Florida bill that would ban hair discrimination against Black people poised to fail 3rd time

·7 min read

The CROWN Act bill, which would prohibit discrimination against Black men, women and children who choose to wear their hair naturally, appears poised to fail in the Florida Legislature for the third year in a row.

CROWN is an acronym for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair and is sponsored in the House by Rep. Kamia L. Brown-D, who was not optimistic about its chances earlier this week. Sen. Randolph Bracy, also a Democrat, is the Senate sponsor for the bill (SB 1608).

“We are in the middle of week three and we have eight weeks here,” Brown said. “It’s received four referrals. It (the bill) has to go through four of our legislative committees in order to be brought forth to the entire body on the floor to be voted out. It seems as though there’s still not an appetite for the bill. But that will not stop myself and Senator Bracy from bringing advocacy around this particular issue.”

The CROWN Act bill, or “CROWN,” is an acronym for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. The bill was born two years ago seeking to pass laws to eliminate discrimination against Black women, men and children who choose to wear their hair naturally.
The CROWN Act bill, or “CROWN,” is an acronym for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. The bill was born two years ago seeking to pass laws to eliminate discrimination against Black women, men and children who choose to wear their hair naturally.

While past CROWN Act bills called for protection in the workplace and housing, the latest version of the bill was whittled down to only prohibit hairstyle discrimination in the public education system, in an effort to get more support.

“In the past when we have brought it to the legislature, (the bill) looked at prohibiting discrimination in our schools, in our workplaces and in housing," Brown said. "Far too many times we’ve heard about the lack of respect for a person's natural hair and the natural state of a person's hair, which is their crown, their glory.”

'I think it's important'

Daytona Beach mom Keshia Rentz has felt the devastating impacts of that discrimination first hand. After witnessing her teenage son be harassed at school because of his natural hair, Rentz believes the CROWN Act bill is needed now more than ever.

“I think it's important (passing the bill) because hair shouldn’t limit how a person is able to thrive,” said the 42-year-old Rentz, who has three children of her own in addition to fostering two others. “It's a cultural style and it's how it grows naturally. Targeting someone because of the natural state of their hair just doesn't seem fair to me.”

Hair discrimination: A Florida bill would outlaw ‘natural’ hair discrimination against Black people, likely won’t even get a hearing

'I am a queen crowned with curls': Black women in Volusia say law needed to stop hair discrimination

'Cut your hair, Rentz': A Black JROTC student says he's being harassed after refusing to cut off his hair

Rentz’s 15-year-old-son Logan Rentz, a Spruce Creek High School student, was kept from wearing the JROTC uniform because of his natural hair.

“We decided to loc our children’s hair when they were younger,” she said. “It's something that they’ve embraced. It became part of their identity. Everyone knows Keisha’s kids are the boys with the locs. I’ve tried to get people to understand that it means more than just hair. It's a symbol of survival, resistance, celebration and empowerment.”

Logan Rentz and his mother, Keisha Rentz.
Logan Rentz and his mother, Keisha Rentz.

Logan wears his hair in locs and usually ties it up in a bun. The style is also referred to as "dreadlocks," but that term has historically negative connotations. The News-Journal is using the term locs because that's the descriptor the Rentz family uses.

Rentz was told that in order for her son to join the JROTC program he had to cut his hair.

“We were told, ‘He's a great kid. He's really respectful. He'll do well in the army, but he has locs and he has to cut them.’ So if he's such a great kid, then why are you going to let something that he identifies with culturally stop him from looking at a potential career choice? That was just disturbing to me. So I challenged it.

“He's still not able to be in the program and wear a uniform but he's able to be a participant, which just means he can be in the classroom around other students. We're still pushing for him to be able to wear the uniform.”

Voices 'need to be heard'

Kimeca Caine, owner of Kinks, Coils and Waves Natural Hair Products in DeLand and author of a children’s book, “I Love My Kinks, Coils and Waves,” said the book was inspired by the need to teach self love.

“My mini clients that came in the salon with hair issues often express discomfort or lack of love for their own natural hair based on what they were seeing at school or on social media,” said the 40-year-old Caine.

Caine, originally from Jamaica and a hair care professional for 15 years, is also an inventor. The DeLand resident created a shea butter for natural hair to help maintain and keep both hair and scalp healthy.

“The fact that the bill keeps resurfacing means there’s a need for it,” said Caine. “It means that there are voices that have been ignored and need to be heard. We shouldn’t need a bill in order to be ourselves.

"I don't know any other culture that tells people what they need to do to be accepted. Especially with their hair. Your hair grows from your head. You can’t put a limit on something that naturally comes from a person's body. So yes, the bill is definitely needed.”

Jessica Foreman, co-owner of Sauté Kingz by Chef Count in Daytona Beach, believes the bill is a necessity. Foreman struggled with her hair for years, using harmful products on her scalp and hair until finally deciding to go natural.

“When I was younger I used harmful chemicals on my hair,” said the 42-year-old Foreman. “I suffered through chemical burns, burns from a hot comb and spending a fortune on weave extensions. I went through many phases of trying to find out how to make sure my hair was a representation of me.”

Foreman, who now sports locs, said growing up everyone she knew wanted straight hair.

“I felt like at one time everybody wanted straight, long hair,” she said. “I'm Puerto Rican, so oftentimes people would ask me why my hair doesn’t look like JLo’s (singer Jennifer Lopez) hair. There are so many stereotypes surrounding hair.”

Foreman made the decision to loc her hair in December 2017 and hasn’t looked back.

“My husband followed suit and loc'd his hair in January 2018,” she said. “My husband and both of my sons loc'd their hair right after me. I don’t have any regrets about wearing my hair naturally. I love my hair. This is the healthiest my hair has ever been. Some people think wearing your hair loc'd is limiting as far as styling. That’s not true.”

CROWN movement a nationwide effort

Brown said it’s not uncommon for a controversial bill such as Florida's to get passed over.

“When you’re looking to do what's right, many of these controversial bills take about six to eight years to get passed,” she said. “It’s not that they're bad bills. The speaker (of the Florida House, Rep. Chris Sprowls-R) sets the agenda. The speaker allows what he wants to get heard and the committees make the decision. Unfortunately we aren’t on the same page.”

Sharon Jackson, style's Jessica Foreman's hair. Both Foreman and Jackson support the Crown Act bill.
Sharon Jackson, style's Jessica Foreman's hair. Both Foreman and Jackson support the Crown Act bill.

Florida's CROWN Act bill is supported by the CROWN Coalition, founded by Dove, the National Urban League, Color Of Change and Western Center on Law and Poverty.

Similar bills have been enacted in 12 states: Washington, California, Colorado, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut, Nebraska, Delaware, New Mexico and Nevada.

More than 10 cities have passed the CROWN Act in states where it has not yet become law. Two municipalities, Cincinnati and Montgomery County, Maryland, also have passed forms of the CROWN Act.

Brown said the fight for the bill in Florida will continue. The bill can be reintroduced next session in 2023.

This article originally appeared on The Daytona Beach News-Journal: Florida CROWN Act bill to outlaw 'natural' hair discrimination poised to fail

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting