On Monday, the Massachusetts State Senate enacted the CROWN Act, which prohibits discrimination based on a person’s hair texture or style in Massachusetts. Having been enacted in both the Senate and the House, the bill now goes to Governor Baker for his signature.
The CROWN Act prohibits denial of employment and educational opportunities in places of work, schools, and school-related organizations on account of hair texture or protective hairstyles, such as braids, locks, and twists, used by people by color. Hair-based discrimination has excluded people of color from classrooms and workplaces, with serious academic and economic consequences.
“Having the right to be and present as our authentic selves, without fear of discrimination, matters to each one of us,” stated Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland). “For too many Black and Brown residents of Massachusetts this right has not always been honored. By enacting the CROWN Act, the Senate is once again affirming that hair discrimination has no place in professional or school settings in the Commonwealth. I am grateful to Mya and Deanna Cook, who stood up and fought hard to right this wrong for Black women and girls across the state. Thank you to Senators Gomez, DiDomenico, Rodrigues, Lewis and Edwards, as well as their staff members, for their work on this issue, and to the advocates for their collaboration.”
“This law does not only prohibit harm, it is finally an affirmative statement to black women that how you present in this world is beautiful, accepted, and loved. This is more than just than stopping discrimination against black women, this is putting an end to one of the central ways in which black people have been discriminated against in our world”, said State Senator Lydia Edwards (D-Boston). “I look forward to the bill signing ceremony with my colleagues, I thankful of the work done by Mya & Deanna Cook, Representative Steven Ultino, Representative Chynah Tyler, Senator Adam Gomez, Senator Sal DiDomenico, and the Senate President.”
“Natural hairstyles should be celebrated, not discouraged, and I’m proud to stand with my colleagues in the Legislature today to pass the CROWN Act,” said State Senator Michael J. Rodrigues (D-Westport), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “Thanks to the leadership of Senate President Spilka, Senator Gomez, Senator Edwards, Senator DiDomenico, our partners in the House, advocates and many others, we are taking an important and long overdue step to prohibit discrimination based on natural and protective hairstyles. I applaud the Legislature for taking action today and look forward to seeing this bill signed by the Governor.”
“As a long-time supporter and one of the sponsors of this legislation, I am thrilled to see the CROWN Act going to the Governor to be signed into law,” said Senator DiDomenico (D-Everett), Assistant Majority Leader of the Massachusetts Senate. “The CROWN Act will protect people of color from experiencing hair discrimination and ensure we can celebrate all hairstyles. We are sending a message that discrimination in any form will not be tolerated and we will now have a law in place to back this up. We could not have accomplished this without the tenacious work from advocates from the CROWN Coalition and bravery from students who have shared their personal experiences with hair discrimination. I would also like to thank Senate President Spilka and Chair Rodrigues for making this a priority this session and my legislative partners, Senator Gomez, Representative Ultrino, and Representative Tyler, for their dedication and tireless work getting this bill across the finish line.”
“The passage of the Crown Act is a symbol from the Massachusetts legislature that we stand with women of color who have experienced hair discrimination,” said State Senator Adam Gomez (D-Springfield). “As a father to young women of color this legislation means a great deal to me, but legislation is just the first step. In order to change hearts and minds, you have to ensure that people know that this exists, that it is deeply wrong, and that it is something that many women of color have lived experience with. I would like to acknowledge the incredible activists from the Crown Coalition and beyond who have brought this to the forefront of our minds this legislative session, my colleagues who co-filed the bill with me and championed it in both branches, including Senator DiDomenico, Representative Tyler and Representative Ultrino, and Senate President Spilka and Chair Rodriguez for bringing it to the finish line. This was truly a team effort and I am thrilled we were able to get it to the finish line.”
“As the racial equity champion who conceptualized, developed the legislative strategy for, and leads the national CROWN Act movement, I applaud this bill being signed into law”, said Adjoa B. Asamoah, CROWN Coalition Co-Creator. “Tackling injustice requires moral leadership. I thank Representative Steve Ultrino who championed the bill in the House with cosponsor Representative Chynah Tyler, in addition to Senators Adam Gomez and Sal DiDomenico for their partnership and bold leadership to outlaw race-based hair discrimination in Massachusetts.”
This legislation was inspired in part by two Black teenagers from Malden, Mya and Deanna Cook, who were punished by their school and barred from extracurricular activities for wearing their hair in braids. After gaining national attention and organizing public protests, the school eventually reversed their policy. The CROWN Act will protect Massachusetts children from experiencing this kind of discrimination.
The CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Coalition has played a crucial role in supporting the passage of this legislation in Massachusetts and in states across the country. Massachusetts will soon join 17 other states that have passed some version of the CROWN Act, which has also been proposed at the federal level.
Having passed both branches of the legislature, the bill now goes to the Governor for his review.