Kansas City, December 14, 2016: Ray Ray, a student at Wendell Phillips At Attucks Elementary School, was thankful for his free haircut but definitely did not want "funky" hair.
Jay Brooks of Draque's Barber Shop Salon clipped Ray Ray's hair free of charge during Barber and Beauty Day on Monday, Dec. 12 at Phillips. The pair chatted about a wide variety of topics, including the evolution of the word, "funky."
"You want your hair to be funky, don't you?" Mr. Brooks asked.
"No," said Ray Ray, shooting a glance in Brooks' direction. "Funky's bad. I want my hair to look good."
Phillips students filled 22 barber's chairs circling the building's gym for Barber and Beauty Day. They came away looking sharp and feeling better about themselves, about coming to school and about the holidays.
That impact is the reason Local Investment Commission (LINC) Caring Communities staff member Mahlon Davis, Sr., started the annual event in 2008. Mr. Davis launched the first Barber and Beauty Day with his own money after seeing four siblings being teased because of their hair, and realizing that their mother was too proud to simply accept a handout.
"If they look good and feel good, that will make them more likely to want to come to school and be engaged," Davis said.
In the years since its start, the day has grown to include sponsorships by LINC and other businesses and organizations, plus dozens of local barbers and beauticians who donate their time and talent. Davis spends about three months preparing for the event each year.
Participating in Barber and Beauty Day is an opportunity for Brooks to show his gratitude to the community that provides his livelihood.
"At the end of the day, these are the people who I live off of," Brooks said. "This is my chance to give back."
A great haircut or style can change a person's entire outlook, in Brooks' experience. Brooks described what happened recently after he provided a haircut for a customer with AIDS.
"When I got done with his hair, his whole aura changed," Brooks said. "I live for those moments when a customer looks in the mirror and says, 'Oh wow!'"
While Brooks worked, beautician Tee Christian of Styles by Christian started preparing to provide some styling for one of Ray Ray's classmates. In a navy blue school shirt and khaki pants, the girl timidly climbed into the chair and looked up at Ms. Christian.
"What kind of style do you want, honey?" Christian asked.
"The beautiful kind," the student replied, gesturing a circle around her head. "The kind that wraps around like this."
For Christian - whose mother, Lorna Christian, teaches first grade at Phillips - helping young people go into the holidays with that kind of pride is one of the greatest gifts she can provide.