Black Boy Joy Week: The significance of durags

Cassidy Jackson, Audio Editor

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CASSIDY JACKSON: From The Daily Northwestern, I’m Cassidy Jackson. Thanks for tuning in. This week, The Collective, a community of black men on campus, organized Black Boy Joy Week as an ode to blackness. The week’s programming includes a spa night, basketball game and an end-of-the-year barbeque. On Friday, members of the black community are planning to wear durags, a hallmark of black hair care, around campus. I talked to two leaders of The Collective about the meaning behind durags and the event itself.

CALEB HOLLAND: Blackness, black hair is a big thing for black people for a lot of different reasons. It just has a lot of cultural significance, and I think it’s something that is shunned most of the time by broader society. And I think Northwestern is very much a microcosm for America.

JACKSON: This is Weinberg sophomore Caleb Holland, president of The Collective.

HOLLAND: You just want to put your durag on because you’re really trying to get these waves, and you can’t get waves because you have to go to class and look respectable right? When I think about like me, personally, I have waves. I wear my durag often.

JACKSON: McCormick first-year Matt Reweta, The Collective’s membership chair, on the other hand, isn’t completely confident wearing his durag out.

REWETA: Right now, I have my durag on, but I have my hood on over it. I have the hat and the hood. I almost always wear a hat with it, but I’m becoming a little bit more comfortable going out with it. And I’m lowkey really proud of this. This is a big change for me, because in high school, my hair was an absolute mess. But I don’t know why I feel the need to do it privately or at least keep it low-key. But I feel like with Black Boy Joy week that’s an opportunity for me to to openly have other people celebrate this thing that I think is so special.

JACKSON: Why do you think you feel that?

REWETA: Probably because of the way that the durag has been painted in society and just what people think when they see a black man with a durag.

JACKSON: Holland said society’s constructed definition of “respectable” weighs on black expression. This event is meant to create a space where students can work against that.

HOLLAND: So it’s really just about kind of pushing back on those stereotypes that kind of come with dressing a certain way, looking a certain way and then also just being able to be ourselves.

JACKSON: How do you personally feel when you wear your durag out at Northwestern?

HOLLAND: I feel like fine. I do it so much now that it’s like whatever. But initially it was, like, kind of weird because I’ll get looks and questions. People will be like “What kind of hat is that?” And I’ll be like “A hat? OK.” It’s what I want to do, because like I said, for me, having waves is taking care of myself. It’s a symbol of that. And so when I have my durag on, I’m just taking care of myself. It’s like washing your face. You just do it. But then I also do feel like I might be introducing some people to something a little different. And I think that’s good for everybody.

JACKSON: For Reweta, he’s proud of how far he’s come in his hair care journey. Originally from Tanzania, he said he realizes the added difficulty that comes with starting his hair care routine in the U.S. versus Tanzania.

REWETA: Getting waves takes work, and it takes time. Wearing the durag, you have to wear the durag consistently, you have to brush your hair and everything like consistently. In the past, I’ve never done X, Y and Z. I wasn’t doing anything special. I wasn’t — I didn’t give myself any treats I guess. I don’t know, and it’s not that I didn’t care. It’s just, with my hair, I was just frustrated with how bad it was and I was like, “I’ll figure something out eventually.” But now it’s like if I don’t start taking care of myself now then when will I? So even despite the fact that it probably would have been easier to wear a durag when I was in Tanzania, despite that fact, I’m going to take care of myself, no matter, no matter what. And I’m going to take care of not even just my physical appearance but my mental health as well.

JACKSON: Thanks for listening. Make sure to check out our podcast with members of The Collective defining what “black boy joy” means to them. This has been Cassidy Jackson, and I’ll see you next time.

Email: cassidyjackson2021@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @CassidyKJackson

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