For the people in Shaun “Lucky” Corbett’s neighborhood, his barbershop is the pinnacle of the community. The cornerstone. The place where people go to catch up on life, spread news- both good and bad, and to come together.
Shaun has owned his shop since 2010 and his unique position in his community as a sounding board as well as a trusted source has allowed him to do incredible work to bridge the gap between local law enforcement and the community that he loves.
Following the Michael Brown incident in 2014, Shaun knew he had to do something.
With an 18 year old son of his own, Shaun began to think about the two-way lack of understanding between his community and local law enforcement. He realized that he didn’t know what to teach his son about how to act if he ever got pulled over or had to interact with a police officer because he himself did not know. And instead of continuing the cycle of miscommunication that leads to misfortunate situations, and prompted by his wife’s questions- “what are you going to do about it?,” Shaun founded Cops & Barbers.
Cops & Barbers’ mission is to bridge the gap between the Police and the community they serve. This nonprofit organization establishes meaningful relationships, making it easier to have much needed dialogue that is vital for sustainable community growth. To date, Cops & Barbers has grown from just an idea, to an initiative that gained national and local attention, to now a thriving foundation.
It all started by Shaun reaching out to the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department. Local CMPD homicide detective, and current 2018 Sheriff Elect, Garry McFadden was the first person Shaun met with on this journey. After explaining his idea for Cops & Barbers, McFadden only had one question- “what do you need from me?” He was on board.
The first step was to get people together in one room and allow everyone to voice their opinions, however, without realizing it, Shaun had set the first interest meeting for a Super Bowl Sunday, and was worried no one would show up. When more than 250 people arrived to get in on the conversation, Shaun says “We didn’t know what we had, but we knew we had something.”
What he did know was that people were ready to take action now.
Shaun and Garry went to every rec center they could find- in every neighborhood- and set up conversations and interest meeting- they covered the city. And soon, this initiative evolved into a bigger conversations about deep seeded issues of understanding one another. It became much bigger than either of them imagined and began to transform Cops & Barbers into what it is today.
Former United States Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, came to Charlotte during Barack Obama’s presidency, and caught wind of what Shaun was doing. He heard about Cops & Barbers and went back and told President Obama, who was at the time creating the President’s Task Force 21st Century Policing and took interest in the work Shaun was doing in Charlotte. Obama even mentioned Cops & Barbers in one of his State of the Union Addresses as someone who’s lead people should be following, and had Shaun out to D.C. on two separate occasions to share his mission. On one of his trips to D.C., Shaun spoke at the National Police Chief Initiative. He says that this exposure from President Obama allowed him to travel the country and have these conversations and do more for his own city than he could have imagined.
Shaun says, in a way, they were the first ones to extend the olive branch, and show the community that the police do not have to be seen as the enemy. That they do not have to resort to the common practice of just staying out of one another’s way and, instead, they could be seen as peers- even as friends. Shaun believes that if both sides could just see one another as human beings, tragedies such as the deaths of Michael Brown and Keith Lamont Scott could be avoided.
When asked about where he finds the passion to take on such an important and daunting mission, Shaun says he grew up not having much, so when he was in a position to help people, it was a no-brainer. He says “When much is given, much is required. Why wouldn’t I take care of the community? These are the people who take care of us.”
Currently, The Cops & Barbers has a scholarship program that is open to young men and women, ages 16-25, that have an interest in the barbering profession but lack the financial resources necessary to attend school. The program encourages the participants to continue their education while teaching them to be exceptional barbers.
Through the program, the barber student is paired with a Police Cadet who is in a similar position as they are both on the path to their desired career but are not yet fully established. This pairing allows both the barbers and the cadets to bond over their common ground, see one another as a peer, and grow together- fulfilling the mission of the Cops & Barbers Initiative.
And Shaun doesn’t leave the participants who come through the program to fend for themselves after they have graduated, he knows that there is more work to be done and how important it is to be a constant presence in the lives of the kids that he has granted scholarships to. After they graduate, the barbers work at one of his shop locations and he places them in management program that provides them with the skills they will need to one day own their own business. Shaun knows how important that follow through can be and that remaining a trusted ally and resource for these young barbers is important to be sure they continue on the right path.
So what is next for Cops & Barbers? The sky's the limit.
Shaun says he would love to have his own physical location one day for a Cops & Barbers Academy, as of now their program moves around to different host locations and he hopes to one day have a spot dedicated to this important mission.
It takes $8,000 to send one aspiring barber to school at No Grease Barber School. If you are inspired to help further Cops & Barbers’ mission, help provide more young barbers with a scholarship opportunity by donating here.
Want to know more about Cops & Barbers or Shaun himself? Check out the video below.