DURHAM, North Carolina (WRAL) — Hillside High School Senior Nicole Pyles is getting ready for her next chapter: College.
However, it was about two years ago when she was forced to cut her braids during a home softball game against Jordan High School.
Since then, she said she has been outspoken about demanding an end of hair-based discrimination. So, when she heard that Durham Public Schools would be hosting a CROWN Act week, she said she was excited.
“Twists and locs … it’s really fun; I enjoy it. Like I said before, you kind of wish you didn’t have to do those things to make people feel included, because they should feel included regardless. But you need representation,” Pyles said.
The CROWN Act stands for “Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair.” It’s a law that prohibits race-based discrimination. So far, 20 states have put the law in place. In North Carolina, the CROWN Act was first introduced in the state House on Feb. 16 and it now heads to the state Senate.
This year marks Durham Public Schools’ second CROWN Act Week. “We want to make sure we cultivate spaces where our Black and brown students are able to be in a place where their identities are affirmed, specifically their hair,” said Dr. Iwinosa Idahor, the district’s student equity, engagement and opportunity coordinator.
She said events like these cater to their student and staff demographic but also opens the conversation and understanding to everyone.
Idahor said they are “using these experience to transform our thinking on how we view hair, how we view equitable practices here, and making sure that we are promoting things that ultimately improve and increase student outcomes.”
Each day, students can participate in spirit days.
Pyles said this is a good first step and wants to see more natural hair awareness and acceptance.
“I really went through that and to see that some places don’t want to make change. Some places are making changes. I would hope that what I went through, and what other people went through, really made people want to act different…You kind of wish you weren’t but at the same time, it’s a good thing that I was,” she said.
Pyles’ dad Julius said they still has not received a formal apology following the softball incident in 2021.
“I just want the girls to realize that they are just as equally as any other girl they stand against, regardless of color, race or whatever you want to call it…As a parent, I’m still disappointed in the system,” he said.
On the other hand, he said he is proud of the what Nicole has accomplished thus far.
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