CROWN Act passes in Morgantown, what this means for the rest of the state

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CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – In the fight for racial equality in West Virginia, Morgantown became the first municipality to pass an ordinance known as the CROWN Act. The ordinance bans hair discrimination based on hair styles and textures.

“It’s honestly mind-blowing to me that in 2021, we’re having to argue about hair,” Ash Orr, Chair of the Morgantown Human Rights Commission said.

Tuesday, the CROWN act, or Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair officially became an ordinance in the Mountain State. The fight for natural hair in West Virginia comes after a 2019 incident in Beckley, where a student was forced to cut his dreadlocks to play on the basketball team.

Owner of The Essence of Beauty Hair Salon Tonya Wilson says the next steps to get this passed all over the state is to be more vocal.

“If it’s talked about more, if it’s commercialized more, if it’s really out there and people really express, because what happened in Beckley has happened to so many different people that have never talked about it,” Wilson said.

Del. Danielle Walker pushed for the CROWN Act to pass in Charleston but failed in legislature. But Now, others are hoping politicians in Charleston see this as an eye-opener.

“The overall goal is hopefully that the politicians in Charleston will be like ‘oh, this is something that is very much needed in our state so why pass it on a state scale,” Orr said.

Leaders on this ordinance say it’s about time something has passed banning hair discrimination.

“It’s very rewarding and comforting to know that there are more steps being taken and members in our community are being safe and protected,” Orr said.

“You can’t stop me from getting a job because my hair is blonde. You can’t stop me from getting a job because my hair is braided. You can’t stop me from getting a job because I am natural,” Wilson said.  

Orr says other communities have already reached out wondering how they can get the ordinance passed in their area, which she’s happy to help get more communities on board.

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