Written By: Tien Thai, Staff Writer

Students gained a new perspective about different ethnicities and the importance of hair care

The Office of Women’s Development collaborated with the Student Center for Reconciliation and Diversity (SCRD) to host the Multi-Cultural Hair Forum, with the hope of spreading awareness on campus about different types of hairstyles from different ethnicities, the importance of good hair care and different skills and tools for maintaining good haircare habits.

The event was hosted on Nov. 15 in Trinity Lounge. It was created and put on by Jessica Beeler, undergraduate intern for the Office of Women’s Development and Bianca Dahlen, undergraduate intern for the SCRD.

Beeler, a senior physical education major, explained that the event was intended to raise awareness about different cultures and how different hairstyles represent them.

“I hope APU students will learn that their hair is something that God has given them,” Beeler said. “Each ethnicity and culture has a different hairstyle and different way of expressing their hair, and hair comes in all shapes, sizes and forms. Everyone has hair, and everyone expresses it differently, and that is a part of us and something God has given us.”

This is the first annual Multicultural Hair Forum that the Office of Women’s Development has hosted in cooperation with SCRD.

Bianca Dahlen, senior social work major and coordinator of Pacific Islander Organization (PIO), shared that the event was about conversation too.

“The purpose of this event is just to engage in conversations with one another, simply listen to each other’s story and struggle, and also appreciate each other at the same time,” Dahlen said.

Dahlen expressed that hair across cultures is a fascinating and sensitive topic, so everyone should be able to have a safe space to listen and educate each other about it, all while discovering themselves and their racial identity through their hair.

Dahlen hoped that APU students would appreciate their hair and culture more, explore themselves and their racial identities through their own hairstyles and value themselves through it all.

“I hope that they will be able to answer any burning question or uncertainty about themselves, their cultures or their hair,” Dahlen said. “[I hope] they are able to at least take something home with them today that they did not know before, and that [students] would be able to feel comfortable asking questions in appropriate settings, and feel comfortable loving themselves no matter what has happened to them. I pray that they will be able to accept that and move forward to encourage one another to keep pursuing their hair and their culture through this.”

Senior applied exercise science major, Latin American Student Association (LASA) president, Multi-Ethnic Leadership (MEL) scholar and speaker at the Multicultural Hair Forum Kassandra Gomez explained the reason for her participation on the panel.

“I was asked to be a speaker for this event because they knew I’ve had really long hair, and my hair means a lot to me. Right now, I’m going through phases of experimenting with it,” Gomez said. “So I decided to participate in this event because I wanted people to hear my testimony and also learn more about others and see differences about hair and culture.”

Gomez shared that she enjoyed the diverse aspect of the event the most. She liked how everyone got to talk about their hair, the meaning behind each individual hairstyle, the similarity in regards to the unique meaning of each person’s hairstyle and each person’s haircare.

“I definitely liked all the diverse people talking about what their hair means to them, the similarity that our hair means something and that we care about our hair,” Gomez said. “Our hair represents who we are. It is a magic, a crown, all those beautiful things that have been said, but also the differences on the hair textures, the way they treat their hair.”

Beeler affirmed that the idea for the Multicultural Hair Forum was inspired by the Black Hair Forum that the Office of Women’s Development held two years ago. With the Multicultural Hair Forum, people from various cultures and ethnicities can participate.

“One thing I would want APU students to learn about different cultures and ethnicities is that there is so much more to a person than what they look like on the outside,” Beeler said. “We have to get to know who they are, what their background is, what their ethnicities and cultures are and who their ancestors are. You can learn that through their hair, things they say about their hair and their cultures and ethnicities.”

Gomez acknowledged that the event brought a new lesson and awareness about various cultures on campus, particularly about how APU students should approach each other’s hairstyle and culture.

“I hope APU students can take away the fact that everyone is different and everyone’s hair is different, and everyone is going to wear their hair the way they feel most comfortable in,” Gomez said. “So it is important to take time and admire the differences that we have on campus, even if it is something so similar as in hair.”