Kintae Lark: Making a difference one haircut at a time
SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- One man has been making a difference in the Michiana community, using his barber skills to give back to the youth.
Kintae Lark started cutting hair in the Michiana community from a young age as a way to stay alive. Lark took his talents to the sidewalks where he would cut children’s hair for free outside of his old apartment.
Today, Lark is still changing lives in the youth community and often times, he does it all for free.
“Good afternoon—how are you all doing today,” greeted Lark.
Lark’s upbeat ‘hello’ is the first thing customers hear when they walk into his barber shop on Chapin Street in South Bend.
Lark is the owner of the Inspiration School of Beauty Culture and frequently hosts free haircuts for children in the community.
“I was born and raised in South Bend, Indiana and I’m just getting started,” Kintae Lark said.
The business plan is simple—for children to feel confident with a cool, new haircut, even if their families cannot afford it.
“A lot of young people are just being put to the side, or they feel put to the side,” Lark said. “Our goal is to put a smile on their faces.”
Lark started his career when he was just a teen, often cutting his own hair to avoid conflict.
“At the age of 12, I picked up some clippers because I got tired of being talked about,” Lark said. “I got tired of being bullied; I got tired of a lot of it. I cut my hair for the first time. For the first time in my life I was able to control how I felt about me.”
That is the same feeling he wants to pass along to each child that walks through the door.
“I know the feeling all too well,” said Lark. “Part of my goal is to turn that misery that I once experienced into a mission.”
While Lark cuts hair and teaches every day, his fulfillment comes from the nearly 3,000 young people he has been able to serve in the community.
“Wow, it’s a community blessing,” said Angie Lyons, who visits Inspiration School of Beauty Culture.
Angie Lyons has been bringing her son, Angelo, to the Inspiration School of Beauty Culture for a year—and not just for a cool, new cut.
“It’s also an atmosphere for the youth to be able to learn too and you know, not be on the streets,” said Lyons. “It’s a learning experience…it’s like a safe haven.”
Lark chats with the children about a variety of topics—the most popular is usually school.
“It’s good? You’re smiling like it better be good! You tell me it’s good and you got like three C’s,” teased Lark.
“It’s everything,” Angelo Lyons said, who visits Inspiration School of Beauty Culture. “It’s a very good thing to come here because it’s a very good place and where everybody, you know, can get together and be a great community and I love it very much.”
“Before I put a sign on my window, I went to a safe place and we became a safe station for young people,” said Lark.
Lark has even inspired other local business owners, like Demethrias Young, a local photographer who volunteered to capture the sweet moment when the children look in the mirror after getting a fresh haircut on one Sunday evening.
“The experience was awesome,” said Demethrias Young, Owner of Blessed Hands Photography. “It was amazing just to see the smiling faces after getting their haircuts... my son’s face especially because he was kind of shy at first, but I loved it.”
Young’s son even offered to sweep up hair left behind in the salon, a gesture inspired by Lark’s generosity.
Lark said it is all just the beginning.
“My wife and I…we’re just one unit, but there’s several of us and a lot of times our young people are in trouble,” said Lark. “And we’re waiting for organizations to stand up, we’re waiting for churches to stand up, we’re waiting for everybody else to stand up. Where we’re at, right now, we can begin to stand up and do something about the state of our young people and that’s not to say organizations and churches won’t stand up, but we can’t sit and wait for somebody to come and help us, we’ve got to start helping ourselves.”
Lark said the Inspiration School of Beauty Culture is piloting a program now to work on fostering a relationship between parents, children and the community as a whole.