WE ARE WOMEN FIRST
—-By Jynai McDonald—-Based on the climate of national leadership, it feels like we are living in undeniably divisive times. People everywhere now tend to avoid politically or socially sensitive topics out of fear of conflict gone too far. Discovering who someone voted for in the last
presidential election can immediately change one’s view about an individual, whether they’ve known them 10 minutes or 10 years. Coffee shop, barbershop, locker room, hair salon, and break room conversations feel like they have not been the same in quite some time. We are not laughing as much anymore because it is becoming harder to identify exactly what’s funny, literally threatening the existence of common courtesies from one person to another. However, that is definitely not the temperature when you walk into Infinity Hair Salon located at 1209 Parker Street in Springfield, MA, where you are likely to enter and see true diversity, not only in the stylists and staff but also in the customer base. Born and raised in Springfield, Adrean Jacobs is a 2002 graduate of Roger L. Putnam Vocational-Technical High School. She started her cosmetology career straight out of high school and 16 years later is now a new, young black salon owner. She exemplifies the forward moving energy that comes along with the reputation of the Western Massachusetts region. As if there are not enough uncertainties that come with being a young, first-time entrepreneur, the owner admits it was the diversity that scared her the most. Hair plays such a major role in a woman’s identity with varying cultural concepts on style, maintenance and the process. This bold move has definitely catapulted her into the city’s group of emerging leaders in community service, business and government. “The idea of merging cosmetology worlds built up so much excitement that I almost let it transform into anxiety,” says Adrean. The previous owner, Tammy Shepard, decided to stay at the salon as a stylist and recognized that Adrean shows that she has the drive and ambition to be successful. Tammy along with three other women have remained loyal to the salon throughout its previous owners, one of whom was one of the current hair stylist’s father. An older woman named Barbara, who has been a patron of the salon since the mid ‘70s, expressed how thrilled she was to see the new image of the salon and will continue to travel from East Longmeadow for her hair appointments. Infinity Hair Salon is trail blazing the hair industry in its own way through embracing diversity. Nowhere else in the city are you going to find a salon full of white, black and Hispanic women of different ages and socioeconomic backgrounds genuinely and joyfully interacting with each other while styling their diverse customers’ hair, and not operating within their own little silos. These women are greeting, laughing and sharing the intimate moments that a salon visit is all about. During my time in the chair, I have seen women marveling over the braiding techniques they observe, enjoying the sweet interaction with a young child who is with their mother while she gets her hair done, and even gladly signing nomination papers for statewide political races, all without any hint of intimidation or annoyance. In 2018, Infinity Hair Salon should not be an anomaly with its mix of cultural diversity but it is. It is my personal hope that these types of collaborations continue to pull us out of our comfort zones and build more tolerance for what we have in common and pave the way for less emphasis on how we are different. Maybe, just maybe, if we had more Infinity Hair Salons, there will not be a need for the Attorney General’s office to address discriminatory practices by a Massachusetts charter school based on punishing biracial or black students for how they wear their hair. Or a black woman “going natural” will not come with worries about uncertain professional reactions. Infinity Hair Salon speaks to the true realization that no matter our racial make-up, we are women first.
* The eight stationed salon also features make-up services, a nail technician, highlights, coloring, cutting, weave installation, wig making, natural hair care, perms, relaxers, and other cutting edge hair maintenance techniques and products to remain relevant in an ever shifting industry. ■