EDINBURG, Texas (ValleyCentral) — The Rio Grande Valley is home to a culturally rich community, with over 90 percent of the population being Hispanic.

As the Valley grows through business and education, so does the Black community.

“I moved to the valley in 2006,” UTRGV Professor, Aje-Ori Agbese said. “And at the time, when I moved here, I think being Black was still kind of new because when I went to places, I had my hair in tiny braids just like this. And people would actually stop, touch my hair. It was surprising to me because people acted like we were the first Black people they had ever seen”  

Since moving to the valley, Aje-Ori Agbese has seen the area diversify through ethnic restaurants, businesses and services.

However, there is still a common struggle the Black community faces, the need for Black hairdressers.

“I think myself and many of the other Black women I knew here, we basically did our own hair,” Agbese told ValleyCentral.

Although professional barbers and hairstylists are taught how to work with different textures of hair, Agbese said it feels nearly impossible to find someone with experience on Black hairstyles.

This has led Black men and women throughout the Valley to self-teach, and most importantly, rely on each other.

UTRGV student athlete Jalyn Williams told ValleyCentral, “Me and my teammates really just do each other’s hair, and then the boys, they cut each other’s hair and everything. So, that’s kind of really how we adapt to the environment; with the struggles that we’re dealing with.”  

As a result of this common struggle, the Valley has become home to a number of Black barbers that have been servicing the community since the 90’s, such as Donald Quailes, who is the owner of D & L Beauty and Barbershop in Pharr.

“A lot of them used to come in, and they would see me and go, ‘Wow, you know, how long we’ve been looking for Black barbers?’ So, that was good that I would be able to cater to some of them,” Quailes said.

Meesh Duru, founder of her own private studio business, Dread House, is a local loctician who specializes in styling dreadlocks.

Duru told ValleyCentral, “My family didn’t have anyone to do our hair that understood how to do our hair texture. And so, I had to become the change that I wanted to see in my family’s home. And then I became the change that I wanted to see in the community here by becoming a loctician.”

Others within the Black community even took it upon themselves to open the Valley’s first ever beauty supply store dedicated to African-American and interracial hair.

“It’s a journey process, so I’m just here as a vessel to share it and just equip people,” founder of Colia Beauty Supply, Colia Mckinley said.

Every single one of these individuals are more than just members of a community with a shared struggle. They are individuals who saw a need within the Black community and spearheaded the change they needed to see here in the Rio Grande Valley.

Agbese shared, “There’s a lot that’s happening and as long as we’re an open community and loving as we are and supportive as we are in the Valley, I think anybody can come here and call it home.”