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Hair braiding bill represents ‘new narrative’ at legislature

MINNESOTA SPOKESMAN-RECORDER — Minnesota’s record ethnic diversity at the State Capitol — including African American, Somali American, Asian American and Hispanic or Latino representation — has given legislators of color a boost when it comes to creating new perspectives on policy change.




By Stephenetta (isis) Harmon

Minnesota’s record ethnic diversity at the State Capitol — including African American, Somali American, Asian American and Hispanic or Latino representation — has given legislators of color a boost when it comes to creating new perspectives on policy change.

Local leaders like Rep. Rena Moran (DFL-Minneapolis) have hit the ground running, with 19 people of color in the House, in ensuring issues related to people of color are not only heard, but are addressed via legislation.

“When we are able to bring in our expertise and our experience to these conversations,” said Moran, “we begin to see policies that create different practices than what we have seen in the past.”

In February, she teamed with Sen. Jeff Hayden to introduce the African American Family Preservation and Child Welfare Disproportionality Act (HF142) to help keep Black youth from being displaced from their homes due to racial bias.

“The number of our [African American] kids who have been removed from their homes and from their parents and not being placed with relatives and put in homes with strangers is alarming,” Moran told the MSR. “They are away from their communities, their schools, sometimes even their siblings. This has a huge impact on not only our community, but it has an impact on how our children are developing.

“They are not feeling connected to their community or loved,” continued Moran, “so they go into these new homes and it shows up in the school. And now they are being diagnosed or placed in special ed, getting medication, or are being funneled into the youth detention centers. We’re not recognizing their trauma. We’re not recognizing and valuing the family preservation — the foundation for us as Black people.”

She authored another bill (HF554) that was approved in April to help parents directly seek to re-establish parental rights and reduce barriers for parents who lost rights for non-egregious harm. “Kids should not be lingering in foster care, and the State should never be in the business of trying to raise our kids.”

Black hair economics

Now she’s taking on Black hair and entrepreneurship via a bill (HF140) to repeal cosmetology registration requirements for braiders. Hair braiding, an art that goes back thousands of years, has been a hot-button topic across the country. While most cosmetology programs don’t teach the skill, many states require a cosmetology license to legally practice it.

Those licensure requirements include upwards of 2,000 hours of education and thousands of dollars in fees to acquire. Women have been fined tens of thousands of dollars and even jailed for braiding without it. This has led to 26 states, North Dakota most recently, ending licensing requirements for hair braiders, according to the Institute for Justice.

While Minnesota has one of the more lenient requirements — 30 hours of service — Moran hopes to repeal yet another barrier for Black women to become entrepreneurs. “It’s not like Louisiana that requires 500 hours, but we want to make sure that we are not creating mandates that are getting in the way of Black women being business owners,” said Moran.

“And, we know that in the state of Minnesota, we have less women who are business owners. We also know Black women are making somewhere near 65 cents to the dollar, as compared to a White woman making 80 cents to the dollar of their White male counterpart, who is making the whole dollar.”

Braiding, Moran said, should be “a job creator for Black women.” Instead, “Having a policy in place that states you have to have so many hours of specialty licensing for hair braiders is just a job killer.”

“There is an extreme amount of fees,” she said, to obtain licensure. “It really is a barrier to women opening up a business. The more licensing, the more training hours that a state demands, the fewer braiders that we have.”

When asked about sanitation and health risks associated with hair styling, Moran said education shouldn’t be a prohibitive factor for licensure, noting it should be common practice. “It’s just a healthy thing to do to wash a comb before you use it on another person’s head or take note of a scalp issue. But that’s more of an educational piece that needs to take place,” she added. “There are ways to work with the [MN] Department of Health to get those basic type of safety criteria in place.”

She added that the biggest opposition, which she said has been minimal, has been centered on hair loss. “I have heard some women are losing the hair at the ends of their hair — around their edges. We know that does happen based on just the braiding, the texture of your hair, and how tight the braids can be,” Moran said. “But, is that something that needs to be regulated? I would say no.”

Amplifying POCI voices

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Conversations around hair may not seem crucial to mainstream populations that aren’t faced with everyday policing of their hair. The racial disparities are prevalent — from workplace policies against hairstyles to school mandates that get both students and parents locked out of school doors.

Moran is enthused to not only talk about this and other issues related to people of color, but also to have support from within to push through such legislation.

“It’s really important for me and the People of Color Indigenous (POCI) Caucus here to bring the voices of our community into this body so that we are creating and educating our colleagues through a race-conscious lens around social, racial, economic and environmental justice issues,” said Moran.

“We don’t need [non-POCI] to talk to us about our community. We have enough [POCI] here that we can do that, too, and have you just support and help lead on it. So this is one of those bills. This is just one of many that we are trying to move through this body.”

She credits the community for helping get her AAFP act into committee hearings. “The community has just shown up in really good numbers, and they have lent their voices and their stories that have been so impactful. In the House of Representatives, they gave 134 legislators a new narrative to look at when they look at our families and what is happening and how disproportionately our kids are being really put down a more punitive track while White families are getting the support that they need to get their kids connected to their families.”

Moran said she looks forward to similar support via email and letters when the braid repeal comes forth. The bill, which has received bipartisan support, is currently waiting to go into conference committee. She explained that the bill was part of a larger bill that was vetoed last year, but she is confident it will pass this session.

