Ida Nelson, a Black Chicago mother who was determined to stop hair discrimination in Illinois schools, now gets to see her efforts come to reality. Nelson's plan, which succeeded last summer when Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed the Jett Hawkins Law, is now in effect, The Chicago Tribune reports.
The law not only bans hair discrimination, but schools will also be provided with resources to teach staff about protective hairstyles.
"For decades, Black people have had too often their natural and protective hairstyles weaponized against them," Pritzker said in August, according to ABC 7.
Nelson launched the effort after her 4-year-old son Gus “Jett” Hawkins was told that his braids were a violation of the dress code at his school. As she began an awareness campaign after the incident, the Chicago mother said stigmatizing children’s hair can negatively affect their educational development.
When Pritzker signed the Jett Hawkins Law, Nelson said it was a "monumental" achievement.
"I am excited for the children of Illinois to be able to go to school without having to be concerned about their hair," she said at the signing ceremony.
Starting today Illinois schools can no longer ban cornrows, locs, afros and braids from school. Thanks to a West Side Chicago mom who fought for hair discrimination. pic.twitter.com/gvAm8603ZY
— SAY CHEESE! ???????? (@SaycheeseDGTL) January 3, 2022
A similar law is also taking effect in Oregon as the new year begins. The Oregon bill, unofficially known as the “CROWN Act,” bans discrimination based on “physical characteristics that are historically associated with race.” The bill includes hairstyles such as braids, locs and twists.
As Blavity previously reported, several states followed suit after California passed the CROWN Act in 2019.
“Discrimination against Black hair is discrimination against Black people,” Sen. Cory Booker, who led the effort to pass the CROWN Act, said. “Implicit and explicit biases against natural hair are deeply ingrained in workplace norms and society at large. This is a violation of our civil rights, and it happens every day for Black people across the country.”
Speaking with NBC Chicago in March 2021, Nelson said she was alarmed when she received a call from Providence St. Mel, a private, predominately Black school on Chicago's West Side. According to Nelson, the school informed her that boys are not allowed to wear braids.
“I said, ‘Wow, I was not aware that we were still policing children's’ hair in 2021,'” Nelson said, adding that she was surprised to see such a rule at a predominately Black school.