African Hair styles

African hair styles Braiding debate has cultural twist

Some fear state regulations could hurt African hair styles specialists in intricate styling

PHILADELPHIA -- Assatou Balde's hands flick smoothly back and forth above her client's partially uncovered head, quickly weaving strands of hair called microbraids and affixing them to the woman's natural hair.

Next to her, Nene Balde goes through a similar process while braiding the locks of another customer.

But with the quiet artistry at Nene's Hair Braiding in West Philadelphia, there simmers a debate over a new state law that will require hair braiders to get special licenses.

hair braiding stylesBy Patrick Walters, Associated Press Published September 26, 2006 found at 
"She got licensed to braid my hair when I paid her," Tasha Budd, 27, called out as Assatou Balde began the hours-long process of putting the tiny braids in her hair. "Why do you need a license in 2006 when they've been braiding all these years? They just want your money."

Supporters say the special licenses will keep braiders from getting unfair fines of up to $1,000 for not being licensed cosmetologists. But some say the government is targeting an African art and may put immigrant braiders out of business.

At Nene's, braids like the ones Budd was getting cost between $140 to $160 for a process that can take five or six hours; cornrows come in at $50. Since the regulations haven't been finalized, the state hasn't determined exactly how much the permit and educational classes would cost.

Some also worry about the plight of immigrant braiders who come to America and often don't speak English, a skill they would likely need to get through certification classes.

"They came here with that craft," said Bertina Pelzer as she worked on a client's hair at Duafe Holistic Hair Care in North Philadelphia. "That is their only means of getting any sort of income."

Pennsylvania is the latest state to step into the braiding debate. Nine others--New York, Florida, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, South Carolina and Louisiana--have braiding licenses. Others exempt braiders from cosmetology laws.

In Mississippi last year, the state removed a requirement for African-style braiders to have either a 1,500-hour cosmetology license or a 300-hour wig-specialist license. Under a new law, professional braiders have to take a self-guided test and pay a $25 fee.

Syreeta Scott, the owner of Duafe, thinks there should be some sort of code of conduct for braiders, but has mixed feelings about the law. She recently had to let some braiders go, in part because they didn't want to get the hair-braiding license.

The Pennsylvania law, which went into effect earlier this month, requires 300 hours of training through the state's Board of Cosmetology. If a braider can prove he or she has been practicing for at least three years, only 150 hours of training would be required.

Amadou Balde, the owner of Nene's Hair Braiding and the father of Assatou and Nene, said he thinks the state's original cosmetology license requirement was unfair. But now that the license is specifically for braiders, people should do their best to comply, he said.picture of sedu hair styles

"Go learn some English and try to pass the test," said Balde, who moved to the U.S. from Senegal in 1987. "We are not in Africa anymore, we are here."

- - -

African Hair Styles

The law in Illinois

Illinois is strict about braiding african hair styles.

State law requires braiders to be licensed cosmetologists--a process that involves a state examination and at least 1,500 hours of training at a cosmetology or barber school. Those caught practicing without a license can be fined up to $5,000 for each offense.

see also picture of sedu hair styles


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