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Natural hair braiders demonstrate their craft at the State House



A group of natural hair braiders gave a demonstration of their work outside the Rhode Island Senate Chamber Thursday afternoon to encourage the passage of S2323, would exempt natural hair braiders from the licensing requirements for hairdressers and cosmeticians.

The bill is being sponsored by Senator Dawn Euer (Democrat, District 13, Newport, Jamestown). During the demonstration, Senators Paul Jabour (Democrat, District 5, Providence) and Elaine Morgan (Republican, District 34, Exeter Hopkinton, Richmond, West Greenwich) had their hair braided, as did Representative Daniel McKiernan (Democrat, District 7, Providence).

Mike Stenhouse, executive director of the conservative Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, who supports the exemption from licensing for natural hair braiders, had a braid woven into his hair.

The issue crosses party lines, and appeals to both progressives and conservatives.

From the press release:

“Natural hair braiding is a beauty practice that is particularly popular among African-Americans, and it is often practiced by women who were taught by other women and work out of their home or their clients’ homes. Natural hair braiding does not involve any dangerous chemicals, dyes or coloring agents, yet under Rhode Island law, braiders are considered hairdressers and therefore are subject to license requirements, including at least 1,500 hours of training through a cosmetology school. Cosmetology schools cost students thousands of dollars, and most don’t actually teach braiding, according to those who testified in support of the bill. The expensive licensing forces much of the industry into the underground economy.”

The bill is supported by the Institute for Justice. Twenty-three states do not require licenses for natural hair braiders, including 12 that have deregulated hair braiding since the Institute for Justice began advocating for lifting license requirements for natural hair braiders in 2014.

In the video below, Jocelyn DoCoutu braids her daughter’s hair.

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Senator Paul Jabour

Senator Elaine Morgan

Mike Stenhouse

Representative Daniel McKiernan

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About the Author

Steve Ahlquist is Uprise RI's co-founder and lead reporter. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade.