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U.S. Representatives Convene at Howard To Discuss the Importance of Passing the CROWN Act

[Picture of panelists. From left to right Michelle Hurd, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota,  Ayana Pressley of Massachusetts, Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, Cori Bush of Missouri, and Gwen Moore of Wisconsin.  Photo by Sariah Adams]

United States Representatives came together at the Louis Stokes Health Library to discuss the importance of the CROWN Act and the impact it would have on the Black and brown community across the United States, speaking with Howard students about the importance of this legislation passing in the Senate. 

The panel took place on Nov. 14 at 12 p.m., complete with a room full of Howard students sitting in rows of chairs. The event was organized by The Office of Communications in collaboration with Transitioners and Naturals Growing, Learning, and Educating Students, also known as T.A.N.G.L.E.S

According to the CROWN Act’s official website, this legislation was created in 2019 by Dove and the CROWN Coalition founded by Dove, the National Urban League, Color of Change, and the Western Center on Law and Poverty to end discrimination based on hair type and texture. 

The CROWN Act, also known as “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair Act” is legislation that bans the discrimination based on hair type, specifically for Black people who wear natural hairstyles and texture, such as “dreadlocks, cornrows, twists, braids, Bantu knots, fades, afros, and the right to keep hair in an uncut or untrimmed state.” The legislation was introduced to the Senate in 2020 by Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey and reintroduced in 2021. 

The panel consisted of Democratic Representatives Ayana Pressley of Massachusetts,  Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Gwen Moore of Wisconsin, Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey, Cori Bush of Missouri, and actress Michelle Hurd who’s best known for her role in the television series, “Star Trek: Picard.”

[The 4th floor of the Louis Health Science Library was filled with many Howard students seated including members of the Residence Royal Court. The photo was taken by Sariah Adams]

The event kicked off with an opening from Senator Cory Booker who spoke about the importance of natural hair and the history it holds for Black people dating back to slavery when braided hair represented symbols and maps used as routes of escape. 

“For Black people, hair is rooted in the stories of our resistance. It is rooted in the beauty of our past. It is rooted in the defiance of a culture that demands its earned status in the beauty and the rainbow of America,” Booker said. 

After Booker’s opening, the six panelists began to discuss their thoughts on the importance of Black hair and why they believed the CROWN Act should be passed by the Senate. 

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Representative Cori Bush spoke about her experience of how she showed up for herself as a Black woman in the medical field and how she was then able to show up for other Black women working within different industries. 

“If we show up, if we get to the point we’re mad enough to think about who’s coming up next, “How can I show up now for who’s coming up next?”  Representative Bush said. “Because the more we show up and push…the more that business and industry has to pay attention to that.”

Throughout the panel, the representatives shared their journeys and experiences through navigating different industries as Black women. When asked the question, what does the perfect world look like to you, Representative Ayana Pressley answered with the hope of seeing the CROWN act passed and having a world where people can be free to be themselves without fear or worry of legislative retaliation. 

“As my sister so often hears me say, ‘We are living in the residual aftermath of police violence…every injustice is one that was legislated,’” Pressley said. “If we wanna disrupt and undo centuries of harm now we have to legislate equity and legislate healing and legislate justice.”

According to Dove Research done in partnership with the CROWN Coalition, Black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from the workplace due to their natural hair and 66 percent of Black children in predominantly white schools have faced race-based hair discrimination, with the percentage of children having experienced hair-based discrimination by age 12 being 86 percent. 

Students who attended the panel commented on how informative and insightful the discussion was and Howard students and students across the country must be involved. 

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“These discussions are important on a college campus, especially an HBCU in general because we really are the future and we really are going to impact the legislation and the way our society runs. And if you want to see change you have to be the change,” junior Briana Lawimore said.

The president of T.A.N.G.L.E.S, senior Morgan Rameau, talked about how inspiring and necessary the discussion of the CROWN ACT is for the Black community. 

“I feel amazing about this discussion and it was inspiring to me and I feel it’s necessary to have this discussion as Black people coming from different backgrounds,” Rameau said. “Having these discussions evens the playing field to give us all, you know, that same confidence that others may not have had growing up and it gives us the knowledge to move forward and to improve the legislation.”

On March 18, 2022, the bill passed through the House in Washington. The legislation is still being pushed to pass in the Senate. Exactly 18 states, including Nebraska, a dominantly Republican state, are included in the list of states that have passed this legislation. 

Copy edited by Jadyn Barnett

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