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‘It’s All Good’ Episode 7: The Mom Who Fought For Black Hair

When a West Side preschooler was banned by his school from wearing his hair in braids, Ida Nelson took a stand.

Jett Hawkins poses for a portrait, donning his hair in braids, in his family's Douglas home on Wednesday, March 17, 2021.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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Block Club Chicago’s “It’s All Good” is out with Episode 7!

The episode is titled “The Mom Who Fought For Black Hair” and focuses on Ida Nelson, the mother of a West Side preschooler who was banned from wearing his hair in braids at school. Nelson teamed up with state Sen. Mike Simmons to draft a bill requiring Illinois schools to remove any language from their policies and handbooks that prohibits students from wearing Black hairstyles. 

The bill passed both chambers of the state Legislature and awaits Gov. JB Pritzker’s signature.

Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
Gus “Jett” Hawkins poses for a portrait, donning his hair in braids, in his family’s Douglas home on Wednesday, March 17, 2021.

On the podcast, Nelson talks about 4-year-old Jett’s excitement about braids he had seen other kids wearing. After braiding Jett’s hair and taking him to Providence St. Mel for class, Nelson was told that hairstyle wasn’t allowed and she had to remove her son’s braids.

“I was surprised,” Nelson tells host Jon Hansen. “Especially since it’s the year 2021. Black hairstyles have often been targeted and criminalized. And that’s got to stop.

“For us, it’s not just hair. It’s about our ability to connect with ourselves, with our culture. The ideology that there’s something wrong, or that needs to be fixed, even when you’re 4 years old, is problematic.” 

Reporter Pascal Sabino discusses his own experiences facing hair discrimination as a child and details how the legislation maneuvered through Springfield in short order.

The podcast also features an update from reporter Mina Bloom about the Puerto Rican parade and festival and Logan Square porch concerts continuing in a new way this summer.

Credit: Provided
Neighbors at one of the “Live on Logan” shows last summer.

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New episodes of “It’s All Good” will go live every Thursday.

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