Black hair has been a driving force in the culture for decades!
It is the way we as Black women tell stories, connect and show up in the world, and now these two friends are bringing it to life through "The Black Hair Experience," a pop-up installation that fuses the aesthetic of an art exhibit with the engagement of photo-worthy activations, all motivated by not only the stories and culture of Black hair, but it's beauty in its many shapes and forms.
Elizabeth Austin-Davis and Alisha Brooks are proof that friends can go into business together, and they're changing the narrative around Black hair and allowing us to share our stories about who we are in our own way!
As a world-renowned photographer, Austin-Davis grew tired of her hair being the topic of discussion in spaces where she was almost always the only Black woman. She had the idea of exploring Black women and our hair through photography. And Brooks, an amazing graphic designer, had the vision to create an experiential activation for Black women and our hair.
The light bulbs went off, and magic has been made ever since!
The Black Hair Experience has been a smash hit since opening its doors in Atlanta, Georgia, in November 2020. Now, the activation is spreading its wings and soaring into a new city, Washington D.C., which the ladies say has been the most requested destination. This is only the beginning for Austin-Davis and Brooks, who aim to reach as many people as possible.
21Ninety: What is the mission behind The Black Hair Experience?
Alisha Brooks: One of our main objectives is to normalize Black hair in all of its different shapes, sizes, and textures, so regardless of how you choose to wear your hair, whether you’re relaxed, natural, have locs, or bald; it will be celebrated.
Our hair is beautiful, and it shouldn’t be a topic or an issue in the workplace or in our schools. We really just want to bring to light our experiences to celebrate our differences, even though they’re somewhat connections, through our hair.
Elizabeth Austin-Davis: To add to this, we also want to impact the youth. We have “We Care” workshops starting this summer, and our goal is to really impact the girls that are coming up in age and help them to not only see themselves in the experience but behind the women putting on the experience.
All Black hair is beautiful, and that’s the message we are continuing with this exhibit and what we’re trying to communicate within our community and even outside of our community.
21Ninety: That’s amazing! What would you say is your favorite moment from your own hair journey?
Austin-Davis: When I actually started to love it. I think I had a classic story of my texture not being celebrated growing up, so I thought something was wrong with it. It wasn’t until I went to an HBCU, in the midst of the Black hair movement, that I truly began to love my hair.
For me, that transition to saying ‘I can wear my hair however I want, as long as I love myself while doing it’ has been a pivotal moment in my hair journey.
21Ninety: Wow, it truly is super important for us to love our hair no matter how we choose to wear it! What’s something you’d want your platform to teach your daughter about her hair?
Brooks: I want her to know that whatever decision she makes with her hair, that’s her prerogative and that it shouldn’t be a topic of issue or concern.
I know we had our own experiences growing up, and even as an adult entering the corporate world, those are just challenges that I’m hoping they don’t have to face. I’m hoping that experiences like this, while they were created to help celebrate our hair, also have people outside of our community that decide to partake so they too can adjust and make it normal in these spaces that aren’t just filled with Black women.
We really want to foster that message that our hair should be accepted regardless of how we wear it, and we’re going to love it, so if she chooses to wear her hair naturally or she goes down the road one day and decides to put a relaxer in it; she always has my support.