#thetimeisnow

The success of Hamilton’s first Black Hair Brunch Denoire Collective educates the community on embracing their locks without letting their hair down

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Photos by Aaron de Jesus

It took only one glimpse at Shaneece Jeffers and Esther Adjekum to notice their gorgeous hairstyles. As I sit down, I think about how us three black women are each confidently wearing our hair, wonderfully demonstrating some of the messaging Jeffers and Adjekum have been spreading in Hamilton.

Jeffers and Adjekum are the creators of Denoire Collective, which aims to inform, educate and engage Black and Brown Hamiltonians and allies. On Aug. 19 at The Spice Factory they did just that by hosting the first Black Hair Brunch in Hamilton.

The event consisted of vendors, panelists, hair demonstrations and, of course, brunch. It was an opportunity for Hamilton residents to come together and discuss the styling and care of Black hair. The support they received from both passionate individuals who wanted to help and groups such as the Coalition of Black and Racialized Artists demonstrated the need for an event like this in the community.

“I grew up in downtown Hamilton, but I wasn’t around a lot of people who were knowledgeable about hair, so my hair experience was so limited. There wasn’t any real experience. There wasn’t any real conversation… And there [was] no research, no background, no information on the dangers of perming your hair up until recently and it’s still not even fully realized or fully researched,” explained Adjekum.

Jeffers and Adjekum want to take these online discussions and education into the real world, so individuals have the opportunity to be surrounded by and bond with those who have similar experiences. These bonds are meant to be a form of support to ward off comments that arise from embracing and changing Black hair.

Having conversations to share knowledge about Black hair was a goal for the event. This stemmed from Jeffers and Adjekum’s experience growing up with few resources available for them to learn how to care for their hair healthily.

“You might be walking down the street, feeling uncomfortable because you have people who are looking [at] you a certain way…if you have your ‘fro out or if you shaved your head… But having somebody to really say like ‘girl, you look beautiful… It helps to have the affirmation,” explained Jeffers. “It makes you feel more empowered to just feel confident in your skin.”

Empowerment is a big part of what these women are about. They donated 15 per cent of raffle ticket proceeds to Empowerment Squared, a Hamilton-based Canadian charity that works to effect sustainable change in the community through education and social development. With the Black Hair Brunch, they were also empowering Hamiltonians to feel confident wearing their hair however they please.

“I feel like loving your hair on your own terms is something that is getting more widespread… No matter how you want to wear your hair, whatever it is, if you feel like this is the best representation of yourself then that is how you can wear your hair and there’s no shame behind it,” said Adjekum.

“I was speaking with my sister about, like, you know, our hair being ‘our identity’ and it’s not that. I think it’s like an extension of your creativity as opposed to identity because sometimes her hair is exactly like mine and we look really similar but we’re not the same person, right? It’s like whoever we’re feeling, like, that month,” Adjekum added.

Both Jeffers and Adjekum feel it is important to feel beautiful on one’s own terms and believe that that is better facilitated through community. Therefore, they plan to keep using Denoire Collective to provide racialized Hamiltonians with safe spaces and continuous opportunities.

They aim to collaborate with other creatives and continue supporting entrepreneurs and small-owned businesses. With the support they have had thus far, it is clear that the work they are doing is not only necessary but at the forefront of the Black hair conversation in Hamilton.

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