Coupled with the CROWN Act, it's becoming a global movement.
No matter your ethnicity or where you grew up, one childhood memory most Black girls have is sitting down between your mother's legs as she did your hair — but it wasn't always a pleasant experience.
There were times when we got braids and bubble ties, then there were the moments when our moms not-so-gently detangled and "tamed" our hair into something more palatable for the world-at-large.
From a young age, Black girls are told our natural features are bad, wrong, and distracting. Society engrains the notion that our luscious coils and curls are undesirable and ugly. And as we progress into the workforce, our hair is often deemed as “unprofessional."
This creates the mindset that Afro-textured hair is something to be ashamed of, rather than celebrated. But things have started to change. Over the past few years, we've entered a new era — and the negative impact of Black hair discrimination is not only being recognized, legislation across the globe is being created to protect our basic human rights.
The Creation of the Halo Code
The CROWN Act, created back in 2019, became the first piece of legislation in the U.S. to openly prohibit discrimination of one's natural hair texture or style. In the three years since its inception, the act has been passed in 18 states, with hopefully more to come. Following suit, the Halo Code — a pledge to stop hair discrimination experienced by Black people in both in school and workplace — was created in 2020 by a U.K.-based group of activists known as the Halo Collective. Thanks to this initiative, the U.K. may now finally introduce legislation to formally address all forms of hair discrimination. And Unilever, Dove's parent company, backs both movements.
“The code is driven by the lived experience of every single member of the collective," Halo Collective member Katiann Rocha tells InStyle. "It was fueled by our desire to eradicate unnecessary barriers for all Black people in the U.K.'' She goes on to add that several members of the collective grew up either experiencing or witnessing their peers being kicked out of school for what was considered to be “extreme hairstyles."
One example of this is the case of Ruby Williams, a former student of The Urswick School in East London. Back in Jan. 2021, Williams was repeatedly reprimanded and sent home for wearing her natural hair out over the course of two years.
And while this wasn't Rocha's exact experience, it's something she can unfortunately relate to.
“There was a time when I was queueing up for lunch and a group of girls behind me [said] some really negative things about my Afro," she remembers. “This discouraged me from wearing my hair that way outside of the house for years and when I was going for college interviews, I would do everything I could to 'tame' something that was called unprofessional for so long.”
The Halo Code's Progress
Since its launch back in December 2020, the Halo Code has been signed by over 500 schools and workplaces in the U.K. Even London’s mayor Sadiq Khan has taken the pledge in an effort to make City Hall a more inclusive environment for all workers.
"Last year, I declared City Hall an anti-racist organisation [sic], meaning that we are committed to making our community one that’s built on an ethos of equality and respect, and where your appearance has no bearing on your ability to succeed in our workplace," Khan wrote in a story published on LinkedIn in Oct. 2021. "I also committed us to looking at any structural barriers that may exist that prevent our staff — especially Black staff — from progressing. Building on that, the Greater London Authority has signed up to the Halo Code, which protects our staff who have natural hair and hairstyles associated with their racial, ethnic, and cultural identities."
“[This] was a sign that even our political bodies are committing to ending hair discrimination in the U.K.," says Rocha. "Hopefully, other large organizations will follow,”
And that they did.
“Afro hair discrimination is more normalized than [wearing] our actual natural hair,” says De Leon. “Hair has a far bigger connection to a Black person's identity and outcomes in life than it does for any other group. There's a daily pressure on Black women to change their hair to be more westernized, which has had serious health consequences both physically — with relaxers, for example — and mentally.”
For many Black students and professionals in the U.K., the Halo Code has finally given them the chance to show up just as they are.
“I really felt like the Halo Code gave a voice to Black students and those who are a mixed-race to talk about the importance of hair, which ultimately made me feel comfortable to wear different hairstyles and embrace my hair without feeling judged," says Naomi Marques Embalo, a former student of The St Marylebone CE in London. “This code can help [further] transform the way companies and schools approach discrimination and should be backed by the government to make it legislation. [This is how you] truly make the U.K. a more tolerant place.”
Williams was awarded an out-of-court lump sum settlement of £8,500 in Feb. 2020 for her trauma, and has since become an anti-hair discrimination activist who fully supports the Halo Code.
“I was relieved to find out that a group of young people, with lived experience, had created The Halo Code in 2020, and I am proud to be an extended part of the Halo Collective," she shares with InStyle. "As young people, we need to use our experiences to raise awareness.”
As Dove U.K. partner, Williams has taken her experience to the global stage, meeting with fellow campaigners from Brazil, the United States, and South Africa. She's also working with her family to push for statutory education laws around hair discrimination.
“I believe we should all embrace our right to choose how we want to wear our hair. It is beautiful in all states," she says. "Our hair is our crown and our choices should be respected.”
Quite simply, ending all forms of hair discrimination for good.
“In creating the Halo Code we only became aware of the CROWN Act once we began conducting research,'' Halo Collective co-founder Kaisha-Wade Speid explains. “However, the progress of the CROWN Act did galvanize us to make some changes in the U.K. just as they did in the U.S.”
Her hope for the future is for both teams to come together to create a bigger, global movement.
“We have made so much progress with our code but the hair revolution isn't over," says Rocha. "Halo is planning on delivering workshops, encouraging more institutions to adopt the code, and pushing for the complete deconstruction of the barriers we face in our schools and workplaces."
And in conjunction with the work of the CROWN Act in the U.S., hair discrimination across the globe may soon be a thing of the past.
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Read the original article on InStyle.