When Rahaman Kilpatrick left Philadelphia in 1992, he took the city’s mantra of brotherly love right along with him. The self-taught barber offers free haircuts to men with upcoming job interviews and students with steadily improving grades.
Kilpatrick, who now resides in Maryland, mentors a community men’s group in Washington, D.C., as well as a group of teens and young men ― consisting of 13- to 21-year-olds ― at the nonprofit organization Horton’s Kids. Luckily for these mentees, Kilpatrick, who’s been cutting hair for almost 30 years, understands the fundamentals of feeling good, which is why he’s offering free cuts.
“I started giving free haircuts for any teen who could come up one letter grade or who could bring in a test where they got a C or better,” Kilpatrick, a Morgan State University alumnus, said in an email to HuffPost on Wednesday. “People may not have the money to consistently get haircuts or any at all.”
“Teens are always dealing with self-esteem [issues]. Having a fresh haircut for school, prom, graduation, etc., makes them feel so much better about themselves,” he continued.
These cuts also give Kilpatrick some more one-on-one time to pick the young men’s brains and ensure they’re not out here cuttin’ up.
“I quickly realized that haircuts are like a truth serum and having them in the chair for 20 minutes gave me the opportunity to talk to them about everything from how to treat women and the importance of good grades to safe sex and making better day-to-day decisions,” he said.
But Kilpatrick knows it’s not just the young folks who want to look crisp ― which is why he expanded his barber services to those in the men’s group he operates.
“I find that one of the biggest struggles the men have is finding employment, so I started teaching them how to write [and] improve their resumes [and] practicing interviewing skills,” Kilpatrick said. “I started giving free haircuts if they have a job interview. Sometimes during the meetings, I could sense if one of the men was feeling down, so I would offer a haircut to make him feel better about himself.”
Putting on a shirt and tie with a fresh haircut gives them the confidence they need to go in and ace the interview."
Kilpatrick wants to spread the community love that he regularly practices with the hashtag #TheGiveBack, which he hopes will persuade others to also walk a philanthropic path.
“I would love more people to come out and volunteer in not only my community, but in communities like the one I serve in every city,” he said.
Kilpatrick’s community does need more do-gooders like himself to spread the love. The 43-year-old has fibromyalgia, a physical disorder that causes widespread muscle pain and tenderness, and working on his feet is not ideal.
“I’m the only person cutting everybody in the neighborhood’s hair, which is taxing on my body,” he said.
Despite this, Kilpatrick remains committed to serving his community until someone else is ready to pick up the benevolent barber’s baton.
“I give free haircuts to motivate people, to help them to want more and work harder at doing better,” he said. “Whether it’s leading a men’s group or a rap session with my teens, I always want them to leave feeling motivated, like they can take over the world.”