Thursday, June 30, 2016

Low enrollment among reasons school board decided to close Northside HIgh School

Phyllis Randolph, a Northside High School graduate and retired schoolteacher
who once taught at the school, is fighting to keep her alma mater from closing
(Photo by Wiley Henry)
     Phyllis Randolph and Michael Adrian Davis had three minutes each to convince the Shelby County Schools board to keep Northside High School open during a special call meeting on Tuesday night, June 21. But their passionate plea was not enough to stave off the inevitable.
Northside’s doors will not be open for the 2016-17 school year. The board voted 5-3 to close the school, reversing a one-year reprieve the board granted in May. Students will be rezoned for Manassas High School, a little more than a mile away.
Board member Scott McCormick motioned to close Northside immediately, citing a number of reasons for reversing the board’s decision to keep the school open for a year: the transfer of all but four teachers; an enrollment of 36 students verses 190 in 2015.
“For these reasons, I asked the board to reconsider our decision to close Northside…and to go ahead and make it effective for this year,” said McCormick, noting that the delay of Northside’s closing had become a recruitment tool for charter schools.
“We have to think about the best interest of all the students,” said board member Chris Caldwell, who asked Supt. Dorsey Hopson a hypothetical question about finding “quality” teachers and more students should the school remain open.
Hopson said there would be serious operational challenges, such as making sure the seniors have the course offerings and the staff necessary to graduate. “You can have a scenario where you have a school with less than 100 kids,” he said. “While the decision [was] to give the community another year…it did create serious challenges.”
The superintendent said he didn’t see a credible path in trying to staff the school, knowing the school was going to close.
Northside was one of three schools the board voted to close during a meeting in April. Carver High School was given the axe in June and Messick Adult Center was booted from the district in February. The board’s decision to close the schools was based primarily on declining enrollment.
Randolph said the school she graduated from in 1970 could have been spared the proverbial axe that’s being used to close “schools in the black community.” The closing of Northside could have been adverted, she said, if vocational classes were re-instituted.
“What happened to all the vocational classes that Northside once had? They need to bring those vocational classes back,” said Randolph. “Everybody is not college-bound or college material. But that doesn’t mean students can’t be successful.”
 “Northside has a lot of promise. North Memphis has a lot of promise,” said Davis, a 1982 graduate. “The Bible talks about iron sharpening iron. And when you take away the iron, it leaves you with rust. The rust can be cleaned. It can be made useful again.”
Davis encouraged the board to change its mind about closing Northside. “Once you’re in these seats, in these kinds of meetings, it’s not really to hear what we have to say,” he said. “Basically, it’s to tell us what you’ve already decided.”
The handful of Northside alums in the audience gasped when board chair Teresa Jones rendered the expected verdict. “Northside will close at the end of this school year,” she said. Jones had asked the board for the one-year reprieve.
“I made the recommendation because the community implored me as their representative to do so,” she said.
“It ain’t over until the fat lady sings,” said Randolph. “And I don’t hear her singing.”
The closures could save the district more than $3 million.

