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KYH & The C.R.O.W.N. Act

by | Nov 28, 2021 | Activism, News Posts | 0 comments

We were only about six years old. He was the class clown. His race never mattered. He made everyone laugh and so I crushed on him. He liked me too.

We passed notes back and forth in class. He asked if I liked him. I checked the yes box. I asked him the same thing. He checked yes. The mutual feeling had me on cloud nine. Then he asked if I was black or white. I knew I was black but I hesitated. I didn’t understand how in that very moment an anxiety came over me and stomach began to turn. I couldn’t shake the feeling that if I checked black, there was a possibility that he would like me anymore. I held my breath and checked white.
He asked , “So what’s wrong with your hair?”

From that early childhood memory until now, I continue to receive messages about how the world views my textured hair. This is why I wrote Zara’s Wash Day and continue to get involved in legislation that protects our cultural hairstyles.

Although I grew up in a home that affirmed my natural hair texture, I was also influenced by the world around me.  The messages that I received from peers in school, teachers, co-workers and employers was that my hair was different- but not necessarily in a positive way. My hair was always described as weird, untidy, ugly, offensive and unprofessional. It was always confusing growing up because my natural hair texture was my state of being and I never felt like it was ok to just be.

I experienced potential employers taking pictures of me in job interviews and touching my hair without permission.  I even wonder if my natural hair has been a deterrent or created a barrier for my personal and professional growth. The challenge for so many is that our natural hair texture, hair traditions and customs are a part of who we are. Our coily, curly, textured strands, locks, braids and afros are linked to our African ancestry and is one of the most important traditions we manage to still celebrate hundreds of years after the horrors of the Trans-Atlantic slave trade.  Afro-centric “hairitage” is one way that we hold onto our heritage and is also one of the ways we seek true freedom of expression.

I want my daughter to grow up in a world where she is not judged by her hair, but by the content of her character.  I want her to grow up being proud of her natural beauty and being confident about celebrating our hair traditions.  No person should be forced to hide who they truly are and employers should be focused on the competencies of the job and the importance of creating work environments that foster a sense of belonging.

On November 23, 2021 I testified as Founder and Executive Director of Know Your Hairitage, in front of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary in support of H.1907-The C.R.O.W.N Act MA. CROWN stands for Create a Respectful and Open World with No Racism. This legislation was spearheaded by CA Senator Holly J. Mitchell and is supported by The DOVE Coalition. To get involved please visit the following link and sign the petition.


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