WINCHESTER, Va. (WDVM) — Virginia became just the second southern state in the country to pass the CROWN Act, following in the footsteps of its neighbour, Maryland. CROWN stands for Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. The act prohibits discrimination against natural hair in schools and workplaces and went into effect just last week on July 1st, 2020.
This legislation comes on the heels of the Black Lives Matter movement that has effectively swept the nation and the world. Natural hair discrimination has been an unfortunate normality in workplaces and schools across the country.
Many schools have banned hairstyles such as braids, dreadlocks, or afros. The most striking example of this discrimination was when a mixed race New Jersey high school wrestler who was forced to cut off his dreadlocks or forfeit the match completely. A video was posted to social media of the team’s athletic trained cutting off the student’s hair. A similar incident occurred in Texas where a high school student was banned from his prom and graduation for wearing his hair in dreadlocks.
Both of these incidents garnered national outrage and the movement gained significant recognition from director Matthew A. Cherry at the Oscars this past February. Cherry won an Oscar for his film Hair Love which tells the story of a Black father learning to style his daughter’s natural hair.
The passing of the CROWN Act in Virginia is a significant milestone for the state where Black or African American people make up 20 percent of the total state population, according to the United States Census Bureau.
Monique Downing, owner of The Best Little Hair Shop in Winchester, Va., said that in the past, she would have many female clients come into her salon for hair relaxers because they believed that it would look more professional. She went onto explain, “Now, people are realising that they can wear their hair and still be professional regardless of how they wear their hair.”
Downing’s 16-year-old daughter, Madison, echoed her mother’s statements. Madison has kept her hair natural for nearly five years. She explained that she was tired of her hair being so brittle and dry from constantly straightening her hair. She also highlighted that while keeping her hair natural takes constant and often time consuming care, it is how her hair is meant to be.
“I do encourage people to go natural if they feel like they need, they want to because it shouldn’t be discriminated against and you should feel comfortable wearing your hair how it grows.”Madison Downing
The CROWN Act has now been passed in California, New York, New Jersey, Colorado, and Washington and legislation has been introduced in 23 others including Georgia, Florida, and Arizona.
For more information on the CROWN Act, visit the website.