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The CROWN Act signed by Governor alongside House and Senate sponsors, Cook Family and advocates

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Rep. Ultrino’s bill prohibits discrimination based on natural and protective hairstyles

  On July 14 and 18 the Massachusetts Legislature enacted H.4554, An Act prohibiting discrimination based on natural and protective hairstyles – better known as Massachusetts’s version of The CROWN Act, and on July 26 Governor Charlie Baker signed the legislation into law. The CROWN Act stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. A recording of the signing ceremony can be found at https://youtu.be/iDQ_xKAugxs.

  The CROWN Coalition is an alliance of organizations working to advance “anti-hair discrimination legislation across the United States.” Massachusetts will now join 17 other states to codify the definition of natural and protective hairstyle and protect its residents from being denied employment and educational opportunities because of their hair texture. Discrimination and policies restricting these respective hairstyles in schools, employment, housing and business settings will now be prohibited in the Commonwealth. This legislation would also expand criminal law prohibiting assault and battery for purposes of intimidation to include natural and protective hairstyles, while adding natural and protective hairstyles to hate crime data collection and reporting requirements.

  The bill was first filed last session by Representative Steven Ultrino with the endorsement of The CROWN Coalition and received increased support from advocates, community members and legal experts as well as Senate and House members this session. “Today is a historic day for Massachusetts. When my staff and I first drafted this bill last session, we were inspired by Mya and Deanna’s bravery and resilience,” said Representative Steven Ultrino (D-Malden). “That bravery and resilience have brought us here today, changing lives of Black and Brown communities all across the state. I am proud to be a sponsor of the bill and I look forward to the state legislature continuing its efforts toward empowering communities of color and ensuring equitable living standards in our Commonwealth.”

  “Today marks a great day for Black and Brown Communities throughout Massachusetts. Today this important piece of legislation in the fight against systemic racism has been signed into law by our Governor,” said Representative Chynah Tyler (D-Boston), who is Chair of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus. “Women and girls will no longer need to live in fear of facing repercussions in schools, workplaces, and other institutions based on the way they choose to wear their hair. I would like to thank my colleagues in both branches of the legislature for helping take this bill across the finish line.”

  “This really all started when we were in high school and our school banned us from wearing our hair in box braids. When that happened, me and Mya decided to get the school to change the rule. They were very adamant, and we had to protest and do detention sit-ins, to do postcard campaigns and fight to get the rule changed in our school. It sparked a movement for us to push to never have this happen to anyone else again,” said Deanna Cook, one of the Malden residents whose experiences became the inspiration behind The CROWN Act.

  “All the support for this just feels so amazing. It feels like everyone is ready for this to be a law. Back in 2017, it did not feel like that, so to be here in 2022 is just amazing,” said Mya Cook, Deanna’s sister, who stood beside her against the hair discrimination they faced at school.

With overwhelming support and dedication from The CROWN Coalition, the Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, ACLU Massachusetts, New England Blacks in Philanthropy and many others, Massachusetts will become the 18th state to pass similar legislation prohibiting race-based hair discrimination.

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