A performance art exhibition in Union Square on Thursday and Friday sparked a lively debate as women of color stood with signs inviting passersby to touch their hair.
"You can touch my hair" is the brainchild of Antonia Opiah, the founder of Un'ruly, which curates and promotes the discussion around black hair.
"Some have welcomed it as a much needed discussion, while others dub it a human petting zoo," Opiah wrote in a post on the Un'ruly Tumblr page on Saturday. "But at the very least a dialogue was started and that was the intent. 'Can I touch your hair?' is no longer a question only I and my friends are talking and venting about."
One of the models, Malliha Ahmad, said she viewed the experience as an opportunity to educate people.
"I don't normally let people touch my hair," Ahmad said in a video posted to YouTube. "We talked about hair regimens, we talked about textures, we talked about the taboo of black hair and a lot of different stigmas."
"At the end of the day it felt empowering."
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