Afro Forever: Research Paper on Salon Utopia for the M.A. in Media Studies at Concordia University

Cover Art for What Happened to the Afro? - Photo Courtesy of
Cover Art for What Happened to the Afro? - Photo Courtesy of

Donna Kay Cindy Kakonge

Advisor: Dr. Martin Allor

Committee member: Dr. Kim Sawchuk

Outside Examiner: Dr. Lorna Roth

August 12, 1999

Afro Forever

Table of Contents

  1. Intro – 3
  1. Black Hair Framework – 5
  1. Process Prologue – History and Development Salon Utopia – 19
  1. Methodology – 27
  1. Newsgroup Inviting Conversation – 30
  1. History of Hair Politics – 31
  1. Video-taped Interviews – 33
  1. Outcome of Salon Utopia Exploration – 48
  1. Real Time Conversation vs. On-line conversation – 53
  1. Problems with Salon Utopia – 55
  1. Conclusion – 57

Bibliography – 59

Gratitude List – 67

Appendix A: Management of Site – 68

Appendix B: Participant role in community – 78

Appendix C: Problems with the site – 82

Afro Forever:

Research Paper for Web-based Project

Salon Utopia



In Loree’s Beauty Shop

hot combs sizzled


wet oily scalps


grown woman fantasies

into tender young


Thick busy afros


long glossy black curls


natural Black queens


commercial mahogany princesses (Boyd, 14).

This poem by Julia Boyd from In the Company of My Sisters is tragic, but it happens all the time. Natural hair is transformed into something artificial.

“Fake boobs, Fake hair…some straight men don’t seem to care whether a woman is real or false.” – D.K.

The hair salon is the main site where the transformation takes place. This paper accompanies the web-based project Salon Utopia which aimed to transform its clients in a natural way. In the virtual realm, it is not yet possible to do any hairstyles to transform anyone, but the site did aid in transforming the source of where hair comes from, the head. The site also played a role in inviting people into the on-line community linked to the site, where the issues raised became an important aspect of this paper.

The objectives of this paper are many. I will begin with building a foundation for understanding the complexity of black hair politics, and hopefully this information will indicate how these issues have affected the formation of virtual Salon Utopia. Next, a history around the formation of designing the website and creating the on-line community will be presented in a journal entry style and essay format where no journal entries were made. This part will also include information on my perceptions of who would be part of the on-line community. Third, the paper will include a sense of the methodology used in creating the website and this paper. Particular attention will be focussed on my role as instigator/participant in Salon Utopia. Fourth, it will be briefly discussed how a discussion or a news group invites conversation. Fifth, a brief history of hair politics will be included. Next, video-taped interviews done with five black women in Montréal that are included on the Salon Utopia website (in transcript form) will also be included in this paper. Seventh, the outcome of the exploration in creating an on-line community will be presented and examined. Following this a comparison will be made of the discussion created in human contact and video-taped format, verses the on-line and absence of the physical form of discussion in Salon Utopia. And, finally, the problems of creating an on-line community will be discussed.


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