Local stylists not being trained in natural hair care, says salon owner

BY KIMONE THOMPSON Features editor — Sunday thompsonk@jamaicaobserver.com
Sunday, February 24, 2013 
              A salon operator has accused Government-funded HEART Trust/NTA as well as private cosmetology institutes of failing to educate students in the care of African-textured hair.
Dr Veronica Reid, who operates a salon in Kingston dedicated to African-textured hair, commonly called natural hair, said she has found that among the stylists she has met in her recruitment of employees, training is limited to chemical processes and there is no knowledge of how to care for African hair.
A section of the audience at Friday’s Hair Stories symposium at the University of the West Indies. (Photo: Joseph Wellington)

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“When I employ stylists, it doesn’t make any sense asking them about their qualifications, because there is no qualification for natural hair, even with a certificate from HEART,” she said.
“What they teach them is simple,” Reid, who has been in business for the past year-and-a-half, explained. “They might learn to cut, they might learn to colour, but in terms of actually caring for African hair, that’s not really part of the curriculum,” she added.
“What they’re actually taught is how to change our natural textures. So they would learn how to creme (relax) hair, how to put in weaves, how to braid; but in terms of learning how to shampoo us [natural hair clients] properly, what kind of products to use in African-textured hair, you’re not going to find that knowledge in people who are going to these schools.
As a solution to that, Dr Reid, who holds a PhD in marketing and who is working on her first book: Chances are, you’re not Natural, said she has created her own programme in African haircare and trains her staff herself.
“So when people come into the salon they will have certain skills, like cutting, etc, but I will help give them material about our hair. Even simple things like how to comb the hair, how to detangle, how to wash properly,” she said.
Reid was one of five panellists at Friday night’s symposium on the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies examining the “good hair” versus “bad hair” syndrome. The other presenters were part-time lecturer in Gender Studies Dr Imani Tafari-Ama, senior lecturer in the Department of Government Dr Clinton Hutton, lecturer in the Department of Government Dr Christopher Charles, and PhD candidate and activist Afifa. The event, which was staged by the Department of Sociology, Psychology and Social Work as part of the university’s observation of Black History Month, was titled: “Hair Stories: Exploring pervasive attitudes towards hair and beauty within black communities”.
A major feature of the symposium was a screening of a part the documentary Good Hair by American actor/comedian Chris Rock. The film zeroes in on the preoccupation with hair texture among black populations, and the methods people use to appear more European in their looks, such as relaxing and wearing weaves.
But, arguing that the hair types of persons of African descent is as much part of the heritage of Jamaican people as is diet and the experience of slavery, Reid underscored the importance of focusing mainstream attention on the care of African hair.

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