Chicago Youth Organization Criticized for Photos of Founder Cutting Teen's Locs

The founder of a charity collaborating with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and the NFL is at the center of a controversy after an image surfaced of her cutting off the dreadlocks of two Black teenagers.

The two tweets from the Chicago-based organization called the Crushers Club were posted in October 2016. The tweets resurfaced after a Twitter user found them and expressed that the tweets were racist. The original photos and tweets from the Crushers Club account have since been deleted.

“Today, the NFL’s #InspireChange “social justice” group is funding [and] visiting a non-profit that wants to cut off the [locs] of Chicago Black youth for ‘a better life,’” the tweet posted by Twitter user Resist Programming read.

The posts resurfaced after the club received $200,000 from artists Meek Mill and Rapsody on behalf of the Inspire Change Initiative run by the NFL and Roc Nation that seeks to promote social justice reform and educational opportunities in low-income areas, USA Today reported.

Mill and Rapsody performed a free concert in Grant Park in Chicago to celebrate the new partnership between the NFL and Roc Nation.

The original tweet posted by the Crushers Club founder Sally Hazelgrove in 2016 shows Hazelgrove, who is white, cutting the dreadlocks of a club member.

“And another Crusher let me cut his dreads off! It’s symbolic of change and their desire for a better life!” the tweet obtained by Variety read.

In a statement to USA Today, Hazelgrove said the man in the photo asked her to cut off his dreadlocks. She said she tweeted the photo with the caption “without much thought,” and now regrets the post.

"Out of 500 youth going through our doors I cut two young men's hair because they asked me to and we are a family structure and so I did it and didn't really think about it after that," Hazelgrove said in a statement to the publication.

"I tweeted about it without much thought. It's hair. But I regret it now and I promise you I will not be doing that again if asked.

"The hatred and accusations from this took me by surprise... The backlash has been hard to be honest," Hazelgrove continued.

The Crushers Club’s account also used the phrase “All Lives Matter,” a term typically used to criticize the Black Lives Matter campaign. Another tweet on the club’s Twitter account — that has since been deleted — asked for help from President Donald Trump to stop gang violence in Chicago.

"I said that not to take away from Black Lives Matter, but to be inclusive of everyone," Hazelgrove told USA Today. "I never meant to belittle or disrespect anyone. I will be more sensitive of what I say moving forward. I truly have love for everyone of all races, religions, and preferences, and hate does not live in me. I am so sorry for being insensitive."

On September 6, Crushers Club posted a video on Twitter of a Black man who identified himself as Kobe. The man claimed to be the teen in the photo getting his dreadlocks cut by Hazelgrove.

"They cut my hair like three years ago," Kobe said. "That's something I wanted to do. I was tired of it. Tired of gang banging. Tired of messing up."

In December, a video went viral of a high school wrestler from New Jersey who was forced to cut his dreadlocks in the middle of a wrestling match. Andrew Johnson, a wrestler at Buena Regional High School, was told by white referee Alan Maloney that he would have to cut his dreadlocks to compete, CBS News previously reported.

Johnson decided to cut his hair to compete and won the match. In the video, a trainer cuts Johnson’s dreadlocks right before his match.

Some states have recently implemented hair discrimination laws. In July, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed Assembly Bill 07797, which ensures that racial discrimination also includes “traits historically associated with race, including but not limited to hair texture and protective hairstyles.”

“For much of our nation’s history, people of color — particularly women — have been marginalized and discriminated against simply because of their hair style or texture,” Cuomo said in a previous statement. “By signing this bill into law, we are taking an important step toward correcting that history and ensuring people of color are protected from all forms of discrimination.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.