Written By Clayton Gutzmore
May 11, 2023 at 5:29 PM

Promotional image from the upcoming special event honoring the Sunlight School of Beauty Culture, Miami’s first black beauty school.

Cosmetology is the art and science of beauty care—people who do hair, nail, makeup, and skin fall under the cosmology umbrella. The Sunlight School of Beauty Culture was Miami Dade’s first cosmetology school catering to Black women. Located in Overtown, the facility trained Black women to pass the Florida Cosmetology Licensing Exam from 1936 to 1970. Now, an artist pays homage to that school, the women who graduated, and Black Beauty in the art exhibit Black Beauty as an Act of Resistance.

“I want people to know that Miami has a beautiful and vast black history, especially regarding black women in this space. We’re doing this in honor of the elders still here and honoring the mothers with this amazing information about these women who did remarkable things, leaving the domestic life and going into the high glamorous life,” said Imani Warren, artist, and curator of the exhibit.

Black Beauty as an Act of Resistance debuts on Sunday, May 14, at the Dunn’s Josephine Hotel in Overtown. Warren created the exhibit featuring vintage and current Black hair and beauty brands inside a room, transforming it into a 1940s hair salon, giving guests a view of the environment the women of the school worked in. The exhibit will be available from May 14 until August 2.

A behind the scenes look at the installation in progress. Image courtesy the curator, Imani Warren.

Warren is collaborating with Dunn’s Josephine Hotel to host a Mother’s Day brunch for the exhibit’s launch. Rooms in the historic boutique hotel used to be a barber shop and hair salon decades ago. The brunch will be from 11:30 am to 2 pm and feature conversations with the women of the Sunlight School of Beauty Culture. Birtha Sneed and Luella Grayson will be there to share stories of how they made their products for their customers, serviced famous entertainers like Billie Holiday, and how their salon was a safe space for people of color to meet.

“These women were trailblazers. They left the system and decided to get their licenses and education in beauty culture. They started their own companies, educated their children, and created generational wealth for their families.” said Kristen Kitchen, Owner, and CEO of Dunn’s Josephine Hotel.

“Back then, there was legislation that kept black women from being educated in beauty culture because it would reduce the maid class in South Florida,” said Kitchen.

Black Beauty as an Act of Resistance is an exhibition that shows the tools women were given back then to better their circumstances. Warren, Kitchen, and everyone behind this project wants to display the resilience those women had back then.

“I wanted to take this opportunity to highlight the beauty we have made from nothing. We are changing the pain and the trauma into triumphs,” said Warren.



WHERE: Dunns Josephine Hotel, 1028 NW 3rd Avenue, Miami, FL 33136

WHEN: Sunday, May 14, 2023 – 11:30am to 2pm

COST: $50 – $400

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