Taking aim at breast cancer

     Rosalyn Brown is a breast cancer survivor and encourages other women with breast cancer to join her for a “Shoot Out Cancer” fundraiser Friday, July 15, as she takes aim and fires away to eradicate that dreadful disease that ravages the bodies of so many women and causes undue stress and emotional turmoil.
The shoot out starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Global Training Academy, 2611 S. Mendenhall, and benefits The Pink House, a non-profit Brown launched to create awareness and “change the lives of individuals and their entire families battling cancer.” She is the executive director.
Rosalyn Brown
 “The aim is not just to eradicate breast cancer, but any other cancer as well,” said Brown, who was diagnosed with stage 3b HER-2 positive breast cancer on Sept. 24, 2007. “Although the focus is on breast cancer, I won’t turn away anyone.”
The turning point for Brown began after she discovered a lump under her left arm. Her lymph node was swollen and tender to the touch. “For the longest, I looked over it,” she said. “I thought it was a reaction to my deodorant or detergent I was using.”
Brown was 30 years old and recently married. “Being a newlywed, you wonder how your spouse would receive you,” she said. “I had small children, too, and filled with mixed emotions. But I had faith in myself and couldn’t let my children down.”
Rickey, Brown’s husband, couldn’t let her down either. He drove her to the emergency room for a diagnosis. “I thought I was getting a mammogram,” she said. “But they referred me to a specialist at the UT Cancer Institute on Wolf River Boulevard.”
Brown didn’t know what to expect. Her thoughts were confounded, jumbled. “They did a biopsy and sent me to get a mammogram. A couple of days later, when the results came back, it was confirmed that I had breast cancer.”    
Those jumbled thoughts turned to hysteria. “My first phone call was to my husband,” said Brown, feeling her world was spiraling out of control. Imbued with faith, she still felt a sense of dread. “When you hear cancer, you assume the worst.”
Brown’s malady is not uncommon. The American Cancer Society had estimated 231,840 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women 40 to 80-plus in 2015 and an estimated 60,290 additional cases of in situ (non-invasive) breast cancer. Estimated deaths: 40,290.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among African-American women. The survival rate for them has increased, but remains lower for white women. Although rare, men can develop breast cancer, too. There were 2,350 new cases and 440 deaths.
Brown is growing stronger in her faith. “The enemy will test your faith,” she said, adding that a strong support system of family and friends helped prepare her for the battle ahead. She also read lots of books about cancer so she could speak intelligently to her doctors.
“I had some awesome doctors,” said Brown, who had to undergo several surgeries, including a mastectomy of the left breast, reconstruction, and chemotherapy for five months. “They took my abdomen muscle and stomach tissue and created me a breast. They repositioned my belly button too.”
The doctors also performed a hysterectomy “to prevent any other forms of cancer,” said Brown, who developed a slight hernia in her belly button a few years ago. “They went back in and removed the hernia. Now I don’t have a belly button.”
Through it all, Brown survived the onslaught of breast cancer. Her husband and children – Darrius Horton, 19; Daja Brown, 13; Dawn Brown, 11; and Diamond Brown, 10 – were there when she needed them the most.

(For more information, call Rosalyn Brown at (901) 430-6391 or email

Father’s Day event calls attention to daughters

Steve and Lori Williams (left to right) and Deborah Farrow (third from left)
sponsored "Daughters Lives Matter." (Photos by Wiley Henry)
     Luther Sweeney and his wife were devastated when their first child didn’t make it into the world. They prayed and prayed for another one. Then Michelle Sweeney was born, her father’s pride and joy. A son would come later.
“We’re here on this earth for a purpose,” said Luther Sweeney, who accompanied his daughter to a pre-Father’s Day event at Two By Two House of Prayer on June 18 called “Daughters Lives Matter,” a San Bernardino, Calif.-based concept to promote better father and daughter relationships.
Founded by Terry Boykins, Daughters Lives Matter is a Street Positive collaboration comprising “fatherhood advocates, women raised with/without fathers, and girl mentoring programs,” which spawned three key principles: education attainment, victimization prevention and poverty avoidance.”
Luther Sweeney and daughter Michelle talk about the
importance of a father establishing a relationship and
providing for his daughter.
“If you don’t spend time with your child, somebody else will. I guarantee it,” said Boykins, warning parents via voicemail and on the Street Positive website of the lure of predators and other consequences of parental detachment.
“A father is supposed to meet his daughter’s needs – not when she comes to him and ask, but when she doesn’t have to ask,” said Luther Sweeney, an administrator at Southwest Tennessee Community College and instructor at Prayer House Church International.
The event was sponsored by Wings of Love, Inc., a non-profit organization founded by Deborah Farrow to motivate and strengthen today’s youth, and hosted by Steve and Lori Williams, co-executive directors of Two By Two House of Prayer.
“When I was young, I was timid and shy. The other girls got the guys, but I knew I had the intelligence,” said Farrow, who wanted her father to validate that she was pretty and that she had a voice in the world with gifts and abilities. “I didn’t get that.”
Farrow said she had a good father, “but he wasn’t always there in my life. I never got the compliments. I see how women get involved with the wrong guys, drugs and prostitution.”
Before her father died, Farrow got closer. “I learned a lot from him,” she said. “If we can get a significant amount of women to tell their story so young women can hear what they’re going through, this campaign will save a lot of lives.”
Michelle Sweeney offered her perspective on fathers and their daughters as it relates to the love of Jesus Christ. “We’re called to see every daughter as the daughter of Jesus Christ,” she explained to the small gathering. “I thank the Lord I have a father who sees me as Christ sees me.”
When fathers are present and engaged in the lives of their daughters, things will change for the better and the relationship will blossom, the 28-year-old filmmaker said. She is working on a documentary about human sex trafficking. And like her father, she considers her work a ministry.
“Everything you do is a ministry, because you’re meeting somebody’s needs,” he said. “You have to have Scripture behind everything you say or do. Other than that, it’s an opinion.”
“It’s an event to promote the positive influence that dads can have on their daughters’ lives from a biblical perspective,” said Steve Williams. “We hope it’s a seed event for a more expanded gathering for dads and daughters.”

