In Regina Eberheart’s male-dominated line of work, chances for stimulating girl talk are scarce. Going to a salon was just what she needed. “I thought it was a very intimate, relatively new experience,” said Eberheart, who attended her first salon in Harlem last spring.
But Eberheart didn’t go to a salon for hair or nails. Instead, she was at the type of salon that’s a social meeting–this particular one being held by Higher Heights for America.
Founded in 2011, Higher Heights for America is an organization that inspires Black women to be more socially, economically and politically empowered. By hosting salon discussions all over the United States, Higher Heights creates an environment in which Black women can discuss and develop solutions to challenges that affect their daily lives.
“Our goal is to elevate Black women’s voices,” said Glynda Carr, co-founder of Higher Heights. “It’s not that Black women are sitting on the sidelines, it’s about creating more opportunities.”
Carr and Kimberly Peeler-Allen, also a co-founder, worked together in politics for 10 years. They noticed that not many Black women were involved in politics.
“It was Glynda and I, and maybe one or two other women of color, and we got tired of it,” said Peeler-Allen, who is also a political fundraiser for candidates of color.
Though dedicated to the progress of all women, Carr said it’s their duty to help Black women. “Why aren’t more Black women in public office or in leadership roles?” said Peeler-Allen. “We have this power, but our faces aren’t being reflected in the halls of power, whether it be corporate, philanthropic or political.”
This is where the salon comes in. Each salon is a large conversation, in which 40 to 50 women gather, sit down and talk. The salons are held at the houses of colleagues that Carr and Peeler-Allen know. So far, Higher Heights has held four salons in several locations, including Washington, D.C., New York and Massachusetts.
Each salon begins with a presentation on common issues Black women face. “Black women are the fastest growing population of people diagnosed with AIDS, breast cancer [and] heart disease,” Peeler-Allen said.
When it comes to the political process, Carr said Black women are rarely found on the election ballots or holding public office. Yet in the last presidential election, “African-American women outperformed all other voters,” said Carr.
After the presentation, everyone breaks into smaller discussion groups. “[We] engage in discussions that we normally don’t get to do in our own personal lives,” said Eberheart, who just had her first child.
One discussion focused on a woman’s reproductive rights. “I find it so interesting to hear about men in Congress talking about what needs to be done for us personally, like birth control, having no clue how it works in our bodies,” said Eberheart, who works at a political lobbying firm.
During the smaller discussions, the women are encouraged to form solutions to the problems they face, from access to birth control to getting a job at a Fortune 500 company.
Peeler-Allen said the biggest suggestion is to increase the network of support and information made available to Black women, because when it comes to being more involved in politics, that’s something that will take time.
“In two years, we’d love to be able to say that we’ve helped X amount of women who are City Council members,” Peeler-Allen said.
In the meantime, Carr and Peeler-Allen use social media like Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness about panel discussions and different studies and statistics that pertain to women.
“Baby boomer women are more likely to support women then Generation Xers. Interesting,” Peeler-Allen said in a tweet from her account,
@kimberp_a. Higher Heights also has a Twitter account, @HigherHeights4.
Peeler-Allen and Carr hope to rectify the lack of communication between older and younger generations of Black women. The salons expose young women to issues like health and money that may affect them later in life.
“That’s the beauty of what Glynda and I have set out to do.” Peeler-Allen said. “We had a salon not too long ago and the oldest person was in her 70s and the youngest just graduated from college. The issues that affect Black women are across the board.”