WASHINGTON – Howard University welcomed members of Congress on Monday to engage with students about the C.R.O.W.N. Act (Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair). The act is a law that prohibits race-based hair discrimination, which is the denial of employment and educational opportunities because of hair texture or protective hairstyles including braids, dreadlocks, twists, or bantu knots. The panel was moderated by Howard University students Morgan Rameau and Shaletta Norwood.
Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey began the program with a dedication to the women in Congress and activists who have championed this act. Their efforts have led to 18 states already passing the CROWN Act. “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 firm status in the beauty of America,” said Booker.
Members of the Congressional Black Congress, Representatives Bonnie Watson Coleman, Barbara Lee, Gwen Moore, Ilhan Omar, Cori Bush, Ayanna Pressley, and actress Michelle Hurd participated in a panel discussion where they revealed their own experiences with hair-based discrimination.
All of the women at the table testified to the importance that their hair and hairstyles have played in their lives, especially as it relates to their self-confidence and authentic self-expression. They echoed the idea that, as Black women, exploring the versatility of their natural hair and finding their preferred hairstyles contributed to their finding themselves. The experience of being told that their natural hair was unprofessional and, in some cases, preventing them from advancing in their careers reinforces their commitment to passing the CROWN Act. “You should be able to show up as you are without being worried about punitive measures,” said Lee.
The panel ended the discussion by emphasizing the importance of voting during every election cycle and holding your elected officials accountable to what the voters who put them in their positions. Pressley said, “A vote is not a valentine, you are not confessing your love for a candidate; it is a chess move for the world we want to live in. We do not elect saviors; we elect partners and partnership is about accountability.”
About Howard University
Founded in 1867, Howard University is a private, research university that is comprised of 14 schools and colleges. Students pursue more than 140 programs of study leading to undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees. The University operates with a commitment to Excellence in Truth and Service and has produced one Schwarzman Scholar, three Marshall Scholars, four Rhodes Scholars, 12 Truman Scholars, 25 Pickering Fellows and more than 165 Fulbright recipients. Howard also produces more on-campus African American Ph.D. recipients than any other university in the United States. For more information on Howard University, visit www.howard.edu