The United States Navy is joining the Marines, Army and Air Force in ending its ban on dreadlocks for female sailors. The naval branch announced the reversal Tuesday in a live broadcast on its Facebook page.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm.John Richardson says the change won’t just make the Navy more formidable, but also more inclusive.
The Navy enlisted a six-person working group to recommend changes to grooming standards, based on feedback from their peers. As part of the decision, ponytails, buns and other styles will also be permissible for women in uniform so long as they don’t interfere with a sailor’s operational or safety needs. Male sailors are still required to keep their hair short.
Petty Officer 1st ClassJacqualynn Leak, a member of the working group, has worn dreadlocks since 2014. She led efforts to reverse the ban and says her fight involved years of research on the cultural and health aspects of wearing locs. She also surveyed dozens of female sailors affected by the ban.
“I wanted to make an argument so compelling that every reason my chain of command could give me for why dreadlocks were banned could easily be rebutted with facts,” she said.
Before, Leak opted to cover her shoulder-length dreadlocks by wearing a wig, which she says became more difficult as her hair grew. Options were even more limited for other female sailors. Some were forced to choose between cutting off their dreadlocks in favor of chemically straightened hair, or facing harsh punishment.
While challenges to military rules on hairstyles aren’t new, controversy surrounding black hair reached a peak around the time of Sims’ discharge. As word spread, revisions to Army grooming regulations were leaked, revealing proposed changes to ban hairstyles common among women of color. The proposed policy, called AR 670-1, would have banned all natural hairstyles, including twists, braids, cornrows and Afros.
Many criticized the regulations as specifically targeting black women. Once it had been made public, the policy faced immediate backlash, culminating in an open letter from the Congressional Black Caucus and an official review ordered by the Pentagon. The decision was ultimately reversed.
But that reversal didn’t include dreadlocks. First Lt. Whennah Andrews of the U.S. Army National Guard has been fighting for servicewomen’s right to wear them ever since. Together with fellow soldiers, Andrews began a campaign to challenge misconceptions many within the military have about dreadlocks’ cleanliness, cultural relevance and ease of use.
Leak enlisted Andrews for guidance when deciding to take on the Navy. Andrews says the Navy’s announcement is the final triumph signaling a victory for military diversity.
“When news broke that the Army lifted the ban on locs, I thought to myself, ‘It’s not a complete win until all of the branches authorize them,’” she said. “The unique challenges African-American servicewomen faced with trying to adhere to grooming policies were universal across the Department of Defense.”
This week’s decision makes the Navy the last branch of the military to drop grooming regulations that prohibit dreadlocks. The Marines first approved locs for women in 2015, and the Air Force announced late last year that dreadlocks would become an approved hairstyle after a review by its uniform board. The Army authorized dreadlocks for women earlier this year after having previously banned them since 2005.
The Democratic National Committee has launched a new initiative, the Seat At the Table Tour, a Black women outreach tour designed to “rebuild relationships, restore trust, and strengthen infrastructure within communities to champion Democratic values and build towards electoral victories,” Refinery29 has learned.
Black women have been the Democratic Party’s most reliable voting bloc since the 1990s. Doug Jones’ win over Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate special election in December especially highlighted Black women’s power; they were largely credited to lifting Jones to victory through on the ground organizing and voter registration efforts.
Despite this, however, the Democratic Party has been criticized for neglecting the needs of Black women and not adequately supporting Black women who are running for office. Many Black women candidates, particularly in Alabama, have been operating with little institutional support, as Refinery29 reported in June.
According to the DNC, the tour, in collaboration with the Congressional Black Caucus and Black women mayors, will consist of listening and training sessions for Black women.
“This is the Democratic Party’s opportunity to show that we want more than just Black Women’s votes. We also need and want Black Women’s input, ideas, and organizing power,” Waikinya Clanton, the DNC’s director of African American outreach, told Refinery29. “We want to hear from Black Women across this country about what keeps them up at night and what we can do to help fix it. Whether it’s training candidates on how to address certain issues, training organizers on how to advocate on issues locally or connecting Black women Democrat. We want to connect and work with Black women to help move this country forward in a real and meaningful way.”
The tour officially kicked off June 16 in Brooklyn, where the late Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to Congress, was honored.
According to Black Women In Politics, a database of Black women running for office, there are 603 Black women candidates this year.
“This is our chance to invest in more than just candidates and state parties but opportunity to invest in infrastructure and people who help sustain communities,” Clanton said.
Legendary actress Cicely Tyson is adding more awards to her repertoire.
The Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Incorporated (CBCF) recently announced that the 91-year-old actress will be a recipient of a lifetime achievement award in the arts. Tyson will also be joined by “Being Mary Jane” actor Richard Roundtree and music icon Dionne Warwick during the foundation’s 20th Annual Celebration of Leadership in the Fine Arts.
