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A Chicago Back-To-School Ritual: Haircuts And Braids

As Chicago’s first day of school approached, many families spent this weekend making last-minute preparations like ironing uniforms and fitting school supplies into backpacks. A good number of kids also participated in a yearly ritual: the back-to-school haircut. WBEZ checked in on two South Side locations this weekend. First stop, for the boys, a busy Woodlawn barbershop, where kids took up every last seat in the waiting area.

And then, for the girls — free braids

People heard in the audio above include: Barber Reginald Wraggs of Premier Cuts Barbershop, Tremaine Holmes, Sandra Johnson, Jasmine “JanahMonae” Johnson, Jemiah Frye, Anaya Young, Atiyana Williams and Itina Johnson. 

Linda Lutton writes about education and schools for WBEZ. Follow her @WBEZeducation.

Little girls wait for their hair to be braided Saturday morning at Black Bombshell Studio at 7106 South Rhodes. The line for free braids stretched down the block and around the corner. (John Fecile/WBEZ)

Atiyana Williams, 14, left the free braiding event with a new style and a big smile. She starts high school on Tuesday. (John Fecile/WBEZ)

After more than an hour, Jemiah Frye just wanted to be done. Her stylist, Misha Starks, remembers getting her own hair braided as a young child. “It just took too long, I just wanted to get up. Once they sit here for a while, they get all fidgety,” said Starks. Jemiah braids the hair on her dolls and toy ponies. (John Fecile/WBEZ)

Jasmine Johnson, 24, who goes by “JanahMonae,” organized the free braiding event and lined up friends who know how to braid. Johnson has been braiding hair since she was in grammar school. “I know a lot of single moms. My mom was a single mom--she had to braid three heads. So I know how it is. And I just wanted to give back to the community for the moms that can’t afford it--just to braid their kids’ hair for free,” Johnson said. (John Fecile/WBEZ)

Boys wait their turn for back-to-school haircuts at Premier Cuts at 65th and Cottage Grove in Woodlawn. The waiting area was filled with kids. “I’m pretty sure all the barbers are packed today,” said Pat Jones, who brought her eight-year-old for a trim. (John Fecile/WBEZ)

Sherron Adams gets a design cut into his hair at Premier Cuts. He’s going into the fourth grade at Dulles School of Excellence. He came to the barber with his two brothers and their grandfather. (John Fecile/WBEZ)

Barber Reginald Wraggs gives Tremaine Lewis a back-to-school haircut. (John Fecile/WBEZ)

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