Black hair protected in Illinois, Josephine Baker honored in France

Along with reports of individuals winning respect, there are two ocean treasures in our briefs, including the discovery of Arctic bacteria that can degrade diesel and crude oil. It was prompted by a concern that the far away area is unprotected to possible oil spills.

1. Canada

A new study has discovered ocean microbes capable of breaking down fossil fuels in the Canadian Arctic, which will help inform oil spill response plans in the vicinity. The Labrador Sea, which rests between Canada’s Labrador Peninsula and Greenland, has seen more industrial shipping activity and offshore oil projects in recent years. Meanwhile, coastal communities have grown concerned about the possibility of a major oil spill occurring in Arctic waters. This concern prompted a study by University of Calgary scientists on bioremediation, or how naturally occurring organisms might be used to cleanse environmental pollutants. The study is one of the first to probe bioremediation in the northern latitudes.

Why We Wrote This

A preschooler and a Jazz Age icon are two signs of progress in this week’s roundup. Their families argued for recognition and against discrimination – and won.

The research team replicated an Arctic oil spill in bottles containing mud from the seabed, artificial seawater, and either diesel or crude oil, all kept at 4 degrees Celsius. It found that three types of bacteria present in the Labrador Sea – Paraperlucidibaca, Cycloclasticus, and Zhongshania – were able to biodegrade the oil, according to results published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. Dr. Casey Hubert, an associate professor of geomicrobiology and co-author of the study, says it’s important to understand how microorganisms in the Arctic would respond to a spill because the area is so great and far away that the human response would likely be slow. “Our simulations demonstrated that naturally occurring oil-degrading bacteria in the ocean represent character’s first responders to an oil spill,” he said.
EuroNews, American Society for Microbiology

2. United States

Illinois schools can no longer ban Black hairstyles, according to a law that goes into effect Jan. 1, 2022. The Jett Hawkins Law – named for a 4-year-old Chicago boy who was ordered by his school to remove his braids in March – calls on the Illinois State Board of Education to review school handbooks and ensure they allow styles such as locs, braids, cornrows, and twists. The board will also create materials about the history of protective styles and hair discrimination. Schools risk funding cuts and loss of ISBE recognition if they refuse to comply.

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File

A sophomore attends Wendell Phillips Academy High School in Chicago, the city where a new antidiscrimination law was drafted.

Illinois joins several states that have moved to make hair discrimination illegal in schools and the workplace. At the federal level, CROWN Act advocates say targeting school bans is basic to ending the school-to-prison pipeline, which begins with disproportionate disciplining and policing of Black students. “I know from my childhood what it’s like to be regularly belittled, humiliated, secluded, and shamed by adults in the school setting,” said state Sen. Mike Simmons, who drafted the Illinois bill and wears his own hair in long locs. “Black youth should be able to learn and become who they are without being traumatized and regularly targeted for who they are.” (Here’s a link to related Monitor coverage, a Q&A about the debut book, “My Beautiful Black Hair.”)

Block Club Chicago, Brookings Institution

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