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West Virginia city eyes Black hair non-discrimination bill

March 29, 2021 GMT

BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) — The city of Beckley is poised to join Morgantown and Charleston in passing a local ordinance to protect Black West Virginians from discrimination based on how they choose to wear their hair.

Tarsha Bolt is a member of the Beckley Human Rights Commission who has been pushing for protection in the state Legislature since 2019 after her son was told to remove his dreadlocks in order to play basketball at Woodrow Wilson High School, The Register-Herald reported.

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His hair conformed to U.S. Army policy when he wore the dreadlocks for Junior Reserves Officers’ Training Corps, but was a violation of the basketball teams’ standard. When the boy removed his dreadlocks to play basketball, his hair no longer met the Junior ROTC standard, Bolt said.

While that larger bill has stalled, the local Human Rights Commission is recommending the city pass its own ordinance to protect its roughly 4,000 Black residents from discrimination based on hair textures and hairstyles.

A majority of city council members told the paper they support the proposal.

“I want everyone to feel welcome in the city of Beckley, regardless of the texture of their hair,” councilwoman-at-large Sherrie Hunter said.