The barbershop has always been a place in the neighborhood where everyone can be themselves, we communicate freely and discuss current events, issues and solutions. When children visit me for a haircut, I ask them questions about life, school, and we discuss the importance of making good decisions. Over time we build a relationship and trust. Barbers' roles as community mentors are huge because young men look up to us!
A few months ago I heard about Metro United Way's new Books & Barbershops (B&B) initiative. This was around the same time that I was planning an event to provide free back-to-school haircuts for kids. I learned that Books & Barbershops is a partnership with barbers in the community that provides a bookshelf with books for children; the idea of a reading space in my barbershop was a perfect fit for me, because "I'll do anything for the kids!"
I use my platform to encourage reading because I engage with young boys and parents on a daily basis. With the addition of the B&B bookshelf and books, I ask questions and discuss the books kids read while they were waiting for their haircut. If they were unable to finish the book, I ask them to read to me while I'm cutting their hair.
Barbers have a unique opportunity to promote reading and mentor each young man or boy that sits in our chair, and if we take advantage of that opportunity, we can reach and positively influence hundreds of young men each year. Outside of my barbershop, I also volunteer my time at my church to support our youth. One of my passions is working with kids, so if there is any way I can use the gifts God has blessed me with to help, I'm all in!
We recently hosted the first Books & Barbershop Reading Night at my barbershop, Elevating Stylez. NBA Champion Derek Anderson and NFL (retired) Terry Samuels were our special guest readers. Kids came out to hear positive male role models read to them and educate them on the importance of literacy.
If you are a barber looking for a way give back to the community by using your influence and reach to promote reading, get involved with Metro United Way's Books & Barbershops initiative!
Metro United Way's Books & Barbershops initiative partners with barbers in our neighborhoods and provides reading nooks with books for children ages 3-9, because early grade reading is one of the best predictors of kid's success in school, work and life. B&B takes advantage of a naturally occurring opportunity kids have to read while they are waiting for a haircut. The books are culturally relevant so that young men and boys will find worlds they recognize and inspiration to dream of those they don't.
To learn more about Books & Barbershops or the Black Male Achievement initiative, contact Sam Johnson at 502-292-6137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jacob "Da Specialist" Robinson is from Decatur, Illinois but he has lived in Louisville for the last 12 years. He has a 16-year-old son, Jacobe Robinson and is the owner of Elevating Stylez Barbershop located at 101 Crescent Avenue in Louisville. Jacob's grandfather introduced him to barbering when he was a young man. His grandfather was a hometown pioneer in the barbering business and one of the first black men to own a barbershop in Decatur in 1950. That barbershop is open today, it's owned and operated by Jacob's family and is a well-known, historical place to visit in Decatur. Jacob not only credits his grandfather with teaching him how to master his craft, but he also taught him to how to operate his business with professionalism while staying true to himself, his family and being led by the word of God.