Sickle cell patient sponsors concert to benefit St. Jude

Jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum presents Christen Dukes a Certificate of Special
Congressional Recognition for community from the office of 9th Congressional
District Cong. Steve Cohen. (Photo by Wiley Henry)
     The small, intimate crowd was flabbergasted when they noticed one of the world’s greatest jazz saxophonists sitting among them. Christen Dukes, a trombonist, was just as surprised to see Kirk Whalum, the Grammy Award-winning saxophonist and recording artist.
Whalum and his wife, Joyce, made a personal appearance on Saturday, Jan. 18, to support Dukes’ benefit concert and sickle cell awareness program and to stand in the gap for 9th Congressional District Cong. Steve Cohen, who cited the 20-year-old for his musical talent and his philanthropic support of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Dukes stood next to Whalum in the pulpit of New Growth in Christ Christian Center at 7550 East Shelby Dr. before the concert began. Dukes had been a patient at the children’s hospital most of his life. He suffers from sickle cell anemia.
Christen Dukes (Courtesy of the
Soulsville Foundation)
Whalum joked that he’d never received a congressional citation. Already familiar with the saxophonist’s impressive music pedigree, Dukes smiled broadly. His smile brightened when Whalum referred to him as his “little brother.”
Whalum is the chief creative officer of the Stax Music Academy and Stax Museum of American Soul, which the non-profit Soulsville Foundation, the parent organization, operates. Dukes is a former student at the music academy, which serves at-risk youth.
The Saturday evening concert was one of two events that Dukes organized to benefit St. Jude. The other was a drum clinic at New Growth on Friday, June 17, featuring Christopher Bounds II, a.k.a. Chris Pat, a premier percussion instructor at the music academy, and David Pruitt, a music academy graduate.
Both Bounds, 28, and Pruitt, 20, unleashed a flurry of rhythmic beats and demonstrated impeccable skills to drum up support for St. Jude. Pruitt called Bounds his mentor. Each drummer explained their drum styles and what compelled them to play a particular song.
“I got the idea to do a drum clinic when I started planning this year’s benefit concert. I got the idea to make it a two-day event and feature great drummers,” said Dukes, noting that he wanted to do something different for his third benefit concert.
The Stax Alumni Band, of which Dukes is a member, kicked off the concert with an old-school tune and flavor reminiscent of the glory days when the legendary Stax Records ruled the charts. Dukes wailed away on his trombone, meshing notes with other horns and song stylists fronting the band.
Also featured in concert were JCKSN Ave., Paul McKinney, Charles Pender II, Tracey Curry-Dell, and Angelica Eboni Angel. The music reverberated in the sanctuary one act after another.
 “This is pretty much a way to give back to St. Jude, because they do so much with kids who have sickle cell,” said Dukes, who graduated from the music academy in 2014 and now attends Visible Music College in Downtown Memphis.
Katherine Williams, Dukes’ mother, noted her son’s commitment to St. Jude. What he’s trying to do, she said, “is educate people about sickle cell and hopefully save someone’s life. That’s one of the reasons why he gives to St. Jude – because they made a difference in his life.”
Dukes was treated at St. Jude from birth until he turned 18. Now he’s receiving treatment at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare’s Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center.
“He goes there for his check-ups,” said Williams. “Some of his doctors who were at St. Jude are at the Center.”
Dukes and his mother are already planning next year’s benefit concert. “Next year, we’re going to have sickle cell screenings on site to determine who has the sickle cell trait,” she said.

