“Wisconsin hair braiders from Milwaukee to Madison to Green Bay to Kenosha to Beloit to all parts of the state of Wisconsin are able to finally braid hair without restrictive, unnecessary licensing,” said Wisconsin State Rep. Shelia Stubbs. “Because of this bill, braiders from across the state can feel free to work from home with their skills, to contribute to our community, to be entrepreneurs, and to be extremely successful.”
Community members, hair stylists and politicians gathered at a press conference in the Assembly Parlor of the Wisconsin State Capitol Monday afternoon to celebrate the passing of Assembly Bill 121, the deregulation of natural hair braiding, with bill co-sponsors Stubbs and State Sen. LaTonya Johnson. Gov. Tony Evers signed the bill into law on July 8.
“By opening the doors to hair braiders across the state, we are promoting the freedom to succeed,” Stubbs said. “As UCLA Professor Kimberle Crenshaw once said, ‘the empowerment of Black women constitutes the empowerment of our entire community.’ I am proud to say that Wisconsin is now in a place where hair braiders are empowered to utilize their craft to realize real economic success.”
For a long time, Stubbs has been advocating for this bill, along with a host of members of Madison’s African-American community who have spoken at public hearings about how African-style hair braiding is a common and safe practice that has existed for many years and how the bill would be a great opportunity for entrepreneurs in African-American and African immigrant communities to support themselves and their families.
“I am pleased that so many people voiced their support for this piece of legislation and that my legislative colleagues on both sides of the aisle worked together and voted for its passage to make this a bipartisan deal,” Johnson says. “Recently, state legislatures across the country have been revisiting their licensing requirements for hair braiding. With the enactment of this, Wisconsin joins the majority – 30 other states – making us the 31st state in allowing hair braiding services to be provided without a license.
“I want to thank Rep. Shelia Stubbs for her commitment to this issue and in making sure that braiders all over this state have a fair opportunity to do a craft that has been passed down from generation to generation,” Johnson added.
There were multiple speakers at the event including Megan Forbes of the Institute for Justice, Attorney Yolanda McGowan, Elder Linda Hoskins of End Times Ministries International and Djokoua “Sally” Ali, manager of Divas Salon. State Rep. Samba Baldeh, who represents District 48 on the east side of Madison, said that this was the first bill to be passed by a Democrat in the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Kiara Allen, owner of Kashis Cheveux Salon, said that she has been doing hair for 10 years in Madison.
“I recently did obtain my cosmetology license and I can say that they don’t teach about braiding our hair at the school that I went to,” Allen said. “I really want to thank Mrs. Stubbs for passing this bill. I think it’s going to do wondrous and it’s really going to make history in Wisconsin and it was something that was really meant to be.”
Rev. Dr. Marcus Allen, the senior pastor at Mt. Zion Church on Madison’s south side and the president of the African American Council of Churches, said that it’s important to “remove the barriers that we face every day.”
“Oftentimes, we are not asking for handouts and this bill is something that is a hand up. So, in our community we aren’t asking to give us anything but an opportunity,” Allen said. “Right now, this gives us an opportunity to those to be self-sufficient, to start their own businesses and to do the work they need to provide for their family and change the trajectory of their family for generations to come.
“So we’re just so thankful for Shelia and all those who played a part in this and we look forward to seeing more bills that help our community,” he added. ”