D.c. Barber Spruces Up Clients, Strives To Help Community (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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D.C. Barber Spruces Up Clients, Strives To Help Community

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
Our last story today is about a guy who knows a thing or two about makeovers. His name is John Campbell, and he's been a barber in the Benning Road area of southeast Washington for more than 40 years. Jocelyn Frank recently spent a Saturday afternoon with Campbell at his shop.

MS. JOCELYN FRANK

00:00:21
Welcome to John Campbell's barbershop. Around here, Campbell runs the show.

MR. JOHN CAMPBELL

00:00:25
How you doing, Miss DeeDee? Yes, sir, well come on. Come on, I got you.

FRANK

00:00:29
Campbell's in his 60s, with dark, short, cropped hair, and a thick, horseshoe shaped goatee. He wears round glasses, and a white lab coat, whenever he has scissors or electric clippers in his hands, which is nearly all the time. At Campbell's Barbershop, it isn't just about the haircuts, shapeups, or close shaves. This is a base of operations, from which John Campbell strives to help the whole community with a makeover.

CAMPBELL

00:00:54
We interconnect with each other. That's what the barbershop is, it's a place of knowledge and information where we all grow together, we all help each other.

MR. MARIO MURPHY

00:01:06
You need some clothes, he'll help you out with some clothes, you need some shoes, he'll help you out with some shoes. He can point you right in the right direction.

FRANK

00:01:12
Mario Murphy grew up in the neighborhood. As a young man, he wasn't sure which path to follow in life. Campbell spent some time on him, and now Mario, a boxer, spends his nights in the ring, and cuts hair during the days at Campbell's shop.

MURPHY

00:01:27
It weren't for this barbershop, I'd be outside somewhere doing something I wasn't supposed to do.

FRANK

00:01:32
From John Campbell's earliest days as a little boy growing up on the Arthur Capper neighborhood of southeast D.C., he was excited about barbershops. About the time he turned 7, his dad gave him a pair of clippers of his own.

CAMPBELL

00:01:45
I started cutting all my sister's doll babies' hair. She was hurt. I told her, I said, don't worry about it, it's gonna grow back, which it never did.

FRANK

00:01:57
Campbell's mischievous plans grew when, as a kid, he took a job sweeping the floors of a local barbershop.

CAMPBELL

00:02:03
They had a lot of activities going on. They sold liquor, they wrote numbers, they gambled in the back. There was a lot of money up there. And I said, gee, if I can go ahead and get me a barbershop, and do the things that they're doing, I would soon be rich.

FRANK

00:02:21
With that as enticement, Campbell set out, first, to finish school. In the summers, he worked a variety of jobs starting, literally, from the ground up. He was a gravedigger on Capitol Hill.

CAMPBELL

00:02:32
At Congressional Cemetery. My second job was working with Marriot. I became a pot washer, then I became a dishwasher.

FRANK

00:02:39
He was a fish-fryer. He also dabbled in psychology and ministry.

CAMPBELL

00:02:43
Then over at (word?) I became a short order cook.

FRANK

00:02:45
Whatever the job, he found ways to make friends, and help people out.

CAMPBELL

00:02:49
What goes around comes around, and I found out that actually a true statement. The way you treat people, treat them good, good things gonna come to you, because you're gonna have that network of people.

FRANK

00:03:02
Campbell finished high school, went on to professional school, and prepared for his barber licensing test. For extra practice, and to diversity his clientele, he gave free haircuts to the homeless and to other people who struggled to afford a trim. What started off as a chance for John Campbell to practice cutting hair, ended up giving him practice in serving those less fortunate.

CAMPBELL

00:03:22
People come back and thank me for what I did for them, to help them. People came back and told me how important I was in their life, and it made me feel great that I was actually doing something, I was actually serving and helping mankind. It was a great feeling.

FRANK

00:03:41
By the time he earned his barbering license, Campbell was less interested in the quick money that barbershops first represented to him. And his commitment to service expanded beyond the walls of his business. He became known for organizing enormous community parties, aimed at getting kids and families to meet up in safe and positive ways.

CAMPBELL

00:04:00
The first event was Campbell's Fun Festival. We had live go-go bands. The crowd got so big, so we had to change the beat, so then I decided to have the fish fry with the gospel show. And it was different, they enjoyed it. Out there praising God. It was nice.

FRANK

00:04:19
In 2012, he hoped to try out a whole new platform for community leadership. He made a run for D.C. City Council, an unsuccessful run. The guys at the shop tease him about his results. Last November, he earned only 3.25 percent of the vote in Ward 7.

FRANK

00:04:41
But Campbell doesn't show any signs of discouragement. If he earned that many votes last time around, he thinks he can gather more if he tries again. And if he does run, he might even try campaigning more widely, like, well, outside the doors of the barbershop. For now, John Campbell seems content helping to make over the city, one haircut and shapeup at a time. I'm Jocelyn Frank.

SHEIR

00:05:18
And that's "Metro Connection" for this week. We heard from WAMU's Jacob Fenston, Jonathan Wilson, Emily Berman, and Lauren Landau, along with reporter Jocelyn Frank. WAMU's managing editor of news is Memo Lyons. Metro Connection's managing producer is Tara Boyle. Lauren Landau is our editorial assistant. Our interns are Rachael Schuster and Robbie Feinberg. Lauren Landau, Rachel Schuster and John Hines produce Door To Door. Thanks, as always, to the WAMU engineering and digital media teams for their help with production and the "Metro Connection" website.

SHEIR

00:05:48
Our theme song, "Every Little Bit Hurts" and our Door To Door theme, "No Girl" are from the album Title Tracks by John Davis and used with permission of the Ernest Jennings Record Company. You can see all the music we use on our website, metroconnection.org. Just click on a story and you'll find information about its accompanying song. Also on metroconnection.org, you can read free transcripts of stories. And if you missed part of today's show, you can hear the whole thing online anytime. You can also find us on iTunes and Stitcher.

SHEIR

00:06:14
We hope you can join us next week, when we'll tip our hats to Valentine's Day, with a show about chemistry. We'll spend time with the matchmakers behind Date Lab, the Washington Post's weekly experiment in blind dating, we'll meet local scientists using chemistry to keep U.S. soldiers safe from explosives, and we'll consider the crafty chemistry of cocktails, with D.C.'s very own mixtress.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE #1

00:06:37
I love using lavender in cocktails. Lavender is an underlying aphrodisiac. It not only makes you feel sleepy, you know, people like bedtime, but lavender also gives you a feeling of euphoria, love.

SHEIR

00:06:51
I'm Rebecca Sheir, and thanks for listening to "Metro Connection," a production of WAMU 88.5 News.
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