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Nashville Street Barbers bring fresh cuts and dignity

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Posted at 5:51 PM, Jun 02, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-03 06:35:19-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — After years behind the shears, Abishai Collingsworth is right where he wants to be on a Monday afternoon — outside on Legislative Plaza giving one haircut after another.

For four years now, the haircuts have been offered for free, as he and the rest of the Nashville Street Barbers work to cut out a word that he says all too often lingers around this town.

"We wanted to kind of kill that term, grouping a bunch of people in the same group just labeling them," Collingsworth said.

That word: homeless.

The homeless — not a faceless, nameless, anonymous catchall — but real people with real stories.

"Everyone out here has a different story, background and it was important to us to create that individuality behind who they are not just, the demographic they belong to," Collingsworth said.

A simple act that some may take for granted, Collingsworth says, can unlock previously locked doors.

"I think a haircut is a really powerful thing. It not only makes people feel empowered and look at themselves differently, but it also helps other people look differently at them too, I think that's a stigma as well," Collingsworth said.

"I feel like great, I feel like dancing around doing my little dance around here," said I.Q. Harris, laughing while getting a haircut.

While the barbers don't charge for their services, Collingsworth says it's often the barbers who owe their customers.

"The first few times I came out here, I thought I had something to give to someone else," Collingsworth said. "Ever since I started coming, I realized that I'm the one in need of a perspective change."

"To hear them say, 'Man, I don't have a lot but I'm blessed, any day above ground is a blessing,' to me that's really powerful to my soul and I crave that," Collingsworth said.

Not a bad lesson from the barber buzzing through assumptions right in the heart of Nashville.