For many barbers, the gunfire that erupted inside Sunni Ali Powell’s shop last May would have been enough to put them out of business.
The trims are fewer these days at Powell’s Barber Shop at 63rd and Racine, Powell concedes. But rather than close his doors, he has chosen to fight back against violent forces in Englewood that have cost barbers their standing in the community.
“We’re supposed to be counselors and peacemakers,” Powell said.
Powell organized a Barber Shop Cease Fire Movement event, luring about 50 barbers Sunday to Ogden Park, down the street from his shop, to spend roughly seven hours giving free haircuts to neighborhood kids.
Four hours in, they had already given out 200 free cuts while music pumped through nearby speakers on a sunny summer afternoon. By the end of the day, Powell hoped the number of cuts would rise to 500.
“Barbers have to stand up and start speaking to the kids that are in our chairs,” Powell said.
Powell called it the “first time that barbers have ever come together in Chicago as a whole to do a charitable act.” He said he plans to make it an annual event and take it on the road to other cities.
A gunman opened fire on Powell’s shop about 3 p.m. on May 26, killing one and wounding the other in the leg.
Before the shooting, Powell’s shop had established itself as a neighborhood hub. He became well-known for offering free cuts to CPS students at the start of the school year, and his shop was featured in a scene in Spike Lee’s movie “Chi-Raq.” Powell said he also cuts hair for the cast of “Chicago Fire,” and the film community gave him more than $9,000 to help recover from the shooting.
Powell said his shop has been “totally revamped.” And while people are staying away for now, he predicted customers would return soon.
“I know they will,” Powell said. “It’s just fear.”
Contributing: Andy Grimm