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Kentucky Enhances Cultural Recognition With Juneteenth Holiday And Hair Discrimination Ban

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has officially signed executive orders to make Juneteenth an executive branch holiday as well as a law that would protect natural hairstyles from discrimination.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear has officially signed executive orders to make Juneteenth an executive branch holiday and a law protecting natural hairstyles, including braids, locs, and twists, from discrimination.

According to a report by Kentucky Lantern, Democratic and Republican lawmakers have been unsuccessful at passing bills regarding both issues. The CROWN Act, an acronym for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” has been supported by legislators like Sen. Whitney Westerfield, R-Fruit Hill. However, his latest bill stalled in the current session after it was passed over in the Senate several times before being recommitted to the Judiciary Committee.

Based on a 2023 study, the national CROWN Act found that nearly half of Black women feel pressure to assimilate their hair to more European standards, like straightened tresses, when conducting job interviews, capturing professional headshots, and while on the job.

Per the report, 22 states enacted CROWN Acts by 2023. The executive order filed by Beshear only applies to state government workers and job applicants. Effective immediately, discrimination is prohibited in state government workplaces based on “traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, natural hair texture and protective hairstyles, such as braids, locks, and twists.” 

On the other hand, the other executive order will make Juneteenth an official holiday in Kentucky, aligning it with roughly 28 other states that have also taken action to make the historical Black celebration of freedom a mandated holiday. In 2021, Juneteenth became a federal holiday, commemorating the 19th day in June 1865 when the last enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, learned that they were free. 

“I’ve decided I can no longer wait for others to do what is right,” said Beshear ahead of signing the order on Thursday, May 23.

“We must look at it straight on and not hide from our own history, even the parts that are painful,” he continued. “Instead, we recognize it, we attempt to learn from it, and we work to repair the lasting damage and heal our nation’s wounds so we can make progress for a better tomorrow.”

What’s more, Beshear also encouraged fellow politicians to support legislation in the upcoming sessions that will better the lives of Black Americans.

“I urge my colleagues in the General Assembly to support legislation in the upcoming session, recognizing the pivotal role Black Americans have played in shaping our country,” Democratic Floor Leader Sen. Gerald Neal said. In doing so, “we honor our shared history and demonstrate a commitment to equality and justice for all.”