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The Voice of the Black Community

Life and Religion

Raise hair: Charlotte letter-writing support for NC CROWN Act
Black girls advocate for anti-bias legislation
 
Published Monday, May 10, 2021 5:00 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

STOCK PHOTO
Queens for Change is sponsoring a virtual letter-writing campaign Monday from 6-7 p.m. to push for passage of the CROWN ACT by North Carolina lawmakers. Two bills pending in General Assembly committees would outlaw hair discrimination.

A Charlotte high school student is doing her part to fight hair discrimination.

Mallard Creek High School senior Kiersten Hash, founder of Queens for Change, will convene a virtual letter writing hour today from 6-7 p.m. asking state lawmakers to prioritize the Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, or CROWN Act. House Bill 170 is pending in the Judiciary 2 Standing Committee. Queens for Change, a 100-member organization, will send emails to representatives on the committee. Last week, they collaborated with Action N.C., Curls on the Block, N.C. BWR and the CROWN Campaign to lobby for the CROWN Act by sharing hair story videos.

Senate Bill 165 was filed as the North Carolina CROWN Act, and it would also offer protection against hair discrimination. Both bills are in committee an if they don’t reach the N.C. House or Senate floor by May 13, they will likely die there.

“It is about the fact that marginalized groups by people in particular, do not necessarily have the capacity to be their authentic selves in places of work and places of education,” said Hash, The Charlotte Post Foundation’s Top Senior of the Year. “Since we were basically old enough to really internalize any messages about what beauty is, and what professionalism is, we are always told that our natural hair is not that, and not only our natural hair, but by extension, any protective styles that we get, locks, braids, all of that is not deemed professional in a Eurocentric lens. But by saying this and by engraving these messages in young black kids, it tells them that they are not worth enough and that they are not worthy of being in these spaces without conforming to what society deems appropriate. It is so important moving forward that we break down those constructs to allow black people to just be their authentic selves.”

Hash, who will attend Harvard University in the fall, intends to become a civil rights attorney and perhaps one day a legislator. She created Queens for Change in 2019 with the intent of establishing space to empower Black girls in Charlotte. Hash said the significance of speaking up now rests on the deadline of May 13. The General Assembly is in its long session, in which lawmakers file bills and consider them for passage in odd-number years. The short session, which occurs during even-numbered years, usually runs January-March/April, during which time the focus is on bills pertaining to the state budget and emergency legislation. Non-essential bills are not considered that time. Therefore the CROWN Act would have to wait until 2023 for another attempt at passage if it does not reach the floor in time.

“There is really a time crunch, for organizers and state legislators to get any bills that do not have anything to do with finance on the table into the floor,” Hash said. “Right now, it is not even on the agenda for the upcoming committee meeting. Today is really about mass emailing these representatives in this virtual letter writing segment, and making sure that they know that something was Carolinians care about because there are so many bills of various, various importance in the house right now in the Senate that are trying to get to the floor. And of course, there are bills about Black maternal health and criminal justice reform. And those are so important. Moving towards an equitable future, we want to make sure that natural hair discrimination is a part of that fight.”

Hash also hosted a Zoom panel discussion in March featuring N.C. Reps. Kandie Smith and Carolyn Logan, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Earnest Winston, Villanova University Professor of law Ann Juliano and CROWN Campaign co-founder

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