When women business owners think of advocacy, things like increased access to capital, tax incentives or procurement opportunities might come to mind. But for Florida’s Felicia Wright, The CROWN Act, which stands for Create a Respectful and Open World For Natural Hair and was first passed in California three years ago, has become one of her greatest passions as a Black woman and mother to her almost 10-year-old daughter.
According to the Dove CROWN Research Study for Girls, race-based hair discrimination starts early. Fifty-three percent of Black mothers surveyed, whose daughters have experienced hair discrimination, say their daughters experienced it as early as 5 years old. Another 86 percent of Black teens surveyed who experienced hair discrimination say they experienced it by the age of 12.
“You hear stories about kids not being able to play sports because they have locs or braids,” Felicia says. “There was one young girl in Michigan who wasn’t allowed to take school pictures because her hair was styled with red braids. You also hear about incidents like news reporters with an afro or braids on bantu knots being considered unprofessional or deemed inappropriate for on-camera reporting. I didn’t have these exact same experiences, but I could relate to the people in these situations.”
From Entrepreneur to Advocate
Felicia has an MBA in marketing and a background in graphic design. She spent a decade working in corporate America as a graphic designer before branching out on her own in an effort to have more creative control collaborating with clients. “I love the creative side of things, whether it’s design, layout or illustration, but I didn’t want to just create pretty images,” she shares. “I wanted to have a positive impact, and something I’ve always had a passion for is encouraging women and girls, especially of color.”
She launched Mygani in 2015—first to provide branding and graphic design services to other small businesses, corporations and non-profits, and later to provide encouragement to women through a product line of travel bags, blankets, yoga mats and more featuring custom illustrations of Black women with naturally curly hair. “The illustrations on the products convey a positive message to remind women of color they are loved and important,” says Felicia.
As an extension to her company’s products, Felicia launched an event called “Curls and Convo.” It started off in a Mommy and Me format where mothers would come together to talk while their daughters played. But it quickly evolved into a safe place where these women and young girls, mostly of color, could uplift and empower one another by talking about things like hair. The Curls and Convo signature event is designed to instill the value of self-confidence in women and girls of color regardless of their hair texture or skin complexion.
Felicia heard about The CROWN Act when it was introduced in California. She shared about it at Curls and Convo and encouraged the women to go online and sign the petition. In 2019, when the legislation was introduced in Florida by Randolph Bracy, a member of the Florida State Senate, she invited Senator Bracy to come speak on a panel. While it failed to pass in Florida in 2019, it’s being re-introduced this year and is sponsored in the House by Rep. Kamia L. Brown with a focus on prohibiting hair style discrimination in public schools. The legislation’s original focus was on hair discrimination in both schools and the workplace.
From Event to City-Declared Day
Curls and Convo takes place annually (this year on February 12th) in celebration of Black History Month and is now in its seventh year. Usually, it draws around 100 attendees but during COVID, Felicia got creative with a hybrid event featuring a small in-person group and digital live stream to reach more women. This year’s event had the same format. The City of Jacksonville, where Felicia is based, even issued a proclamation declaring February 12th “Curls and Convo Day.”
So what’s Felicia’s advice to others interested in advocacy? “Find something you’re passionate about or familiar with, that’s the first step,” she suggests. “See if there are groups that share your same interest and reach out to them. Research the issues, as well as contact information for your state representatives and reach out to them too. That’s what I started doing when I first found out about The CROWN Act.”
Watch It Now
Felicia talks more about the Curls and Convo event here.
Getting to Know NAWBO
Felicia joined NAWBO last fall after she was selected to receive the NAWBO Power Your Dream Scholarship sponsored by AARP. She’s excited to get to know NAWBO and its advocacy even better in 2022.