“It’s so important that we are leading the narrative about what is important for our community. We want to be on the front end. We want to be about planning and navigating [our stories].”

This article originally appeared in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Bay Area

Good Day Cafe

Good Day Cafe is a black-owned business located in Vallejo,Ca




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Rush bowls

The perfect blend of all-natural fruits and veggies topped with delightfully crunchy, organic granola, a drizzle of honey, and your choice of fresh fruits and toppers.




Rush bowls are the perfect blend of all-natural fruits and veggies topped with delightfully crunchy, organic granola, a drizzle of honey, and your choice of fresh fruits and toppers. Packed with nutrients and fully customizable, Rush bowls offer healthy, delicious alternatives to standard fast-casual fare. Rush bowls is open Mondays-Fridays from 10am-6pm at 350 17th Street, Oakland,CA 94619. Available for indoor dining, and delivery through GRUBHUB

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Bay Area

A Deep East Oakland Based Grocery Coop is Opening

​“The community here deserves life and good health,” said Romo. “And so much of that is literally what we eat.”




The DEEP Grocery Coop worker owners (left to right) Daniel Harris-Lucas, Jameelah Lane, Yolanda Romo and Erin Higginbotham stand at Acta Non Verba’s Youth Urban Farm Project in deep East Oakland. Photo taken by Fox Nakai in October, 2020.

The four worker owners of a new grocery store in deep East Oakland want to bring more healthy food options to the area through a cooperative model. The DEEP Grocery Coop opened for online sales on April 7. By Fall, the worker owners plan to open a storefront.

“We’re coming together for the cause of changing food access in the deep East Oakland community,” said worker owner Daniel Harris-Lucas. “We’re trying to create social change and not necessarily getting into it for profit.”

   Deep East Oakland currently has limited options for healthy food. While a large chain grocery store, Foods Co., operates in the area, its organic and fresh foods sections are limited, and the store is still several miles from where many deep East Oakland residents live.

      Deep East Oaklanders largely find themselves eating what’s most accessible: highly processed foods sold in the many liquor stores in or near their neighborhoods. Worker owners of the DEEP Grocery Coop plan to stock lots of healthy foods including fresh, local and organic vegetables and fruits.

All four DEEP Grocery Coop worker owners live in deep East Oakland and are passionate about eating healthy, which can be challenging. Worker owner Yolanda Romo drives out to Berkeley Bowl to buy her groceries. She says she never sees her neighbors there, and is saddened that she has to shop at a business in a more affluent city instead of being able to get healthy foods near her neighborhood. 

“The community here deserves life and good health,” said Romo. “And so much of that is literally what we eat.”

The DEEP Grocery Coop’s worker owners acknowledge that price is an important part of making healthy food accessible, and they want their foods to be affordable for local residents.  

     They have plans to receive grant funding that will allow those with food stamps to buy California grown produce at a 50% discount. As a small cooperative, with no boss that expects a large profit, the worker owners can focus instead on sustaining the store and themselves while keeping prices as low as they can for the community.

    They also are making connections with small local Black and Brownled farms, like Raised Roots, who find it difficult to get their products into larger chain stores.

Education is key to The DEEP Grocery Coop’s project, as the knowledge of how to eat healthy is less accessible to the largely Black and Brown population of East Oakland, and is falsely associated as only being for white people. As an example, Romo points out quinoa, a wholegrain seed that is high in protein fiber and B vitamin.

“Quinoa is a supercheap Peruvian necessity and someone branded it,” Romo said. “That branding isn’t catered to communities of color but to white people who have more choices.”

To share knowledge, worker owners have done free cooking demonstrations and informative healthy food discussions. They share knowledge about healthy foods through instagram

Their instagram account also serves as a place to educate the public about the cooperative model, which worker owners say allows them more autonomy. As they begin to sell foods online and eventually open their in-person store, they hope to serve as a model for other deep East Oakland residents who want to create businesses that better serve their community. 

“I hope this inspires others in the community to be worker owners and to make decisions and run their businesses the way they want to do it,” said Romo. “The topdown model that we see everywhere and the huge corporate chains that surround East Oakland haven’t helped.”

Decision making in the DEEP Grocery Coop will be more localized, allowing it to cater to the deep East Oakland Community. Worker owner Jameelah Lane expects the store to be full of “things that resemble East Oakland” like vibrant colors, graffiti painting and good music. She wants the store to have “culturally recognizable foods” like bean pies and tamales. 

The DEEP Grocery Coop worker owners are not the only people who helped create the store. Mandela Grocery Cooperative, a non-profit youth urban farm project called Acta Non Verba, and an organization that helps launch Bay Area Blackled cooperatives called Repaired Nation, all acted as a steering committee to help train and guide the worker owners during the projects formation.

    But, as originally planned, all those organizations have given full control to the worker owners at this point. The workerowner staff are still relatively new to each other, with the full fourperson crew not coming together until last summer. They are excited about what they have been able accomplish in such a short time and about starting to bring more healthy foods to deep East Oakland.

“We want to inspire people to be change-makers instead of waiting for it,” said Harris-Lucas. “We’ve been able to really grow something just from the common love for our community.”

Anyone throughout the Bay Area who wants to support the coop can now order food on their website:, and arrange a curbside pickup. People can also donate to support the project through the store’s gofundme campaign.

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