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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Massachusetts implements CROWN Act

Gov.+Charlie+Baker+joins+legislators+to+sign+the+CROWN+Act+into+law+on+July+26%2C+2022.
Gov. Charlie Baker joins legislators to sign the CROWN Act into law on July 26, 2022. Photo and caption courtesy of Joshua Qualls/Governor’s Press Office via Flickr.

On Tuesday, July 26, Massachusetts became the 18th state to pass the CROWN Act, also known as the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act. Signed by republican Gov. Charlie Baker, the CROWN Act now prohibits discrimination against individuals with natural hair and those who wear their hair in protective styles—like afros, cornrows and twists.
Discrimination against natural hair and protective styles will be banned in workplaces, schools and school-related organizations. Proponents of the law maintain that Black women are disproportionately urged in their schools and workplaces to change their hair to adhere to policies that are disadvantageous to people with natural hairstyles.
Additionally, advocates expound that adopting this anti-discrimination law is a monumental step in overturning centuries of racial trauma weaponized against Black Americans, due to the exhibition of their actual hair texture.
Under this recently enacted law, school districts whose regulations constrain the use of natural hairstyles and blatantly forbid natural hairstyles are now illegal. Additionally, The CROWN Act now prevents discrimination against natural hair and protective styles that are also prohibited in public spaces, advertising, business and employment.
CROWN Act legislation was collectively passed in the House and Senate. The law establishes black hair as a variation of several styles, such as “braids, locs, twists, Bantu Knots and other formations.” The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination will administer the new law’s protections.
The genesis of this legislation goes back to 2017, when two black teenage girls named Deanna and Mya Cook at Mystic Valley Regional Charter School were given detention, withdrawn from extracurriculars and unable to go to prom because they wore a protective style, braids accompanied with extensions, that was against school policy.
While the Massachusetts charter school later rescinded this policy, the case of the two teenage black girls inspired state Representatives Steven Ultrino and Chynah Tyler, two Democrats from Malden and Boston, respectively, to “file the bill that finally made its way to the governor’s desk that afternoon.”
Tuesday’s bill authorization was met with the appearances of the parents of Mya and Deanna Cook, as well as the representatives of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus.
Throughout the bill signing, Gov. Baker stated that he anticipated he would be able to sign this law before the termination of the session. He affirmed, “this is a classic example of a citizen movement started by a very small number of people, in which the right to do became clearer and clearer the longer the discussion went.”
Ayanna Pressley, the U.S. representative for the seventh Congressional District of Massachusetts, is honored that Massachusetts is achieving a historical feat with the passage of this law. She communicated the significance of this law, writing, “from our young students with braids to job applicants with locs, this law is meaningful protection for natural hairstyles.”
State Sen. Lydia Edwards, a co-sponsor of the bill, voiced that the CROWN Act grants individuals the opportunity to divest from the “oppressive economy” that configures styles such as fake hair and chemical relaxers, and the opportunity to contribute their dollars to styles that accommodate their natural hair.
Deanna Cook, one of the sisters present during the bill signing, reflected that the enactment of the CROWN Act will signify that “no one will go through that again.” Likewise, Mya Cook rejoiced on that consequential legislative signing. The Cook sisters commented, with overwhelming emotions, “today is the day to celebrate our crowns.”

About the Contributor
Gabriella Diplan, Contributing Writer