Natural Hair, On Campus

Full disclosure: I wasn’t in a sorority in college. At the time I was so brand new, so fresh off the boat from the islands, that I honestly didn’t get the concept.

In my college experience, sororities seemed snobby and elitist and segregrated. I didn’t see why I would pay money or learn secret handshakes or songs. Also, when I was in college there was a tragic hazing related death involving a popular fraternity, and that pretty much sealed the deal for me.

It wasn’t until after I graduated, that I saw the benefits and positive possibilities that Greek life could provide. It wasn’t until way after college that I GOT IT — at their best, sororities foster sisterhood and work to achieve good things for their communities. I’ve come to know many, many proud sorority women who have truly gained so much from their experiences, and from being part of their organizations.

Recently, news of a “natural hair sorority” called Pi Nappa Kappa made major waves online. The creators and members of Pi Nappa Kappa faced judgment from all corners — read Luvvie’s post to get an idea of the criticism that’s been leveled against this group.

Although I personally never was in a sorority, I can totally see where members of actual Greek organizations might feel some kinda way about the existence of a faux Greek organization that includes members solely based on the way they wear their hair. But having said that — I think if I were on a college campus today, a group that offered education, insight, and encouragement for natural hair wearers would be really exciting to me. If an organization like that existed when I was in college, I would have known more about caring for my hair and I might have transitioned earlier.

Pi Nappa Kappa is an online organization that is open to members who aren’t necessarily of collegiate age – anyone can join. But on college campuses around the country, support groups and clubs are popping up, and young students who wear their hair natural are joining them.

I recently interviewed Sydney Stoudmire, a Liberal Arts and Science and Art History major at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign.

Sydney, founder of SuperNatural

Sydney is also the president and founder of SuperNatural, a college organization that will be hosting its first ever event this Saturday — featuring natural hair bloggers and vloggers I truly love and respect, including Renisha of Renewed Fitness, Leila of Black Girl With Long Hair, BeautifulBrwnBabyDoll, CharyJay, and Ms. Vaughn and Meechy, otherwise known as the Monroe sisters!

I reached out to Sydney to hear exactly what inspired her to create SuperNatural, her views on college campus natural hair organizations, and her goals for the very first SuperNatural event!

Afrobella: What inspired you to create SuperNatural?

Sydney: Contrary to what many people believe, SuperNatural is not an organization strictly devoted to natural hair. While SuperNatural does emphasize the celebration of kinky, curly, and afro-textures of African American hair, the objective of the organization is more than just exchanging style ideas and product reviews. Our mission is devoted to promoting an overall health-conscious lifestyle—from the external to the internal.

After over fifteen years of damaging my hair with dyes, relaxers, and weaves that put ridiculous tension on my hair line, I “went natural” in June 2009. Unforeseen byproducts were that I became a vegetarian, began exercising more (and losing over 30lbs), ended relationships that were toxic to my emotional wellbeing, and became a healthier person overall. I’m not claiming that it was a solution to all my life’s problems. But deciding to make healthier choices for my hair did prompt me to make healthier choices in my life in general. The ultimate goal of SuperNatural is to create a platform members to take notice of how everyday practices can improve (or jeopardize) their overall health and quality of life.

Afrobella: What would you say to someone who questions the need or validity for a college organization dedicated to natural hair?

Sydney: In our first year of existence, we’ve definitely gotten our share of accusations of SuperNatural being a an “anti-relaxer cult” and criticisms that a SuperNatural would eventually fade away. It comes with the territory and we try our best not to let the negativity distract us from the positivity we strive for. But to the naysayers, we insist that an organization celebrating natural hair is a necessity in a society where it isn’t considered the standard of beauty. And in any case, because SuperNatural deals with topics outside of hair, we are confident that our organization will have relevance for years to come.

Afrobella: What is the intent of your event?

Sydney: The SuperNatural Tender, Love, and Hair Conference is a manifestation of our mission to promote healthier lifestyles in the African American community. The conference is focused on hair, but many of our speakers will be speaking on the correlation between hair health and all other facets of wellbeing. We have invited hair stylists, psychologists, motivational speakers, authors, and other professionals to host workshops and lectures on everything from hair maintenance/styling, to the way that hair can influence one’s self-esteem. Our hope is that this conference will lay the foundation for our members to reflect on the decisions they make in their lives, and make changes toward becoming happier, healthier people.

