Sally Hazelgrove, who’s the founder and executive director of the Crushers Club, a Chicago-based nonprofit organization, has apologized for recently resurfaced photos that show her cutting two black teenagers’ dreadlocks.
Crushers Club received a $200,000 donation from the Brooklyn rapper’s company Roc Nation and the NFL as one of the first moves of the partnership.
Besides helping the league with its entertainment and Super Bowl halftime show, Jay and the NFL will also give money to certain social change programs through their “Inspire Change” initiative.
The Roc Nation founder has been heavily criticized since he announced the partnership, which has only grown louder after the photos of the teens reemerged.
One photo shows Hazelgrove, who’s white, smiling while cutting one guy’s hair, and the other shows something similar.
“Another Crusher let me cut his dreads off!” one of the images were captioned. “It’s symbolic of change and their desire for a better life!”
The second photo had the hashtag “#loveshorthair. ”
Many accused Hazelgrove of forcing the teens to rid themselves of their cultural expression, but she said that wasn’t the case. But at the same time Hazelgrove, who said she has biracial children, admitted to not thinking things all the way through.
“I could see how it could be interpreted as insensitive now that it’s come out a few years later,” she told ABC News. “I regret not having the forethought and being more sensitive, and that I was not more careful.”
Hazelgrove also said the teens asked to have their hair cut and it wasn’t her idea, which is something 19-year-old Kobe Richardson, one of the young men in the photos, confirmed.
“I cut my hair like three years ago. That’s something I wanted to do,” said Richardson in a video posted on Friday. “‘Cause I was tired of them. Tired of gangbanging. Now I’m a changed young man. Trying to see bigger and better dreams.”
The clip was then retweeted by Roc Nation and the Crushers Club.
Ava DuVernay, who has locs herself, addressed the controversy and reposted one of the photos.
“I’d like to have a conversation with you and those young people about dreads and desires and dreams. About dreads and ‘a better life,'” she tweeted on Friday. “Shame on anyone supporting this full-on nonsense.”
“Let’s replace those images of a Trump supporter gleefully cutting a young black man’s locs to give him a “better life” … with the beauty and majesty of life with locs,” she wrote in another tweet. “If you adorn yourself with natural locs, share your pictures with the hashtag #loclife. I’ll start. xo.”
In a separate interview with NBC News, Hazelgrove apologized again and said she’s learned quite a bit from all this.
“It has taught me quite a lot,” she said about the backlash. “I need to be more aware of my words. Especially now with a partnership with Inspire Change and the light that has been shone on me.”