A story about a black father trying to do his daughter's hair won for best animated short at the Academy Awards on Sunday.
In his acceptance speech, "Hair Love” director Matthew A. Cherry mentioned the CROWN Act, an acronym that stands for "Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair" and looks to ensure protection against discrimination based on hair texture and protective styles.
"'Hair Love' was done because we wanted to see more representation in animation, we wanted to normalize black hair and there's a very important issue out there, the CROWN Act. If we can help get this passed in all 50 states it will help stories like Deandre Arnold's ... stop to happen," Cherry said.
Deandre Arnold, a former Barbers Hill High School senior who was told he couldn’t attend graduation unless he cut his dreadlocks, was Cherry’s special guest at the Oscars.
Arnold, who left the school rather than cut his hair, and his mother walked across the red carpet alongside the cast and crew of the film before the ceremony.
Arnold’s story brought national attention and prompted the Texas Legislative Black Caucus to work up a bill that would ban discrimination based on hair textures and styles commonly associated with race. Cherry was eager to lend his support — his film about a young black girl who asks her inexperienced father to help style her hair.
“It means the world to us to have him here with us,” Cherry said. “We wanted people to see how good of a kid he is, but also there’s no reason people should be policing our hair.”
Arnold said it’s been “validating” to get backing from Cherry and other celebrities, including Ellen DeGeneres, who gifted him $20,000 toward his education.
“I’m standing strong because of the support system I have behind me,” Arnold said.
Barbers Hill ISD prohibits male students’ hair from falling below their eyebrows or ears.
District Superintendent Greg Poole said there is no school policy that prohibits any hair styles. “Our policy limits the length. It’s been that way for 30 years," Poole said.
California was the first state to ban workplace and school discrimination against black people for wearing hairstyles such as braids, twists and locks. New York and New Jersey soon followed suit.