LaTarah Edmond remembers the release of Chris Rock’s Good Hair in 2009. The documentary investigated the Black hair care industry, which had been valued at $9 billion at the time the movie reached theaters. The film sparked conversations around relaxed (meaning chemically treated) and natural hair in the mainstream, outside Black hair salons and barber shops.
At the time, Edmond was transitioning careers from the Dallas Morning News into a haircare professional with a specialization in natural hair.
“There was a need for stylists to specialize in natural hair,” she says. “A lot of stylists were not educated on how to care for natural hair or provide it as a service because it was a little bit more time consuming.”
Today, Black haircare products like Tracee Ellis Ross’ Pattern, Taraji P. Henson’s TPT, and Monique Rodriguez’s Mielle Organics are now available for purchase at major retailers like Target, Ulta, and Sephora. A decade ago, lines of Black haircare products were nonexistent in big box stores and natural hair stylists in Texas were subjected to discriminatory legislation.
If not for the advocacy efforts of Dallas-based hairstylist Isis Bradley, natural hair braiding would still be regulated in the state. Edmond, owner of Good Hair Day Salon in Duncanville, is on a similar path. She vocally advocates for the passage of The CROWN Act in Texas. The legislation, which stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair,” would prohibit hair discrimination in the workplace and schools.
“We don’t have a lot of hairstylists educated about The CROWN Act, so I’ve been trying to get the word out about it,” she says.
Edmond has spoken with NBC 5 about the matter. She has led conversations with Dallas ISD’s Racial Equity Office. Last year, she discussed the stigma of Black hair being seen as unprofessional on a Milken Center for Advancing the American Dream podcast. Her timing is important. In recent years, several acts of hair discrimination in Texas have achieved national attention. These are the exact sort of incidents the CROWN Act seeks to make illegal.
De’Andre Arnold is the Barbers Hill School student who was suspended because of his dreadlocks. Arnold caught the attention of Academy award winning director Matthew A. Cherry, who invited the teenager to be his guest to the Oscars. Maddox Cozart is an a 11-year-old student who was punished with in-school suspension because of his natural hairstyle, an homage to his Black and Indigenous ancestry.
“The start is to get the conversation going, so people can talk to their congressmen and vote. It could impact you or your kids,” she affirms. “Maybe your child decides to grow locs and someone at their school makes them feel bad or they can’t get a job because of how they wear your hair.”
State Rep. Rhetta Bowers, D-Garland, introduced House Bill 392, the Texas version of The CROWN Act in the House. HB 392 had bipartisan support, but ran out of time before deadline. Similar legislation, Senate Bill 77, was introduced in the Texas Senate by Sen. Borris Miles, D-Houston. The session ended with the bill pending in committee, which means it won’t be able to be re-introduced until 2023, when the Texas Legislature reconvenes. Edmond vows to continue her advocacy in the meantime.
“I’ve had clients share stories about them feeling like they’re being discriminated against in the workplace because of how they chose to wear their hair. It’s almost to the point where they feel like they have to wear their hair straight,” she recalls. “It’s unfortunate because it is no way an indication of performance. It’s just a form of expression. We should have the right to wear our hair, how we choose to express cultural and racial pride.”
Edmond firmly believes in the autonomy for Black women to express their identity through hair. Whether relaxed, natural, or enclosed in a protective style (braids, bantu knots, dreadlocks), she is on a mission to change the state’s perception of natural hair as it’s written in its laws. It just will take a few more years to get there.
“I think it’s important for young girls and boys to show them that you can wear your hair and be proud,” she says.