Activist goes to Washington for solutions to rebuild Frayser

The Rev. Charlie Caswell and activist Christine Grandberry find common ground
in a discussion about saving the community. (Photo by Wiley Henry)
     The Rev. Charlie Caswell Jr. loves his community and advocates to restore the splendor that was diminished over the years by rampant foreclosures, a dilapidated housing stock, failing schools, wanton violence, insufficient business investments, blight, and poverty.
Frayser was once a thriving community of the working class. Now the working poor comprises as many of the 50,000 residents living in one of the highest crime-ridden areas in the city of Memphis. Caswell, however, is not deterred by such dour statistics. Instead, he’s determined to rectify the problem.
He is the senior pastor of Union Grove Institutional Baptist Church in Frayser and regarded as its quintessential community leader who is motivated by the partnerships and collaborations he’s forged and nurtured to bring an end to Frayser’s economic drought and grim outlook. 
His love affair with the community and never-say-die attitude prompted a move by members of the Frayser Neighborhood Council (FNC), of which he is a member, to tap him to represent Frayser in Washington D.C. and to discuss the Frayser 2020 Plan, the framework of a revitalization effort.
Caswell is the FNC’s go-to activist whose activism is spreading beyond the boundaries of Memphis. He’d presented the group a proposal called “Unity in the Community,” and it was a given that Caswell would be the flag-bearer and catalyst for change in Frayser.
The proposal, said Caswell, “basically addresses getting more people involved through training Frayer’s ambassadors to work in the community, as well as becoming block captains and working with the Neighborhood Watch coordinators in their community.” 
On June 8-10, Caswell and a contingent of Memphis activists and community leaders trekked to the nation’s capitol to take part in the Obama Administration’s Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative (NRI), “a bold new place-based approach to help neighborhoods in distress transform themselves into neighborhoods of opportunity.”
Frayser was one of eight communities in five cities chosen for the NRI’s Building Neighborhood Capacity Program (BNCP), a hands-on, technical assistance initiative. This was Caswell’s second trip to Washington. He was in the nation’s capitol earlier during the year to address and seek solutions for Frayser’s wide-spread problems. The BNCP program, he said, targets three communities in the Memphis area – Frayser, Binghampton and Soulsville.
“It entails helping residents to identify assets that are available to them in the community and helping to build upon those assets, service providers, and other partners in the community using basically the assets that they have in helping to make them better to serve the community better,” said Caswell.
The Memphis contingent worked with top officials from the White House-led interagency collaborative that included the departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Education (ED), Justice (DOJ), Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Treasury in support of local solutions to revitalize and transform neighborhoods. Meetings were held at The Department of Justice.
What we went back to Washington to tell them what the ‘7 P’s’ are about – Pastors, Politicians, Parents, Police, Principals, Proprietors and Partners – and how it’s going to help serve the residents in our community,” said Caswell, author and founder of the 3V Leader program, which focuses on creating a collaborative of parents, children and stakeholders in the community.
“In this work, it helps me to understand…we can do more together than separate. So I think the big picture for us as a community is for those who don’t just look at the dollar amount, but the human capital of us unifying, coming together and sharing the resources that we have and the knowledge that we have,” he said.
“As a leader in the community, that’s been my charge.”

