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African-American Hair Braiders Want Easing Of State Licensing Rules

Chris Lehman


Some African-American hair stylists are objecting to an Oregon licensing rule that means they can't braid hair without taking a two-year course. And they’re asking state lawmakers to take up the cause.

Amber Starks wants to put her braiding skills to work as a volunteer for African-American children in foster care. The Oregon Department of Human Services embraced the idea. But the Portland woman soon found that even a volunteer needs to get a cosmetology license.

Starks says traditional African-American hair-braiding doesn't use the chemical and heat treatments that are taught in cosmetology school.

"I feel like the braiders and the other natural hair-stylists would be willing to compromise and take some kind of safety training," Starks says. "But we just kind of feel that it's excessive to have to attend 1,700 hours of schooling for something that often isn't taught in school."

Starks says two Democratic state lawmakers have agreed to seek a compromise during next year's legislative session. At the other end of the spectrum, the libertarian think-tank Cascade Policy Institute has taken up the cause.

For now, Starks is still braiding hair professionally across the river in Vancouver, Washington. That state relaxed its hair-braiding rules several years ago.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network