The Beckley Crown Act is one step closer to becoming law after the common council passed the first reading of the ordinance during their Tuesday meeting.
The Crown Act, which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, has been designed to add protection for and ban discrimination against individuals based on ethnic hair.
In March, members of the Beckley Human Rights Commission brought the act to city council members when it was unable to receive a vote during the state legislative session.
Danielle Stewart, a member of the Beckley Human Rights Commission, told council members that because those in the House of Delegates refused to protect residents of Beckley, the city should create their own ordinance. She added that the ordinance would protect 25% of Beckley’s residents.
Numerous citizens have since voiced their support of the Beckley Crown Act, including nine people who spoke at the recent meeting.
Common Council, aided by Human Rights Commission member Dr. Kristi Dumas, met on April 26 to discuss the intent of the ordinance, and City Attorney Bill File held the first reading on April 27.
“I think it is the intent of this council and this administration to, in effect, adopt the Crown Act,” File said.
New language will be added to the current Beckley Human Rights Ordinance that states “for the purposes of this article, discrimination based on race also includes, but is not limited to, discrimination based on hair textures and protective hairstyles historically associated with a particular race,” File explained. “Further, race has been identified as a social construct, grouping people based on shared physical and social qualities in the categories generally identified as distinct including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles.”
Those hairstyles include braids, locks and twists, File concluded.
The second reading, and public hearing of the ordinance, will be held on May 11 during the Beckley Common Council meeting.
In other business,
— Council awarded Southern WV Paving Inc. of Beckley the contract for paving Franklin Avenue, Appalachian Drive and a portion of Woodlawn Avenue for a cost of $164,125;
— Mayor Rob Rappold told council that he would like to meet with them regarding numerous things that he has been keeping under wraps. “Council should be among the very first to know,” Rappold said;
— Leslie Baker, director of Beckley Parks and Recreation, announced a new interpretive exhibit “Big Mama Stroud” will open on Sunday, May 9, at 2 p.m. at the Exhibition Coal Mine;
— Councilmember Sherrie Hunter announced that beginning at 11:45 p.m. on Wednesday, May 5, and lasting until Thursday, May 6, local church attendees will be holding 24-hours of readings at Word Park as part of the National Day of Prayer.