Illinois just banned hairstyle discrimination. And it's all thanks to this incredible mom.
via Senator Mike Simmons / Twitter

If it is wrong to judge someone by the color of their skin, it should also be unacceptable to discriminate against them for the texture or style of their natural hair. Makes sense, right?

Unfortunately, Black people have had to deal with codes and rules that prevent them from wearing natural, protective hairstyles at school and in the workplace. According to the CROWN Act, Black women are 1.5 times more likely to be sent home from the workplace because of their hair.

Black women are also 80% more likely than white women to agree with the following statement: "I have to change my hair from its natural state to fit in at the office."


Most of the policing of Black hair has centered around protective hairstyles such as braids, locs, twists, and knots. Protective styles are worn to grow healthier, longer hair, and to reduce split ends, knotting, and damage.

It's unimaginable that people have had to face scrutiny for protecting their hair.

Earlier this year, Ida Nelson's four-year-old son, Gus Hawkins IV (affectionately known as Jett), asked if he could put his hair in braids and she was happy to do it for him. "(Jett) was so excited, he wanted to go to school and show the teacher because that's what 4-year-olds want to do — show his friends and his teachers his cool hair," Nelson told Today.

But when he went to school with his hair in braids she was told it was a dress code violation. Jett attends Providence St. Mel School, an independent school in the West Side neighborhood of Chicago that has a predominantly Black student body.

"I said, 'We still have policies related to Black hair in 2021, as an all-Black school? I'm really shocked about that,'" she told Today of the conversation with the school. "We have progressed, we have so much more information. ... I thought surely this school would understand the trauma associated with policing Black hair and absolutely not have a policy like that."

Nelson removed her son's braids and put his hair in a ponytail, prompting another call from the school claiming it was a violation as well.

The conflict inspired Nelson to work with her congressional representatives to pass the CROWN Act in Illinois. The law is in effect in several states and cities and prohibits "race-based hair discrimination."

"I want every last one of my children to learn early what I learned late, which is how to embrace yourself and how to love yourself and that you do not have to change who you are, the things that you were born with ... in order to fit in with anyone else," she said.

On Friday, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed the Jett Hawkins Law into effect which prohibits the state's schools from issuing rules regarding hairstyles historically associated with race and ethnicity, such as braids and twists. It also requires the Illinois State Board of Education to provide schools with educational materials to teach about protective hairstyles.

"For decades Black people have had too often their natural and protective hairstyles weaponized against them," Pritkzer said. "This is yet another way that Illinois is making powerful strides in transforming the culture of our schools."

Nelson was on hand for the singing of the law named after her son.

"For us, this is bigger than just hair. Our hair is an extension of who we are as a race and is deeply connected to our cultural identity," Ida said. "This is one huge step towards improving the mental health outcomes for our children, as it ensures that they will be in healthier learning environments."

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Macy's and Girls Inc. believe that all girls deserve to be safe, supported, and valued. However, racial disparities continue to exist for young people when it comes to education levels, employment, and opportunities for growth. Add to that the gender divide, and it's clear to see why it's important for girls of color to have access to mentors who can equip them with the tools needed to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers.

Anissa Rivera is one of those mentors. Rivera is a recent Program Manager at the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc., a nonprofit focusing on the holistic development of girls ages 5-18. The goal of the organization is to provide a safe space for girls to develop long-lasting mentoring relationships and build the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to thrive now and as adults.

Rivera spent years of her career working within the themes of self and community empowerment with young people — encouraging them to tap into their full potential. Her passion for youth development and female empowerment eventually led her to Girls Inc., where she served as an agent of positive change helping to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold.

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Inspiring young women from all backgrounds is why Macy's has continued to partner with Girls Inc. for the second year in a row. The partnership will support mentoring programming that offers girls career readiness, college preparation, financial literacy, and more. Last year, Macy's raised over $1.3M for Girls Inc. in support of this program along with their Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programming for more than 26,000 girls. Studies show that girls who participated are more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, score higher on standardized math tests, and be more equipped for college and campus life.

Thanks to mentors like Rivera, girls across the country have the tools they need to excel in school and the confidence to change the world. With your help, we can give even more girls the opportunity to rise up. Throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases or donate online to support Girls Inc. at Macys.com/MacysGives.

Who runs the world? Girls!

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Over the past six years, it feels like race relations have been on the decline in the U.S. We've lived through Donald Trump's appeals to America's racist underbelly. The nation has endured countless murders of unarmed Black people by police. We've also been bombarded with viral videos of people calling the police on people of color for simply going about their daily lives.

Earlier this year there was a series of incidents in which Asian-Americans were the targets of racist attacks inspired by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given all that we've seen in the past half-decade, it makes sense for many to believe that race relations in the U.S. are on the decline.

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Photo courtesy of Macy's
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Did you know that girls who are encouraged to discover and develop their strengths tend to be more likely to achieve their goals? It's true. The question, however, is how to encourage girls to develop self-confidence and grow up healthy, educated, and independent.

The answer lies in Girls Inc., a national nonprofit serving girls ages 5-18 in more than 350 cities across North America. Since first forming in 1864 to serve girls and young women who were experiencing upheaval in the aftermath of the Civil War, they've been on a mission to inspire girls to kick butt and step into leadership roles — today and in the future.

This is why Macy's has committed to partnering with Girls Inc. and making it easy to support their mission. In a national campaign running throughout September 2021, customers can round up their in-store purchases to the nearest dollar or donate online to support Girls Inc. and empower girls throughout the country.


Kaylin St. Victor, a senior at Brentwood High School in New York, is one of those girls. She became involved in the Long Island affiliate of Girls Inc. when she was in 9th grade, quickly becoming a role model for her peers.

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Within her first year in the organization, she bravely took on speaking opportunities and participated in several summer programs focused on advocacy, leadership, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). "The women that I met each have a story that inspires me to become a better person than I was yesterday," said St. Victor. She credits her time at Girls Inc. with making her stronger and more comfortable in her own skin — confidence that directly translates to high achievement in education and the workforce.

In 2020, Macy's helped raise $1.3 million in support of their STEM and college and career readiness programming for more than 26,000 girls. In fact, according to a recent study, Girls Inc. girls are significantly more likely than their peers to enjoy math and science, to be interested in STEM careers, and to perform better on standardized math tests.

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