What is CROWN Day? Anti-hair-discrimination legislation marks 1st anniversary with celebration of Black natural hair

Black men, women and children are celebrating their right to embrace their natural hair for the first annual CROWN Day on Friday, honoring the anniversary of the inaugural signing of the CROWN Act in California. Still, the CROWN Coalition, a national alliance founded by Dove, National Urban League, Western Center on Law & Poverty and Color Of Change, recognizes that there’s more work to do in order to eliminate hair discrimination across the country.

CROWN stands for “Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” and the act is a piece of legislation first introduced by California Senator Holly J. Mitchell in January 2019 in response to numerous occasions of discrimination against Black students and professionals on the basis of their natural hair and protective hairstyles including braids, locs, twists and knots. Instances like a high school wrestler who was forced to cut his locs by a referee in order to compete in his match in March 2019 brought more national attention to the issue and seemingly highlighted the need for legal action.

Senator Holly J. Mitchell celebrates Gov. Cavin Newsom signing the CROWN Act on July 3, 2019, making California the first state to pass the bill. (Photo: JOY Collective)
Senator Holly J. Mitchell celebrates Gov. Cavin Newsom signing the CROWN Act on July 3, 2019, making California the first state to pass the bill. (Photo: JOY Collective)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom was the first to sign the legislation into law on July 3rd 2019, followed by New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Colorado, Washington and Maryland. The CROWN Act has also passed to provide legal protections against race-based hair discrimination in workplaces and schools in two municipalities in Ohio and Maryland, and is currently being considered in a number of other states. Federal legislation was also introduced in December 2019.

Although this specific type of race-based discrimination isn’t new, the coalition announcing National CROWN Day, also known as Black Hair Independence Day, hopes that the current conversations about racial injustice and discrimination will help to shed light on the need for this act to become federal law. A social media movement called #PassTheCrown will also encourage the Black community and allies to sign a petition in support of the CROWN Act, and to call on state and federal legislators to move forward with passing it as law.

Adjoa B. Asamoah, an impact and political strategist who works on behalf of the CROWN Coalition, tells Yahoo Life just how serendipitous the timing of National CROWN Day is amid the group’s longterm efforts.

“As the current climate in the country reveals, there’s been a longstanding problematic practice of racial discrimination, and hair discrimination has been a prevalent form,” she says. “The sobering reality of a global pandemic has many of us appreciating positivity in ways that we haven’t always, making this anniversary and celebration of legislative wins, Black hair, and natural beauty, timely.”

She also acknowledges just how important it is to honor and celebrate the act’s inaugural signing, although there’s work yet to be done. “The CROWN Act is an example of how Black people can not only inform public opinion, but also create shifts in both policy and culture,” Asamoah continues. “As the social impact strategist who has worked tirelessly with elected officials and civil rights leaders nationwide, on behalf of the CROWN Coalition, I look forward to celebrating this milestone with my sisters tomorrow.”

Black people across the country are encouraged to take part in celebrations as well by not only doing their part toward legal change, but also by wearing their hairstyles proudly. Black communities and allies alike can also tune into virtual conversations on the CROWN Act’s social media channels.

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