HOLLAND, Mich. — A Holland woman saw a need in her community, so she fixed it herself.
Shaketra Payne represents the essence of Black History Month for its past, present and future because of her will to make positive change and unite people through her love for hair.
When Payne moved to Holland in 2011, she noticed that something was missing.
"There were a lot of salons here, but a lot of them didn't do my hair," she said, "or work with my kind of hair texture."
Payne knew that people in the Black community in Holland were having to travel far away just to get what they needed as far as hair styling and beauty products.
"I knew if I could change that, I would," she said.
And she did. In 2020, Payne opened Ketra Braids & Beauty along West Shore Drive in Holland. The store was the first in the area to offer braiding textured-hair beauty supplies.
Payne is a licensed Natural Hair Culturist, which means she focuses on the braiding, locing and twisting styles.
"Holland is a jambalaya pot," Payne said, "because we have people from all over, so people were super, super excited to have me here after so long."
"It diversifies the community," she added, "and it gives Black people and others a place to go."
Shaketra also knew she needed to have a beauty supply store for the community.
"You need to be able to maintain your hair and take care of it," she said, "so, it's really important to have the products to do that as well."
"There's a lot of different textures of hair in the Black culture, and different products work for different people," she added, "and I love that people can come to me and know I'll help them find the right one."
And it's important for Shaketra that people know her salon is for everyone, no matter what kind of hair you have or the color of your skin.
"We've been divided on so many other things in this world," she said, "so why divide us on hair?"
Payne has all kinds of clients from young kids to nursing home residents, because she said she knows how important hair is to expressing ourselves.
"Not even just for other people when they see you," she said, "but when you look in the mirror, you want to feel pretty, and that's why hair care is very important."
Shaketra also said she knows that hair braiding has a dark history. She explained that cornrows were a sign of resistance for slaves because they used it as maps to escape from slavery, and they would hide rice or seeds into their braids on their way to enslavement.
"I will never forget its history, but I like that stylists like be have been able to take and making it something for everyone," explained Payne, "and it stands for something else now."
And long as she's been in business, Payne said she's noticed disparities for natural hair culturists versus cosmetologists, like the fact that she can't wash her clients' hair at her salon.
"I don't even understand why that rule exists, but as natural hair culturalists, we should be allowed to wash our clients' hair as well," she said, "and that is something that I would like to see changed in the year 2022."
Something else she'd like to see changed? That this type of styling is taught in more cosmetology schools. Payne explained that some places will now allow you do get your required hours there, but the closest school to become a licensed natural hair culturist West Michigan residents is in Flint.
"I think it's important to have the program in all schools so that anyone can learn it," said Payne, "because that will bring us all together even more and we can show that it's not just for us."
And Payne's advice for others who may see something missing in their community is simple.
"Just take a leap of faith and do it, because you always miss every shot you don't take," she said. "And even if you start small, just put it out there and share it with the world."
Share it with the world like she did, and bringing the community together through hair.
"It's my creativity and my art," she said, "and I do it because I like to make people feel beautiful."
Shaketra said that the salon is actively looking for another braider to join their team at Ketra Braids and Beauty. She said she is willing to train and guide someone, but would prefer a stylist with at least a little bit of experience.
You can learn more about Ketra Braids and Beauty or contact Shaketra by visiting their Facebook page or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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