Tell Tennessee to Stop Shutting Down African Hair Braiding Shops
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Tennessee is forcing me to shut down my successful business on May 14 simply because I braid hair without government permission.
My name is Ouleye Diallo. I’m a mother of four and an African hair braider in Memphis, Tennessee. I immigrated to the United States 17 years ago from Mauritania in pursuit of a better life.
I’ve been braiding hair for 20 years and through hard work and determination, I was able to achieve my piece of the American Dream and open my own shop. Owning a small business gives me the freedom and flexibility to care for my family in America and for my family who still live in Africa.
African hair braiding is a safe and simple practice.
I take pride in my shop and I try to do everything right. I have a business license and I pay taxes. But that is not enough for Tennessee officials. The state cosmetology board forces braiders like me to get a special license that is time consuming and expensive. In order to practice a craft I have been doing for almost 20 years, I have to complete 300 hours of expensive cosmetology classes and pass a test. Even worse, most cosmetology schools in Tennessee do not offer braiding classes, so it is virtually impossible for me and other braiders to complete the training.
In 2015, a government inspector came to my shop and fined me for $1,000 for not having a license. I have tried to keep up with payments, but $1,000 is a lot of money for a family of six. I have fallen behind and was hauled into court in April and told that I must close my business by May 14. All it took was one fine for Tennessee to shut down my business and leave my family with nothing.
I provide a service that my customers love and need. Why won’t Tennessee let me work?
I’m not alone. Braiders across Tennessee have also been fined for hundreds and thousands of dollars. Many have received multiple notices. They have been brought to court. They have been harassed by the cosmetology board. Like me, they have tried to keep up with fine payments, but they just do not have enough money to pay the fines, keep their businesses open and support their families. That is why we have joined together to fight for our right to work.
There is a way to fix this problem. The Tennessee Legislature is going to review the hair braiding license later this month and they will talk about whether it should be removed. This would be great news, but for me and the other braiders who have already been fined, it could be too late. The Cosmetology Board should wait until we can have a fair hearing before fining and closing more shops. If I have to close my shop now and then the legislature decides to get rid of the license, it could be for nothing.
Twenty-two states have already removed training requirements for braiders and more states are in the process of reforming their braiding laws. Last year, our neighbors in Kentucky changed the law to remove the braiding license and unnecessary training. Tennessee is way behind!
I will have to close down my business if this law is not changed. You can help me and hair braiders across Tennessee earn an honest living and provide for our families. Please sign this petition to ask the Tennessee Cosmetology Board to stop shutting down successful small businesses.
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