What are your plans this Labor Day weekend? Barbeque? The beach? How about the Naturally Isis Braid On, Economic Liberty March and Rally in Dallas? The annual event that celebrates natural hairstyles is spearheaded by Isis Brantley, a hairstylist and natural-hair advocate. She’ll be at this year’s march and rally on Saturday. Also in attendance? Natural-hair aficionada, Rachel Dolezal.
“She is a supporter,” Brantley told the Cut. “I wanted people who are passionate. She’s passionate. I wanted people who were advocates, who were activists. She is a fighter for justice.”
Brantley launched the yearly march and rally in 2011 in part to garner support for natural-hair legislation. She’s a notable leader in the natural-hair community, with a history spanning over 20 years in the business. In 1997 she was arrested inside her salon for braiding hair without a license. At the time, braiding hair for profit in Texas required 1,500 hours of education, which could cost upwards of $10,000. Brantley played a formidable role in the passage of HB 2717, which deregulated professional hair braiding in the state in 2015. Since the deregulation legislation, several states have followed suit, including Nebraska, and most recently Iowa.
The pairing of Brantley with Dolezal, a novice hair braider best known for pretending to be black, is raising some eyebrows. After the announcement of her involvement at the march and rally, the orbit of cultural appropriation accusations that whirls around Dolezal quickly gained new momentum on social media. Brantley asserts that she was drawn to Dolezal because of her braiding skills, not her controversial history.
Though Dolezal is featured on promotional materials for the event, Brantley denies that the former NAACP branch president turned hairstylist is a headliner. “Her only role is in the background,” she explained, while adding: “We teamed up! She is a braider and she wants to support this movement and see braiders free.”
This weekend at Naturally Isis Braid On, Brantley doesn’t want any drama. “If I knew that teaming up with Rachel was going to bring bad energy … We need to join forces with people of all nationalities that braid her. This is our gift. This is the blood.”