As Black History Month nears its end, students in Pitt’s Crown Culture club are hard at work. They are hosting workshops to educate others on the rich history behind Black hairstyles as well as teaching members how to create those hairstyles on themselves and others.
Keasya McDuffie, a senior psychology major and club president, came up with the name “Crown Culture” as the club came to life, relating the word “crown” to the Hindu and Buddhist chakras.
“I decided on the word crown to acknowledge the seventh chakra, commonly known as the Crown Chakra. This chakra is one’s connection to God or the universe, and is located at the top of the head,” McDuffie said. “Our club’s name hopes to acknowledge the divinity and importance of our hair, which is a large piece of our culture.”
The club is open to anyone who has natural, kinky or curly hair, as well as people who are interested in learning about natural hair. The club officially formed in fall 2020, McDuffie’s first year at Pitt.
“The day to day is centered around hair care, representation, fighting against hair discrimination and embracing the beauty that is Black hair,” McDuffie said. “Not only can the club be used as an educational outlet where we learn hair care tips and you can come to our braiding workshops, but also gives a sense of community where you can openly talk about anything and be heard.”
The club hosted one of their workshopping events last week. The workshop aimed to teach members how to braid, cornrow and twist natural hair.
Desiree Amewotho, a senior biological sciences major and public relations manager of Crown Culture, said the club finds it important and valuable to learn how to do these traditional hair styles.
“[We want] to acknowledge the value of doing your own hair, and getting better at these styles over time,” Amewotho said. “Black hairstyles have history intertwined within their beauty, which is why we feel it is valuable to learn how to do these traditional hair styles.”
Crown Culture serves a crucial role in the Pitt community and the broader Pittsburgh community through providing a safe space for students to share stories, ask questions and learn, according to Amewotho.
“Hair plays a large part of self identity, especially in the Black community, hair is important,” Amewotho said. “This organization shows that no matter how your hair grows out of your head, it’s beautiful and should be respected in all settings. It provides a safe space for students to share stories about their hair journey, ask questions that they may not have been comfortable asking before, and learn how to take care of not only their hair, but also their self image.”
The club often does combined events with other clubs and organizations on campus. One of their next upcoming events is in conjunction with Pitt’s Multiracial Student Association called “Bonnets and Durags Tea Time.” The event will take place on Feb. 27 at 9 p.m.
Amewotho said the event is a space for students and members to discuss issues within hair care, society, prejudice and microaggressions.
Kayla Spivey, a sophomore psychology major and co-events chair of Crown Culture, said one of the board’s most memorable events was one of their first. The club collaborated with Pitt’s African Students Organization for “Getting to Know your Roots” in April 2021.
“This event was very fun and informative, as it walked through the different hairstyles of the African diaspora and their history,” Spivey said.
Another event Crown Culture hosted as a newer club discussed Black hair in the workplace.
“It really allowed for members to learn about how prevalent hair discrimination in the workplace is today,” McDuffie said.
Students can get involved by becoming members, volunteering at events and promoting the club’s events through social media or sharing with friends. Students can also get involved through donating to the club, according to Spivey. She said Crown Culture is always accepting donations for future events, such as their upcoming event again with ASO, called “Wazobia,” on March 18.
“It’s going to feature local Black hairstylists and commemorate the Pittsburgh community and their passions,” Spivey said. “Wazobia will also have artists, poets and more displayed at the show, so it’s going to be a great event.”
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