University store now offers black hair care products

Products include Cantu shampoo and conditioner and black bobby pins, among others

Hannah Denham

It was Ramonah Gibson’s freshman year. Gibson, ‘20, had spent Johnson Weekend hosting prospective students and giving tours on campus, trying to represent the university as an inclusive place.

She’d recently let her hair grow naturally. After the students left, she realized she was out of bobby pins and immediately thought of the Washington and Lee University Store.

But when she got there, all they had were blonde bobby pins.

“As a black girl who has a lot of white friends, I know for a fact that blonde bobby pins are hard to find,” she said at the time. “My school is so white we don’t have black bobby pins. Black bobby pins are not only used by black people. They’re used by brunettes. But we have so many blondes, they don’t even care.”

Flash forward to this past summer. Crasha Townsend, the director of the Office of Inclusion and Engagement, had spoken with students like Makayla Lorick, ‘19, about the lack of local availability of black hair care products.

Some said they had to wait until they went home on breaks or drive to larger urban cities to find what they needed.

She sent a list of recommendations to April Washburn, the store’s associate director, who did research into which products the school store could supply.

The products offered now include Cantu shampoo, conditioner, leave-in conditioner and curling cream, edge stay gel, Eboline coconut oil and Evolve satin wrap scarves and bonnets, as well as two different wide-toothed combs and black bobby pins.

“Sometimes for students, it’s those seemingly small things that add to their comfort and remind them of home,” Townsend said.

Washburn said products they can offer are based on their vendor network and price comparisons with Walmart and Amazon.

K.C. Schaefer, ‘04, who is the store’s director, said the store has already sold many of the products just in the first month of the school year.

“We always say we’re the student store,” Schaefer said. “We really truly try to have a pretty good cross-section for everything a student would need over the four years.”

Schaefer said students can submit requests and feedback regarding products in person or via [email protected].

“I am pleased that we are now able to offer a sampling of products that will support the needs of the growing diversity on our campus,” Townsend said.