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Poetry to express the world through TV

More than a dozen children were inquisitive and wanted to learn more from Tiffany
Mishe about writing poetry and spoken word art during a writing workshop at the
Arts-A-FIRE Summer Camp on June 10. (Photo by Wiley Henry)
     Poetry doesn’t have to rhyme. It doesn’t have to make sense. That’s what spoken word artist Tiffany Mishé explained to more than a dozen children attending the Arts-A-FIRE Summer Camp at the Memphis Black Arts Alliance (MBAA) FireHouse Community Arts Center on Friday, June 10.
Under the heading “Tell-Lie-Vision,” Mishé scribbled three columns of words on a wall-sized mirror that reflected the title of her writing workshop and encouraged the children of various ages and grade levels to cobble together an original poem using words like killing, nasty, work, drugs, program, power, dysfunction.
“Don’t be afraid – freestyle. You can repeat lines too,” said Mishé, encouraging the young novices to be creative and reflective. Heeding her instructions, they picked up their writing utensils and moved like ants in their pants to construct a few stanzas from the batch of words to kindled their imagination.
After the Tell-Lie-Vision writing workshop was over, Tiffany
Mishe and her students pose for posterity, showing off the
poetry they created. (Photo by Wiley Henry)
When they finished cobbling together the words associated with “Tell-Lie-Vision,” Samaiya Riley, a 10th-grader attending Douglass High School this fall, stood up to recite her poem. The 15-year-old then let it rip.
“When I turn on the Tell-Lie-Vision, I see Black girls working/ I see nasty/ I see killing when I turn off the Tell-Lie-Vision/ It’s still going.
“It’s like I never turned it off/ It’s like no stop button/ No going back.
“I turn the Tell-Lie-Vision back on/ Then I stop and think what is the point/ I see it everyday in life.”
Rose Washington, 8, will be passing to the 3rd grade in the fall at Memphis Scholars Academy Caldwell Guthrie. She sings and debuted once on TV. Without prodding from Mishé, she faced the group and, unabashedly, took a crack at it.
“Turn on the Tell-Lie-Vision/ And when I turn on the Tell-Lie-Vision I see work/ I see a Black girl turn-up and have drugs/ When I turn on the Tell-Lie-Vision, I seem so happy/ I feel program in my heart.”
“The technique is called pre-writing. In order to have strong writing, you have to have pre-writing,” said Mishé, founder of Speak Poetry Memphis and the nationwide 4th place winner of the 2012 Community Action Project for social benevolence.
 Tell-Lie-Vision, she said, was her way of introducing the children to spoken word art. It also was the title of a spoken word piece she wrote when she was a troubled 17-year-old student at Overton High School. She eventually graduated in 2006.
“It talked about the media and how it affected me,” said Mishé, who found it difficult to cope in high school when her life was spiraling out of control. “The [Tell-Lie-Vision] workshop is one of my signature workshops. I wanted to let them know that.”  
Mishé is a seasoned scribe who teaches spoken word poetry to at-risk youth and those troubled by their circumstances. She feels their pain and has garnered local and national attention for her artistic endeavors and community projects.
Sharp, quick-witted, expressive, Mishé has an affinity for teaching the art of spoken word. The children adored her and enlivened the discussion by asking questions and being interactive. They were engaged and projected to show command of the language. For some, the words flowed. Others stammered.
Mishé insisted that 12-year-old Jaylin Jefferson – an 8th-grader on his way to Appling Middle School in the fall – deliver his poem with vigor and intensity. She was trying to get him to bring every word to life. He eventually made her smile.
When the “Tell-Lie-Vision” writing workshop was over, Jaylin expressed gratitude. “I learned how to do poetry better than I could,” he said. “It’s one of my favorites.”
Jecaryous Lang, 10, was impressed as well. The 5th grader at Ellendale Elementary School in Bartlett, discovered that rap is poetry and poetry is rap. His words reflected his appreciation for Mishé and her acumen for teaching.
“I learned that you could change a rap song into a poem. When you do that, you have to speak loudly,” said Jecaryous, noting that fear sometimes gets the best of people who have to stand up in front of people. Nevertheless, he managed to survive Mishé’s first writing workshop at Arts-A-FIRE Summer Camp.

