SuperNatural Festival celebrates hair, heritage and hope
By ANNA WALKER —The Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center (PGAAMCC) delves deep into the cultural, societal and philosophical aspects of natural hair with a new three-day event called #TeamNatural Weekend & Supernatural Festival. The festival will run from July 19 through July 21, and will encompass a variety of educational and engaging activities designed to inspire.
“Ours is one of the first Black museums to host such a natural hair event,” said Monica O. Montgomery, PGAAMCC’s executive director. “This festival is one of the many ways our museum serves as a home for Black Excellence.”
Ryan Collins serves as festival host. Collins, of the Largo-based salon Unruly Royalty, said, “This festival is essential because there aren’t enough events that capitalize on the progression of Black culture. A lot of people are still unaware of the resources and wealth of knowledge offered right in [their] community. This is an event celebrating individuality through the lenses of hair, health and wellness.”
Collins added, “One principle we promote is unity and creating a network. This is an event to help with that aesthetic and unite people but, most importantly, educate. We’ve been told our hair is ‘unacceptable’ for too long. It’s time to reclaim our pride.”
According to Tomora Wright, PGAAMCC marketing manager, “Natural hair is a style that does not use chemicals to alter its original state. Natural hair such as afros, braids, twists and locks have often kept black people from obtaining employment, respect, and equal opportunities.”
A recent broadcast of “CBS This Morning” reported that California has become the first state to address this issue through passage of the Crown Act Bill, which bans discrimination of how black women should wear their hair in the workplace.
“It’s a movement,” said Wright. “The Black aesthetic has a rich history of oppression, triumph, survival and evolution. The Supernatural Festival is an opportunity to reclaim our roots. We go above and beyond to provide a full scope of the Black experience. We invite all to a celebration of the infinite styles of natural Black hair.”
The weekend’s event schedule includes the following:
Friday, July 19
Art therapy workshops conducted by PGAAMCC artist-in-residence, Vanessa Williams, are centered around expression, health, wellness and mindfulness practices that target communities of color. The sessions will take place from 3 to 7 p.m. The evening will conclude with a Jazz Vesper by Williams who noted, “Much of my art boldly features natural hair, although hair is not a principal theme. I love the process of painting natural styles. I’ve heard ‘bushy,’ ‘nappy,’ ‘unruly,’ bad hair,’ ‘untamed’ all my life, so it feels a bit defiant and cathartic for me to recreate …the crown that is the Afro.”
Saturday, July 20
The official #SUPERnatural Hair Festival features black artisans and vendors, hair and makeup demos and myth-busters with Maryland holistic hair designer Nailah Clay and natural hair expert Candace Kelley with the natural hair product brand Curl Prep Natural Hair Solutions. The day’s events culminate with an evening performance of “Supernatural: The Play.”
“The play was created by Curl Prep and is one of the most talked about contemporary plays of our times,” said Montgomery. The play explores the lives of seven women who are forced to confront their hair and themselves.
Sunday, July 21
The festival concludes with the Sunday Scholar Brunch and a presentation by Dr. Afiya Mbilishaka. “Dr. Mbilishaka will discuss her practice and research of ‘PsychoHairapy,’ which uses hair as an entry point for mental health service in beauty salons and barbershops, as well as through social media,” said Montgomery. Montgomery summarized the weekend as “an opportunity to create a sense of empowerment of the beauty and aesthetic diversity of black women. We want PGAAMCC to engage in people’s lifestyles.”
Tickets for festival events can be purchased at the door or online. A full schedule is also available at www.pgaamcc.org.