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Hair braiding is a profession largely by and for Black women. It represents an integral part of many African cultures and is a part of cultural heritage for African women. For many African immigrant women, hair braiding is also the most marketable skill and accessible employment to support their families here and back home. However, working as a hair braider is not as simple as one might think. African immigrant hair braiders are a marginalized workforce facing numerous challenges, including regulatory and structural barriers to practicing their craft. Most have not been able to obtain the Natural Hair Styling license, which is required by the State to do their work. Our report sheds light on these issues and lays out recommendations to make the license more accessible.The report is the culmination of a Participatory Action Research project that centered on the leadership of African hair braiders. ACT conducted nearly 350 surveys, three focus groups, and interviews with braiders. Our research found that surveyed hair braiders want licenses and feel the pressure and fear of being unlicensed: they are concerned about the fact that they are unlicensed, which leaves them vulnerable to theft of services and penalties from authorities for license violations. Our data also show that the State licensing process imposes significant barriers on braiders who want to obtain a Natural Hair Styling license. Most braiders lack information about the requirements to apply for the license. Barriers like language access, literacy, and the time and cost of training programs put the license out of reach for most braiders. The report details policy recommendations to improve African hair braiders' access to licensure, including improving access to information about the license, revising the course and examination requirements, streamlining the process by which braiders can document prior experience, and more.
VOCAL-NY partnered with TakeRoot Justice to conduct a participatory action research project to document the experience of looking for housing with subsidies. The findings derive primarily from matched pair testing: the representatives of 114 apartment listings advertised on Zillow and Trulia were contacted by researchers. Each representative was contacted by someone presenting as having a housing subsidy as well as by someone presenting with income from employment. The outcomes of the outreach were then compared to evaluate differences in treatment. In addition to matched pair testing, we also called the Brooklyn-based property management companies and apartment buildings listed on a resource list provided by the New York City Human Resources Administration to evaluate the usefulness of that list.This research was conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic hit New York City and our communities. Stable housing has always been a public health issue, and the pandemic has brought that issue into great relief, as the City has struggled to meet basic safety standards for homeless New Yorkers. As more New Yorkers find themselves in need of support and safety nets to survive the economic fallout of the pandemic, housing must be more accessible to subsidy holders. The findings from our research are more salient than ever. As housing insecurity grows throughout the city, more protections need to be in place for tenants who rely on subsidies to pay their rent.
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