‘It feels like I’m a part of something bigger’: Natural hair club aims to create community for Towson students of color

By: Caitlyn Freeman, Editor in Chief

Each meeting begins with Members of the Towson University’s Naturalistas club reciting an affirmation. 

“My hair is strong, short or long,” the members said in unison. “My hair is powerful, broken or filled. My hair is history, so it’s more than a look. I express myself through hair with style beyond compare. Curls to braids, locs to fades, my brothers and sisters do it naturally. We are naturalistas.” 

To find community with other Towson students of color with natural curls and coils, Sophomore Jay Williamson revived the TU Naturalistas club.

Some interaction of the Naturalistas club has been on campus since at least 2013, according to Student Affairs documents. The club became inactive in 2021, meaning it did not meet the minimum requirements to be considered an official university organization. 

Williamson said the motivation behind reinvigorating the club was to give students of color a space where they could “assert themselves” through their hair. 

Since the beginning of the spring 2023 semester, the group has gained over 100 members in their group chat and 78 who are signed up through the university’s official channel, Williamson said. 

“I’m really excited because I was like, ‘okay, people really want to join this, people want to get involved,'” they said. “And that made me really happy.”

Williamson took over the club in the fall of 2022 and spent the semester building infrastructure before holding meetings during the spring semester.

The club’s leadership includes 10 members, including Vice President Wynter Benton, who found the club while scrolling through Involved@TU. Since joining, Benton, a senior, said the club had given her more than just a place to connect with students and has provided her with a sense of community. 

“It feels like I’m a part of something bigger,” she said. “It’s not just a club. It’s something that I can embrace. It’s something that I can carry with me.” 

Growing up, Williamson said they noticed that most people with similar hair wore it straightened or permed because of the Eurocentric beauty standards imposed onto the Black community. 

“It’s nothing wrong with people who want to wear straight hair or perm their hair,” they said. “But there are some people who have gone on to have been bullied because of their natural hair being called nappy, unkept, looked at differently, but now we’re trying to take time to show that wearing your hair is a professional look and it can be a professional. It should be something that should be admired and not hated.”

Echoing Williamson, Junior Mahlet Gebretsadik, the club’s co-public relations chair, said she hopes the group helps to destigmatize Black hair. She thinks the stigma is aided by people never having the opportunity to learn how to do their natural hair, something she hopes the group can change. 

“I think natural hair is beautiful; it’s amazing,” Gebretsadik said. “And we should embrace what we have on our heads, not conformed to the majority or like white standards or like non-curly hair standards.”

Additionally, while Towson’s student population continues to trend towards majority-minority, Williamson said the university’s history as a predominantly white institution is why clubs like the Naturalistas are still necessary. 

“Even though we have a huge Black community here, I still think it’s important that we help people of color have a safe space to express themselves,” they said. 

As for the future, Williamson said they hope to host a Black hair throughout history fashion show. Most importantly, they’re trying to set plans so the club can continue when they graduate. 

During the club’s Feb. 21 meeting, attendees were tasked with describing the first word that comes to mind when they think of Black hair. 

“Freedom,” one attendee wrote on the online whiteboard.

“Joyful,” another wrote.


Editors note: This story was written as part of an assignment for the Towson University feature writing class within the Mass Communication Department but was given to The Towerlight for publication.


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