Photo courtesy Institute for Justice

Once a month I try to make the trek to Takoma Park, Md to visit my hairstylist.  Drizzy has been doing hair since she was a teenager and specializes in natural hair, braids and locs. Early on in her career she was met with the challenge of putting herself through  school because most salons wouldn’t let her work without a license.  If anyone is familiar with the hair industry “beauty” school and a license isn’t cheap. But because of laws and red tape, many natural hair stylists are forced to shell out the money, or continue to do hair from their living room.

Isis Brantley is trying to change the laws one natural head at a time.

Isis Brantley is one of the country’s leading African hairbraiders.  She works with everyone from Grammy Award-winning artist Erykah Badu to the homeless.  But Texas will not permit Isis to teach hair braiding for a living unless she spends 750 hours in barber school, passes four exams that do not teach braiding, and spends thousands of dollars on tuition and a fully equipped barber college she doesn’t need.  Tellingly, Texas will waive all these regulations if Isis goes to work for an existing barber school and teaches hair braiding for them.

“Texas has no problem with Isis teaching, it just has a problem with her working for herself,” said Attorney Arif Panju of the Institute for Justice.  “Braiders aren’t barbers, and braiding instructors should not be forced to build barber schools and take classes from barbers.”

Isis is no stranger to fighting for economic liberty.  In 1997, seven government officials raided her business and hauled her off in handcuffs for braiding hair without a special government license.  Isis had the law changed in 2007, but Texas officials simply wedged hair braiding into the state’s barbering statute, allowing her to braid hair while making it nearly impossible for her to teach hair braiding for a living.

“Isis wants to teach the next generation of African hairbraiders,” said IJ Texas Executive Director Matt Miller.  “The quality of Isis’s teaching does not depend on whether she is standing next to a short-haired mannequin or a pile of barbering textbooks.”

“This lawsuit means economic liberty for my community,” said IJ client Isis Brantley.  “Economic liberty is especially important for black women.  This is our new civil rights movement.”

For more on today’s lawsuit, visit www.ij.org/TXBraiding.  Founded in 1991, the Virginia-based Institute for Justice is the national law firm for liberty.


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