At the first Albuquerque City Council meeting of the calendar year, the governing body unanimously passed the CROWN Act, an amendment to the Albuquerque Human Rights Ordinance that will explicitly prohibit race-based hair discrimination.
The amendment protects against the denial of employment and educational opportunities because of hair texture or culturally-specific hairstyles, including braids, locs, twists or bantu knots.
The CROWN Act, short for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, started with a national campaign created by Dove and the CROWN Coalition, which includes the National Urban League, Color of Change and the Western Center of Law and Poverty.
The amendment was sponsored by Councilors Klarissa Pena and Lan Sena, who spoke on behalf of the bill at Monday’s meeting.
”This is a ongoing issue, even though we have laws and statutes that protect this type of discrimination. It’s critical that it’s laid out in this ordinance,” Sena said.
Albuquerque’s local CROWN campaign was spearheaded by community members directly impacted by the lack of protections for race-based hairstyles.
“When community leaders brought this to my attention, it was led by a Black woman and youth leaders that have been facing this for so long,” Sena said.
Nicole Rodgers, a community member and mother of two Black children, said her son went to school with his natural hair and was made fun of and teased by kids, while his teacher did nothing to intervene.
“It’s a small thing that may not seem like it matters, but it does matter. If nobody was there to intervene, he would have believed there was something wrong when it wasn’t,” Rodgers said.
Aja Brooks, the president of the New Mexico Black Lawyers Association, provided testimony about her experience growing up in Hobbs and being teased for her hair.
“As an adult, I have had people try to touch (my hair) without permission — it is a thing we need to change in New Mexico,” Brooks said.
Sena closed the discussion by citing statistics on how women of color are one-and-a-half times more likely to be sent home from the workplace because of their hair.
“I think we have a lot of work to do when it comes to addressing systemic and structural racism, and I believe this helps get us there,” Sena said.
Madeline Pukite is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @madelinepukite