clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Austin barbers, stylists give kids fresh cuts in time for the first day of school

The event was sponsored Chicago Police Department’s Austin (15th) District.

Wesley Brown (center) gets his hair cut at the Austin District police station Monday.
Carlos Ballesteros/Sun-Times

Barbers and stylists in Austin came together Monday to make sure kids in the neighborhood are looking fresh for their first day of school next week — for free.

The back-to-school event was hosted by the Chicago Police Department’s Austin (15th) District.

Pediatricians from Loyola University Medical Center also offered free checkups at a healthcare van outside the police station.

Officer Edgar Brown, a 10-year veteran from Memphis, Tennessee, said he came up with the idea for a haircut and health care day two weeks ago.

“My partner came in one day talking about getting a haircut, and that’s when it clicked,” he said. “This is part of policing, too. It’s a way for us to give kids in the neighborhood a clean start to a fresh new school year.”

Officer Edgar Brown, who organized Monday’s back-to-school event at the Chicago Police Department’s Austin (15th) District station.
Carlos Ballesteros/Sun-Times

Austin is one the largest working-class communities in the city. It has an estimated 95,000 residents, 81% of which identify as black, according to a June 2019 analysis of state and federal data by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

The median income in Austin is just under $33,000 a year — nearly $20,000 less than the median income citywide — and families occupy two-thirds of households in the neighborhood, the agency found.

Kids’ haircuts in the Chicago area range from $10 to $20, without tip.

Many parents said Monday having a free haircut for their kids was a nice sigh of relief.

“I have three sons. That’s $60 every two weeks on haircuts,” said Barnell Coppage, 31, a construction worker who lives in Austin. He brought his sons — ages 3, 5 and 9 — to the Austin District on Monday. “Those $60 are probably going to go gas, food, other essentials, maybe some candy for the kids.”

Barnell Coppage (right) surrounded by his family outside the Austin District police station. His three oldest sons got a haircut and a health checkup Monday.
Carlos Ballesteros/Sun-Times

Barbers and hairstylists donated their time and tools for Monday’s event.

The demand was high: Parents and their kids started lining up outside the police station at 1 p.m. even though the event didn’t start for another hour. By 3 p.m., more than 50 kids had been served and more were coming through the door.

Shirley Mitchell, a hair braider who lives in nearby suburban Berkeley, said it was a no-brainer to help out on Monday.

“I like kids and I like hair, so it’s a good fit,” she said.

Riviare Cargo, 11, was sitting in Mitchell’s chair. When asked if she was excited to start 6th grade next week, Cargo kept it short.

“No. But at least my hair will look good,” she said.

Shirley Mitchell (top) braids 11-year-old Riviare Cargo’s hair at the Austin District police station Monday.
Carlos Ballesteros/Sun-Times

Chicago Public Schools students go back to the classroom on Sept. 3.

Carlos Ballesteros is a corps members of Report for America, a not-for-profit journalism program that aims to bolster Sun-Times coverage of Chicago’s South Side and West Side.