(For more information about spoken word art and therapy, contact Tiffany Mishé at or at

Picnic, Politics and Predictions

Sidney Chism hangs out at the both of Joe Jenkins (left), who is running for
Chancery Court Judge in the county general election on Aug. 4. (Photo by Wiley Henry)
     Democratic presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton will beat the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump to win the White House in November. That’s the prediction that former Shelby County commissioner Sidney Chism made on Saturday, June 11, during a sun-baked afternoon at his 16th annual community picnic on Horn Lake Road.
 Chism was forthright, as well as right, when he predicted that former city councilman Jim Strickland, a longtime friend and ally, would wrest the seat from A C Wharton Jr. to win the Memphis mayoral race on Oct. 8 before the final votes were tallied.
Chism is not in the business of predicting elections; however, since the federal and state primaries and county general elections are coming up on Aug. 4, predicting the outcome of an election may be Chism’s personal opinion rather than an exact science.
He said Trump’s “disruptive” nature, however, is a telltale sign that President Obama’s former Secretary of State would likely succeed him as the next commander in chief if African Americans in Shelby County in particular and a groundswell of Democrats all together make their way to the polls and vote.
“We can’t stand for Donald Trump to be elected. If we stay at home, that’s what’s going to happen,” said Chism, former chairman of the Shelby County Democratic Party (SCDP) whose influence has been felt in local elections in the past.
A solid turnout in West Tennessee, he said, would give Clinton a much-needed catapult in the race against Trump. Although the rest of Tennessee is coated GOP red, the state’s western voting bloc generally favors the Democratic presidential nominee – Obama in 2012 and 2008 and Secretary of State John Kerry in 2004.
Chism said the party’s get-out-the-vote for Clinton and the slate of African American candidates running for local offices in Shelby County depend on the unwavering leadership and conviction of new party chair Michael Pope steering the local party forward.
“He can’t go in as a weakling. If he runs it the right way and don’t take no stuff, the party will grow,” said Chism, noting that the only countywide seats occupied by African Americans are Shelby County Assessor of Property Cheyenne Johnson and General Sessions Court Clerk Edward L. Stanton Jr., who is running for re-election.
“We don’t run nothing,” said Chism. “It doesn’t make sense that we’re 80 percent of this population and we don’t run anything. If we create a movement, we will be able to turn this thing around.” The Republicans, he added, “don’t want a little bit, they want it all.”
The party, however, is grappling with discord and disarray. Party chairwoman Randa Spears resigned in April and vice chairwoman Deidre Malone a month earlier. A year earlier, party chairman Bryan Carson resigned during an internal investigation into the party’s finances.
“The party has had difficulties for the last 15 to 20 years,” said Chism, blaming much of the brouhaha and internal conflict on longtime party loyalist and flag-bearer Dell Gill, a member of the executive committee.
“The party is never going to change until we get rid of Dell Gill,” Chism said.
The back and forth feud between the two Democrats is spilling over into the public arena. Gill said whatever is happening with the party has nothing to do with him, except that there’s a faction supporting him a faction supporting Chism.
“I am the most senior Democrat of the Shelby County Democratic Party,” said Gill, surmising that Chism “has no real influence or strength in the party. If I have anything to do with it, I would have him de-bon a fide as a Democrat.”
The ire that he feels for Chism is based on the Democrat crossing party lines in 2010 to endorse Republican William “Bill” Odom for sheriff over Democratic nominee Bennie L. Cobb, a retired caption with the sheriff department.
Chism is Odom’s community relations specialist.
“If Dell Gill doesn’t like what the party is doing, he needs to start his own party,” said Chism. “The party has got to take a stand against Dell Gill and leave the personal stuff at home.”
Gill did not attend the picnic and forbade the party to set up a booth. The park, however, was replete with political signs in myriad colors contrasted against green treetops. Under sparse shading, politicians hawked election material and asked for votes.
The picnic has become a meeting place for politicians. “I started the picnic for kids,” said Chism. “Very few kids get out of the neighborhood.”

