gazette style editor Sara Bauknecht, visit the PG’s fashion blog Stylebook at post-gazette.com/stylebook. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @SaraB_PG or email email@example.com.
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