Louisville students’ performance inspires bill to ban natural hair discrimination by schools, employers

Inspired by a local group of young hip-hop performers, new legislation would stop natural hair discrimination by schools and employers in Louisville.
Published: Jun. 10, 2021 at 7:20 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 7:52 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Inspired by a local group of young hip-hop performers, a new piece of legislation would stop natural hair discrimination by schools and employers in Louisville.

In February, the Real Young Prodigys released a music video for their song called “CROWN.” The lyrics describe natural and protective hair styles members of the education-based hip-hip group use every day.

“Basically we were just brainstorming what we like about ourselves, and we came up with our hair,” group member D’Angelia McMillian said. “That’s how we came up with the hook, my curls, my twists, my puffs, my braids, my Bantu knots, my edges laid.”

McMillan told WAVE 3 the song was also influenced by the CROWN Act, which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair. The nationwide campaign created in 2019 by Dove and the CROWN Coalition seeks to ban natural hair discrimination by schools and employers.

“Me and D’Angelia were like we can add that into our song because our group is all about changing policy,” group member Renee Robinson said.

The student performers became advocates for the CROWN Act and rallied at the state capitol in March for a statewide version of the bill introduced by Rep. Attica Scott (D-Louisville). The bill ultimately failed, but McMillan said The Real Young Prodigys continued their push as they continued to see discrimination.

“Cause everybody wears their hair a different way even though I see some type of discrimination going on a little bit at my school, it feels like I keep telling them don’t judge her because skins like this or her hairs like that, our hairs are just the same,” she said.

After a performance in May, Robinson said she asked Metro Councilman Jecorey Arthur why Louisville has not passed CROWN legislation. On Monday, Arthur introduced such an ordinance, cosponsored by every Black council person and Republican councilman Anthony Piagentini.

“Particularly people of color, should not be penalized because we have the hair that God gave us,” Councilwoman Jessica Green said. “It does happen ... people are afraid to wear the hair in a natural texture.”

The Real Young Prodgys now hope to inspire legislation at every level of government.

“It was just a motivational strike to know that we got this thing passed, on to the next one,” Robinson said.

The group recently brought their concerns to Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, a cosponsor on federal CROWN legislation. In a statement Yarmuth said he was hopeful the bill would pass:

It was truly inspiring to meet with The Young Prodigys last week to discuss the CROWN Act and the issue of hair discrimination. These young people are immensely talented, not just musically but in the passion they have for advocacy. From Louisville to Frankfort and now to Washington, their powerful message is reaching every level of our government. I’m proud to cosponsor the CROWN Act and look forward to passing it once again in the House this Congress. It’s common sense legislation to address a deeply engrained form of racism and discrimination that is prevalent in our society today. I’m hopeful that the new Senate majority will join us in approving this important measure.

Rep. Attica Scott told WAVE 3 she would reintroduce statewide CROWN legislation in Kentucky’s next legislative session; similar laws have already passed in 11 states.

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