Coalition of Black Women Leaders Call for Changes to State and Federal Discrimination Laws that Allow Employers to Legally Discriminate Based On Hairstyle
(WASHINGTON, DC) – The Justice Salon has launched an initiative to collect 1,000 petition signatures in each state then present them to state and federal lawmakers requesting that they amend anti-discrimination laws to include protections for people with textured natural hair or hairstyles. A coalition of black women leaders will deliver the petition to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, May 2.
“We first realized the extent of problems with anti-discrimination laws in 2016, when Chasity Jones lost her appeal of the federal lawsuit she had filed after having a job offer rescinded when she refused to cut off her dreadlocks,” said Yolanda Young, Justice Salon president. “In the two years since, more black women have been subjected to this form of discrimination, which the court has deemed legal.”
Such discrimination has even been reported among black girls:
  • 16-year-old Tyler House, an honors student in Country Club Hills, Illinois, was fired from her part-time job over her dreadlocks.
  • Seventeen-year-old Jenesis Johnson of Tallahassee, Florida was threatened with school expulsion if she didn’t stop wearing her hair out in an afro.
  • Boston, Massachusetts twins, Maya and Deanna Cook were cut from their sports teams and prohibited from attending a prom because they wore their hair in braids.
“We call on lawmakers to vindicate Jones just as Congress did for Lilly Ledbetter. In 2009 after the U.S. Supreme Court used a technicality to rule against Ledbetter’s equal-pay lawsuit, Congress passed a law in Ledbetter’s name restoring protections against discrimination,” said Yolanda Young, Justice Salon president.
“While women across the nation are proclaiming that time is up for sexual harassment and abuse, we need ensure time is also up for bias against black hair. The unique and lived experiences of black women can no longer be ignored. As law students who will help define the future of our profession, we feel we are the best equipped to lead the charge of expanding anti-discrimination laws to include protections for black hair,” said Ambur Smith, National Director of Law Fellows.
“I’m passionate about this issue for many reasons, not the least of which is my desire to see full equality and acceptance of black people for who we are and the beauty and talents that we possess. Additionally, my desire hits close to home in that my children are biracial and I made a commitment for them to see and embrace the part of them that has African roots and to celebrate that part of their heritage, beginning with seeing me, their mother, walk in my true, natural, God-given beauty,” Beverly Schembri, Justice Salon national co-chair.
“In addition to impacting policy, the petition and our meetings with legislators will serve as an opportunity to raise awareness of the negative financial and psychological impact the bias against black people, especially black women who choose to embrace their natural hair and styles associated with African American culture,” Monica Mickles, Justice Salon national co-chair.
Justice Salon is an online community created to advocate for the rights of women, eradicate oppression against black women, and promote standards of beauty which include black women. This initiative is also supported by Lawyers of Color, an organization committed to promoting diversity in the legal profession and advancing civil rights in marginalized communities.
WHAT: Justice Salon Petition to End Discrimination Against Black Hairstyles 
WHO: Justice Salon Leadership
  • Yolanda Young, President. Other: Exec. Director, Lawyers of Color
  • Beverly Schembri, National Co-Chair. Other Affiliations: Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Jack and Jill of America, National Council of Negro Women.
  • Monica Mickles, National Co-Chair. Other Affiliations: General Secretary, National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., The Links, Inc.
  • Ambur Smith, National Director of Law Fellows. Other Affiliations: President of the Women of Color Collective, Georgetown University Law Center
  • Shaylyn Sullivan, National Director of Teens. Other Affiliations: Vice President, Atlanta Chapter, Jack & Jill of America, Student, Westminster High School
WHEN:  May 2, 2018
Justice Salon leadership and delegation will visit Capitol Hill to petition lawmakers.
*Throughout 2018 Justice Salon will collect signatures, meet with state and federal legislators, and advocate for black women.
For media interested in interviews with any of the convening partners or participants, please contact Yolanda Young at yolanda@lawyersofcolor.org; 202-255-4824.