On Monday, July 18, the Massachusetts State Senate passed the CROWN Act, a bill sponsored by Senator Sal DiDomenico and Senator Adam Gomez of Springfield 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.
“As a long-time supporter and one of the Senate lead 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.”
“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 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.