Hair Me Out: A Black Hair Celebration

The collaborative, locally sourced, internationally themed, contemporary and historical exhibit “Hair Me Out” is now installed on the Upper Level of the Davis Family Library and includes multimedia components in the atrium. It explores the political, diasporic and stylistic phenomena surrounding Black hair from all around the world. This exhibit will be installed from February 21st through March 22nd. Stop by to see it and visit to see its digital representation.

Who’s involved in this latest exhibit?

four women holding a banner

Four members of the crew working on the Hair Me Out Exhbit, from left to right: Katrina Spencer, Kizzy Joseph, Thandwa Mdluli, Jade Moses.

Katrina Spencer (Literatures & Cultures Librarian) [KS]: Roll Call/ Credits:

  • Jade Moses, a sophomore from New York and Guyana who studies Psychology
  • Thandwa Mdluli, a sophomore from the small kingdom of Swaziland who studies Psychology and may seek a minor in Dance
  • Kizzy Joseph, a senior from New York and Grenada who studies American Studies and is pursuing a double minor in African American Studies and Education Studies
  • Betty Kafumbe, a staff member in the Finance/Controller’s Office from Uganda

    three women holding products

    A small portion of the cast responsible for the Hair Me Out Display, from left to right: Betty Kafumbe, Katrina Spencer and Jade Moses.

  • Professor Christal Brown from North Carolina who is Chair of the Dance Program
  • Natasha Ngaiza, a Tanzanian American Visiting Assistant Professor of Film and Media Culture
  • Lydia Clemmons, a community member and owner of the Clemmons Family Farm
  • Myself, a librarian from Los Angeles who regularly encourages creative and collaborative projects

“Hair Me Out”? Is that a pun?

a horizontal banner reading "HAIR ME OUT"

A screenshot from the Hair Me Out exhibit’s digital homepage

KS: It is! And all credit goes to our punny Jade Moses! The Hair Me Out exhibit is an opportunity for Black staff, students and faculty to showcase many of the ways we engage with our hair. The texture of our hair is one of the most definitive markers of our ethnic and racial identities and has suffered a great deal of persecution for centuries and even today with bans of dreadlocks (2012), Afros (2016) and braids (2017) still happening in schools, on work sites and in the armed forces in the United States, in parts of Africa and throughout the Black diaspora. The rise of the natural hair movement has invited Black peoples to re-embrace our hair in its natural state and has granted Black peoples license to appreciate our hair anew. A variety of styles and testimonies can be seen on the exhibit’s digital home page at

The Hair Me Out exhibit includes and represents this trend and the many others– weaves, extensions, press ‘n’ curls, relaxers, finger waves, et al– that have come in and out of popularity over time, inviting in-groups and out-groups to critically engage with this highly politicized part of our personhood. Have you ever wondered why Michelle Obama hasn’t been seen with an Afro? Or why Barack Obama hasn’t sported cornrows while delivering the State of the Union address? Hair has meaning and Hair Me Out taps into it.

How did you decide what to include?

various hair related items including a wig, hair literature and styling products

Part of the Hair Me Out Exhibit including a wig, hair literature and styling products

KS: As “we” say, “from jump” we knew that we would be working without a budget so we had to be creative about what we would include. Aside from books, mannequins and stands, 100% of the items– dashikis, wigs, combs, busts, pins etc.– and products– creams, oils, butters, etc.– are personal property belonging to some member of the group.

Two wooden busts adorned with colorful head wraps

Two wooden busts adorned with colorful head wraps

Lydia Clemmons from the local and Vermont-based Clemmons Family Farm really came through with beautiful items and realia sourced from West Africa: wooden statuettes of Black women with textured carvings of hair. When I provided the seed of an idea for this project, my vision was rather modest. It has grown impressively under the careful and loving eyes of many.

Is there co-programming that goes along with this?

