As the 2016 election day looms in the distance and early voting takes place, the hot topic of discussion in most circles is the importance of voting. Historically election rallies, watch parties, and other political events have taken place in various social settings including black beauty salons. The race toward the 2008 presidential race, where President Barack Obama (our outgoing leader) and Hillary Clinton (a 2016 presidential candidate) were both presidential hopefuls demonstrates the recognizable political significance of the black beauty salon and the culture therein.
In Beauty Shop Politics author Tiffany M. Gill writes “…the summer of 2007 introduced the beauty shop voter into the public vernacular. Referring to black women who were considered for a few months at least to be key constituency, the “beauty shop vote” was seen as crucial to winning states such as South Carolina, which have a large African American population…Clinton and Obama courted beauticians and their clients and sent their staffers with campaign materials into key comfort zones” (135). Later in the text Gill writes “Hillary Rodham Clinton approached beauty industry leaders …She included images of these hairdos on the hundreds of cardboard flyers she sent to beauty parlors across the state. Obama’s campaign employed a more grass-roots approach in reaching African Americans. It initiated what it called the B&B (Beauty Shop and Barber Shop) strategy, dispersing groups of young volunteers across the state” (135). Not only do the examples provided by Gill demonstrate the power of the beauty salon for black women, it also shows that American politicians recognize this power. Gill also writes “…these examples demonstrate that beauty salons remain places where black women feel safe to deal with intimate issues that are for the most part ignored in the larger society” (136). While Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton saw utility in the black beauty salon, only those who engage in it regularly are able to truly capitalize on such a significant enterprise and bring forth issues that plague black communities but are often ignored or inadequately addressed.
Nine years later, as we are only days away from Election Day and as we are amidst early voting season, black beauty practitioners and clients alike are encouraged to recognize the power we possess in the beauty salon and to use our influence beyond the mere scope of looks and aesthetics.