Barbers motivate youths to stay in school with free haircuts

Barbers motivate youths to stay in school with free haircuts

August 18th, 2012 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

Rhett Edwards trims down the hair on the sides of Shane Hinton's, 14, head Thursday afternoon. The barbers at Mr. T's Barbershop on Bonny Oaks Drive are among many Chattanooga barbers who have signed a contract to give free haircuts to youths who agree to read a book and produce an essay about the novel.

Photo by Jake Daniels /Times Free Press.


To get a copy of the book, Brother to Brother or Sister to Sister, call Janice Washington 987-5314

Youths who drop out of school are more likely to become incarcerated and suffer a diminished quality of life.

Janice Washington, a social worker and self-proclaimed community activist, is passionate about showing young people an alternative to dropping out of school.

She contacted at least 50 barbers willing to assist her by giving young people an opportunity for a free haircut to every child who reads the book, "Brother to Brother" and writes an essay about how it affected them. There is also a book called "Sister to Sister" that targets girls.

Ten barbers have already given free haircuts, she said.

About 100 boys read the book in February and early spring, around the time of educator Fluke Fluker's visit to Chattanooga, said Washington.

"Within the pages is a message of hope," Washington said. "If you can get outside of your environment, you can see you still have a choice."

Allan Tate, owner of Mr. T's Barbershop on Bonny Oaks Drive, a father and grandfather, is among the barbers giving free haircuts.

"They say it takes a village to raise a child. I am a part of the village," said Tate, who grew up in the Alton Park projects.

Washington wants readers to contact her to get a copy of the book.

Involving barbers was a way to bring men together so that they could serve as role modesl. It was a means for uplifting a community, she said.

Each child who reads either book, "Brother to Brother" or "Sister to Sister" and writes an essay gets one free haircut, said Larry "Bear" High, owner of Bear's Barbershop.

"What we're trying to do is motivate the youths and let them know that they're going in the right direction," he said.

The barbers want young people to know there is more to life than drug dealers.

Each book includes 10 essays written by people who have become successful adults despite the challenges they faced as children.

"The book is about young guys who have been out on the street and they've been able to make a positive change," said High.

Some young men in the book also came from intact homes who want to give back to the community, Washington said.

One essay is about a man whose mother was a drug addict. At age 2, he lived with his seven brothers and sisters with no adult in the home. The oldest child, who tried to take care of everybody, was 11. The house had no running water, so the kids started using the bathroom in the tub. Every child in the home had hepatitis by the time social workers came to investigate.

The writer of the essay, Andre Coleman, overcame living from home to home, physical and verbal abuse to become a correctional officer.

Seventeen-year-old Kauri Royal said he gives no thought to being in a gang or selling drugs. Instead he thinks about whether he should attend college after high school or join the military, but he still enjoyed the book. He wrote an essay and got a free haircut.

"It shows how you can come from a bad situation and still make it," said Royal, who plans to be a mechanical engineer.

Follow the latest Chattanooga news on Facebook.