CHICAGO - In 2006, the music artist India Arie released a song titled I am not my Hair. Who knew that natural hairstyles and textures would be such a heated topic in 2021 and beyond?
Across the country, we’ve heard of stories of children being forced to cut their locs or being told braids were unacceptable in school.
"When I was 4-years-old my mommy braided my hair, I was so excited. My friends thought it was cool, but the principal told my mommy the hair was unacceptable," said now 5-year-old Jett Hawkins.
That was in March of 2021 when the incident happened. From there, Jett Hawkins and his mother Ida Nelson started a movement.
"I decided that I had to fight for our children," said Nelson.
The 5-year-old ‘s name is now a part of history and is changing lives for other children.
It stops all schools in the state of Illinois from discriminating against hairstyles historically associated with race, ethnicity, or hair texture — that includes protective hairstyles like braids, locs and twists.
Illinois Democratic Sen. Mike Simmons introduced the bill.
"We are the first state in the country to make hair discrimination illegal in all schools, public schools, charter schools, private schools, all schools," said Simmons.
Jermaine Horton is a local photographer that founded The Art of Confidence Project.
Horton’s studio is in Aurora, but he’s filmed over a dozen children who were discriminated at schools across the country over their hair.
"I was always taught have a clean haircut don’t wear braids, it’s a sign of being a thug," said Horton. "This didn’t even come from Black people that told me that."
Now on a greater mission, Jett and his mom are hoping to lock arms with parents and other children across the country.
Teaming up with Dove, the family is advocating for local and federal governments to pass the CROWN Act. Right now, it’s law in 34 municipalities and 14 states: CA, CT, CO, DE, IL, MD, NE, NM, OR, NY, NJ, NV, VA, WA
The CROWN Act was created in 2019 by Dove and the CROWN Coalition, in partnership with then State Senator Holly J. Mitchell of California, to ensure protection against discrimination based on race-based hairstyles by extending statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles such as braids, locs, twists, and knots in the workplace and public schools across the country.