Fo’ Da Culture /fȯ dē-ˈā ˈkəl-chər/ slang. – “Do it for the Culture” is usually a statement requesting that someone carry out a specific action for benefit of their shared culture.
Well, my name is Tahki Bannister. I am the youngest of five siblings. Both of my parents grew up in the New York area on the East coast. They’ve been married for 45 years. I am here, currently, in Kansas city. The way that I got here was via California. I basically grew up and became a young man in Kansas City — from the age of 19 until now. So I’ve been in Kansas City close to over 15 years. I came here through a football scholarship and going through college. I played two sports as an athlete in college, I ran track and football. I fell in love with Kansas City once I graduated and came to the actual city. I came to Kansas city and I kinda fell in love, as opposed to going back which most people do once they get out of college, I stuck around. I was in corporate America for some time, but then I decided to get out of that after feeling the pains of corporate America I decided to take the entrepreneurial route. And what I did from there is I decided to start my own business and I took that leap of faith that they talk about. It’s worked out for me. I’ve had some growing pains with that, but I’ve had some good people along the way who have helped me. Kansas City is pretty much my home now. I’ve developed a lot of good relationships, personal, and friendships. Kansas City’s great and so I plan on, you know, buying a house and living out my years pretty much in Kansas City.
Beauty, I believe, comes from within. You have to have a confidence within yourself and be able to believe that you are a unique individual — God created you…one of one. There’s no one else like you on the planet. You can look at our fingerprints and no one has the same fingerprints. No one has the same DNA. So beauty comes from within. You have to have an understanding that you are unique. You are your own individual. And knowing that you have to exude what God has given you. It takes some people longer or some people shorter to find that inner beauty. But once you find that, then start to understand what the beauty is that you can project out and the beauty that people see within you. And we’re all unique in that fact. And you know, someone out there is looking for you and someone out there wants to find you and is thinking about you and the way that you conduct yourself and have your own idea of beauty. That is what is going to attract you to that person. Then, maybe if you get lucky you’ll be able to find him or her.
Wow. Black beauty is…is everything. Black beauty is the beginning of humanity. When I think of Black beauty, I think of my mother who cooked and cleaned and cared for me and made sure that I was okay before I went to school. So when I think of Black beauty, I think of a woman. I think of my father as well. But I definitely think of Black beauty as being a woman and self care and taking care of yourself and taking care of your family. When I think of beauty, I think of my mom. It was my mother’s birthday yesterday actually, and on the phone with her tears came to my eyes as I was talking to her because I realized how much of what she did as a young woman growing up, taking care of five siblings, how that shaped me as an individual and a man and the man that I’ve grown to be to this day. So Black beauty is, in my personal experience, I think of a woman and being with a Black woman and sharing a life with a Black woman. And that’s what I consider to be Black beauty.
Well, when I think of Black culture, I think of the original man. I think of Africa. I think of the original people and having the wherewithal to be able to create, to be able to have these thoughts about mathematics and science and that sort of thing. It’s really amazing to see how much richness our culture has, but at the same time in a lot of ways, how damaged our culture is…and I think that that was by design. But we have still fought through a lot of oppression over 400 years of slavery and things like that. So, being able to come through that and be able to shine and be able to have people out there that are billionaires and people who are willing as a culture to help other individuals and not have that “crab in the bucket” mentality.
I can’t speak for everyone…I know that if I see someone that’s struggling, specifically someone of my race, I would want to help them with anything that I can do. And that segues into what I do. I take my time with everyone that I’m with, as far as my service that I provide. I am a barber, and I, specifically when it comes to my people, I do my best to make sure that they are looking a certain way. Almost perfect. To where when they go out, they feel proud, they feel a sense of, I can do anything that I put my mind to, and if I can help them do that or achieve that with just a haircut… I feel like I’ve done my job. So, Black culture, being Black, it’s a beautiful thing. It gives me so much confidence and I really honestly feel like it’s not a disadvantage…I feel like in a lot of situations I have the advantage over a lot of people just because of the way that I think, because of the way that I love, and the way that I react towards situations. It gives me the advantage, is what I believe.
Definitely the pressures of succeeding. The pressures of taking care of my family, taking care of my business. And being a legitimate, honest, trustworthy individual. That’s not easy at all times. There are sometimes in my life where I actually digressed and went into a place where I didn’t want to be. And so I have to Mind my P’s and Q’s, like my father used to tell me. And I have to always continue to put one foot in front of the other and approach every day as if it’s a new day and make sure that I am doing what I believe is right, through how I was raised from my mother and father and my siblings, to tell the truth and to be trustworthy. To do the best to show other people that it’s possible that if you are a Black man, you can have a billion dollars… or being a Black man, you’re not a violent person…or being a Black man doesn’t mean that you are untrustworthy. You know, it’s a status symbol of being a Black man in America to where it hasn’t always been easy. And the thing that I always think about when I am having a tough time is all of the African American individuals who have come before me and I use that as strength. I could name 20 people, off the top of my head, as I think about them. One, just being my father…working at the same industry job for 45 years — day in and day out — having a briefcase, hard soled shoes, which made me want to become a businessman in myself. But there are countless, countless others that I can name. And that’s a whole different conversation that I think about when I’m feeling weary, when I don’t feel that I’m doing the best that I can. I use that as a sense of strength and it helps me to continue on and move forward and be the Black man that I am today.
