Politics of Black and Brown Beauty opens space for discussion and empowerment

SJICR's promotion for the event. - Photo via @rowansjicr on Instagram

Rowan University hosted “Politics of Black and Brown Beauty: An Exploration of Beauty Beyond Tradition” in the Eynon Ballroom at the Chamberlain Student Center on Thursday, Feb. 15, from 5 – 9 p.m. The event was sponsored by the Office of Social Justice Inclusion and Conflict Resolution, with Claire Exantus, the Graduate Coordinator of SJICR bringing her vision for the event to life with the help of Dom Pierson, Manager of SJICR.

The event, as advertised on brochures and flyers across campus, intentionally created a brave and loving space for Black and Brown community members to share their beauty journeys, styles, and stories while acknowledging both the personal and political. In the past, the event was known as the “Politics of Black and Brown Hair’” but the scope of conversation moved passed hair to encompass all forms of beauty, including fashion, makeup, skin, and the overall politics surrounding what beauty can be defined as. Claire hoped that students would leave feeling better about themselves and more confident in the beauty they possess.

“I hope the Black and Brown students who attended left feeling more empowered and confident in their beauty. This event used to only include the politics of hair, but there are many more parts to the beauty that we decided to include and a great selection of student panelists who can provide unique perspectives,” said Exantus.

Keynote speaker Brittanie Thomas presented a PowerPoint alongside two entrepreneurs who have collaborated with her in the beauty and fashion industries. Thomas, known as an Organizational Therapist, was invited by SJICR and Creatives on Campus for her work in creating equitable and mutually esteeming spaces for the increasingly diverse communities people find themselves. 

As the owner and CEO of “Happily Better After,” a nationally serving organizational learning and development firm, Thomas spoke about the importance of organizational wellness and achieving sustainable solutions in her personal and business life. Her niche framework and advice for attendees came down to three major points, including having an appreciation for the journey, vision and strength for the build, and space to create. 

“I always believe there is power in two vs. one. Sometimes I tend to hide from collaboration, but with it comes diverse perspectives which I wouldn’t have considered otherwise,” said Thomas. 

Moreover, Megan Green, one of the entrepreneurs who attended with Thomas, is the founder of Crown Workshop, who focus on equipping women with the tools to build sustainable confidence through hair and self. Green spoke on her transition from the aerospace industry to creating hair products, and she too emphasized the importance of collaboration above all else. 

The student panel featured six of Rowan University’s own students; Joshua Akinsanya represented fashion, Nardin Salib and Erwin Wambi spoke on hair, Shaileen Woods gave accounts on makeup, Ylanda Souffrant provided information on skin, and Jamar Green rounded out the panel with his takes on the politics of beauty.

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