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Don't Touch My Hair: An Ode to Black Girls Everywhere

February 10 - March 13, 2020

On the 56th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, U.S. courts are still divided about African Americans’ right to wear their natural hair in the workplace. When the EEOC was founded fifty-six years ago, the federal government’s primary concern was that black people be granted equal access to public workplaces. It didn’t foresee that black hair would need equal access as well. As a result, wearing natural black hair has become a weapon in the fight for racial equality, as well as a public declaration of self-love and solidarity within the black community.

This exhibition featured three guest speakers who addressed issues surrounding the trending topic of black hair. Tuesdae Pelt-Willis, Co-Manager of the UCO's Women's Research Center, shed light on the historical context of Black hair defining terms long used in the Black community. She educated the audience on the cultural appropriation of Black hair and the recent natural hair movement in the United States. Author and photographer Gay Pasley followed with an essay telling the emotional story of her life-long search to find women who looked like her. Wrapping up the program was local civil rights icon Ayanna Najuma who shared some Black hair experience from her college days. She ended with a call to action for everyone to step out of their comfort zone and learn something new.

In addition an art exhibit curated by UCO graduate student Amena Butler was on display. The works of eight local Black artist were presented including Edward Grady, Nathan Lee, Beverly Kirk, Skip Hill, D.B. Brown, G. Mesfin, Jaive Farrell and James Ere. For more information, read the exhibition booklet at the link below.

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Gay Pasley, "African Blush". nd. Photograph. On loan from artist.

D.B. Brown & G. Mesfin, "Angelique - My Crown, My Glory." nd. Multimedia. On loan from artists.

Beverly Kirk, "Revel alongside the spirited young woman who is connected to her ethnic heritage - her head wrap and hair style shouts joy and freedom from deep within her soul!" nd. Quilt. On loan from artist.

Edward Grady (American, 1949- ), "Lovely in Grief She Watched," nd. Acrylic on canvas. Archives & Special Collections, Max Chambers Library, University of Central Oklahoma. The Melton Art Reference Library Collection, Gift of Suzanne Silvester.

Nathan Lee, "Kito Collection." nd. Acrylic on canvas. On loan from artist.

Jaive Farrell & James Ere, "Irun Kiko-Yuruba Hair Threading." nd. Multimedia. On loan from artists.

Skip Hill (American), "Picnic on the Grass," 2002. Acrylic on canvas. Archives & Special Collections, Max Chambers Library, University of Central Oklahoma. The Melton Art Reference Library Collection, Gift of Suzanne Silvester.

Amena Butler, Graduate Assistant (Museum Studies)

Opening reception - February 12, 2020

Nicole Willard,
Assistant Director, 
Max Chambers Library

Gay Pasley reading "African Blush"

Ayanna Najuma

Ayanna Najuma, Amena Butler, Gay Pasley, and Tuesdae Pelt-Willis

Ayanna NajumaAmena Butler, Gay Pasley, and Tuesdae Pelt-Willis

Gay Pasley standing with her photograph "African Blush"

Gay Pasley standing with her photograph "African Blush"

Ayanna Najuma speaking to students and Tuesdae Pelt-Willis speaking with Habib Tabatabai

Amena Butler

Guests of event

Ayanna Najuma

Tuesdae Pelt-Willis