“With a lifetime of entertaining and educating us, this year’s honorees have also distinguished themselves as remarkable leaders and passionate advocates for the arts and arts education,” said CBCF president and CEO A. Shuanise Washington in a press release.
“Their outstanding contributions and continuing commitment to the arts make them ideal to help elevate the visibility of the CBC Spouses Visual and Performance Arts Scholarship Program. The awards are conferred on artists whose legacy includes not only extraordinary works but a commitment to cultivating future generations of artists.”
The awards ceremony, which will take place Sept. 14 in Washington, D.C., is organized in cooperation with the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Spouses Visual and Performance Arts Scholarship program, Shadow and Act noted.
The House of Cards and How To Get Away With Murder guest star is no stranger to recognition.
During Tyson’s illustrious 65-year career, she has won an Emmy, a Tony, a SAG and a Drama Desk Award for her work in television, film and on and Off-Broadway. She has also been nominated for a Golden Globe, Academy Award and BAFTA to name a few. And just recently, it was announced that the American Theatre Wing will honor Tyson at its annual Gala September 26 at The Plaza Hotel.
At noon Wednesday, members of the House shut it down—all the way down.
In a historic act of protest, Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives refused to observe the regular order of the House, staging a sit-in protest over the lack of legislation on gun control.
The protest Wednesday occurred after House Republicans ignored several demands from House Democrats to take action on guns after 49 people were murdered in an Orlando, Fla., nightclub June 12. Their first demand came during a moment of silence for the victims of the mass shooting after Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) attempted to ask Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) if action on gun-related measures was possible. Ryan gaveled Clyburn down.
Wednesday’s effort was led by civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and featured several members of the Congressional Black Caucus who have had to deal with continuing gun violence in their districts. The group included Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.), who represents parts of Detroit; Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.); and several others.
“This is the right thing to do, when you look at the polling data and it shows that 90 percent of the American public says we should not allow terrorists to be able to walk in a store and buy a gun and kill 50 people,” former Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) told The Root steps away from the House floor. “We don’t lose on this. The Congressional Black Caucus did lead this.” Continue reading “U.S. House Democrats Stage Sit-in Led by John Lewis on Floor of Congress Over Guns”→
President Barack Obama pressed on Saturday night for a greater focus on helping black women who are more likely to be stuck in minimum wage jobs, have higher rates of illness and face higher rates of incarceration than other women.
His speech delivered to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual gala was short on hard policy prescriptions aimed directly at black women. Rather Obama said that many of the proposals that his administration has championed, such as raising the minimum wage and criminal justice reform, would help close the gap between black women and their peers.
The president briefly acknowledged Hillary Clinton, his former Secretary of State who was in the audience and is campaigning for the presidency. Obama called her “outstanding” and noted that she could relate to first lady Michelle Obama’s concerns over the pay gap that women face compared to their male counterparts.
“We are going to have to close those economic gaps,” Obama said.
Obama spent a significant portion of his remarks making the case for criminal justice reform, which has become a core part of his agenda during his remaining days in office. His push to pare back the prison population by reducing mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenders has garnered some Republican support, but still faces a tough odds in Congress.
Obama, spurred by a series of high profile cases of apparent police abuse, has spoken far more forcefully in recent months about the impact of racial bias on policing. He bristled, though, at some media depictions that suggested that he was anti-law enforcement.
“We appreciate them and we love them,” Obama said of police officers. “They deserve our respect. I just want to repeat that because somehow this never gets on television. There is no contradiction between caring about our law enforcement officers and making sure the laws are applied fairly.”
He paused and looked out at the crowd. “Hope I am making that clear,” he said. “I hope I am making that clear.”
The focus of his remarks, though, was on helping black women. Black women are one of the Democratic Party’s most loyal constituencies and consistently vote at higher rates in national elections than any other demographic group. In 2012, they turned out at a rate of 70 percent for the presidential election and were crucial to Obama’s victories in key states like Florida, Ohio and Virginia.
Obama described the important and too often anonymous role that black women played during the civil rights movement and praised the recent push to put a black woman’s picture on the $10 bill. But he insisted that such symbolic actions fell short of what was needed. “We’ve got to make sure they are getting some ten dollar bills,” he said, “that they are getting paid properly.”
Obama made the case for better job training and more mentorship programs to encourage women of color to pursue careers in math and science. He noted that his wife often worried that she would be labeled too assertive or “too angry” as she pursued her career. His primary focus, though, was on black women who were struggling to get by on minimum wage salaries or trying to overcome abuse.
The president noted that the incarceration rate for black women is twice that of white women and described a “sinister sexual abuse to prison pipeline” in which traumatized women went on to commit crimes.
He called for more effort to stop violence and abuse against women “in every community and on every campus.”
Hundreds gathered in the nation’s capital Tuesday morning for the Congressional Black Caucus’ (CBC) swearing-in ceremony for both newly elected and current members of the 114th Congress. Forty-six African-American men and women took oath during the ceremony, making it the largest group of representatives to be sworn in to the CBC. One of the 46 was Republican Rep. Mia Love, who became the first Black female Republican in Congress.
