“Don’t get me wrong, I think extensions look great… But why am I scrutinized when I decide to to take them out? That’s not fair.”
Akua Agyemfra, a 20-year old humanities student at York University in Toronto, Canada was forced to quit her job when she arrived to work with her natural hair tied into a bun. Agyemfra was recently employed as a server at Jack Astor’s Bar and Grill. During her third day of training she was asked to go home by her manager after being told her hair bun was against company policy.
The manager explained to her that it must be worn straight down and servers must “look like you’re going to the club, not coming from one.”
Agyemfra tried to explain to her manager that her natural hair is not able to fall straight down. She even took out her hair bun to demonstrate it. unfortunately, the manager still sent her home. “She was really nice about it”, Akua said. “But it still doesn’t take away from the fact that she sent me home.”
“I’m not going to compromise my roots and edges because my employer wants me to. My scalp has a right to breathe just as much as the woman standing beside me.”
Akua wore extensions during her interview and first two days of training but decided to wear her natural hair on the third day. She left the premises without confrontation but later realized it was a violation of her rights. “You can’t send me home based on my hair”.
According to Buzzfeed, spokesperson for Jack Astor’s, Kathryn Long was aware Agyemfra quit over dress code issues. Long rejected to state the company’s dress policy for “competitive reasons”. However, she did say all servers have the option of wearing their hair down or “up in a stylish up-do. Can we get a “hmmm…..” emoji, please. Just as we expected, Long failed to clarify the company’s understanding of a “stylish” up-do.
Due to the wide spread of Agyemfra’s story, many people have shown support by threatening to boycott Jack Astor’s Bar and Grill in the future. According to Kathryn Long, the company has since opened a confidential channel where employees can share their views on their policies “without fear of consequences – with senior management.”
Akua hopes others will not have to go through the same experience. She has called for corporations to end similar policies that discriminate black women and other women who naturally cannot fit their expectations. Also, Agyemfra messaged CBC New’s Makda Ghebreslassie to add these thoughts to her story:
I know most black women at restaurants are forced to wear wigs or weaves or extensions, or are forced to straighten their hair everyday.
Don’t get me wrong, I think extensions look great. I’ve been wearing them ever since I was a little girl. I love when I get my braids. It’s the protective style I choose and works for me.
But why am I scrutinized when I decide to to take them out? That’s not fair.
I’m not going to compromise my roots and edges because my employer wants me to. My scalp has a right to breathe just as much as the woman standing beside me.
With that said, I know white women who only wear their hair up because their natural hair is too annoying to deal with.
It’s much easier for them to straighten their hair or comply with the “straight hair” rule at restaurants. Unless your hair is permed, rarely does a black women’s hair stay down when it’s straightened. It may stay laid for a few hours but that style is only temporary.
I just want equality. If a women, white or black, is more comfortable with their hair up, I don’t understand why it’s such an issue at a restaurant setting.