Being a Colin Powell Fellow helped one individual influence policy change!

Photo from the NYC Commission on Human Rights

Photo from the NYC Commission on Human Rights

Black people in particular not only have a right to be authentic, it is a requirement.”  - Toby Tompkins, writer “The Real Lives of Strong Black Women” from the documentary “Back to Natural”, directed by New York City based Clinical Psychologist and past Colin Powell School Fellow Gillian Scott-Ward.

History in America has proven that natural hair has been a stigma in the corporate setting. One past Colin Powell School Fellow decided that being authentic was not just something that needed to happen but something that had to happen.

Clinical Psychologist Dr. Gillian Scott-Ward writes about the Colin Powell School Fellows program,

“My time as a fellow was amazingly powerful. It influenced the direction I took with my dissertation and even after graduating. I worked at Barnard College as a Clinical Psychologist for six years while simultaneously directing a documentary film, Back to Natural. I just remember learning about the use of "soft power" via in the media and other means and couldn't shake it! Well, I completed the film in 2017 and started traveling the world with it, offering workshops on healing racial trauma and at the end of 2018 ended up bringing it to the NYC Commission on Human Rights to advocate for laws protecting Black people from Racial Discrimination guised as "grooming standards." The commission's response was amazing. This week they announced these protections.

 Anyway, a part of me at the time of being a fellow was just overjoyed to get the financial support! But all these years later I know it completely changed my life. People from diverse fields MUST feel that they can influence policy and at least try to.”

 The Colin Powell School Fellowship program offers a variety of fellowship opportunities for both undergraduate and graduate students at The City College of New York. The programs are open to all students regardless of the major or specified school.  

 This past week the NYC Commission of Human Rights announced new protections and enforcement actions against discrimination based on natural hairstyles in employment, education and public accommodations. View the official press release HERE.

This, simply put, is that now it is deemed illegal to discriminate against someone because of their natural born hair. As Dr. Gillian Scott-Ward states, if it were not for her involvement as a Colin Powell School fellow, she would not have been influenced and pushed to want to influence policy or to at least try to.

For more information on the Colin Powell School Fellowship program, please visit the Colin Powell School Fellows website.

About “Back to Natural

Back to Natural is a  69-minute documentary film that reveals the shocking truth about hair, politics, and racial identity in Black communities and beyond. Directed by New York City based Clinical Psychologist Gillian Scott-Ward, the film was inspired by the work she was doing in her clinical practice and her own drive to go natural. Executively produced by Marquis Smalls and produced by Dominic Ward, Back to Natural is a powerful call for healing that takes a grassroots approach to exploring the globalized policing of natural Black hair.

Filmed in New York City, Philadelphia, Paris, And Cape Town, this documentary explores universal aspects of the Black experience and the "New" Natural Hair movement. Join us on this journey of discovery and enlightenment while celebrating our history and natural styles that are taking the world by storm.