NAACP Tells Philly School to End Ban on “Big Afros”

Plus, Rochelle Bilal campaign goes all conspiracy-theory on the Inquirer.

Philadelphia school Cedar Grove Christian Academy, which the NAACP has told to remove its ban on "big Afros" and dreads

Philadelphia school Cedar Grove Christian Academy. The the NAACP just told the school to remove its ban on “big Afros” and dreads (photo via Google Maps)

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NAACP Tells Philly Christian School to End Ban on “Big Afros”

Cedar Grove Christian Academy is a faith-based school in the Lawndale section of Northeast Philadelphia. For more than 45 years, the school has been teaching kids “traditional biblical values,” as a promo video on their website puts it, along with reading, writing and arithmetic.

Naturally, kids who go to Cedar Grove Christian Academy must abide by the school’s religious doctrines and strict rules. If students don’t do so, they face punishment. And many of those rules relate to appearance. High, modest necklines for girls, for instance. Boys can’t wear earrings, but girls can, though a maximum of two per ear. No stretch or tight-fitting clothes, with the policy noting that “you must be able to pinch one inch of fabric without stretching the material.” And then there’s the hair policy, which prohibits “big Afros” and dreadlocks other than “small locks.” (No definition for “small locks” is provided.)

The Afros and dreadlocks point has caught the attention of the NAACP.

Michaele Turnage Young, senior counsel for the NAACP’s legal defense fund, fired off a letter via email to Cedar Grove Christian Academy principal Jeffrey Howard on Friday. In her letter, Young argues that the school’s “grooming policies … target and penalize Black children for wearing their hair in culturally significant hairstyles.” She also says that taking any action against a Black child for failing to adhere to this particular policy would be a violation of state and federal laws.

Young goes on to give a detailed history of Black hairstyles. Further, she explains how Black people have been discriminated against because of them. She also cites research from Princeton showing that “Black students are more likely to be suspended for discretionary reasons, such as dress code or long hair violations, neither of which have been found to be predictive of student misconduct.” And she insists that Cedar Grove “must” eliminate the language in question from its policy.

It’s unclear how the NAACP found out about the school’s policy. Did a parent or parents complain? We don’t know. For now, Young is inviting the school’s leaders, who are white, to have a conversation with the NAACP. But it’s worth noting that the NAACP has represented families in lawsuits in the past (and won!) at other schools over similar policies.

Principal Howard said the school is considering the NAACP’s request. “We are going through a process of evaluation to make sure we are being fair and equal to all involved and are taking all views into consideration,” Howard told me. He added that the school will be considering and voting on new language at its next board meeting.

Rochelle Bilal Campaign Goes All Conspiracy-Theory on the Inquirer

Yesterday, I told you about a bizarre situation involving embattled Philadelphia sheriff Rochelle Bilal. In short, the Inquirer determined that dozens of positive “news” stories about Bilal cited by her campaign’s website don’t actually exist. The Inquirer first reported this on Monday. By the end of the day, the story landed in the New York Post.

So what do you do when you’re the campaign managwr for an elected official whose ethics and policies have been questioned multiple times and you’re faced with yet another dilemma? Well, it’s 2024, so naturally, you lay down a nice thick conspiracy theory. You suggest you’re the subject of a witch hunt.

That’s effectively what Bilal’s campaign manager did on Monday. I mean, I guess it was her campaign manager. An email arrived from a Gmail account purporting to be representing the Bilal campaign. There was no person’s name or phone number listed. And we don’t know who Bilal’s campaign manager is, because Bilal’s spokesperson claims not to know. I responded to this email twice, requesting a name and phone number of the person behind it. Big shocker: no response!

In any event, the “statement” said the Inquirer has placed a target on Bilal’s back. They claim the paper has subjected her to repeated instances of unfair coverage. And why would the Inquirer do that? The letter suggests it could be because the sheriff’s office has pulled more than $4 million in advertising from the newspaper that was previously used to promote sheriff’s sales.

A couple of problems with that. First, the Inquirer has been rightfully critical of the sheriff’s office for many years, long before Rochelle Bilal was on the radar and back when the office did spend money on ads in the Inquirer. And it’s not like other news outlets haven’t been critical of Bilal. Most, if not all, of the major news outlets in Philadelphia, including Philly Mag, have raised serious eyebrows at Bilal as well as her predecessor.

William Bender, the enterprising Inquirer reporter who broke all this on Monday morning, has an update here. Long live local journalism.

Things That Make You Go Hmmm …

A little over one month into her term, things have been going quite smoothly for the administration of our new mayor, Cherelle Parker. That is, until the past few days.

One of Parker’s appointees sent out an all-caps email to all departments, essentially saying that those departments can’t say a thing publicly without first clearing it with the Mayor’s Office. This apparently meant no quotes to the press (which is more than understandable, since we’re so slimy, at least according to the sheriff’s office), but also no social media posts, no fliers, nothing at all public-facing.

Considering how many departments there are and what an incredible bottleneck this new policy could conceivably cause (and, well, just how controlling and opaque it might seem), red flags went up. The the city’s librarians in particular are none too happy about it.

Somewhere, Jim Kenney is sitting back with a drink, smiling widely.

Local Talent

If you’re going to see the delightful Broadway version of Mrs. Doubtfire, which opens today at the Academy of Music, it turns out that the actors who play the husband (well, and title character) and wife in the play are actually married in real life and live in South Philly. Read more about them here.

By the Numbers

40: Years a Philadelphia man spent in jail for a deadly arson before he was freed after the Pennsylvania Innocence Project helped exonerate him on Monday.

1: Fewer live music rooms we now have in the area, because Ardmore’s intimate Living Room is closing.

2: Veteran South Philly bars now up for sale, both from the same guy. Note that this will mean one less smoking bar in Philadelphia. That’s because one of those bars is a smoking bar and the smoking exemptions in Philly, which are few and far between, do not transfer to new owners.

And from the Not-Today Sports Desk …

Tobias was back, thank God, for last night’s game with the Mavericks; his fellow starters were Kelly Oubre Jr., Paul Reed, Tyrese Maxey and Danuel House Jr. It was a tight game through the first, with the teams trading leads until the Sixers pulled ahead, 26-33, at the close. Marcus Morris Sr. was happy to see somebody:

Two Philly homies in the house! With two minutes before the half, Pat Beverley was whistled for a Flagrant 1, which was a gross miscarriage of judgment. That sparked a Mavs mini rally that closed the gap to four at the half, 57-53. The Sixers did hold Kyrie Irving to seven points, which had a lot of Mavs fans grumbling on the social media front.

Dallas clawed even closer early in the third, to within two, and then tied it at 65. Were our gallant guys gonna go down? The Mavs took a one-point lead. A terrible offensive foul call on Tyrese was his fourth, still with 2:38 to go in the quarter, in which we were three-for-22. And we were down 77-74 at its end. Just like that, three minutes into the fourth, the Mavs were up 89-77, and Kyrie suddenly had a game-high 21 points. The only good thing that happened in the fourth was nuggets for all. Sad finale: 118-102.

Dammit, don’t toy with us this way! They’ll play again on Wednesday, hosting the Warriors with a 7:30 tip-off.

What’s This About the Iggles?

Apparently they’re starting play next season in Brazil. Yes, Brazil. The NFL is so high. Start brushing up now on your Portuguese, dudes!

Any College Hoops News?

No games were on last night, but tonight sees Dayton visiting St. Joe’s, with an 8 p.m. start.

All Philly Today sports coverage is provided by Sandy Hingston.