Before you consider braiding in festivals or any other career in natural hairstyling, you must be aware of your local laws. This article contains a few tips that may be helpful, but it is no replacement for professional, licensed, legal advice. Laws and level of friendliness or hostility towards African culture varies from place to place. It is your responsibility to find out exactly where you stand legally in your area.
If you will be traveling, you’ll need to know the laws in whichever municipalities, states or countries you’ll be going to. If it is possible to comply with the laws reasonably, you should do so. If it is not, then you must be prepared for any legal problems that may come up.
There is a list of state regulations here at IJ Publications. No matter what, if you’ll be doing business, you should be registered as a business. Whether or not the state recognizes it, there is a federal standard for natural hairstyling. If you can’t register as a natural hairstylist, then register as an African and/or Celtic braiding educator.
If you are working in a regulated state, and can’t comply with their local laws because they’re unreasonable:
1. Get them naked (figuratively).
You can’t legally be arrested anywhere that I know of, for helping someone to do their own hair. In fact, it may speed up styling time to let the patrons (or their parents) do their own initial comb-out, finish the longer braids, and help with the beading. Most folks don’t complain about this, and those who do, stop complaining once you tell them that they have to help for legal reasons. Because most natural hairstyling laws became a part of the criminal code without a vote of the people, only arbitrary cosmetology boards, many don’t know that their state has racist laws that they’re actually enforcing.
The sad part about this is that most of the folks who are against braiding, have a long cultural history of it themselves that they just don’t know about.
So tailor your public work around education, assistance, and fun, more than just the styling. Make your stand a braiding workshop.
2. Be aware of your competitors.
Most braiders stick together, but some do get jealous and resort to reporting one another to the authorities. This can bring about a lot of drama that can ultimately lead to state or municipal regulation. Nobody in their right mind would want this, but you never can tell what goes through some people’s minds.
Another thing to worry about is hair stylists who can’t braid or can’t do it well, who are jealous of braiders or so terribly westernized that they have hostility against it.
If you sense that something bad is coming, make sure to cover your bases. Signs that problems are on the way can be:
- People who aren’t the patron’s parents or friends staring too intently at you while you work.
- People fooling around with your tools and products.
- Someone being too obviously overly critical of your work.
- Someone standing around talking about where it’s cheaper to get their hair done (which will be bogus).
There are many things people do because of jealousy. Don’t be surprised by anything.
3. Prepare release statements, and require that the patron or their parent signs it.
Basically, this is a slip of paper that says the person consents to having their hair done by you even though you are not a licensed cosmetologist. You assume normal liability for any errors on your part, as any other businessperson would, but you’ve made them aware of your status. You should also make it clear in this statement that you are assisting the patron in styling their hair.
4. Keep tight books.
In many if not most festivals, folks don’t expect or ask for receipts. However, whatever money comes into your hands that day should be recorded in your ledger or log. You should also keep track of whatever you spend on your business. If possible get receipts, and if not, keep a record anyway.
Be careful out there. Often, there are no laws on the books and authorities just make up reasons to harass or arrest African people. As long as you make sure that what you are doing is technically legal, this will offer you the most protection. If you can afford one, have a lawyer available just in case. Some law firms specialize in the concerns of freelance and gig workers. Just make sure that you are protected as well as you can afford to be.
Blessings and Ashé!
Written in 2005.
© 2023 Sis. Nicole T. Lasher