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New Orleans CROWN Act Is A First For The Deep South But, Advocates Hope, Just The Beginning

Phoebe Jones
Nia Weeks, Founder and Executive Director of Citizen SHE United in New Orleans, with her two daughters, Peyton (left) and Cameron (right).

New Orleans attorney Nia Weeks remembers the concerned comments she received from older Black women when she decided to grow locs three years ago.

“You can’t go into a court with locs. No one’s gonna hire you,” they told her.

At its last meeting in 2020, City Council made a move to address those worries when it passed the C.R.O.W.N. Act Ordinance, which prohibits race-based hair discrimination, including the denial of employment and housing because of hair texture or protective hairstyles like braids, dreadlocks and bantu knots.

The C.R.O.W.N. Study, by cosmetic company Dove, revealed Black women are 80 percent more likely to change their hair to fit social norms and workplace expectations. Those changes often include straightening their hair with extreme heat or harsh chemical relaxers.

C.R.O.W.N. is an acronym for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.

While Birmingham passed a resolution to recognize July 3 as National C.R.O.W.N. Day last summer, New Orleans was the first municipality in the Deep South to adopt a C.R.O.W.N. Act.

The ordinance was a victory for Weeks, who is founder and executive director of Citizen SHE United, which advocates for policies that address the needs of Black women across Louisiana. She also encouraged City Council President Helena Moreno to introduce the measure.

“It was the best Christmas present that I could have even thought of giving to Black women. It was a love letter and a thank you in action,” Weeks said. “Black women are not a monolith, but our hair and the experiences, the prejudice that we experience, is a unified issue, regardless of age, demographics, geography [and] socioeconomic status.”

Read the full story, with portraits and audio clips, on Crescent to Capitol.

Bobbi-Jeanne Misick is the justice, race and equity reporter for the Gulf States Newsroom, a collaboration between NPR, WWNO in New Orleans, WBHM in Birmingham, Alabama and MPB-Mississippi Public Broadcasting in Jackson. She is also an Ida B. Wells Fellow with Type Investigations at Type Media Center.

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