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CROWN Act aims to prevent hair discrimination in Massachusetts

Sisters' fight against natural hair discrimination results in new state law
Sisters' fight against natural hair discrimination results in new state law 02:23

By Courtney Cole, WBZ-TV

MALDEN - With the stroke of Governor Baker's pen, The CROWN Act is now the law, and it is now illegal for anyone in Massachusetts to discriminate based on hair texture or style.

The legislation was inspired by a set of twins from Malden. The community was outraged after learning the teenagers were punished for wearing braids to school.

Deanna and Mya Cook's story started when they were 15 years old. At Mystic Valley Regional Charter School, the twin sisters were punished for wearing braids in 2017. They were banned from track, no longer allowed to be a part of Latin Club and were not allowed at any school events.

"I remember when I was in school and had my hair in braids; I felt really good about myself!" Deanna exclaimed.

"The reason that we got braids is because we wanted to start transitioning to natural hair. So we got braids so that we can grow our hair and then do the big chop and have our hair natural," Mya explained. 

Mya said she thought they were going to be expelled and the incident would all just be swept under the rug.

But, quite the opposite happened. 

"We got a lot of people reaching out! Especially a lot of students saying, 'Hey we're going through the same thing,' or 'My school won't let us wear our own hair, either."

This afternoon, the now UMass rising seniors received support at The State House from Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker as he signed The CROWN Act into law.

CROWN stands for 'Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair.'

"We never would've thought that this would've gotten bigger than us," Mya said..

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley also showed her support for the CROWN Act, saying in a prepared statement: "For far too long, Black folks have been punished for the hair that grows on our heads and the way we move through and show up in this world —enough. I'm so proud to see the Commonwealth make history today by enacting the CROWN Act to ban race-based hair discrimination in Massachusetts. From our young students with braids to job applicants with locs, this law is meaningful protection for our natural hairstyles.

"I'm grateful to our advocates and State House partners who have been organizing for years to make this a reality. The U.S. House of Representatives passed the federal CROWN Act months ago - a bill I am proud to co-lead - and the U.S. Senate should pass this critical legislation without delay."

"We are here today, because we refuse to stop and we want to make sure that no one else feels or goes through what we went through," Deanna said.

Right now, more than a dozen states have signed their own version of The CROWN Act.

The CROWN Act has also passed in the House of Representatives in March.

"Don't let anyone tell you can't have your hair how it is. If it makes you happy and confident and beautiful, wear your hair and rock your crown!" Mya said.

Deanna and Mya said they would have never dreamed that their experience would lead them to The State House and ultimately allow them to change other people's lives for the better.

Now, they tell me their next step is to get The CROWN Act passed on a federal level.

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