Prentice Michael Boone didn’t start cutting hair because it was in his life plan. At the age of 12 he just didn’t have the money for a cut so he decided to experiment and see what happened. He did okay. Today Boone (P. Micahel) owns a barber shop and runs a nonprofit serving the North Philadelphia community. Last year P. Michael’s organization launched the Junior Barber Academy. The program is not only teaching kids the trade of barbering but also life skills that will be helpful in any walk of life.
The Junior Barber Academy is a six-week course in which P. Michael teaches local youth the basics of barbering. The program seeks to give the attendees “a craft so they can have something to fall back on or pursue a career as a barber.” After the six-week training with P.Michael — a master barber — they students are able to move forward with learning the appropriate materials to take the state board test and ultimately become licensed in Pennsylvania to cut hair. The Academy does more than keep kids off the streets and give them positive life skills, it truly is a pathway to a viable career for those who wish to take advantage of it.
North Philly can be a tough place. The Fairhill neighborhood is a stone’s throw away from P. Michael’s shop. Recent census figures place the poverty rate there at 61 percent. In such a climate jobs aren’t always readily available. Indeed, the children born to that community generally don’t have wealthy benefactors nor should they anticipate anyone’s sympathy. Black children there and in other neighborhoods will make it because Black communities step up and create opportunities for them. Period. The skills, abilities and talents we need exist in our communities already; it’s up to us to monetize and support them.
P. Michael is a barber, not a venture capitalist. Even so, he is using the talent and platform he has to touch children in his neighborhood. What would happen if the rest of us invested in our children? What would happen if we collectively created pathways for them to have a different future? You need not answer me — answer our Black children who are asking us that question.