giving voice to the issues


When we were first trying to decide on what our projects should revolve around, I instantly gravitated towards hair for some reason. The gravity of the topic of hair is often taken seriously enough by outsiders of the black community. For some it might seem like it just hair, something that grows on your body and provides protection and coverage. However, for many black people, especially black women, it is something that has a broad range of issues attached to it. As mentioned in the Afrofuturism piece, the black body has always been controlled. Even in  today’s technology-driven age, where technology devices are suppose to liberate the black body, it has in fact, further placed further restrictions on it. This is illustrative of historical practice, since the dawn of slavery, where black slaves were forced to cut of their hair and forgo intricate braiding designs. This control over black hair has transcended centuries, shaped by European beauty standards that define beautiful hair as straight hair. And in today’s society, black people are still controlled by constant restrictions over what hairstyles they can wear in the workplace or school. That is what problematizes the issue of beauty supply stores further. Not only are black people not able to control the state of their hair, they also do not have control over the industry that supplies them and the profits that it makes.

Currently, I am planning the content and production of my video that will be featured on my website. A lot of my photos have not featured people in them, on account that most of my sites requested that I not take photos with any of the customers in them. Therefore, I knew I wanted my video to be heavily dominated by black beauty supply customers and their voices. I attempt to give control and power to the women featured, so that they can talk honestly and without judgement about their experiences in beauty supply shops. I wanted to have the connotation behind technology be different than the one black people are often exposed to. Instead, I wanted to make it a positive experience of Digital Citizenship, whereby black people can “enable new forms of participation,” and perhaps, “change… existing social relations” (102). I asked black women who I know go to beauty supply stores in Brooklyn, questions about who they’ve noticed is the leadership at these establishments, the attitude they usually experience, and there feelings while in the beauty supply store. I choose not to include myself in the frame, so the focus is entirely on them.

However, often with personal accounts, many will immediately discredit them as singular experiences — a oppressed person should never have to provide statistics to prove that they are being oppressed. To avoid audiences from experiencing this, I decided to include several slides that take the viewers through some facts and figures about the industry. The colors of the slides were meant to provide consistency with the website and aesthetics of the beauty supply stores I have visited. The first slide details the breakdown of the ownership and profits. The statistics will detail just how much control Koreans have over the industry and simultaneously, how much they benefit from black customers and therefore, how much money is leaving the black community. They have such large spending power in the beauty industry, which should be seen in contrast to how the interviewees go on to talk about their experiences in the stores.

While, this is not one of the forms of alienation they talk about in the Alienation section, I think it is very applicable. While Marx is briefly mentioned, referencing his work on alienation when it comes to the laborer and the product, their also is alienation when it comes to how entrepreneurs see their customers. Often ones where they are not seen as human beings, but as dollar signs that do not need to be treated without respect or good customer service. This is also a factor of white supremacy, which constantly degrades the worth of black people. However, both exist because of the effects of capitalism. This brings up connections to the Neocolonial chapter in Posthuman. The exploitation of black communities has spread to other races outside of the white race. China has now begun to gain access to African resources through investment and loans. Much like Korean beauty supply store owners do through giving jobs to black employees in exchange for controlling the industry, Africans are supposed to be mollified by these actions. I hope that this video can create a realization of how many black customers have had a similar experience and realize the enormous buying power they have to demand more from the businesses they frequent. Another non-interview slide I want to showcase is a quote that that I hope will give perspective to the audience. If someone has an adverse reaction to the topic of the project, they should reassess why. Black community members have every reason to feel slighted by non-black business owners who come into their spaces, because no other ethnic enclave community would tolerate outsiders controlling the economic distribution of the community. I have one last slide before it transitions to the interviews that will bring it back to the community at hand. While I could not find any statistics specific to East Flatbush, like the ones mentioned in the earlier slides, I think the detailing the number of black people that live in East Flatbush bridges the gap. Since East Flatbush is a community with a majority black population, one can only infer that they buy a lot of hair care products, and therefore have to buy from one of Korean-owned beauty supply stores. Therefore, they are a community that has been afflicted by the way the Koreans control the industry and are threatened to their economic exploitation.

-Olivia Blackwell

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~ by oliviablackwell1 on March 31, 2019.

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