African-style braiding is a completely natural hair-care process, a safe way for braiders, many of whom are immigrants, to earn a safe and honest living.

But throughout Louisiana, braiders are forced to pay huge sums of money for hundreds of hours of unnecessary education, learning a craft at which they are already experts.

Before they can start their businesses and provide for their families, braiders must first obtain an Alternative Hair Design permit. And to do so, they must spend 500 hours in a classroom at one of only two licensed schools in New Orleans—neither of which offers a braiding curriculum.

For braiders who have already spent years perfecting their craft, this is unfair and unnecessary. These braiders should be able to safely earn a living without having to acquire superfluous certifications from far-away schools.

To fight the burdensome regulations they face every day, braiders across the state joined with the Institute for Justice in 2017 to form Louisiana Natural Hair Braiding Advocates. Among other things, the coalition collected over 300 signatures for a petition against the Alternative Hair Design permit, packed hearing rooms and testified before committees in favor of legislation that would repeal the permit requirement. In 2018, braiders renewed the fight for braiding-freedom legislation, working with IJ to meet with bill sponsors and organizing to back reform.

Although the bill failed to pass due to special interest politics, braiders remain committed to their right to earn an honest living—and will continue to lobby for their basic economic freedom until they can work legally and openly, without unnecessary burdens standing in their way.