In New Jersey, African-style hair braiders—whose businesses are deeply rooted in cultural traditions that have been handed down through generations—used to be required to undergo 1,200 hours of cosmetology training, simply in order to earn an honest living.

But thanks to the efforts of persistent braiders across the Garden State, who teamed up with IJ’s activism team to change the law, positive reform is now on the way!

Throughout 2018, IJ prepared braiders in New Jersey for a legislative push in Trenton to exempt hair braiding from cosmetology licensing requirements. Together, they held trainings, met with policymakers, and testified in front of legislative committees—efforts that culminated in the passage of an exemption bill through the Assembly in June.

With renewed opposition from the cosmetology lobby, braiders continued to make their case. But after the bill passed the Senate, Governor Murphy issued a conditional veto, proposing a new specialty license for hair braiding. Under this new license, braiders will be exempt from the cosmetology requirements, and their past fines for being unlicensed will be forgiven, but they will still need to undergo 40 to 50 hours of training—while unnecessary and unfortunate, a substantial improvement from the previous 1,200-hour requirement.

In September 2018, the New Jersey legislature approved the Governor’s proposal, promising new freedom for braiders who will now be able to operate their businesses without the constant fear of being shut down.

Unfortunately, as the new law doesn’t go into effect until January 2019, the Cosmetology Board has begun cracking down on braiders who incurred fines before the law was passed, vindictively threatening to shut down their businesses if they don’t pay up.

As the new year approaches, IJ pledges to continue its support for braiders against the Board’s unjust attempts to coerce braiders into submission, and work with state regulators to ensure the new training requirements are the most accessible and least burdensome that they can be.