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"What's not to love about black hair?" A SWFL hair braider talks about hair discrimination

SWFL Hair Braider shares her hair experience and the long history of braiding
Posted at 7:15 PM, Feb 22, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-22 19:15:24-05

FORT MYERS, Fla. — For Keesha Allen-Thomas, hair braiding is so much more than a career. She is helping young men and women love their roots.

"It's important for any person of any ethnicity to feel comfortable wearing the hair that they're in,” said Allen-Thomas.

She says braiding is not just a way of expression.

“When I was a young girl, I would sit in between my mom's legs, and she would braid my hair every night to make sure that it wasn't tangled and it was groomed properly," said Allen-Thomas. "That goes way back to African culture because that's how they shared stories. They would braid hair and tell stories and the intricate hairstyles would take so long that it would be stories and stories and stories and so like the tradition of conversations in the beauty shops, trends way back to African culture.”

She says these protective and intricate hairstyles symbolize history. History that for many has been forgotten about or shamed.

“Imagine being told that your hair is unprofessional, or that aesthetically it’s not right," said Allen-Thomas. "In order to go up the social ladder, you would have to get hair that was more acceptable which means more European. Women started to press their hair and perm their hair. In many professions, even now, you have women who have to get permission to wear their hair naturally or just to wear braids because it’s not deemed as professional.”

Congress is considering the CROWN Act, which would prohibit discrimination of any hairstyle or texture.

Several states have adopted their own versions of the law, but Florida lawmakers failed to pass one last year.

“When you make that a point where people are discriminated against upon, which happens in schools, which happens at jobs, which happens in the military is a huge slap in the face for black women," said Allen-Thomas.

Now Allen-Thomas has made it a passion to help young men and women love their skin and hair.

“What is that to love about black hair is such an amazing thing being a black woman," said Allen-Thomas.

Wednesday, February 28, the Fort Myers Stars Complex will continue Allen-Thomas' mission and bring dads and daughters together by teaching them about the importance of a young lady's hair.