Beauty

A New Holiday Will Celebrate The Crown Act Bill Banning Discrimination Against Natural Hair

Race-based hair discrimination garnered national attention last summer when the CROWN—Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair—Coalition worked to outlaw intolerance based on style, type, and texture. Cofounded by Dove, the National Urban League, Color Of Change, and the Western Center on Law and Poverty, the movement is working to create a “more equitable and inclusive beauty experience for Black women and girls” with a bill that ensures hair traits historically associated with ethnicity are protected at work and at school.

Called the “Crown Act,” it was introduced by California State Senator Holly Mitchell. It’s the first bill in American history to ban hair discrimination, and several states have already passed it.

The CROWN Coalition is officially declaring this July 3 “National CROWN Day” to mark the the 1-year anniversary of the signing of the bill in California. The celebration will feature “a full day of virtual conversations,” according to a press release. People will be encouraged to #PassTheCrown and sign a petition to end hair-based discrimination on thecrownact.com.

The legislation was long overdue. In August 2018, 11-year-old Faith Fennidy left her Louisiana classroom in tears after school officials said her braids violated school policy. Five months later, high school wrestler Andrew Johnson was forced to shave his dreadlocks in public before competing in the 120-pound weight class. That same year in Alabama, Chastity Jones claimed she lost a job offer after refusing to cut her dreadlocks.

These stories, Mitchell told Essence, “were the wind that gave us the opportunity to help challenge public perception, to help us push back on employer perception, to change the law.”

AP/Shutterstock

Last year, Virginia became the fourth state to pass the Crown Act, following California, New York and New Jersey. In a press release, Gov. Ralph Northam said: “If we send children home from school because their hair looks a certain way, or otherwise ban certain hairstyles associated with a particular race—that is discrimination. This is not only unacceptable and wrong, it is not what we stand for in Virginia. This bill will make our Commonwealth more equitable and welcoming for all.”

Several days later, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed the CROWN Act into law.

“When someone chooses to celebrate their natural hair, we should join them in that celebration and not discriminate against them,” Colorado Rep. Leslie Herod, one of the bill’s sponsors, told the Denver Post. “I am just really overwhelmed and appreciative of the outpouring of community support around the CROWN Act.”

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The Crown Act was recognized at the Academy Awards last year during Matthew A. Cherry’s acceptance speech for Hair Love, which picked up an Oscar for best animated short. The film (above) follows a Black father as he learns how to do his daughter’s hair. Cherry’s guest that evening was DeAndre Arnold, a high school senior from Texas who was told to cut his dreadlocks—or he couldn’t walk the graduation stage.

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Hair Love was done because we wanted to see more representation in animation,” Cherry said during his acceptance speech. “We wanted to normalize Black hair. There’s a very important issue that’s out there, the CROWN Act, and if we can’t help to get this passed in all 50 states it will help stories like DeAndre Arnold’s who’s our special guest tonight.”

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