The fight to braid hair for a living is still alive and well even with women like Naturally Isis who have sacrificed their own livelihoods to change the laws in these United States. Read her story here!
Recently it was reported that Tennessee just fined its Residents nearly 100K just for braiding hair. According to an article written by a contributor to Forbes, Fatou Diouf braids hair for a living and she is just one of many women being forced to pay over $16000 in fines.
“I never did any other job but hair braiding my whole life,” she said. “I cannot recall a time when I did not know how.”
But in recent years, Tennessee has forced Fatou to pay a staggering $16,000 in fines, simply because she employed workers who did not have a government license to braid hair. Nor is she alone. After examining meeting minutes and disciplinary actions for the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners, the Institute for Justice has identified nearly $100,000 in fines levied against dozens of braiders and more than 30 different natural hair shops and salons since 2009. All of those violations were for unlicensed braiding; none were triggered by any health or sanitation violation.
Typically, the Board will issue a $1,000 “civil penalty” for every instance of “performing natural hair care services for clients without a license” it encounters. In addition to fining braiders who work out of their homes or unlicensed salons, the Board has targeted licensed shops, like Fatou’s.
For Fatou, those heavy fines have been “very stressful.” Under a payment plan for her most recent violations, she has had to pay over $830 a month to the state, a burdensome expense she’s struggled to cover, on top of providing for her two children, dealing with her divorce, and sending remittances to support her family back in Senegal.
Driven by those first-hand experiences, Fatou has become of the most outspoken voices for reform. Together with the Institute for Justice and the Beacon Center, Fatou has testified in favor of a bill that would eliminate the state’s license for natural hair stylists—and the Board’s basis for fining braiders. “We can create more employment if this bill passes,” she said.
With a rich heritage dating back thousands of years, natural hairstyles—which shun the use of any potentially harsh chemicals—have grown increasingly popular in many African American and immigrant communities. Today, braiders are free to work without a license in almost half the country.
But in Tennessee, only licensed “natural hair stylists” may earn a living by braiding, twisting, wrapping, weaving, extending or locking hair. Obtaining that license can be quite the ordeal. Braiders must complete at least 300 hours of coursework, which often means sacrificing the equivalent of working almost two months full-time. Across the entire state, only 3 schools offer those courses, charging anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000 for tuition.
With her years of experience, completing the classes required for a state license was “mostly a waste of my time,” Fatou recalled. “We don’t need 300 hours to know how to wash a clip or a comb.”
One of the main issues cited by some is the health and safety hazards customers might face when a salon does not have a license. In my opinion, they might face the same hazards licensed or not but I can understand the concern.
According to Forbes there is a 2016 report from the Institute for Justice, which analyzed complaints filed against braiders in states that have a separate license for natural hair care. “Across seven years and 10 jurisdictions, just nine complaints with health and safety issues were received for unlicensed braiders,” the report concluded. “Further, none of the complaints alleging consumer harm were verified by licensing boards.”
Since braiding is a safe practice, states are increasingly eliminating licensing requirements for natural hair care. Today, braiders are free to work without a license in 23 states, with almost half of those state reforms enacted in the past four years alone.
Eight other states besides Tennessee are currently considering liberalization. Lawmakers have filed bills to repeal specialty braiding licenses in Louisiana, Minnesota, Ohio, and Oklahoma, while legislation would exempt natural hair care from cosmetology licensure in New Jersey, Missouri, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
What we need are natural hair and braiding schools that have the authority to issue licenses to women who just want to make a living caring for natural hair.
Comment below and let me know what you think!