A Chicago-based youth organization continues to face backlash over photos of its white president cutting off teenagers' dreadlocks. Sally Hazelgrove, the founder of the Crushers Club, captioned one of the images: "And another Crusher let me cut his dreads off! It's symbolic of change and their desire for a better life!"
The photos were posted nearly three years ago, but resurfaced this week after Roc Nation and the NFL announced a $200,000 donation to the Crushers Club as part of the Inspire Change program. The images, which were shared on the club's official Twitter account, were immediately criticized as racially insensitive, as they implied black people had to conform to white beauty standards to achieve a "better life." The criticism was amplified by a slew of other controversial tweets, including one that included the phrase "All Lives Matter"—a term commonly used among opponents to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Ava DuVernay was among the many celebrities who responded to the Crushers' controversy. The filmmaker referred to Hazelgrove as a "Trump supporter," before encouraging others to share pictures of their natural dreadlocks, which she also wears.
A day after DuVernay's post, one of the teens who had his locs cut off defended Hazelgrove in a video published by TMZ. The young man named Kobe Richardson insisted the Crushers president and DuVernay shared the same goal.
"Y'all both stand up for your community and what y'all believe in, as I see it," he said. "... I think y'all probably should get to meet each other. You'd probably love each other if you get to sit down and have a talk, because both of y'all are standing up for what is right. And that's black lives and everybody's lives matter—everyone, not just black."
Kobe explained he had asked Hazelgrove to cut off his dreadlocks because he wanted to change his life. He said he didn't have the money to go to a barber, so he sought Hazelgrove's help.
"That was something I wanted to do—that was my choice," he said. "Yes, I know dreadlocks are a [part of] culture ... I just got tired of being profiled as something that I'm not."
You can hear Kobe's full comments above.
Hazelgrove has since deleted the controversial tweets and issued an apology; however, Twitter users have noticed that the account's "likes" are still public ... and just as problematic. Some of the liked tweets came from Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr., as well as right-wing figures like Candace Owens and Charlie Kirk.
Hazelgrove confirmed to the Fader she was primarily in charge of the Crushers Twitter account, and claimed she had liked those tweets in an attempt to bring attention to her organization.
"I tried to get every president’s attention — Obama, my Mayor [Rahm Emanuel]," she said. "I was trying to get on their radar. I’ve been working out here for 20 years. I’ve been desperate to get the attention of people in power who could help us. I should have had more forethought. I understand [liking the tweets] could have inadvertently been seen as insensitive."
Meek Mill, Rapsody, and Meghan Trainor were named as Inspire Change advocates by the NFL and Roc Nation and performed in Chicago earlier in the week.