By: David Robinson Jr, (@drdavphoto)
Howard University opened the doors to its first-ever on-campus barbershop. President Wayne A.I. Frederick received the inaugural haircut from barber and Howard alumnus LaMont Russell in the Charles R. Drew Hall location. Russell, better known as “Uncle Zeno,” is an entrepreneur and currently serves as the barbershop’s sole barber.
Russell, a former Drew Hall resident, began cutting hair before arriving at Howard.
“My best friend and I, we decided to cut hair to make a little extra money,” said Russell. “We each bought something [for the barbershop]. He bought the liners, I bought the clippers or vice-versa and we cut hair the summer before we went to Howard. And then he became my suitemate.”
The barbershop was created in honor of Asa O’Neal, a former Drew Hall resident who died last November. A dedication plaque hangs to the left of the barber shop door. Denise Rose-Clare O’Neal, Asa’s mother, spoke at Friday’s opening ceremony.
Freshman Peter Lubembela reflected on her hopeful message, “She talked about the barbershop and how it’s supposed be a community,” said Lubembela. “It’s a place where people can go together and come under the memory of Asa and also be a place where people can help each other out.”
The barbershop is a partnership between Rob’s Barbershop Community Foundation (RBCF), Corvias and the University. RBCF is a non-profit organization that serves the community through the distribution of funds used for the development of grooming and self-care services.
“This barbershop goes beyond providing haircuts and grooming services to students,” said Evan Allen, Community Management Director for Corvias. “Historically, barbershops have played an essential role in promoting unity and tradition in our communities, all characteristics that we want to continue to uphold with the residents in Drew and Cook Hall.”
Russell’s plans for the barbershop include incorporating an app called “Taper,” an electronic system created by Bowie State alumnus and HBCU Buzz founder Luke A. Lawal, Jr., which will be used for scheduling appointments in advance. He also wants to facilitate meaningful conversation at Howard through his Barbershop Talks Program.
“It’s just a discussion space for community issues, similar to what the tradition of the barbershop is,” said Russell. “Talking about things really helps people understand, and the more avenues that you have for that allows for people to think more and take more time and be more thoughtful moving forward.”
The new barbershop will lay a solid foundation for the Howard community to grow into an engaged and caring community. Currently, only residents of Drew and Cook Halls can receive grooming services. The haircuts are free of charge and available for 15 hours out of the week.