ST. THOMAS- Members of the Committee on Education and Workforce Development chaired by Senator Genevieve R. Whitaker, convened in a meeting at the Capitol Building. Lawmakers received testimony on a bill regarding The Virgin Islands Crown Act of 2021 to redefine discrimination against natural hairstyles and hair textures. Separately, the Virgin Islands Department of Education (DOE) and the Virgin Islands Board of Education (BOE) were scheduled to share an update on the plans for the 2022 School Re-opening. However, they were absent due to a previous engagement. Invited testifiers are ABA Consulting, Leader of the CROWN Coalition, Miss Naturalista, DOE, and BOE.
Lawmakers voted in the affirmative: Bill 34-0147- An Act amending the Virgin Islands Code Title 10, chapter 1, sections 2 and 3 relating to discrimination on account of the race to include discrimination based on hair texture and Title 17, chapter 3 relating to education to enact “The Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act” or “The Virgin Islands Crown Act of 2021.” The measure seeks to redefine discrimination in employment, housing, accommodations, and education on account of the race to include discrimination based on hair texture and protected hairstyles, such as braids, locks, twists, cornrows, Bantu knots, Afros, and other styles in which the hair is tightly coiled, or tightly curled, as stated on the bill. Sen. Whitaker stated that it’s unfortunate that this legislation must be considered today. Presently, this measure is being championed on both the national and global levels to end discrimination against hair textures.
ABA Consulting, Leader of the CROWN Coalition Founder and CEO Adjoa B. AsaMoah mentioned that there are countless cases against African American people who wear natural hairstyles. This form of racial discrimination includes individuals being fired and overlooked for a promotion due to their hairstyle. AsaMoah added that far too many children have missed school and had negative educational experiences due to this type of discrimination. One of the sponsors of the bill, Senator Alma Francis Heyliger noted that there are instances in which hair discrimination is used as a tool to be a barrier that can hinder African American people. Thus far, fourteen states enacted the Crown Act, and out of that five states codified the law. The Virgin Islands need to join this movement. In a written testimony submitted to the Legislature of the Virgin Islands, Tennessee Global Assembly State Senator Raumesh Akbari indicated that to this day many Black people are discriminated against by their natural hair and any protective hairstyles that they may wear, and this bill seeks to normalize Black hair in the workplace and end discrimination.
Senators attending the meeting were Genevieve R. Whitaker, Kurt A. Vialet, Donna A. Frett Gregory, Carla J. Joseph, Alma Francis Heyliger, Janelle K. Sarauw, and Milton E. Potter.