“I wanted more for me. It was great while it lasted but I felt that people wanted, yes, to know and rock natural hair. We encouraged people to embrace their natural hair. There was a lot of us who were a part of that movement and was loving it, but there was still a struggle. For me it was deeper and I wanted to get people involved with the health and wellness of it.”
Staten Islander Dorcas Meyers, 58, started her holistic oil and butters skin, body, and hair care line in 2013, called Roc-A-Natural. Her shop is online and at her home currently.
She is also a full-time, work-from-home employee with the National Parks Service of New York Harbor, and a great supporter of the city’s federal green spaces and waterfronts, such as Governor’s Island, Jamaica Bay, and Fort Wadsworth.
When she was a teen and young adult, she said, she was a natural hair model for the late natural Afro-textured hair stylists Derrek Scurry and Thando Kafele before pursuing her path as a business owner. “I had the privilege of working with him and got featured in Essence magazine for my locs,” said Meyers.
Meyers was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, and raised in North Shore, Staten Island. She said as a child she struggled with weight and was obese. “Mom didn’t mean to have me obese,” she said, “back in those days, Mom wanted to make sure you ate and you were full, went to school clean and you weren’t hungry. So what did she pump us with? Homemade biscuits.”
Meyers business emphasizes the beauty of natural hair, holistic products, and the importance of proper nutrition and exercise. She advises her customers about eating whole foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, in addition to juicing, detoxing, and exercise, as a way to decrease the alarming rates of obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure in the community.
“The body oils are made from olive oil, grapeseed oil, castor oil, turmeric, vitamin E. The body butters are made with shea butter, mango butter, cocoa butter, aloe, and these are all super rich natural products,” said Meyers.
Meyers said that she also supports other local Black business owners in the area that import fresh ingredients for her products. “Sea moss is a superfood, and I have a direct distributor here, a local one, who is from Jamaica, and they go back and forth,” said Meyers. “I want to support local businesses as well as be supported.”
Meyers said that the main impediment for Black and Brown business owners on the island is funding and finding resources. It is incredibly important for the city government to focus on the timely dissemination of information regarding funding, she said, because many people just don’t know about grants and services available.
“When these grants are being offered, for people like myself and others out here or organizations that are doing community events on the ground, that information is disseminated in a timely manner. Because there has been an issue in the Black and Brown community where there was grant monies that was supposedly put out there and we didn’t know about it,” said Meyers.
Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis, said Meyers, she’s proud of being able to successfully telework and keep the true spirit of cultural events on the North Shore alive while practicing safety guidelines. Meyers, who has a preexisting comorbidity that affects her lungs, was especially nervous about COVID but wanted to serve the community in the best way she could, she said.
“As a community advocate, I have been, along with a partner of mine, promoting these free Friday night films,” said Meyers. “Dr. Carolina, we brought it to his attention that we needed a safe spot for these films. Have our community come together, network, family and friends who hadn’t seen each other, and do it safely.”
Meyers’ ‘Taking It To The Streets: Free Friday Night Outdoor Films’ got its start with viewings last year during the COVID lockdown from the Central Family Life parking lot. The outdoor film shows expanded to Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden in August 2020, and are now at the Lighthouse Museum, said Meyers. “It’s right there by the Staten Island Ferry, so people from Brooklyn, Manhattan, can come over because we do have things to offer,” said Meyers.
She said she was also honored to receive community support for her collaboration for the Juneteenth Freedom Festival on the island, despite some misgivings about the depictions of slavery and race in what was a politically charged year. “You want us to water down our history because you’re feeling uncomfortable,” she said about people who had set out to shut down the show but didn’t succeed.
“Our community needs to know about these rich, cultural events that are happening here on Staten Island,” said Meyers.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here: bit.ly/amnews1