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News reporter Akilah Davis celebrated Juneteenth by removing her wig to reveal her locs while live on the air.

The North Carolina journalist tells PEOPLE she hopes to inspire other Black women and girls to embrace their natural crowns.

Akilah, a race and culture reporter for ABC News affiliate ABC11 WTVD, said she felt “powerful” while sharing her “hair freedom” with her viewers.

“Moving forward, this is how you’ll see me on TV, and I’m hoping to inspire women and little girls struggling to embrace their roots,” Akilah told her viewers.

Akilah wore a wig or hair weave for about 10 years on television. She started growing her locs in December 2021, she tells PEOPLE exclusively.

“There’s an emotional exhaustion in waking up and braiding your hair down and putting a wig on top of it to appear presentable for other people every day,” Davis tells PEOPLE. “And I got tired of it. I started my locs with the intention of this day coming.”

She said she learned to “embrace” her natural hair, which was difficult for her mother to style.

“Growing up, my hair texture was misunderstood. My tight curls were difficult for mom to manage,” Akilah said in a video. “Unknowingly, I internalized this idea that straight hair was good hair and Afro hair like mine was not.”

“I didn’t think she had bad hair. She just didn’t have the texture I had,” Akilah’s mom, Debra Davis, said during an interview with ABC 7. “The only way I could fix it was to either hot comb it or perm it.”

Akilah said she prepared years for her “hair liberation” moment – and she chose Juneteenth for her big reveal.

“This has been years in the making for me. There is a mental switch that happens before someone makes a decision like this, introducing you to their parents and sharing their personal story. And the switch has been happening for the last couple of years. Why not embrace who I am? It’s me.”

Watch the video below.