'Do what I love': Black-owned barber shops give back to community

From the first time he cut his brother's hair at 14, Kendrick Boulware Sr. discovered a love for hairdressing. 

Since then, he's been able to turn that passion into a career, and he opened Kendrick's Kave Barbershop in June 2019. The Durham barbershop offers haircuts, shaves and hot towel services.

"I get to get up every day and do what I love,” Boulware said.

Across the Triangle, other Black-owned barbershops provide not only a much-needed service to people, but also a community space. 

The legacy of Black barbers dates back to the 19th century and earlier, according to Duke University's Left of Black website, as hubs for gathering and solidarity in some communities. In the 20th century and during the Great Migration, Black barbershops also served as a resource for Black Americans who moved to new cities.

Kevin Bowick, the owner of Masterworks Barbershop, was able to fulfill his lifelong dream of owning a business upon opening his shop last March. 

“Being able to make people happy, make people smile and make people feel good is what makes me happy,” he said. 

Located in Durham, Masterworks Barbershop provides haircuts for men, women and children, as well as mustache and beard care and facials. Bowick said he serves a variety of clients, from doctors and lawyers to blue-collar workers, as well as people of different ethnicities.

Masterworks Barbershop opened in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused challenges for the business. Since shops in North Carolina were closed for several months before the shop opened, Bowick had to be innovative in order to keep his business running. 

“We were a little down from being closed for a while," he said. "It was a challenge to bounce back from that.”

Boulware's shop has also faced some challenges. The shop originally opened in Cary, but moved to Durham in November due to surging rent prices. He said the move brought some difficulties in finding a new client base.

“Even though it is seven minutes down the road, the communities are completely different,” Boulware said.

Despite these challenges, both Bowick and Boulware are passionate about providing for the community.

During Black History Month, especially, Bowick said he hopes to give back to the people of Durham through giveaways and events.

Boulware said his barbershop held a coat drive during Black History Month, and all of the donations were given to at-risk teenagers and children. 

“I wanted to help the community out, be a pillar in my community and be an example to other kids,” Boulware said.

UNC first-year Zainab Sanyang said Black-owned barbershops are a safe space for people of color. 

“It’s definitely less of just getting a haircut and more of a way to de-stress and talk to other people of color within your community,” she said.

Sanyang said she believes there is an important distinction between white-owned barbershops and Black-owned barbershops. During her haircuts, she's able to discuss shared experiences with people in her community. 

“(White-owned shops) feel like a business, as it should be in its own right, and (Black-owned shops) feel like a community," she said.

Sanyang said the best way to support Black-owned barbershops is to promote them. 

“It is not just a business — it is one of those few things that a lot of Black people will say that makes them feel safe,” she said. 

Written By Caroline Wills


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