Let’s take a trip back to Sunday, June 26, 2016. I’m walking towards a mass of people congregating around a stage on Prospect Park’s green lawns. As I get closer, the music gets louder, and I see Black folks — their hair in Afros, braids, twists, and other textured styles in all lengths and colors — dancing, laying out on blankets, buying food, and checking out the mostly Black-owned vendors. I damn near skip toward the crowd, smiling wide and already moving my hips. I was finally at my first Curlfest.

Seven years later, I returned to the festival, which was held at Randall’s Island on July 15, 2023. The seventh iteration of the event, which was created by the Curly Girl Collective in 2014, was a comeback celebration after a three-year hiatus. Fittingly, this year’s theme was “Bounce Back.”

And bounce back it did. Even though its location changed, and I was no longer the purple-haired girl in college, once I saw people and heard the soca music playing, I felt just like I did when I first attended in 2016: energized, excited, and ready to have fun.

Curlfest is many things: a festival, a party, a marketplace, and ultimately, a celebration of Blackness and Black beauty. As I walked through the crowds, sweating profusely from the heat (thanks to climate change), I was whipping my head back and forth, taking in as many hairstyles as possible; a bright orange ‘fro, a kinky-textured Kool-aid red mohawk, colorful 3D butterflies and flowers woven into locs, afros, curls, and so many other styles.

Since Curlfest won’t happen again for another year, here are a few of the most creative looks to hold you over until the next magical event.

Jocelyn Williams

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