Turning a negative into a positive, hashtag #loclife celebrates wearing locs in the wake of NFL charity outrage

According to WGN-TV in Chicago, Sally Hazelgrove, head of The Crushers Club, a Chicago non-profit supported by NFL and Roc Nation, recently sparked outrage after being pictured cutting the dreadlocks off two black teenagers for “a better life.”

And while one of the young men, Kobe, said it was his own choice to allow Hazelgrove to cut his locs on camera as a way of moving from the gangbanging and into a new life, the spectacle of white authority figures pressuring black teens into cutting off their locs in order to participate in society, is troubling.

We saw this last year when New Jersey high school wrestler Andrew Johnson was forced by a referee to cut off his locs in order to take part in a championship match. In August, Tyler Smith, former University of Arkansas-Fort Smith basketball player, alleges he was discriminated against by head coach Jim Boone, whom Smith recorded saying that he would refuse to recruit any new players wearing locs. In these cases, the young men weren’t gang members re-making themselves but athletes and sportsmen whose hard-earned spots on their teams or in competitions were threatened to be taken away from them.

The image of Crushers Club members having their locs cut off was not only humiliating and insulting to many African-Americans, but it also raised questions about the nature of Jay-Z’s partnership with the NFL, particularly as Colin Kaepernick and other players have used their visibility as players to silently protest police brutality and racial injustice by kneeling as the flag was being saluted – a move that the NFL has either not supported, or penalized them for.

Prolific filmmaker and TV producer Ava DuVernay used social media to begin the hashtag #loclife: “Let’s replace those images of a Trump supporter gleefully cutting a young black man’s locs to give him a “better life”… with the beauty and majesty of life with locs. If you adorn yourself with natural locs, share your pictures with the hashtag #loclife. I’ll start. xo”

LET’S TALK HAIR was glad to be part of #loclife and is proud to show that locs – and black hair in its diversity – are indeed beautiful. It also bears repeating that the wearing of locs should never be used as a reason to marginalize or exclude a person from employment, sports or living their best life.

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