Click here to learn more about the SuperNatural conference.

What are your thoughts, bellas? Would you join an organization like Pi Nappa Kappa? What about SuperNatural? Were you in a college sorority? Do you wish these groups were around when you were a student?

Photo source.

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Comments

  1. While I’m not quite sure how I feel about the sorority Pi Nappa Kappa (I think the mixture of real/fake greek letters are throwing me off – I get the ‘Nappa’, but throwin it in with actual greek letters…hmmmm)

    I actually do like the idea of a natural hair ‘organization’ I didn’t think it had to be a ‘sorority’, as I think it’s hard to have a TRUE sorority, without specific ‘chapters’ that are focused on specific service areas, performing service to their surrounding communities. I see it as more of a ‘social awareness’ group. Now this is just coming from an outsider looking in. I don’t know what the founder’s true vision is for this sorority, but I am interested to watch and see what it evolves into.

    Btw – I am a member of a BGLO, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. OOOOO-OOP to my sorors out there!

    I wish Pi Nappa Kappa all of the best and hope that it really turns out to be beneficial to our community :)

    • Btw – how rude of me not to acknowledge the abundance of natural hair groups that are starting on college campuses (as well as off college campuses). I think these are an excellent addition to the collection of natural hair resources that are already available to the natural hair community – and relaxed as well! (no shade over here!)

      Congrats to Sydney and I wish her the best with her upcoming event!

  2. I like their intent. I appreciate they group love and support. But I never bought into the “greek” thing, because historically the “greeks” stole from the egyptians. Why we look up the “greeks” is a puzzle.
    That aside. And to each her or his own.

    I didn’t pledge. And I’m not interested in “joining” anything. But I support what they are doing and I hope education and sisterhood prevails.

    Thanks for this post.

  3. I wouldn’t join PNK ((nothing against it; I’m just kind of confused about the mission/purpose) and I wasn’t in a sorority in college (my campus had no Greek life), but even as someone who doesn’t affiliate my self with any natural hair communities, online or otherwise, I think they are great for all naturals in that they increase the visibility of natural hair and give those who would like support transistioning/caring for their hair a place to turn to. I’m not quite sure why some “legit” sororities are bothered; in general people pledge allegiance to their own group, not to everyone under the Greek Life sun, so how is this different from any other more obscure Greek org?

  4. Martha Hendry says:

    Wow, this is a good article but why didn’t you interview the Pi Nappa Kappa people to get their view point? You used their name in your title to draw attention to this article yet you have no one in there to give their point of view. I want to hear from them.

  5. Ashley Machelle at UIS says:

    I founded Kinky&Curly:Natural Hair Empowerment Club at University of Illinois Springfield last year.I her to rep the natural hair campus orgs everywhere! Good job Syd!

  6. I like the idea about a natural hair organization that’s devoted to more than just natural hair, but I don’t care for labeling one as a sorority. Just call it a club, group, or organization.

  7. I love the idea of a natural hair organization too but I have to say we should celebrate the products provided for us by our people to give us options to pull our hair together.
    I love my hair natural and treated. I just try not to over treat it.

  8. Black hair is a passionate topic for women, and the benefit of natural hair touches many layers of Black health including, financially (not buying those expensive weaves), mental health (self-esteem), and community.

    Setting up a campus organization allows these women an official platform for opportunities for unity, and financial backing. I don’t think the organization is trying to be exclusive – maybe strategic, and smart for sure.

    Natural black hair tips can be found for free. Check out my favorite source:
    http://www.typef.com/article/make-african-american-hair-curly-chemicals/

  9. I’m lucky that I schooled in Toronto (just graduated this year), and this is why I love my city. Natural girls are EVERYWHERE. And all races are everywhere. People don’t judge you for being natural, they actually compliment it. When I went natural, everyone told me how amazing I look. Now if i was in a not so diverse environment, i might feel a bit uncomfortable, but i think it’s important to look to yourself for worth, and embrace who you are.

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