Makeup, hair braiding, lineups and haircuts. The familiar barbershop and hair salon atmosphere was transported Wednesday to YouthLink, a drop-in center for homeless youth in the Twin Cities.
With the help of volunteer stylists, barbers and makeup artists, young people struggling with homelessness were given the chance to look and feel good during the Minneapolis nonprofit's third Kings and Queens Day, held in conjunction with Black History Month.
Denairo Dickerson got his hair cornrowed by a stylist in the basement of YouthLink and then headed upstairs to the barbershop for a lineup. Dickerson, 25, said he has experienced homelessness off and on for about 10 years. After his makeover, Dickerson felt rejuvenated.
"It's really great to get your hair done. I feel like hair shows a sign of strength and growth," said Dickerson. "I love hair. It shows a uniqueness about yourself."
Thomas Collins, YouthLink community coordinator and opportunity navigator, said that 75% of the young people they serve are Black and brown, making it crucial to celebrate Black History Month. The drop-in center hosted a Malcom X brunch earlier this month and will showcase art during an event on Friday. Looking good can help uplift these young people, he said.
"Appearance plays a lot into people's self-esteem, their self-worth. They don't get too many chances to go to a barbershop or afford having their makeup did," Collins said.
The young people getting pampered are also getting inspired, said Collins. They can see themselves in the stylists, barbers and makeup artists, all people of color. The young men got to experience the barbershop atmosphere that builds community for many Black men, said Collins.
"Everybody that's here right now, they really care about these youth and they want to see these babies smile, because they don't get to smile too often," Collins said.
Packs of braiding hair covered two long tables in the basement where several stylists were doing hair and makeup. Blush, eye shadow and soft protective sleeping caps were available for participants to take with them.
Jamesia Loggins, owner of Dyamonnamic, a salon in uptown Minneapolis, was one of the volunteers doing a variety of braided styles on young people. Loggins, who specializes in weaves and natural hair care, was thrilled to participate because all the slots for stylists were filled last year.
"I like to make people feel good about themselves. I like to bring the inner beauty out," Loggins said.
Dickerson, who is studying for his GED, said YouthLink has been there for him through his darkest moments.
"I'm happy. First time I've actually been happy for a little bit," he said. "Today is just a good day."
Zoë Jackson covers young and new voters at the Star Tribune through the Report for America program, supported by the Minneapolis Foundation. 612-673-7112 Twitter: @zoemjack