Cops and Barbers celebrate students heading back to school

For over a decade, Shaun Corbett has ventured outside of his barbershop walls to help families and children in need.

Corbett owns Lucky Spot Barbershop in Charlotte, which is the only barbershop inside any Walmart in the nation that’s owned and operated by African Americans.

In conjunction with Corbett’s nonprofit, Cops and Barbers, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department and other community partners, the barbers celebrated students who will be returning to school.

“This year is more important than ever because of COVID,” Corbett said. “With so much of the world shut down any way we can get people to feel more normal, then we’re going to try to take every opportunity to make them feel more comfortable.”

Free haircuts, food and plenty of music welcomed enthusiastic children who are ready to get back to school.

In the tradition of the Cops and Barbers program, officers and barbers worked together to continue and build relationships with the community.

“This is an awesome opportunity for these young men and women to walk into school just as fresh and just as happy as everybody else, and it removes that little bit of pressure of them to try and determine do they actually fit into it, make the cut because they absolutely do,” said Lt. Jared Saunders with Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department’s Freedom Division.

Cops and Barbers is a scholarship-buddy program, in which qualifying students receive a scholarship to attend barber school, participate in volunteer activities and peer-to-peer police academy cadet partnerships.

“Cops and Barbers was a game-changer.  Over the past five years, we’ve watched so many lives change,” Corbett said. “It allows us to change the narrative and expose the community to certain things.  Some of these young men would never be around police officers. And today, they’re dancing together, eating hot dogs. This is how it’s supposed to be.”

Corbett launched Cops and Barbers in the wake of the 2014 officer-involved shooting of Michael Brown to find a way to help bridge a gap between local law enforcement officials and the community.  The program has a simple name with an infinite mission.

The program pairs Black barbers and white cops. So when volatile situations flare up, they can work together to calm tensions.

“Cops and Barbers teaches these young men about self-respect and shows them that they have opportunities in life. That there’s someone, whether it be a police officer or a barber, willing to give them a hand up instead of just a hand out,” Saunders said. “They can build that self-pride and then carry that on to their life and be self-sustaining individuals within the community.”

The initiative was created to establish meaningful relationships, thus making it easier to have a much-needed dialogue between police and the community.

Some of Corbett’s shops offer free community tutoring services and serve as a meeting place for the Cops and Barbers program’s student participants and police cadet buddies.

“The barbershop is really a lifesaver. I know it saved my life, and it saved a lot of these young men in this room’s life,” Corbett said. “The barbershop is more than just getting a haircut. It’s never been just about the haircut, but the haircut is the byproduct of what the barbershop is. It’s faith. It’s family. It’s friends. It’s fun.”

Corbett’s goal is to own five shops over the next five years and to expand the Cops and Barbers program to youths all over the nation.

Recently, Corbett opened his second and third locations in Gastonia and Columbia.

If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, public affairs manager at WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.