Students Discuss Passage of the CROWN Act

natural hair discussion

On February 26, 2020 and in honor of Black History Month, Skyline College Library celebrated the passing of The CROWN Act and shared what black natural hair means to the culture’s heritage.  This open space cultivated dialogue about the journey to embrace and to love one’s natural hair.

Sherri Wyatt, Instructional Aide II for the Learning Commons, facilitated the discussion. She started with reading the summary of The CROWN Act – Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. The Act, which went into effect January 1, 2020, was a long awaited legislation that “extended statutory protection … in the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) and state Education Codes” (thecrownact.com). California was the first to pass this legislation as a fight against the consistent work place and public education discrimination against people, especially black women, for wearing hair in a natural texture, braids, locks or other protective styles.  New York and New Jersey followed California’s lead. After reading the Act, Wyatt read “Rediscovering My Hair,” a prose written by Paulette M. Caldwell.

To get the discussion started, Wyatt opened with a question: What does your natural hair mean to you?  For her, her natural hair was her way to finally accept herself as a beautiful black woman. Ajeé Sanders, a Skyline College student, shared the two reasons behind rocking her natural hair. She decided to break the curse of “inter-generational trauma,” caused by the misunderstanding of black hair texture that led to mismanagement. Also cutting her hair shaped how she defined femininity and beauty. Femininity and beauty was not based in her hair, but based on what is not seen – what’s within. Leslie Peay, Class Development and Cultural Arts Coordinator for Daly City, echoed those sentiments and shed light on “living her true self.”  Two other Skyline College students, Pearl Ibeanusi and Charlene Weah-Weah, stressed the sacredness of black natural hair and the need to stop the stigmatization, especially in the work place and public education. Pearl gave poignant examples of how she fought for their children’s right to wear their natural hair in public school.

The event continued with the intertwining of a Ted Talk segment “I am not your stereotype. I am not my hair” by Zodidi Jewel Gaseb; more discussion; Bianca Rowden-Quince reading “The Wig”, a poem written by U.S. Poet Laureate and Pulitzer Prize winner Rita Dove; the viewing of the 2020 Oscar winner for best animated short “Hair Love”; and ending with India Arie’s song “A Beautiful Day.”  More than 50 people from Skyline College and the local community attended the event, coming together to embrace our natural CROWN.

During Women’s History Month, Skyline College Library brings back the Human Library on March 10th from 11:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. and the Poetry Corner, facilitated by Professor of Engineering Maryam Khan, on March 18th at 1:00 p.m.  In collaboration with Science in Action, the Women in STEM event will be March 24th at 4:30 p.m. in the STEM Center, Building 7, Room 7-307.  Refreshments will be served at all events so come and enjoy!

Article by Sherri Wyatt | Photo by Ricardo Coronado

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