Parnell Street is one of the busiest streets in central Dublin and is also home to one of the most racially and ethnically diverse areas of the city. Following the British occupation of Ireland, the street was renamed after Charles Stewart Parnell, parliamentarian and former leader of the Irish Nationalist Party. To the east of Parnell Square, you can find Nigerian, Brazilian, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, and Chinese restaurants and businesses.
I first found myself at Parnell Street per the recommendation of my friend Azeez, who after examining my tattered hair line said, “head to Parnell bro; they’ll fix you up – I promise.” A good friend is one who lets you know when your hair is looking like a mess.
My hair is such a huge part of my identity. Black hair has always been a site for resistance – there’s always that history that’s tied to it. So, even when you try and not make hair political, the history of black bodies and hair, particularly black women’s hair, is innately tied to a political struggle.
Locking my hair five years ago was a way of outwardly expressing love for myself, love for my people, love for my culture. So naturally, before moving to Dublin, I was quite concerned about finding the salons and products necessary to care for my hair as usual. Cesar’s Hair Salon on Parnell Street has been essential to my whole and healthy well-being here in Dublin. On average, before lockdown, I tried to get my dreadlocks retwisted every six weeks and faded every two weeks
My visits to Parnell Street have allowed me to learn about Dublin from the purview of its migrant communities. Every trip to the salon is filled with stories, banter, and if you go on Sundays, tasty treats. Cesar, the salon’s owner, moved to Dublin from Lagos, Nigeria twenty years ago to create a better life for him and his family. After working many odd jobs for several years, he saved up enough money to open his salon. Cesar is the most well-known man on Parnell Street – he might as well be mayor. His salon is always teeming with people from all backgrounds – a kailedoscopic view of Dublin’s burgeoning multiculturalism.
On a final visit to Cesar’s shop before lockdown, he lamented about closing the shop indefinitely.
“This is my home. These people are my community. What worries me is that I don’t know when I’ll be able to come back” he said. While he was speaking, I realized that I would miss the salon too. It had become a home for me as well. I’d even say it’s the place in the city where I feel most safe.
It’s been five weeks since I last saw Cesar and one thing I know for certain is that as soon as lockdown is over, I’ll be making a trip back to his salon on Parnell Street.