New Report Shows Professional Licenses Out of Reach for New York’s African Hair Braiders

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 8, 2020

Contacts:
Assefash Makonnen, African Communities Together, assefash@africans.us
Erin Markman, Take Root Justice, emarkman@takerootjustice.org; 650-814-7577

New Report Shows Professional Licenses Out of Reach for New York’s African Hair Braiders

Research Led by African Hair Braiders Details Barriers Faced When Pursuing Professional Licenses, Lays Out A Vision For Change

New York, NY. (December 8, 2020)-- A new report released today, “Licensing a Legacy: African Hair Braiders’ Vision for Reforming Professional Licensure in New York City,” shows that hair braiders face significant barriers to obtaining the Natural Hair Styling license which New York requires for them to pursue their profession. The report documents the largest known survey of New York’s professional hair braiders, a sector that employs thousands of women, most of them immigrants from Africa. The report reveals for the first time what African women hair braiders think about their profession, particularly the barriers to obtaining the State-mandated professional license.

African Communities Together conducted nearly 350 surveys as well as focus groups and individual interviews with braiders. The data demonstrate that the “natural hair styling license” is out of reach for many braiders, even those with decades of experience. Increased inspection of braiding salons to monitor COVID prevention procedures, as well as the ongoing economic impacts of COVID shutdowns of salons, have heightened concerns for unlicensed braiders.

Research findings detailed at the report release include:
Nearly all surveyed braiders lacked a license to braid hair and wanted to get one. 93% of surveyed braiders lacked a license, and 97% of unlicensed braiders wanted to get a license.
Nearly nine out of ten braiders reported that at least one of the steps to obtain a Natural Hair Styling license would pose a barrier. This included time and cost barriers to achieving the education requirements, language and literacy barriers, use of the internet, concerns about immigration status and challenges documenting prior braiding experience.
Braiders feel the pressure of being unlicensed, and have concerns such as theft of services or being reported to the authorities.
Braiders want it to be easier to get a license, and want support for those pursuing licensure.

The report recommends that New York State:
Make licensing information more accessible, including to braiders with limited English proficiency and limited literacy;
Lower the mandatory hours of training, eliminate the licensing exam, and limit the curriculum for experienced braiders to health and safety;
Streamline the process of documenting prior braiding experience;
Stop asking for social security numbers as part of the licensing process and accept IDNYC as a form of identification; and
Fill the vacant slots for natural hair stylists on the State board that advises on hair braiding oversight and regulation.

The full report can be found here: https://takerootjustice.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/Licensing-A-Legac...

"Our African women members who are professional hair braiders are proud of the work they do. For many, it’s a craft they inherited from the women in their family and have been perfecting since they were children,” said Amaha Kassa, Executive Director of African Communities Together. “Unfortunately, the rules that New York imposes on braiders who want to practice their profession legally are unrealistic, unfair, and irrelevant. During this time when braiding businesses are under extraordinary pressure from the COVID pandemic, braiders are asking New York state to knock down these barriers and cooperate with braiders to make professional hair braiding safe, accessible, and dignified work.”

“Our research shows numerous barriers faced by African hair braiders seeking to obtain the Natural Hair Styling License, which is required by the State,” said Erin Markman, Director of Research and Policy at TakeRoot Justice. “Braiders want to be licensed, but the process is logistically burdensome, time consuming and costly. The report’s policy recommendations must be implemented to allow hair braiders to access the license and to work with professional security and dignity.”

“We want them to take into account the women who are illiterate and those who are undocumented when thinking about the license,” said Awa Doumbia, Professional Hair Braider. “The women in these situations do not have any other option but to braid hair. They need to take into account the fact that many of us did not go to school, and make the license easily accessible.”

“The classes are too long and the fees are too expensive,” says Ramatoulaye Ngom, Professional Hair Braider. “At times we encounter many difficulties in our work, and the fact that we do not have the license plays a huge role in that. The license is something that is very important to us, and we need it in our work. Getting the license will allow us to practice our job freely, have credibility and professionalism in our work.”

“We wish that the authorities grant us the request to get the license easily,” said Oumou Konate, Professional Hair Braider. “It will give the braiders peace of mind. We wish to have our licenses hung on the wall,” “When the inspectors come to our shops they can see them, which will give value to our work as hair braiders and get us respected and recognized.”

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About African Communities Together
African Communities Together is an organization of African immigrants fighting for civil rights, opportunity, and a better life for African families in the U.S. and worldwide. ACT connects African immigrants to critical services, helps Africans develop as leaders, and organizes African immigrant communities on the issues that matter.
Twitter/Instagram: @AfricansUS
Facebook: facebook.com/AfricansUS
Website: www.africans.us

About Take Root Justice
TakeRoot Justice provides legal, participatory research and policy support to strengthen the work of grassroots and community-based groups in New York City to dismantle racial, economic and social oppression.
Twitter: @TakeRootNYC
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TakeRootJustice/
Website: www.takerootjustice.org

 

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