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Transcript “Chastity Jones Case Commentaries” © 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford

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About Afro Archives

Afro Archives explores heritage and identity within UK society. It investigates images of black women through promotion of self-expression and confidence to be who we naturally are. This project seeks to promote and celebrate afro hair by having inclusive discussions about hair and hair-related experiences with people of all ages, backgrounds, cultures and creeds.

Big Thanks to Wandsworth Radio, in Battersea, for hosting us. Wandsworth Radio is a local Community Radio Station. It covers Battersea, Putney, Balham, Southfields, Earlsfield, Wandsworth Town, Roehampton and Tooting. The Station exists to celebrate the borough’s greatness. “Over 300,000 people call Wandsworth home and they deserve a community radio service providing local news and other content showcasing the people who live here”.

Creator Ayesha Casely-Hayford is an actress, award-winning voice artist and employment lawyer of Ghanian descent, born in London and raised in Kent. With her roots in law, specialising in discrimination, and as former chair of the board of trustees for The Act For Change Project, a charity campaigning for greater diversity in the arts, she is uniquely positioned to see the social, performative and legal issues facing black women in the UK today.

Photo credit: Helen Murray Photography © 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford

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Interview Transcript August 2018 Read More: Listen to Chastity Jones Case Background: ayeshacaselyhayford/afro-archives-on-wandsworth-radio-with-ayesha-casely-hayfordguest-professor-wendy-greene/ Listen to Afro Archives On Air Show 10 & 11 Locs Specials:

© 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford

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Interviews by Ayesha Casely-Hayford (ACH) with Audrey Odonkor (AO), Bakita Kasadha (BK) and Rebekah Bageya (RB) Ms Audrey Odonkor (AO) Profile: 20s. Ghana born and of Ghanian Descent. Yale Graduate in Psychology, concentration in neuroscience. Audrey recently graduated from Yale University, where she studied Psychology, concentration in neuroscience. She was born in Ghana is of Ghanian descent, and currently lives and works there. ACH: How would you feel if you were asked to cut your hair for a job? AO: Oh no. I would feel, discriminated against. ACH: Why? AO: Because in as much as sister locs is a choice, choosing to loc your hair or not is something that you decide. When you do loc your hair it grows naturally and then just takes the form that you have cast out for it so after a while it can be likened to you just having your own hair, just following a certain mould that has been established for it to follow. Because of how natural sister locs is, and because of how closely linked it is to just keeping your own natural hair, I would feel as though, the, what they were asking of me was to change myself entirely, to fit within the confines of what they have described for me. I think that my locsed hair is not something that I can take off or put on as and when I please or as and when someone Š 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford

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else pleases but it is to a large extent, a part of my identity that I carry around with me everywhere I go. So I would feel as though they wanted me to change a part of me that was not as easily changeable as they might make it out to be.

Ms Bakita Kasadha (BK) Profile: 20s. Born in London and of Ugandan Descent. Workshop facilitator, key note speaker and writer. Bakita is a workshop facilitator, key note speaker and writer. ACH: The Chastity Jones case dealt with an African American woman who wore sister locs, and was asked to cut them. As a woman with sister locs yourself, and being on this journey, how would you feel about that request and what would that mean to you, specifically as a black woman? BK: Well to me, it would be an attack on my identity. I know that this is one of many different natural hairstyles that I might have, but actually reclaiming and accepting and wearing my hair in a natural hairstyle is a political act. In a situation, in a society, that says that our hair is not enough, or that it’s Š 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford

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unprofessional, or that it’s messy, or can be prone to messiness, as was the case in that situation. So for me, it’s the lack of understanding of how politicised our hair is, and that lack of understanding is why it’s so offensive that they thought they could ask her to cut her hair because it would be prone to messiness. So for me, it’s a complete attack on our identity. ACH: So would you also have refused to cut your locs, if you were asked?

