Annetta Wilson was hired at WKMG News 6, previously known as Local 6, right after graduating from Florida A&M University.
Wilson got her start reporting on the latest community stories in Central Florida.
Then she shattered glass ceilings in the television market by becoming the first African American evening news anchor in 1980.
“I feel so blessed because I was so young at the time. I didn’t realize the enormity of sitting behind that anchor desk for the first time,” Wilson said.
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Wilson’s big role came with big challenges.
“Working in television, you have to be cognizant of the fact that sometimes your life isn’t your own,” Wilson said.
To retain the job she was passionate about, Wilson made sacrifices and left part of herself behind.
“I wore an afro the entire time I was at FAMU,” Wilson said.
In order to claim a spot at the anchor desk, she got a relaxer and wore her hair straight. Wilson said it was an unwritten rule.
“It was just something that you did to make sure you fit the mold of what you were supposed to look like,” she said.
Hair is a huge part of a woman’s identity, but decades ago, women in television were not always at liberty to choose their preferred style.
Since leaving the anchor desk, Wilson has noticed a big shift.
“When I see you on the air or other African American women wearing their hair any way they damn well please, it makes me very proud,” Wilson said.
While headway is being made, hair discrimination in the workplace still exists.
“No matter your industry, when you speak out period and push back against the status quo, you’re going to find people don’t like that because human beings basically don’t like change,” Wilson said.
Lawmakers nationwide are pushing the C.R.O.W.N. Act, which stands for the “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair” Act.
The objective of the law is to prohibit discrimination based on hairstyle.
“It’s just ridiculous that we even have to talk about that,” Wilson said.
A Florida senator attempted to get the bill passed in January 2022, but it died in committee a couple months later.
“Stopping at the first attempt would be the tragedy to me,” Wilson said. “Keep pushing it forward. Isn’t that how things have always gotten done?”
Legislators in Florida are not backing down.
State Sen. Bobby Powell filed the C.R.O.W.N. Act bill this February.
“The more noise you make, the more people pay attention,” Wilson said.
Wilson walked so her successors could run and encourages this generation of women to keep clearing the way.
“Once you go through the jungle with the machetes, the trail’s cleared, so it’s like, come on,” Wilson said. “Don’t look back and see if they’re coming. Just keep clearing the trail.”
As of February, 20 states have enacted the C.R.O.W.N. Act into law. About half of the states have filed or pre-filed legislation for consideration.
The C.R.O.W.N. Act was introduced in the Florida Senate two weeks ago.
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