‘Collegiate Curls’ Celebrates Growth and Roots



L to R: Lajahnik Valentine, Kayla Lucas, Ariel Laura Metayer, Terri Dorsey, Marsean Rice.

Amber Borden, Staff Writer

Hair is something that we all have and may seem frivolous to think about, yet with each strand comes an experience that is unique to the person it grows out of. Natural hair in the black community has a long history that is full of highs and lows, even though its roots define empowerment. Collegiate Curls is working to bring that empowerment to the St. John’s campus.  

From    Root to  Tip

Collegiate Curls originally started in Charleston, S. C. in 2016 and has chapters within other campuses. Lajahnik Valentine, senior and President of the St. John’s Collegiate Curls chapter, wanted to be a part of an organization but none felt like a good fit at the time. A member of another Collegiate Curls chapter suggested to Valentine that she should start her own chapter at St. John’s.

“I care about self health, my hair, I care about how other people feel because no one wants to feel bad, and we all want to shine… So to bring that here to this campus and see that so many people wanted it, made me want to work harder and bring it here,”  Valentine said.

In January 2018, Collegiate Curls was  SGI approved, and it currently has 11 e-board members and 414 Instagram followers. The organization’s slogan, “I am Bold, I am Brown, I am Beautiful, and I Belong,” sheds light on their mission of self-love and empowerment. It is easy to feel discouraged when you are told that your hair is unprofessional, unkempt or doesn’t fit a certain standard of beauty that never reflects you.

Collegiate Curls strives to stymie those beliefs through their involvement on campus and as an organization. Junior Jasmine Newman and freshman Johanna Labissiere both share the role of Campus Collaboration Chair. “We reach out to other organizations to collaborate on events and ideas,” Newman said. Events like Curls Nation and the Curly Girl Panel during the spring 2018 semester were a turning point for the organization. Both events had a major turn out and really solidified Collegiate Curls’ presence.

New    Growth

At its core, Collegiate Curls focuses on natural hair, but they are a multicultural organization that supports healthy holistic practices that promote not only healthy hair but also a healthy well-being. “I love how we are in a PWI [Predominately White Institution] and we give space to and for us. We are more than curls and beauty, our diversity connects us,” Vice President Ariel Laura Metayer said.  

Along with advocating for healthy hair and living a healthy lifestyle, Collegiate Curls believes that self-care does not have a gender. The organization currently has two male Ambassadors, Marsean Rice and Nnaemeka Ifeajekwu, who serve as  the voice for men to know that self-care is just not feminine.

“For a long time in high school I was afraid to care for my hair… I was afraid of what people would think if I cared for my hair. I had to become more comfortable with myself and not be afraid of public perception,” Rice said in response to learning to love his natural hair.  “Hair is hair and I can appreciate both [waves and afros],” Ifeajekwu said.

The  Cut

Collegiate Curls does not shy away from commenting on the political aspects of natural hair. In October, the organization hosted “Hairtober,” where e-board members and guests shared their natural hair horror stories and experiences. At the end, guests left with solutions to certain issues and support knowing that they are not alone. Having conversations about the highs and lows of natural hair taps into the strong and continuous history of black hair.

The organization is a sounding board for empowerment, no matter where you are in your hair journey. Creative Director Terri Dorsey had a self love revelation when she finally did the big chop. “The day I did my big chop, I felt relieved. I felt so free, finding my curls, and accepting who I am,” Dorsey said. Head Social Media Chair, Kayla Lucas who works with Co- Social Media Chair, Shadine Cunningham, said she realized she couldn’t do it anymore after having a relaxer and went for a trim. “When you cut something it grows faster,” Lucas said.

Coming   Together

How you feel about your hair and how you feel about yourself go hand in hand. Collegiate Curls reaches to teach “Curl Literacy” for people from all backgrounds. Lucas works to engage the St. John’s community on social media through a captivating purple theme and pictures highlighting students’ natural hair. “Through engagement, we are giving power through invitation,” Lucas said.