BK: Yes I would of, I would of. And to me it would also have been, ok you have given me a very clear insight into the culture of your organisation and there will be, there is no place for me here. That’s how I would read it. There’s no place for me here. Because in my fullness, you don’t accept me. So how will there ever be a place for me in this organisation. Ms Rebekah Bageya (RB) Profile:

30s. London Born and of Ugandan Descent. Rebekah is a Lawyer currently based in London with a particular specialism in immigration law.

ACH: If you were asked to cut of your locs for a job you wanted? © 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford

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Rebekah Bageya: If I was asked to cut of my locs for a job I wanted, It wouldn’t happen. And I’m really glad to hear that this is at least a case heard in court. There would never be a reason for me to cut my locs unless I chose to. For an employer to be concerned about my hair or people with locs having messy hair, erm, well what is mess hair? What is unkempt? What is untidy? There are people with very straight European hair, or European curly hair who could be deemed to have messy hair, so I don’t see how locs can exclusively just fall into that category. I think here there’s a bigger population of people who practice Rastafarianism, and that has to obviously be a consideration, but for those of us who choose to have locs, for there to be that assumption that locs are unkempt and messy, well, that’s just an assumption that’s unfounded and actually there’s a culture of people overly maintaining their locs because of the perceptions. Yeah, no I wouldn’t, that would not happen and I would definitely pursue a case [against an employer], if that was a requirement. ACH: Why would you consider it to be race discrimination?

RB: Well, I think, obviously it is going to capture people of Afro Caribbean descent more often than not. And I do feel that there are cultural ties, even if they’re not religious ties, to having locs. I do think, there is something quite spiritual and cultural about appreciating and growing your hair as is and not cutting it and not prescribing to unnatural hairstyles like relaxing for example or wearing a wig or wearing a weave if © 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford

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you don’t choose to. Yeah it’s just the people that it would impact, which is why I think it’s a racist quality. It’s less likely to impact someone that’s, that’s white really.

Introduction to The Chastity Jones Case: From Professor Wendy Greene (WG) WG: The EEOC vs Chastity Jones case and that’s a case whereby the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is the Federal Agency that enforces our anti-discrimination laws here in the United States, and so one of the anti-discrimination statutes one of probably the most pivotal anti-discrimination statutes that we have on the books here in the United States, is Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And So Title VII prohibits discrimination, workplace discrimination, on the basis of race, colour, sex, national origin, and religion, and so in this case the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decided to represent Ms Chastity Jones, an African American woman, who was adorning blonde dreadlocks when she was in the process of being interviewed for a position as a customer service representative with the employer and she went to a series of interviews. She came to the interview with a suit on, a blue business suit, and her loc’d blonde hair in a curly formation that we would call curly locs, and she went through a series of interviews. She was extended the job offer and at one point during the interview process she was asked if her hair was locs. To which she replied yes. And so at that point the Human Resources Manager told her that she would have to rescind the job offer if she continued to wear dreadlocks because dreadlocks, at least in her opinion, tended to get messy. Even though Ms Jones’s dreadlocks at the time would not be deemed messy. So in essence what the Human Resources Manager was asking Ms Jones to do was cut off her locs, or cut off her hair, as a condition of employment. Even though her hair did not bear any correlation to her ability to perform the job at hand, nor at that time did the HR Manager consider her hair to be messy it was just a notion that there was this propensity to be messy. So what Ms Jones did was that she filed a © 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford

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complaint with the EEOC and considered this a form of race discrimination violative of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. So the EEOC then went on to represent Ms Jones in this case and challenge this decision this adverse employment action on the grounds that it constituted intentional race discrimination. And so this case is the most recent case decided by a Federal Court deciding whether or not prohibitions against African American women’s hairstyles like locs, twists or braids, or afros constitute unlawful race discrimination. Listen to more discussions with Professor Wendy Greene: https:// ayeshacaselyhayford/afro-archiveson-wandsworth-radio-with-ayesha-casely-hayford-guest-professor-wendy-greene/ References & Links:

Š 2018 Ayesha Casely-Hayford

Profile for Ayesha Casely-Hayford

Chastity Jones Commentary