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Stories about kids, guns and how to stop the violence. Precious Lives, created by 371 Productions, is a 2-year, 100-part weekly radio series about gun violence and young people in the Milwaukee area. The series applies a public health lens to each story to help listeners understand the full scope of the problem: who are the victims and the shooters; how are the weapons obtained; and what can we change about the environment that contributes to violence in Milwaukee?

#029 Precious Lives: Can a Haircut & Conversation Help Prevent Youth Violence?

Maddy Power
Safe & Sound’s Barbershop Mondays provides free haircuts every Monday for youth and men. In exchange, attendees are added to a call list for community service.";

Last week, Precious Lives traveled to Minneapolis to learn about the City’s Blueprint for Action to Prevent Youth Violence.

You might remember the former Minneapolis mayor RT Rybak, “Almost all the good work in youth violence prevention falls into four categories...” One: connect every young person with a trusted adult. Two: intervene at first sign of “at risk” behavior. Three: rejuvenate kids, don’t throw them away. And four: attack the culture of violence.

This work happens in Milwaukee every day. A new effort speaks to all four violence prevention goals. And it centers around a haircut.

At the Holton Youth Center, a group of kids and adults crowd into a room, typically used for arts and crafts. But today it’s a pop­up barbershop. Four barber chairs, and four real barbers.

"I like doing it man! I like... it because I see myself in a lot of young people, I see potential in a lot of young people, a lot of people don’t have that extra somebody or somebodies to help them achieve who they want be," Damien Smith says. He's been mentoring young people for most of his career.

Smith works for Safe and Sound. And on Barbershop Mondays, he recreates the barbershop atmosphere in places where young people hangout, like youth centers. The premise is simple - show up, get a haircut and talk. It’s an intergenerational conversation.

When asked what is needed to prevent youth violence, Smith says more mentors.

"Everybody says they want to do something. 'Aww man... what we got to do is we got to grab these people man. Help fix our community we got to mend these issues. You know, what do we do?' And this is a way to do it," he says.

Barbershop Mondays will continue throughout the summer. Barbers donate time and refreshments. Find more information at PreciousLiveProject.org.

Corresponding Content:

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - Makeshift barbershops offer free haircuts, positive connections

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