Hair-braiding is a well-established part of black culture. It is historical. It is us. Black children and adults alike are familiar with having their hair braided whether in someone's kitchen, on the porch or a salon. We'll even pay to get our hair laced. 

Tennessee is cracking down on that culture. According to Forbes, the Institute for Justice identified dozens of braiders; and over 30 natural hair shops who were fined almost $100,000 since 2009 for braiding without a government license. The institute gathered its info from the Tennessee Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners' meeting minutes and disciplinary actions report. 

The board usually charges an $1,000 “civil penalty” if it comes across an instance of “performing natural hair care services for clients without a license."

Licensed natural hair stylist Fatou Diouf has been fined $16,000 for employing unlicensed hair braiders. 

“I never did any other job but hair braiding my whole life,” Diouf said. “I cannot recall a time when I did not know how.”

Diouf has joined with the Institute for Justice and the Beacon Center to testify for bill HB 1809 and SB 2233, which will eliminate the requirement for a state license.

The hope is to instead institute a rule similar to Mississippi's requirement for hair braiders, which is only a $25 registration fee with the Department of Health. The Tennessee bills are sponsored by Governor Bill Haslam, Representative David Hawk and Senator Mark Norris. The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance is also supporting the bill. 

To obtain a natural hair stylist license in Tennessee, one must complete 300 hours of coursework. There are only 3 schools that offer the approved courses and tuition can cost from $1,500 to $5,000.

“We don’t need 300 hours to know how to wash a clip or a comb," said Diouf who believes the training was "mostly a waste of my time." 

“They’re not going to learn something they already knew,” Diouf added, regarding the unlicensed braiders she employs. “Why would we pay thousands of dollars just to take a test?”

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