KS: Yes! Newly tenured dance professor Christal Brown has leant her prowess in inviting both a barber and hair stylist to come to Middlebury to offer discounted services to students. Men’s barber, “Kev,” will arrive on February 25th to Solos Salon Associates on Court Street. See the Facebook event here.  And Linda Hill will be available at the same place on March 4th and 5th. See the Facebook event here. Both are ready to create a variety of styles for community members who normally have limited local access to Black hair experts.

Also, a cycle of screenings of thematic films has already commenced! UMOJA, the African Student Union, has screened Yellow Fever, a short film on Blackness and hair. And You Can Touch My Hair will be shown by  Women of Color (WOC) this coming Wednesday, February 21st at 7:00 p.m. in Chellis House.

What was the most challenging part of developing this?

KS: For me, I was literally involved in three other projects– the Black History Month Display, In Your Own Words and Black History Month Jeopardy— when I presented ideas around an exhibit that centered Black hair. I had figuratively tied my own hands because if I were to carry out the first three projects well, it was in no one’s interest that I take on a fourth as there are only so many hours in the day. That said, as you know, Middlebury starts its Spring semester in the middle of February [Black History Month], thusly, much of the planning for this effort needed to happen during J-Term. The group was very invested, working after class and even during the week of interim between J-Term and the Spring semester. I am continually impressed by their efforts.

hair-related items including creams, oils and synthetic hair

Part of the Hair Me Out Exhibit including creams, oils and synthetic hair

Of what are you most proud?

KS: I like to entertain myself with the idea that to some extent I educated these women on new uses of the library. Throughout this process, if they did not know how to do so before, they learned how to make purchase requests to grow our collections, how to navigate licensing for the public screening of films and they made many new contacts from Special Collections, Circulation in reserving spaces, props and materials and perhaps Digital Media Tutors in the Wilson Media Lab. I like to think it was a covert and crafty mission of mine in getting them to know new things but they were always open, willing, engaged, aware and quite awake. . . so I’m not that clever. LOL Middlebury students are very smart. And they miss nothing. Nothing is lost on them.

What do you hope others will gain from this exhibit?

KS: I’d love for them to sit with the idea of diaspora and gain a deeper understanding that there are Black people– black and brown humans worthy of dignity– all over the planet. I want people who do not identify as Black to gain a deeper of understanding of how much those of us who do identify as Black care about and for our hair. I want others to know that they, too, can take greater ownership of library spaces.

What did you learn in the process?

two wooden busts with textured hair and three wide-toothed, stylized wooden combs

West African wooden busts with textured hair and wide-toothed, stylized wooden combs

KS: I confirmed what I suspected: with a little guidance, students can develop amazing, educational works that edify the community. At times in this process, after providing an idea and information about accessing the tools necessary to shape this exhibit, it was more helpful for me to shut my mouth, step back and let others work. I say that with no offense intended towards me. But my anxieties about timeline and fears about quality of presentation were not especially useful to the group. And my idea of what might be an appropriate scale and scope were potentially limiting to the group’s vision. So I “coup d’état-ed” myself so that others could lead and lead well. And they did. Over and over again. It is my honor to be even marginally associated with this project. It was everyone else who did the hard work.

As a relatively new resident in Vermont, there are some regional resources I didn’t know about, like the Clemmons Family Farm. Betty Kafumbe found ways to engage the greater Vermont community and to ensure the discourse we engaged was both local and international. I must praise her efforts. Christal Brown, too, contributed and expanded the project in ways I could not have anticipated. Her access to dramatic props like mannequins and her professional contacts enriched this project. I mean, if this is not community, what is?

What’s next?

KS: Ooh, chile (<—African American Vernacular English, [@Marcos Rohena-Madrazo] also known as “AAVE”). We in the library got the Mixed Kids’ mixed race display; summin’ called “fat ‘n’ hairy: ways i’m failing the patriarchy” and “Resume of Failures,” too. Can’t stop, won’t stop.  Don’t ask what they are. Just keep a look out for ‘em. Various speakers will engage the topic of Challenging White Supremacy on the 26th. And supported by the Middlebury College Activities Board (MCAB) and Women of Color (WOC), Jade Moses and Thandwa Mdluli are bringing a poet, Porsha O., to campus on February 27th. It’s dizzying, really. Or as we said during Black History Month Jeopardy, “It’s lit”: “luminous, dynamic, enjoyable.”

Middlebury College Center for Community Engagement Blog 2018-02-20 18:54:39

Catherine Harrison talks with prospective Sister-to-Sister members.

Sister-to-Sister aims to support the middle school girls in the Addison County area. The mentors interact individually with the girls in an informal and comfortable environment and discuss common issues in the girls’ lives, including school, body image, peer pressure and relationships. Many of the participating girls suffer from physical or mental disabilities or have difficult home lives. The mentors act as a support system for the girls which in turn has led to more participants to return regularly for the monthly events. Monthly events have included log rolling, zumba, and game night.

The STS Summit is the highlight of the year, and it is on the basis of the Summit that many girls keep returning to the monthly events. It gives a chance for the girls to spend an entire day bonding with other girls from their school and the surrounding area, in addition to learning new skills and talents in workshops and sharing their experiences and difficulties of middle school.

If you’re interested in learning more about Sister-to-Sister, please click here.

This week’s Student Leadership Spotlight is Catherine Harrison, president of Sister-to-Sister.

Why should folks join your org? What will they take away from the experience?

Sister to Sister is a great way for a busy student to get involved because our events are only once-a-month. This allows for us to really put our all into each event. The events are tons of fun and they’re a great way to bond with the younger “sisters.” We learn as much from the girls we are mentoring as they learn from us.

Why did you first join Sister to Sister?

I joined Sister to Sister as a sophomore, last year after transferring to Middlebury in February. Every summer I work as a counselor at a children’s sleep-away camp, so I was looking for a way to work with kids during the year. Sister to Sister was the perfect fit as the events combine fun activities such as scavenger hunts and spa nights with meaningful conversation that allows us to act as mentors to the younger girls.

What has been your most memorable experience as a member of Sister to Sister?

The first Sister to Sister event I attended was my favorite. It was cold outside so we had a pool day in the gym, and we had a raft building competition. We helped the girls build these massive rafts out of pool noodles and duct tape and then we had a race. I had forgotten how much fun it is to do stuff like that.

What have you learned, either about yourself or the world around you, as a member of Sister to Sister?

I’ve found Sister to Sister to be a valuable experience as it has allowed me to get back in touch with what it was like to be kid. In our group discussions at the events, the girls really open up to us and talk to us, and that’s when you realize that in a lot of ways, 21 isn’t really so much different than 12. I think so many adults find it easy to dismiss children because of their lack of life experience, but when you actually talk to these kids, you realize that they really are insightful and what they have to say is valuable.

Where are you from and what’s your major? What other activities are you involved with on campus?

I’m from Tampa, Florida. I’m a Film major and I’m also pursuing a Theater minor. I sing a cappella with the Middlebury Paradiddles and am one of the group’s social chairs, and I’m on the board of Chromatic social house as well.

Latin American Economic Development Internship in DC this summer (PAID)

We invite applications for the “Internship on Latin American Economic Development” for this coming summer. These have been established to encourage students to continue their study of economics throughout the summer and will provide an opportunity for working on research projects with Staff from the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and, indirectly, Middlebury Economics faculty members.

The topics of the fellowships vary from year to year. While the theme is not yet finalized, the one or two interns likely will focus on the analysis of Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs) in Latin America and the Caribbean or analysis of school dropout rates. The successful candidate will spend approximately 8 weeks in Washington DC, based in the Social Protection and Health Division of the IDB, under the supervision of Drs. Marco Stampini and Pablo Ibarraran. The intern will provide research assistance in the support of ongoing research projects in this theme. The stipend will be approximately $3000.

