Since childhood, my ethnicity has always come into question because of my hair texture. I was often asked questions like, “what are you mixed with?” Or “do you have Indian (Native American) in your family?” Usually answering “yes” to the latter would dismiss further interrogation, although I have less than 1% Native American in my family (according to Ancestry results). Though I have had several other challenging hair stories worthy of sharing, today’s themed story is about the several instances of my personal space being violated by people wanting to touch my hair or head wrap. On several occasions I have been caught off guard by White women, touching my head or hair in fascination and awe. This worsened for me when I began to wear my hair natural and adorn my CROWN with headwraps.
We are mobilizing this in North Carolina. Are you interested in being involved? Want to share your story? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. Find us on Social Media @CROWNCampaign.
Let me explain:
It’s March 10th, 2018, and I am in a notary public course at my community college. It was an all-day class that for the most part was uneventful. I was sitting at the back of the class, and it was the end of the day when we were all leaving. It was then when, let’s call her: ‘No Boundaries-Becky,’ walked up to me and touched my head and scarf on her way out of the door. While she was walking towards me, there was no eye contact, just her brisk walk and arm reaching out to achieve her goal of just ‘touching it’. It happened so fast, and as quickly as she had touched me, she said to me, ‘it looks silky,’ and walked out the door. My husband grabbed my body as it was heading toward ‘No Boundaries Becky’ to tell her of her grave error. Being held back, I gathered myself from my first response. It was hard not to say anything to THIS one, as so many other white women have taken liberties to violate my personal space through the years. So I took a deep breath and once again, sat silently as No Boundaries-Becky, achieved her goal of just “touching it”, and I sat frustrated for not checking her.
When I posted this picture on my social media, so many other Black women had too experienced their own ‘No Boundaries Becky’ in their lives. I got involved in developing @CROWNCampaign to lift this issue to the forefront when considering the implicit disregard for personal boundaries, culture, and blatant disregard towards another’s personal hairstyle expression. When considering the current climate of hair discrimination happening in workplaces and schools across the US, some credit can be given to being ignorant to the racially harmful practices of enforcing an organizations’ grooming policy against a Black person because of their hair and protective styles.
The CROWN Campaign is leading the way of helping community citizens advocate and educate about the importance of the hair discrimination protection we can have with passing the CROWN ACT in all 50 states and in communities, schools, workplace policies are changed to protect us. We are experts with lived experience ready to ignite our liberation and protection thru policy change. We are supporting individuals across the country to create policy change from in your school to workplace environments. For more info www.crowncampaign.com. We are ready to connect and engage.
Co-Founder: CROWN Campaign
Shemekka Ebony Coleman, MS, Co-Founder I Am Brilliant and the CROWN Campaign, Raleigh, NC
Shemekka Ebony is a 100 Million Healthier Lives Health and Racial Equity leader and a Johns Hopkins’ Health Policy Research Scholars Leadership Coach, an initiative funded by Robert Woods Johnson Foundation. Shemekka is committed to expanding awareness about policy transformation in the areas of hair discrimination, racial equity, health equity, and economic equity with marginalized communities and an emphasis on Black Women. I Am Brilliant is her flagship organization and engagement strategy dedicated to connecting all the threads that weave through communities in order to provide people better access, honor their experiences, and institute best practices for sustainable partnerships. She consults several community and national organizations for best practices in community engagement. She also serves as state advisor to North Carolina Black Women’s Roundtable, as well as convener of Black Women vendors and entrepreneurs seeking economic power and inclusion through her Black Girl Magic Market platform. Her life’s work guides her community engagement expertise with I Am Brilliant & the CROWN Campaign.