Hot combs, hair styles, and chemical treatments aside, many hairstylists face an unforeseen battle when trying to get licensed for their craft — even if their craft is as simple as braiding hair.
Earning a cosmetology license requires 1700 hours of training, thousands of dollars which may not even focus on African-style braiding. In states like Oregon, Wyoming, Colorado, and Illinois, braiders are required to get cosmetology licenses to braid hair, a time consuming and unnecessary feat when compared to some other states, such as New York, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, and Michigan, all that require states to get a specialty license for that very craft. Click here for a full list.
As a child, I couldn’t imagine my mother or anyone family member whom I knew, having to be required to get a license to braid my hair. It almost seems relatively pointless, as doing hair in my house had become a regular past time. It also was a time for bonding between children and adults.
Amber Starks, a braider who began her own business north of the border in Vancouver, is fighting to change the law.
“They’re requiring people who want to do the most basic natural care for African-American women to learn all sorts of things that will never be relevant,” Starks said. “It’s like the entire system is designed to marginalize my community.”
Portland law makers, catching wind to Starks case, are now trying to file a “Natural Hair Act” for 2013 legislative session for acquiring looser standards when working in hair care.
Starks isn’t the only one having to struggle through occupational hazards in her braiding career.
Jestina Clayton, a hair braider profiled in The New York Times, was threatened to be reported after placing an ad in the state of Utah for her braiding services. She chose to fight it:
“After being shot down by the board, Clayton allied with a Utah state representative who had adopted several children from Africa,” the article reads. “The representative proposed a bill that would exempt hair-braiding from the cosmetology licensing law, but she was no match for the cosmetologists, who have started grass-roots campaigns in several states to fight the loosening of license rules. They turned out in full force in Utah.”
In a dramatic twist of fate, Clayton won her right to braid hair without a license, as a federal judge, David Sam, ruled that it was “unconstitutional and invalid,” this according to The Grio.
“I’m excited. I can’t believe it,” Clayton said of the ruling. “You go in with the hope, but sometimes things don’t go your way.”
What do you think? Should braiders be held under strict licensing restrictions or should they be placed more at ease?