Apply now, details here:


IPE Majors: come to your Field Guide and learn about what alumni are doing with their degrees

Field Guide: International Politics & Economics

Alumni will be on campus to share their paths and professional lives with you to help you think broadly about their IPEC major. Events are Thursday, March 1 – Friday March 2.

What did they do at Middlebury and what are they doing now? Find out at these events!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Alumni Panel 5:00 p.m.
Dinner with alumni, 6:15 p.m.
Atwater Dining Hall
Reserve your spot, RSVP in Handshake!

Friday, March 2, 2018

One-on-one Alumni Chats,
9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
Adirondack House – Click the link below to SELECT A SLOT for a 1:1 conversation.

International Career Conversations via Zoom,
9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Adirondack House – Click the link below to SELECT A SLOT for a Zoom Career Conversation.



Career Conversation with Alex Alben P ’18

Thursday, March 15 at 12:15 in ADK Library

Alex Alben is Washington State’s first Chief Privacy Officer, an office created by the state legislature in March of 2015. He coordinates privacy and data policy for the state and consults with the Governor and Legislature on technology issues impacting citizen privacy.

As a technology executive, Alex helped launch and, and served for six years in senior management at RealNetworks. At the outset of his career, Alben served as a researcher for CBS News covering the 1980 Presidential campaign and went on to work for Mike Wallace at CBS Reports. In the 1990’s, Alben worked as an entertainment lawyer for Orion Pictures and Warner Bros. He was a candidate for the U.S. Congress from Washington State’s 8th Congressional District in 2004.

Alex Alben and John Kerry 2004 campaign

A graduate of Stanford University and Stanford Law School, Alben writes for The Seattle Times and other publications on the intersection of media, technology and politics. He is the author of Analog Days—How Technology Rewrote Our Future.

As one of only five Chief Privacy Officers in the country, Alex has initiated state-wide programs for enhanced privacy training, consumer education and “Privacy Modeling.” In March of 2017, Gov Tech Magazine named him one of the country’s top “Doers, Dreamers and Drivers” in state government.

Join us in the ADK Library for a small group career conversation. He’s available to talk to students about digital privacy, net neutrality, and exciting opportunities for both tech and non-tech students interested in careers in tech fields!

Wanted: Japanese Language Professionals

The demand and earning potential for professionals with Japanese language skills are on the rise. Industry leaders such as Netflix, Honda, SalesForce, Nintendo, and AFLAC are desperately seeking professionals trained in Japanese translation, interpretation, and localization management—they have contacted us to highlight this need! Winnie Heh, Career Advisor, and Professor Tanya Williams, Program Coordinator for the Japanese Translation and Interpretation programs, will discuss this growing career field. They will show how, with the right language skills and training, you can transition into high-earning and fulfilling careers.

Date: Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Time: 3 PM pacific time

Sign up today at

Weekly Web Updates – February 19, 2018

The week we launched a new website for the Middlebury Institute. This is the first site we’ve launched on Drupal 8 and features many improvements over our Drupal 7 system including better caching, performance, responsive design, and an easier to use editing environment that lets you build pages using discrete components. We look forward to rolling this out to other other Drupal-based sites over the next couple years as part of the redesign project.


Fixes and Tweaks

  • Following the launch of the new Institute website we have added a homepage feature to spotlight programs with quotes from alums. We also allowed profiles and events to be editable by all site editors. Profiles can now include Vimeo and Instagram links.
  • Removed a module from the Drupal 7 archive copy of the Institute site that translated all relative URLs to absolute URLs, which was causing problems now that the hostname is changed.

Ongoing Work

  • Creating a new automatically generated course catalog.
  • Building out the configuration of our CAS servers in Chef, which is a configuration management system. We have already completed this work for our Drupal, WordPress, MediaWiki, GO, Omeka, and the Course Catalog services.
  • Upgrading the Drupal sites for the Davis programs, Dining Menus, and Museum of Art to Drupal 8.