Empowerment. Protection. Freedom. Authenticity.
That's what the CROWN Act means to many Black women, including those who spoke about the importance of natural hair on Basic Black.
The CROWN Act, which stands for Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair, is intended to protect against hair discrimination and bias based on hair texture that’s historically associated with someone's race. Versions of the CROWN Act have already been enacted in Massachusetts and 18 other states. Still, many states do not have laws protecting against hair discrimination, resulting in stories of Black men, women and children being punished for their hair and in some incidents of having their hair cut off.
This controversy has sparked a rise in the natural hair movement, first originated during the 1960s in the United States, and now more people of color are finding each other online and sharing their natural hair journeys through awareness about natural hair care products, natural treatments, hair loss and scalp conditions, and finding local salons and natural hair stylists.
While most of the guests on Basic Black said they spent many years getting harsh perms and using relaxers growing up, Sharita Payton, owner of The LOFT Hair Studio, said she has been natural all her life. But it came at a cost.
"People called us 'the puff family' because my hair was natural and it would get pretty puffy and frizzy, and they made fun of us," Payton said. "I did not love my hair."
Later on in life, Payton said she hit the library and read up natural hair and started to love her hair. Now, she helps her clients feel the same, and acts as a role model to her daughter. "Our hair is our glory."
Nike Okediji, owner of The Curated Curl, creator of SOulFully Textured natural hair events and deputy general counsel at GBH, said she also worked through many hairstyles growing up and went natural after learning that getting perms with powerful chemicals can cause health issues.
Okediji said the CROWN Act represents "an opportunity for people to now come into a workplace or schools and not have to focus on their hair."
Relaxing one's hair can cause inflammation of the scalp and other issues, something that Dr. Deborah Scott, co-director of the Hair Loss Clinic at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, said she sees frequently.
Scott herself said she relaxed her hair for about 30 years before going natural. "Instead of sort of blaming the patient, I try to work with them to figure out what's going on so we can stop the hair loss and get their hair back."
The guests said it is becoming more and more common to see natural hair styles out in society, which can help Black women feel more embraced.
"For anybody that's experiencing any kind of discrimination around their hair, I would really challenge you to find communities like the community you created or the community that embraces you so that you can begin to feel confident," said Celeste Viciere, a therapist, mental health advocate and best-selling author and podcaster.
Watch: How can people of color embrace the glory of their natural hair?
Watch the latest episode of Basic Black Fridays at 7:30 p.m. on GBH 2 or live on gbh.org. You can also watch on the GBH News YouTube channel. Subscribe to get notifications for future premiere episodes.