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High school student on mission to pass Crown Act in Tallahassee

Crown Act makes race-based hair discrimination illegal
Posted at 5:09 PM, Jul 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-02 18:21:31-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Braids, cornrows, locs and afros. All styles that some African Americans have been told are unprofessional. A study by DOVE shows Black Women's hair is 3.4 times more likely to be perceived as unprofessional.

“For so long the image of beauty has been straight long hair,” said Tallahassee real estate agent Erica Lyles. “So for a little girl growing up to and embrace her hair and to feel beautiful and confident. Every woman wants to feel confident.”

Hair is a form of self-expression for many people. Yet for Lyles, it hasn’t always been easy to express herself.

“I thought the perfect real estate agent was the straight hair, wore suits. You know I couldn’t wear my natural hair.”

Research from Dove shows a Black woman is 80 percent more likely to change her hair to meet social expectations at work. Something stylist Taylore Jemi has seen firsthand.

“I have a lot of clients, they come and say, I want to start my journey,” said Jemi. “Then they get in my chair and go I don’t know what they’ll say at work.”

Hair discrimination also impacts males like Chiles High school's rising senior Jai Blyden.

“You know when my mom is like oh you’re going for your first job interview, make sure your hair is good,” said Blyden. “Black people tend to have to dress nicer. Tend to have to do the extra mile just to even be considered. Or heard in the same way. And that pertains to our hair all the time.

He’s now on a mission to make sure that he and other African Americans are not being discriminated against over how they choose to wear their hair.

Blyden reached out to each Tallahassee commissioner to help get support for the CROWN Act, which makes race-based hair discrimination illegal. Commissioner Jack Porter is now looking at all options to help end hair discrimination locally.

“I’ve reached out to our city attorney who’s looking into it,” said Porter. “It was an issue that I heard of but didn’t know there was something the city could honestly do anything about. So I was really grateful that this student brought this to my attention so that we can pursue it locally.”

CROWN stands for "Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair."

A bill was considered in both the Florida House and Senate this past legislative session. It did not pass.

Saturday is National Crown Day, which celebrates the two-year anniversary of the inaugural signing of the CROWN Act to end hair discrimination.

Passing similar legislation at the local level is something Blyden feels would benefit black individuals as a whole.

“We won’t be judged just based off of our hair,” said Blyden. We’ll be judged off what’s up here (brain) and our intelligence.

California was the first state to pass the Crown Act. To date, 13 states and 29 municipalities have laws inspired by the Crown Act.

PC: thecrownact.com

Dove And The CROWN Coalition are celebrating the 2nd National CROWN Day with the inaugural "CROWN AWARDS" on Saturday, July 3, 2021, also known as Black Hair Independence Day.