PHOENIX — On Friday afternoon, Gov. Katie Hobbs signed an executive order banning racial discrimination based on a person's hair in Arizona.
Before officially signing the order Friday afternoon at the Executive Tower, Hobbs said the order would mean state employees and contractors won't have to worry about losing work for simply wearing their natural hair.
“More importantly is the message this sends to all Black women, men and children — that you deserve to feel comfortable wearing your natural hair at school and in the workplace without being perceived as unprofessional or suffering other negative consequences," Hobbs said.
The governor was surrounded by nearly two dozen Black leaders from across the state. Several were representatives from advocacy groups like the African American Museum of Southern Arizona, Black Mother’s Forum and the Phoenix chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women.
Education and humanities leader Dr. Neal Lester also spoke at the event and cited instances around the country where Black people were forced to cut their locs or re-do their hairstyles to participate in work, sports or other activities.
"The story of Black folks and our hair in the United States underscores the fact that with hair, the personal is political and the political is professional," Lester said.
RELATED: Valley salon says protecting natural hairstyles is next step in allowing people with race-based natural hairstyles more freedom
One woman who stood beside Hobbs is a school teacher from the South Mountain area who said that the executive order would inspire the young Black students in her classroom to embrace their natural looks without fear of discrimination.
"Often, our children feel discriminated against with our hair," said Paula Johnson. Adding, "Our hair is a part of our personality; we're not trying to be defiant; we're being expressive."
An unexpected guest amongst the group of Black leaders was former college instructor and activist Rachel Dolezal, who now goes by Nkechi Amare Diallo. Nkechi gained the nation's attention in 2015 when she was critiqued about her transracial identity. The controversy caused major upset amongst Black Americans and eventually led her to resign from her position as Spokane NAACP President.
Up to Speed
Catch up on the latest news and stories on the 12News YouTube channel. Subscribe today.