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The importance of the CROWN Conference and diverse documentation

Note: Karla Arroyo is the Inaugural Fellow for the CROWN Campaign.

There is a dire lack of industry research when it comes to racial discrimination. The impacts of oppression are perennial and because there is a lack of diverse documentation, stories often go untold.

This was proven by last year’s in-person CROWN Conference, where policymakers requested more research in this field so it can be cited when presenting legislation.

Dr. Patricia O’Brien-Richardson, who is also a researcher, has spent eight years doing this work so Black and brown policymakers can use it as evidence of diverse documentation in chambers.

diverse documentation
Dr. Patricia O’Brien-Richardson. Photo courtesy of O’Brien-Richardson’s Twitter account.

Diverse documentation matters

“These policymakers don’t look like me, they don’t look like the CROWN Campaign founders,” said Dr. Patti in regard to the current demographic of older white male legislators.

“These are the people that get credit for passing these laws.”

Dr. Patti

During the event, attendee Naomi Samuel, a doctoral student in the Department of Management and diversity scholar at the University of Texas-Arlington, who is developing a natural hair policy project, asked an important question that often gets overlooked in this sector: “Do you all have advice for those of us who are conducting research on natural hair?”

CROWN Campaign co-founder Dr. Rumala, who is also the Director and Founding Faculty of the People with Lived Experience Institute (PLE), stressed the importance of white papers for research and encouraged #CROWNCON2021 attendees to submit papers to the PLE for peer-review publication.

But most importantly, she wants to help uplift the stories of those with lived experiences of discrimination so they can be referred to at the federal level.

“We need more research,” said Dr. Rumala. She continued, “And the research could be capturing lived experiences of individuals. This is something that we’ve used in our cases for CROWN Campaign, for advocacy, where we’re citing the stories and the papers.”

Naomi Samuels mentioned that Dr. Rumala’s words at the conference were “a loving push to liberation.”

She attended the conference with a purpose towards research and she will be receiving additional guidance for her research interest on engaging people with lived experience as an inaugural People with Lived Experience Institute Fellow and CROWN Campaign Fellow.


Cultivating community in schools

Hair discrimination plays a large role in schools. Black students, like Michael Trimble, or “Tink,” are often isolated and discriminated against in their schools.

Tink was discriminated against due to his hair, which eventually put his grandmother (Randi Woodley)’s freedom in jeopardy.

These hair policies can be subjective and racist, which is why CROWN Campaign co-founder Shemekka Ebony strongly urges people to look at existing hair policies in schools and how they can be more inclusive for Black students.

rutgers unviersity
Photo courtesy of vtc.rutgers.edu.

As an educator, Dr. Patricia O’Brien-Richardson emphasizes the importance of inclusion in a community, especially in a higher education institution. She says a lot of the new students at Rutgers University are experiencing their college life at home due to COVID-19, stripping them of the diversity that exists on campus.

Since students are attending school virtually from home, Black students will probably be wearing their hair in natural styles. “It’s completely fine to show up in your bonnet.

We’re in a pandemic, nothing is normal,” said panelist Amber Rockson. “I think we need to have a little bit more grace with ourselves because for the first time, my whole class saw the inside of my house,” Rockson continued.

With more Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) measures in place in schools, Black and brown students are more likely to feel accepted if they wear their hair natural.


Dr. Patti’s mission

Dr. Patti has made strides to educate and create a more inclusive environment at the Bloustein School at Rutgers University. She is on the Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging task force and the recruitment and hiring team for employees.

Belonging is a core value Dr. Patti holds dear to her heart. Hosting events like CROWNCON are opportunities to capture all facets of diversity at the Bloustein school and beyond.

“I’m very fortunate that for the second year in a row, CROWNCON has been supported by the Division of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement,” said Dr. Patti. She added, “I’m very fortunate to be in a university where there’s a Black president who values inclusion.”

Dr. Patti describes the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy as a fitting setting for the CROWN Conference. This event specifically feeds the facet of her vision to cultivate her community through essential research and diverse documentation.

To watch the #CROWNCON2021 conference, click here.

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