Who knew that something as innocuous as hair braiding would be a federal judge’s concern? But in Dallas it was when Isis Brantley, owner of the Institute of Ancestral Braiding and founder of the Naturally Isis Natural Hair Parade, won a case that allows her to teach braiding in a school environment and run her business without fixtures like a sink to be considered a salon. As she told The Dallas Morning News, “This is an art form. This is not just ‘doing hair.’ “I’m teaching culture — African culture, African identity.”
In 2013, Brantley (who has braided the hair of Erykah Badu) sued Texas for “unreasonable” laws used against her–a fight that’s been ongoing since 1995. She was even once arrested for braiding without a license, but even after getting one, Brantley was still being harassed with legal threats of her braiding institute not considered a real beauty school. The state almost demanded that Brantley take courses to acquire further licenses to certify her teaching abilities. One of the laws she recently fought against was that for her hair braiding school to be considered a teaching or training platform, it would have to be a “barber college” first. The plaintiff included this in the official suit:
“This action raises a constitutional challenge to the manner in which Texas regulates the practice of African hair braiding, a method of styling ‘tightly textured’ or ‘coily’ hair popular with men and women of African descent. African hair braiding does not involve cutting hair, washing or conditioning hair, or treating hair with heat or chemicals; rather, it consists of “the intricate twisting, braiding, weaving, and locking of hair using a braider’s hands[.]”
Last week, the U.S District Judge Sam Sparks certified the “unreasonable” laws as “irrational” and that “braiding salons don’t need sinks to do hair because hair washing is not a part of the braiding process.”
Brantley, who saw her personal victory as one big step for future aspiring hair braiding stylists, was ecstatic about the news, expressing gratitude to the system finally understanding her mission. Per The Dallas Morning News, “I fought for my economic liberty because I believe there is a lot of hope for young people who seek to earn an honest living. This decision means that I will now be able to teach the next generation of African hair braiders at my own school.”
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