Beckley Common Council members have unanimously voted to pass the Beckley Crown Ordinance designed to add protection for and ban discrimination against individuals based on ethnic hair.
On Tuesday, May 11, the common council held the second and final reading of the Beckley Crown Ordinance. Numerous Beckley residents were present on the lawn in front of city hall to show their support of passage of the ordinance, as city hall was closed to the public due to pandemic restrictions.
The Crown Act, which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, was brought to the city in March by Danielle Stewart, a member of the Beckley Human Rights Commission.
She stated that because the WV House of Delegates refused to protect those with ethnic hair during past legislative sessions, the city of Beckley should pass their own ordinance and show support for the 25% of Beckley residents directly affected by the lack of a current ordinance.
Soon after Stewart’s proposal, common council members and city officials drafted the Beckley Crown Ordinance. The city held the first reading of the act on April 27.
During public comment on the second reading of the ordinance, numerous citizens spoke in favor of the Beckley Crown Act.
“Hair discrimination is race discrimination,” said Carley Ward. “Hair discrimination happens every day for women like myself. My hair is constantly touched by people. I have even had remarks such as ‘You have good hair’ and ‘Your curls don’t look nappy.’”
“Do you know how demeaning that is,” Ward asked? “I am so glad that you guys are taking the initiative to make Beckley amongst the first to pass this anti-discriminatory act.”
Katonya Hart, with the NAACP — West Virginia said “The importance of dismantling the systematic racism that exists here in America is huge, and this ordinance is something that will do that.”
“We need to come together,” Hart continued. “We need to erase the lines that divide and, again, this is something that ordinance will do.”
Dr. Kristi Dumas added “We have made it to the second reading of the Beckley Crown Ordinance and, for this, I am grateful. I have learned the power of my voice, the importance of social action and that every lived experience is important.”
She thanked the council for supporting the ordinance from the beginning.
“I, along with the people of Beckley, salute and thank you,” Dumas said. “I also wonder if you understand just how magnanimous of a statement passage of this ordinance truly is. Your yay vote is a validation of all of the lived experiences of hair discrimination. It invites the reality of diversity, of equity and inclusion.”
According to city attorney William File, new language to be included in the current Beckley Human Rights Ordinance 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 added that “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.