May 2021: The Urban Barber Association (TUBA)

For those of you who are familiar with tiny kitchen bakeshop and its beginnings, this may be old news, but as there are some new faces at the table, I thought revisiting the TKB story was worthwhile and appropriate as I introduce the next featured organization.

While TKB officially opened for business in October 2020, the idea behind it was born much earlier than that—just about one year ago, to be exact. It was one afternoon, when I had my face in my phone, relentlessly scrolling through news story after news story of the world’s ugliness, that I stumbled upon the Bakers Against Racism project. What started as an idea of a couple of bakers evolved into a nationwide (and later worldwide) project that joined millions of home and professional bakers together to raise money for various causes that supported equality in their individual communities. Until that moment, I did not know what I could do, if anything, to try to make the world a better place. The ugliness felt too great for my hands to make an impact on. However, the Bakers Against Racism project was a warm reminder of the power in my hands—the power to create something by those hands, to share my talents, and to give an act of love to my friends, family, and strangers alike.  That summer, you helped me raise $1600 for three different organizations, and since its official opening, TKB and its loyal cookie lovers have raised over $2000.

Is that enough to fix the world’s problems? Absolutely not. But it is something. And something, my friends, is always better than nothing. And something only comes if you start somewhere.

One of the things I love about this month’s featured organization, The Urban Barber Association (TUBA), is that it started somewhat similarly to how TKB started—with a single person reflecting on what he had, in that moment, to contribute and then giving that contribution the time, energy and space to grow. Waverly Willis, the man behind the roots of TUBA, started by using time with his clients in Urban Kutz barbershop to discuss important issues like health and wellness, and eventually connecting his clients with healthcare providers, education and screening tools—right from the barber’s chair. (How awesome is that?) In using his talents as a tool to increase awareness, education, and access, he was able to provide important connections and resources to individuals who may not have otherwise stumbled upon them.

Since those barber chair sessions, TUBA has grown into a successful non-profit here in the Cleveland area, which aims to “empower the community through culturally specific education and community based programs that will increase public awareness about the disparities that effect the underserved”—programs like “I Read, I Lead,” which provides reading development curriculum for adults and children; “C.A.R.E. Kutz,” which provides haircuts for kids ages 5-17 and connects them with positive role models to nurture confidence, appearance, respect, and esteem; “Cans of Care,” which collects canned food and household items for the community in partnership with the Cleveland Food Bank; and “S.W.A.G,” which stands for “Saving Women and Gents,” and promotes health awareness and access to education on risk factors and healthy lifestyle choices, HIV testing and core health screens. TUBA is proof that you can turn something like a haircut into an avenue toward change—and that is true for so many of the talents and skills we each possess.

This month, as we support TUBA and its initiatives, I would encourage you to take a moment to visit the TUBA website and social media pages to learn more about their current projects, order some cookies to help raise money for these projects, and then take a moment to sit down with yourself and think about what talent or skill you might be overlooking in yourself. Pick up the trash in the park, say hello to strangers, volunteer, initiate that difficult conversation with a friend or family member when you see an opportunity to fight for what is right. Our community will not get better if we wait for someone else to fix it. We have to start somewhere—with haircuts, with cookies, with whatever it is we each have to offer—and we all, I promise you, have something to offer.

UPDATE: Together, we raised $493.78 for The Urban Barber Association! Thank you for your big heart, your sweet tooth, and your generosity toward this very special organization. Please continue to show TUBA some love!

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