Editor’s note: We’re committed to highlighting local businesses in the mid-Atlantic that are serving their communities in innovative and significant ways. Eddie’s Hair Creations, located in D.C., is one of those impressive businesses that is doing just that—and we’re proud to feature their achievements.
Eddie’s Hair Creations in Washington, D.C. looks like the kind of business that has earned its 24-year tenure in the Adams Morgan neighborhood. The bold red, yellow, green, and black sign in the window boasting “20 years of business! ONE LOVE” just scratches the surface.
In a community that has seen massive gentrification in recent years (Full disclosure: I was a part of it), Eddie’s has maintained its own community for people of color. And in recent months, Eddie’s has taken an even bigger leap towards community support.
When I visited on a Wednesday afternoon, six customers were in various stages of getting their hair cut, checking their phones and chatting amongst themselves and with the three barbers on staff. The radio played a reggae cover of “All of Me” by John Legend. Photos of Bob Marley, Barack Obama, and local black community leaders hang high on the walls above the huge, shiny mirrors.
But there’s something new in the corner.
The magazines that used to sit in an old white metal magazine rack have been moved to a small side table—and were replaced by children’s books like Ladybug Girl and House Mouse/Senate Mouse (how very Washingtonian!). Underneath a wood podium holding flyers about community events sits a cardboard box literally bursting at the seams with more children’s books.
In July, Eddie’s Hair Creations became the first barbershop in the country to participate in a new children’s literacy pilot program as part of President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative. According to the Washington Post, more than 20 barbers nationwide are working with administration officials to create these libraries and come up with other ways to help boost education opportunities for young people of color in their communities.
“We get a lot of kids on the weekends,” said Kofi Asante, owner of Eddie’s Hair Creations.
On this particular Wednesday, the irony of the only kid in the barbershop reading on an iPad doesn’t go unnoticed. But it does go to show that, regardless of access to money or technology, these trips to the community barbershop give all kids access to time that could be used for reading or other valuable types of learning.
“It’s part of the idea… to not only mobilize government resources, but to mobilize communities,” deputy secretary of education John King told the Post. “Barbers and hair salon owners are very involved in their communities.”
All of the books at the barbershop have been donated, Asante said, with more coming in almost every day.
“A big box came in last week, and just today we got this from Amazon,” he said, brandishing a printed receipt for two children’s books with no “From” address. “We don’t know them.”
The next step is setting up a bookshelf for all the donated books, Asante said. So far, he’s searched Home Depot and asked Broderick Johnson, head of the My Brother’s Keeper initiative (and long-time Eddie’s patron), for help.
“Maybe with this story, we’ll get it donated!” he said, smiling.
Stephanie Levy is a writer, editor, and web producer living in the D.C. area. A graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism, she has covered everything from education policy to dumpster-diving for beer (seriously). If you’re a fan of feminism, online sarcasm, and/or the St. Louis Cardinals, follow Stephanie on Twitter: @stephanie_levy.