‘We’re not our hair’

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Bill would protect people who wear natural hairstyles

GARY CORONADO/LOS ANGELES TIMES/TNS
Owner Kim Dafney braids cornrows for customer Adrian Rakestraw last month at Kim’s Touch of Class Hair Design in Northridge, California. A new California law forbids school and workplace discrimination against Blacks who wear natural hairstyles.

BY STEVEN LEMONGELLO
ORLANDO SENTINEL/TNS

ORLANDO – People who wear African American hairstyles, including natural, dreadlocks, twists, cornrows and braids, would be protected from discrimination in schools and at work under a bill proposed by a state senator from Orlando.

The Florida CROWN Act, which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair, “is an essential part of a national movement to acknowledge the cultural and social manifestations of racial identity, and to uphold our shared values of equity and fairness,” said Democratic Sen. Randolph Bracy at a news conference on Nov. 22 at the Cheryl Couture Salon in Pine Hills. 

‘Don’t judge us’ 

“We’re not our hair,” said former WKMG-Channel 6 anchor Secily Wilson, whose daughter Nicole was asked by her former school, Montverde Academy, to change her natural style because it violated the school’s dress code. The school later reversed its policy. 

Also speaking at the event was Erica Dunlap, Miss Florida 2003 and Miss America 2004, who said that during her pageant days there was “a lot of pressure to streamline my look, if you will, to make it appear as Euro-pleasing as possible. … It needed to be straight, it needed to be long, in order to be considered beautiful or even acceptable.”

Dunlap, who now wears an Afro, said young women should be able to have their hair “as God intended it, and they should not have to undergo the strenuous and expensive measures that we go through in order to make our hair, quote, ‘acceptable.’” 

If passed and signed into law, it would make Florida the third state after California and New York to enshrine such protections into law – and the first with a Republican Legislature and governor. 

Bracy said he had spoken with state Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami, the chair of the Community Affairs Committee, and he is confident she will schedule a hearing on the bill.

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