Mural unveiled in DC celebrates Black natural hairstyles

Mural on pink background
CLICK TO EXPAND: The mural by Candice Taylor in Southeast D.C. celebrating Black hairstyles. (Courtesy Murals DC)

D.C.’s Ward 8 just became a bit more colorful.

On Thursday, Mayor Muriel Bowser unveiled a mural highlighting Black natural hairstyles on the side wall of the Far Southeast Collaborative Center at 2004 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.

The District commissioned the piece from Ward 8-based artist Candice Taylor.

“It’s about celebrating Black hair independence, amplifying Black beauty,” Taylor said. “I wanted to create something that could radiate that sort of Black joy and hopefully instill some confidence in Black women in terms of how we view our hair.”

The mural features five Black women of varying complexions and age groups, each with a different natural hairstyle. The work was inspired by, and advocates for, the CROWN Act, a measure introduced in cities, states and counties nationwide that bans discriminatory hair policies that often target people of color. (In the D.C. area, only Montgomery County, Maryland, has adopted it.)

Taylor said the themes behind the mural were personal.

“As a Black woman, I’ve been in situations where I’ve felt like I had to conform,” Taylor said, adding that she used to wear her hair in straightened styles before adopting the multi-colored locs she now wears.

“I’m comfortable now expressing myself through my hair, whereas there have certainly been times in the past where that wasn’t such an open idea.”

The mural is one of seven artworks commissioned from local artists this summer as a part of the District’s Murals DC 2021 program. Murals are slated to go up in Wards 1, 2, 5, 6 and 8 – all centered around themes of social justice, unity, respect for the environment, and DC Pride.

“With our first mural of the 2021 season,” Bowser said in a release, “we are proud to highlight an important cause and celebrate the rights of African American women, men and children to wear their natural hair proudly.”

As more municipalities adopt laws to protect against hairstyle discrimination, Taylor said, the trend is moving in the right direction.

“I hope that it really just inspires and encourages Black women and women of color to continue to push the boundaries when it comes to how we express ourselves through our hair,” Taylor said.

Taylor said it’s a tremendous honor to have her mural on display in her community.

“I spent time running up and down MLK [Avenue] as a child, so to now have my work be such a center point, a point of interest – hopefully, it just becomes part of the neighborhood.”

Murals DC, funded by the Department of Public Works and the Commission on the Arts and Humanities, has sponsored and supported 133 original works of public art in every ward since 2007.

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