Twin Cities Natural Hair and Beauty Expo brings awareness to health, wellness, economic growth, and hair discrimination

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The fourth annual Twin Cities Natural Hair and Beauty Expo welcomed dozens of vendors to the cities to embrace natural hair and shed light on hair discrimination on Sunday.

The expo made its return to Minneapolis for the first time in two years, highlighting the beauty of natural hair and bringing awareness to health, wellness and Black economic growth.

“Black hair is big, courageous, it’s loud, it’s up, it’s down,” Africa Brown, “Brown Beauty” owner and hairstylist, said. “It’s whatever you desire it to be.”

Black hair comes in all different shapes, styles and sizes.

Brown is one of about 60 vendors who set up shop at the Twin Cities Natural Hair and Beauty Expo.

One of the expo’s missions is to empower men and women of color to wear their natural hair and embrace it.

Brown explained it’s tough to navigate because not every space welcomes natural hair.

“As a teacher and entrepreneur, I feel like with my students I have to come into work with my hair straight because that’s what my fellow teachers look like,” Brown said.

A recent Dove study found that as early as 5 years old, one in two Black children experience hair discrimination and the impact lasts a lifetime.

Organizers are using the natural hair and beauty expo to shed light on hair discrimination and the push to make natural hair acceptable in Minnesota.

“It’s deemed not professional to have the big natural styles,” Briana Cress, Minneapolis hairstylist, said. “I’ve experienced the stress firsthand with clients who are just feeling as if they can’t be themselves and can’t be accepted unless their hair is toned down.”

Cress is on the production team for the expo.

This year, there’s a big focus on the CROWN Act. CROWN stands for “creating a respectful and open world for natural hair.” The bill would make it illegal for anyone to discriminate based on hair texture and style in the workplace, schools and beyond.

Rep. Rena Moran attended the event and educated attendees on the national initiative.

In Minnesota, the House of Representatives passed the CROWN Act in February of this year, but the Senate didn’t vote on it.

“I literally have to change my whole appearance in order to get the jobs,” Yvonne Amarteifio, expo vendor, said.

Amarteifio said while working in the corporate sector, she feels forced to fit the mold.

“I want to be able to be who I am all the time. But in order to get out there and to make a living. This is what I have to do,” she said.

She said the CROWN Act could change that because everyone deserves to feel good in their own skin and hair.

“Black hair is everything. It’s empowerment. It’s strong. It’s versatile. It’s everything,” Amarteifio said.

The CROWN Act is now law in 12 states and several major cities.

At the federal level, it passed the US House of Representatives in March, but hasn’t been voted on in the Senate. President Joe Biden said he would sign it into law if it makes it to his desk.