Public Media Arts Hub

A Brief But Spectacular take on transforming trauma into activism


Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Amna Nawaz: Troy Staton is a Baltimore barber and founder of More Than a Shop, a network of barbershops and beauty salons that organizes a host of community services, from free Wi-Fi to overdose prevention training.

A victim of gun violence, he shares his Brief But Spectacular take on how transforming trauma into activism can help heal.

Troy Staton, Founder, More Than a Shop: The barbershop and the beauty salon is the only place that you can come in and you can leave your title for whom you're supposed to be, for whom others expect you to be, and you can solely be yourself.

How are you really feeling?

I started cutting hair as a teenager on my mother's porch in Southwest Baltimore. I began to cut my brother hair and childhood friends' hair. And the barbering part just came naturally to me. And later on, I met this great mentor, Mr. Lenny Clay from the House of Naturals, a legendary barber.

You know, he cut people like Oprah Winfrey hair. His barbershop was not just a barbershop. He showed me being a barber was more than just cutting hair. One of my first collaborations was, I turned the barbershop into an alternative art space for African American artists, because I understood that art had been taken out of public school.

Then we collaborated with all the major art institutions in the city of Baltimore. I understood that the work that I was doing in one shop needed to be replicated. I gathered some friends that was barbers and beauticians and nail techs. And we created More Than a Shop.

More Than a Shop is a network of barbershops and beauty salons that's bringing resources directly to the community. We understand that Ms. Shirley is raising her fourth generation of great-grandchildren. She's on a limited budget. So let's send some of this food down to Ms. Shirley.

The house over here, they have a problem with substance abuse. So we address that by sending Narcan to them. People don't really necessarily trust a lot of hospitals, but if you keep coming to the barbershop, and I understand this, I say, listen, when's the last time you had your blood pressure checked.

And you have them come to the place. We had -- did over 5,000 health care screenings. We did vaccinations for COVID, because what I understood, then every community and everywhere, there wasn't a Walgreens, but there's a barbershop.

We understand what's taking place in our communities. Barbers had always been the quintessential person who came through from one plantation to another plantation who carried the word, the message. They knew what was going on.

The civil rights movement started within a barbershop before it went to the church. Community members trust us. Why? Because we are part of your family. We give people from their first haircut to their last haircut, from times of grief to celebrations.

I'm Troy Staton, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on being More Than a Shop.

Amna Nawaz: Such a great story.

Support Canvas

Sustain our coverage of culture, arts and literature.

Send Us Your Ideas
Let us know what you'd like to see on ArtsCanvas. Your thoughts and opinions matter.