Andreé Rachard Hunt makes the leap to owning his own barbershop

Turning Heads Premiere Barbershop is a family affair.  (Photo by Wiley Henry)
     When Andreé Rachard Hunt reflected on his botched haircut as a child, courtesy of his father, he flashed a smile, and then pointed to a photo of himself – with younger brother Jeremy Hunt and sister Quaneshia Hunt Jones – as evidence. That haircut motivated him to start trimming hair professionally.       
“It was a train wreck when he cut our hair. So I practiced on Jeremy and friends – even on my father – and on people in the military,” said Hunt, 36, who spent four years in the Navy and barbered 12 years before making the leap to owning his own barbershop in the Bartlett community.
Hunt shared the story of his “journey” with family, friends and patrons who showed up by the dozens on June 5 to support him at the grand opening of Turning Heads Premiere Barbershop at 2733 Bartlett Blvd. Six barber chairs await an expected influx.
“Five other people will be working,” said Hunt, a licensed barber who started trimming hair at the age of 15. And he never looked back. “We got room to expand, but we won’t think about that now.”
Andree Rachard Hunt shows his supporters at the grand
opening of Turning Heads Premiere Barbershop an earlier photo
of himself with his brother and sister sporting a haircut that he
called a "train wreck." (Photo by Wiley Henry)
What Hunt did think about was paying the first month’s rent and expanding his clientele. But those thoughts didn’t overshadow the preacher who blessed his business and the guests who encouraged his success.
“Bless Turning Heads,” the Rev. Roosevelt Jackson Jr. prayed. “Let no harm come against it.”
 An uncle, Charles Johnson, who lives in Oxford, Miss., said he would travel the distance to Memphis to get a haircut. “I got to support my nephew,” he said.
Hunt expressed his love for family and acknowledged their tight bond. “I’m elated to have family support,” he said. “My mom, dad, sister and brother support me on this move. I feel bonded and blessed. I’m a humble guy. But I’m even more humble that my family is supporting me.”
“His goal was to own his own barbershop. This was his goal before he went to the Navy and before he went to barber school,” said Gloria Hunt, who scurried to make sure the ambience and the décor were right for the grand opening and that they pleasing to her son before the first guest arrived.
“The family has supported him tremendously,” said Gloria Hunt, acknowledging the support of her daughter, Quaneshia Hunt Jones, 38; Jeremy Hunt, 33; and her ex-husband, James Hunt, who, she pointed out, “has always been active in Andreé’s life.”
James Hunt sauntered throughout the evening, taking in the fanfare and the attention that was heaped upon his son. Nevertheless, he was upbeat and full of vigor when he talked about his son’s foray into the world of business.
“This was a dream of his. It’s a dream come true. I am totally behind him,” said James Hunt, adding that it was a “long haul” to bring the barbershop to fruition. “We try to stick together. It’s totally his business, but I’m here if he needs help.”
Prior to launching his own business, Hunt barbered at A Better Image Beauty & Barbershop on Dexter Road in Cordova for 10 years. Now he’s his own boss. “Some of his clients from the Navy Base followed him to A Better Image…and now they’re following him here,” said Gloria Hunt.
“It’s my first business and I look forward to it,” said Hunt, who married the former Jasmine Benson in March of 2015. They are the parents of three children: Brianna, 9; Aniyah, 8; and Jade, 18 months.
“Barbering is a real career. You can make a lot of money if you do it right,” said Hunt. “It hasn’t hit me yet. But it will when I pay the first month’s rent.”