Rep. G.K. Butterfield will lead the CBC as chairman. He plans on tackling poverty and other issues that have plagued the African-American community. “As we stand here now on the dawn of a new Congress, the 114th Congress, we must tell the full story — for many Black Americans, they are not even close to realizing the American dream. Depending on where they live, an economic depression hangs over their head, and it is burdening their potential and the potential of their children.
Black America is in a state of emergency today as it was at the turn of the century,” he said during the ceremony. “There will be times when I will encourage the CBC to reach across the aisle and try to reach some bipartisan deals that will not make us feel good, but will move the needle in our communities and communities of color.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel released a statement that “conservative” hairstyles popular among black female soldiers will be acceptable according to military grooming standards, Army Times reports.
Last March, the Department of Defense issued new regulations that many African-American servicemen and women claimed were racially biased, especially against black women, who would be forced to use heat or chemical straighteners to achieve an acceptable hairstyle. A number of black women wrote to the Congressional Black Caucus urging them to put pressure on the Department of Defense to change the regulations — and three months later, that is what Chuck Hagel has done.
In a letter to the Congressional Black Caucus notifying them of the changes, Hagel wrote that “[e]ach service reviewed its hairstyle policies to ensure standards are fair and respectful while also meeting military requirements. These reviews were informed by a panel of military personnel of mixed demographics reflective of our diverse force. Additionally, each Service reviewed its hairstyle policies to ensure standards are fair and respectful while also meeting our military requirements.”
The review concluded that the terms “matted and unkempt” when used in reference to African-American hair were “offensive” and eliminated them from the guidelines. The Air Force also determined that the word “dreadlocks” was offensive, and changed the prohibited hairstyle to “locs” in official grooming literature.
Congressional Black Caucus chair Representative Marcia Fudge (D-OH) responded to Hagel’s decision to expand the range of acceptable hairstyles for black female soldiers by saying that “[t]hese changes recognize that traditional hairstyles worn by women of color are often necessary to meet our unique needs, and acknowledges that these hairstyles do not result in or reflect less professionalism or commitment to the high standards required to serve within our Armed Forces.”
“Secretary Hagel and the Department of Defense not only show they are responsive to the individuals who serve within our military, but that he and his leadership respect them as well,” she continued. “The Congressional Black Caucus commends Secretary Hagel for his leadership in addressing this issue.”
On November 5th 1968, Shirley Chisholmbecame the first black woman elected to Congress. She represented New York’s 12th District and went on to maintain that seat for seven terms until 1983. Born in New York the daughter of West Indian parents, Chisholm was known for using her political career to fight for social justice and education. In 1969, Chisholm became one of the founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus. She then went on to become the first African American to make a bid to become President of the United States — running for a Democratic nomination in 1972.
Chisholm died in 2005, however in 2004 she said about her legacy, “I want history to remember me not just as the first black woman to be elected to Congress, not as the first black woman to have made a bid for the presidency of the United States, but as a black woman who lived in the 20th century and dared to be herself.”
After years of protests and lawsuits, black farmers in the south will begin receiving payments this week as a result of a $1.2 billion settlement in their discrimination case against federal agriculture officials. About 18,000 farmers in total are expected to receive checks over the next few days.
This is the second round of funding for black farmers. Thousands received payments in 1999 as part of a settlement in a class-action suit over allegations of widespread discrimination by federal officials who denied loans and other assistance to black farmers because of their race.
“After all these years and all the fighting, this is what it’s all about,” says John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association, which pushed Congress for the settlement. “It doesn’t take away what the government has done to us, but for those who receive the payments it will make a difference in their lives.”
About 40,000 black farmers filed claims in the $1.2 billion settlement, which ended a discrimination case against the United States Department of Agriculture. In 2010, President Obama signed the bill authorizing compensation for discrimination in farm lending by federal officials. Black farmers will receive settlement payments of $62,500, including $50,000 for the claim and $12,500 for taxes. Of the $1.2 billion, about $91 million was approved for attorney fees.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Tracy Martin, the father of Trayvon Martin has joined an effort by members of Congress to focus more attention on issues disproportionately affecting black men and boys. Martin was appearing Wednesday before a forum convened by black lawmakers to discuss high unemployment, incarceration, racial profiling and other challenges faced by black men and boys.
Martin was scheduled to give opening remarks in an informal hearing before the Congressional Black Men and Boys Caucus. Congressional caucuses such as this one are made up of members of the House who share interest in a given issue and want to focus attention on it while suggesting possible legislative responses. Caucuses range from the party of the Democrats and Republicans to special group caucuses such as the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Martin’s appearance comes a few days after President Barack Obama made remarks identifying himself with the plight of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager who was shot and killed last year during a confrontation with neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman.