BY MAT CLOUSER
CASTLETON — Following the success of their Juneteenth hair clinic, the Rutland area NAACP recently announced dates for a back-to-school hair clinic for local BIPOC youth on Sunday, September 4, from 12-5 in Castleton.
Offering both braiding and barber appointments for BIPOC youth under 18 in Bennington, Addison, and Rutland counties with space for more than 30 kids, the clinics filled up within hours. “It’s clearly something the community needs,” said Media Committee Chair Caitlin Gildrien.
“Many of these kids have bi-racial parents or foster parents who may not know how to do their hair,” said La’Keiah Batista Sánchez, Chair of the Health Committee, speaking of the difficulties some kids face in a community that is frequently unprepared for the nuances of their beautification.
But the benefits are more than just aesthetic according to Batista Sánchez, who says many BIPOC children can experience painful feelings of isolation, exclusion, and otherness, particularly when even finding the right hair products in local stores is an issue. “When you look good, you feel good,” she said. “And it fosters a sense of community.”
Batista Sánchez acknowledged the need for more time slots at the clinics, saying she’s always looking for volunteers to join the current group, some of whom come from as far away as Albany, NY.
She also said she’d like to see the clinics expand to “Teach and Learn” sessions with parents and that she is working to help see an ethnic hair course offered at the Stafford Technical School in Rutland to help expand the number of capable stylists in the area.
“I [have to] do my own hair,” said Batista Sánchez, speaking of the need for stylists, adding that she hopes to open her own salon one day. “But we’d do all types of hair, too.”
In addition to the community building and “glow-up”—a term popularized by musician Chief Keef to refer to a positive change in one’s appearance over time—the clinics will also be offering backpacks with school supplies to participants.
All appointments are free and supported by community donations, said Batista Sánchez, who pointed out that the Rutland-area NACCP needs new members. “It’s only $30,” she said, also noting that all ethnicities are welcome to join.
For more information and a sign-up link (with more slots added as volunteers are located), head to www.naacprutland.org/hair-clinics. To become a member, volunteer, or donate, visit: www.naacprutland.org.