Nanny State: A Dream Deferred: Legal Barriers to African Hairbraiding Nationwide

25 March 2007

A Dream Deferred: Legal Barriers to African Hairbraiding Nationwide

by Valerie Bayham


The District of Columbia government once threatened hairbraider Pamela Ferrell and her husband Talib-Din Uqdah with fines and jail time for practicing their craft without an unnecessary government license. But this year, the entrepreneurial couple celebrate their twenty-fifth year in business and the “little” shop the government once tried to shut down is thriving, providing opportunity not only for Ferrell and Uqdah, but for the dozens of women they’ve trained over the years who have now gone on to start their own businesses.

Now, if only the rest of the nation would learn from this and similar success stories and remove government barriers to honest enterprise now imposed on hairbraiders. D.C. once ordered hairbraiders to take 1,500 hours of irrelevant training to get into business. But now hairbraiders are braiding, customers are satisfied and the D.C. city government collects taxes from businesses that would otherwise have been forced into the underground economy.

Despite this and similar success stories in Arizona, California, Mississippi, Minnesota and Washington, other states continue to impose arbitrary and stiff licensing burdens on would-be hairbraiders—making no one happy except those protected by these government-imposed cartels.

Determined to help other entrepreneurial braiders break these chains, Uqdah founded the American Hair Braiders and Natural Haircare Association (AHNHA). As president, he has worked with braiders across the country to challenge cosmetology regulations that arbitrarily restrict the right to braid for a living with needless coursework and examinations. He views his struggle for economic liberty—the right to earn an honest living—as fundamental to the success of America and for the African-American community. Today, he is more passionate than ever that braiders do not belong in the cosmetology regime. And his message—of passion, skill, opportunity and hard work as the only entrance requirements to the braiding profession—is winning the war one small battle at a time.


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