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Columbia homicide victim Rabiah Ahmad dreamed of owning salon, family members say

Rabiah Ahmad dreamed of owning a hair salon on wheels one day. She would travel and style the hair of friends, family, regular clients and women who could not afford to get their hair done.

She had been styling hair since she was 6 and turned her passion into her career. Ahmad was particularly known for her rope twist, a type of braid that she had perfected over the years, according to her family.

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Ahmad, a self-employed entrepreneur and hairstylist, died July 31 at the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore of a gun-shot wound. She was 30.

“It started with one braid,” said Jameelah Ahmad, her mother.

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Styling hair was not just a service to Rabiah Ahmad — it was her livelihood. Ahmad owned and ran House of Kiyomi, a travelling hair styling business. She instilled a sense of confidence in the women she served, her family said. Ahmad educated clients about natural hair and products and made her own products as well.

“If you can’t eat it, don’t use it,” was one of her common hair-product sayings, according to her family.

Ahmad’s love for hair and philanthropy frequently mixed, her family said. An aunt, Anita Najiy, said Ahmad would do hair for graduations and proms for free.

“She would do hair for cancer patients, those women who lost all their hair,” Jameelah Ahmad said. “She would make wigs for them.”

Her family was reliant on her hair styling abilities, too.

“I either flew home [to Miami] or I flew her to Atlanta to do my hair,” said Zanobiah Dawson, one of Ahmad’s aunts.

Ahmad was born in Chicago, Illinois, on Sept. 26, 1989, to Akbar and Jameelah Ahmad. While growing up, Ahmad lived mostly in Miami, Florida, with stints in Brooklyn, New York, and Jamaica as well. She graduated from Miami Northwestern Senior High School in 2007.

Before becoming a full-time hair aesthetician, Ahmad went to nursing school for a few years, worked as a candy striper at Mercy Hospital in Miami and spent a year working at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

At the time Ahmad was killed, she was 28 weeks pregnant with her daughter, Ahja, and visiting her baby’s father in Columbia. Although the baby was successfully delivered after Ahmad was shot and killed, Ahja died a few days later on Aug. 5.

Jameelah Ahmad said her daughter was thrilled to be pregnant again after previously having a miscarriage; she was looking forward to raising Ahja alongside cousins who were also pregnant at the same time.

“Even when she was younger, she would say, ’Mommy, I’m going to be married. I’m going to have five children. I’m going to be the best mom in the world,’ ” Jameelah Ahmad said.

A funeral for Ahmad and Ahja was held Aug. 15 in Miami.

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