Federal and state prisons held nearly a half million Black people, entering 2018. Several studies indicate that over half who get out of prison go back: the inability to find work is the biggest reason. A celebrity barber is doing something bold, in an attempt to help incarcerated men and women survive. Larry Roberts, Jr. is teaching prisoners the barber trade behind bars and he’s doing it all out of his own pocket. This initiative is bold, daring and ultimately, the only shot many will get at rebuilding their lives.
Larry has personally serviced a number of celebrities as a barber. From Judge Mathis to Mekhi Phifer, his past clients read like a Who’s Who of Black folks. His most important clients, however, are called “inmates.” The journey from barber to savior has been a long one. Larry started cutting hair at age 13. He offered $3 cuts to his friends with the understanding that if he messed up, he’d pay them $3. Larry never had to pay up. He opened Larry’s Barber College (LBC) in 2004 but it was in 2010 that the school made history. LBC became the first to open inside Cook County Department of Corrections. In fact, LBC became the first private barber school to ever operate inside of a penal institution, according to Roberts.
LBC has been operating inside of Cook County Department of Corrections for 10 years. LBC now operates two more schools in state juvenile detention centers, as well. According to Roberts, over a 10 year period, he has personally put 150 to 200 men and women through the program. Those who finish and walk across the stage are fully licensed as barbers and free to pursue their trade. Every success story is costly, too. Tuition for each student runs about $15,000 and there are supplies, of course. Scholarships and books, clippers and combs, all of it has come out of Larry’s pocket — he’s never received a dime of funding from the state. It’s tough but Larry persists because his people need him and he simply can’t turn his back on good people.
Prisons and jails are full of good people. Some landed there because their mom was strung out and to support their younger siblings, they sold drugs. Others made mistakes when they were young and their record followed them, making it impossible to secure stable employment. These are the stories, the individuals, that Larry is well acquainted with. Many of these young men and women have a strong desire to work but no one will take them on and so Larry does. He teaches them a skill so that they can be self sufficient and perhaps launch their own business. They can’t survive selling water or doughnuts on the street and so Larry is doing all that he can to empower them. We Buy Black doesn’t normally do this but…click here if you’d like to donate to what this brother is doing.
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