Barbers display community spirit

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 1, 2006

AHOSKIE – The African American barbershop has recently, and accurately, been portrayed in recent film as a staple of the social experience in many urban communities.

While it may come as a surprise to Hollywood, the same dynamic exists in rural areas like our own.

The MAG Chop Shop, a local hair cuttery and unofficial town hall for a variety of individuals in the black community, is putting its best foot forward again to assist local students as they prepare for the upcoming school year.

Ever since the shop opened five years ago, owners, McClaren &uot;Tracy&uot; Hall III and Alexander &uot;Tree&uot; Wright Jr. along with Greg Carter have tried to be facilitators for youth development and mentorship.

From helping promote local hip-hop acts to handing out school supplies to local children, these Hertford County natives have taken pride in their ability to offer commerce and community service to their friends and neighbors.

The three men, all fathers, are hosting a back-to-school jubilee that will double as a fundraiser on August 26 at the Ahoskie Fairgrounds.

Aside from giving the local youth an event to close out the summer, they are also hoping to help raise money for families needing assistance in purchasing school uniforms and other supplies.

In April, the Hertford County School Board announced that all of its schools would be implementing a uniform dress code for the upcoming school year.

Some parents have expressed concern over the costs associated with having to comply with the county’s new uniform policy.

Wright said the motivating factor for what they hope is the first of an annual event was to give the kids something to look forward to before the grind of the school year begins.

&uot;A lot of kids in the area don’t get to travel very far during the summer,&uot; Wright explained. &uot;We want to give the kids a nice time and show them that the community does have them in mind.&uot;

Wright says that the increased cost of fuel and soaring temperatures contributed to a decrease in long distance travel for a lot of locals.

&uot;Originally we were just trying to organize a cookout,&uot; Wright went on to say. &uot;The more we thought about it, the more ambitious we got.&uot;

Although Wright has been disappointed by the lack of response from the business community, he is confident that he and his co-owners are on to something positive.

&uot;I think that there may be a misconception that we are specifically targeting black youth,&uot; Wright said. &uot;Nothing could be further from the truth. We are trying to get the entire community involved.&uot;

The trio is hoping to have a talent show, praise dancing and softball games at the event.

&uot;We have a lot of ideas that we’d like to see happen, but we really could use some ideas from the community on how best to have this event,&uot; Wright explained.

Local residents who frequent the barbershop range from politicians, to judges to area athletes who have gone on to greater success in the college and professional ranks.

This is not the first time that the MAG Chop Shop has been involved in community initiatives for students.

Last year the business closed down their shop for a day to help the G.E.A.R. UP program hand out school supplies to students when the youth organization had trouble getting support from the Hertford County school system.

The barbershop has also been involved with the Back to School Committee and the Citizens Caring for Students organization.

The barbershop’s commitment to educational excellence is evident in the extras they offer to their customers.

In one corner of the shop, there is a computer with Internet access complete with a printer for any student who may need to get some homework or research done while they’re there.

The trio has also offered free cuts on occasions to motivate some students to pick up their grade point average.

&uot;We want to do whatever we can to help the students in our community succeed,&uot; Wright stated. &uot;When you see the individuals who frequent our shop it is easy to see that in fact we are in the community as much as the community is in us.&uot;