ON-Lion Letter

With Gov. Asa Hutchinson's signature in March, the "Natural Hair Braiding Protection Act" is now law in Arkansas.  The act exempts hair braiders from having to obtain a cosmetology license and instead creates an optional certification.  The Institute for Justice (IJ) in Arlington, Va., had filed a federal lawsuit against Arkansas's hair-braiding laws.
 
Once the act goes into effect -- 90 days after the end of the legislative session -- IJ will dismiss the pending court case.  Previously, hair braiders were forced to spend as much as $20,000 to take 1,500 hours of training that taught them nothing about hair braiding.  By comparison, EMTs only need 110 hours of training.
 
Last June, IJ teamed up with two Arkansas braiders, Nivea Earl and Christine McLean, to challenge the law that made it impossible for braiders to support themselves and their families.
 
Earl is an Arkansas native with a long-held passion for natural hair care.  She has been braiding since she was 16 years old.  She has attended seminars about natural braiding from nationally recognized experts and, as a wife and mother of two, wants to provide for her family while pursuing her passion.  In February 2013, she started her own natural hair business, Twistykinks.  But despite wanting to be an upstanding business woman, Arkansas's law forced her to operate underground and illegally.
 
McLean learned how to braid hair as a child in the Ivory Coast.  She came to the United States in 1998 and began supporting herself by braiding.  After braiding in Florida and Missouri, Christine opened up her own shop in Arkansas, but was fined several times -- totaling nearly $2,000 -- because she did not have the irrelevant cosmetology license.  The old Arkansas law meant she was unable to continue to run her own business and support herself through her work.
 
"Now that Arkansas's law has been fixed, Nivea and Christine can get back to pursuing their American Dreams," according to IJ attorney Erica Smith, co-counsel on the lawsuit.  "The government has no business licensing something as safe and common as braiding hair.  The state's old law had nothing to do with protecting the public's health and safety; it just stopped braiders from working."

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports IJ.

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