Yes. Few and far between, but there’ve been several times… mostly out and about being a professional. I feel like I dress a certain way and I don’t do anything to show that’s like derogatory or the stereotypes towards being an African American or a Black man. And you know, sometimes people look at that as a threat…and that’s what gives me confidence. Because if I’m just being who I am and for whatever reason you deem it to where you need to call me the n-word or you need to look down upon me in a certain way…that’s got nothing to do with me. That’s your own insecurities. That has nothing to do with me because if you got to know me and you knew who I was, then you would have a different opinion of me. Just looking at the color of someone’s skin and going off of that, I think that’s a disadvantage for you. I think you’re selling yourself short. You can’t go off of what someone else is saying. Being a racist, I believe, is a learned behavior. It’s what has been taught from generation to generation down from a father to a son saying like, These people are this way. You need to be able to travel… Do you need to be able to experience…you need to be able to read books…you need to be able to open your mind to form your own opinions so you’re not looking like an idiot.
Anyone that has to use derogatory words or use slang or slander to put a people or a person down, is really kind of a coward. You need to be able to understand a little bit of culture, a little bit of history of that person who you may be putting down. And have a little bit of sensitivity. If you don’t do that, you know, that’s ignorance. If you can’t educate yourself and have an understanding of that, then it’s almost like shame on you. And you’re going to go through life missing out on some pretty amazing people and relationships that you may never form because you had a bias or a certain opinion because someone told you that it was supposed to be that way and you didn’t experience it for yourself. Shame on you. So yeah, there have been some instances, like I said, where I’ve been out and I feel like I’ve handled them sometimes in the proper way and sometimes maybe not. But, I think, you know, you need to educate yourself and have a better understanding of the culture and the people if you’re feeling some kind of way about discriminating against them.
For one, being a Black man in America. You know, I’m in my early forties…so to make it that far, when a lot of us are incarcerated, a lot of us have been killed, a lot of us have had way worse things happen. I’ve kinda been able to “move in a room full of vultures”, like Jay Z says,to accomplish some of the goals that I have. I’m proud of being a business owner. I’m proud of being a father. I’m proud of being a son, a brother. And, it makes me happy to know that there are people out there that get it and that they understand, it’s not easy being a Black man in Kansas City or in the United States at this time. There’s a lot going on. And so I’m proud to be able to one.
To own a barbershop and be able to bring my brothers into the shop to have an intimate conversation, to be transparent, to be open, and to be able to communicate about things that you may have issues with. And that’s kinda like what the barbershop is about, that’s what my profession is. I plan on doing this until the day that I die. And so, I am proud to have stepped into those boots or walked in those footprints to become a barber. I didn’t know that that was something I wanted to do, but I am so proud of that because there’s a long, rich history of becoming a barber and what that symbolizes and what that represents. And I’ve put my own spin on it and I’m very proud of that. I’m gonna do my best to continue on and bring along a few other barbers, specifically some African American gentlemen, to follow in my footsteps and I’m going to teach them the proper way of how to go about doing it and to providing an excellent service.
Well, I’m working on them right now. I’ve been lucky to have some pretty good mentors in my life. Some gentlemen that I can learn from who are higher educated and have a little bit more experience in life than I do. Working with individuals and giving back has always been something that I’ve enjoyed to my core. It’s not a hard thing to do. Anyone that asks me about volunteering or giving back, I would be one of the first people to sign up. I know that I wouldn’t be here without some sort of sacrifice or without somebody giving back a little bit. And so passing that forward, paying it forward, is something that I’m all about and I look forward to doing that in the future. One way that I do that is through educating.I educate, not only about barbering, but about life. I feel like I have enough experience, at this point of where I’m at, to be able to teach someone that may not know a code, a set of ethics that you should go by in order to just be a decent human being. And so if I can teach someone else those values, I feel like I’ve contributed to society and I given back. It’s not about reaching thousands of people…If I can get that one person, or a couple of people, to buy in and have an understanding and then move forward with that and pass that along to someone else….I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job in life.
One of the main things I would say, unfortunately, is the discrimination that we face from other cultures. It’s almost like we’re immigrants. We’re like last on the totem pole in a lot of people’s eyes. No matter how far we’ve ascended and no matter how much money we have. You know, it’s like that OJ song that Jay-Z said, “still a n***a.” You know, it doesn’t matter. There’ve been so many instances when people have gotten pulled over, pulled out of their cars…and you know, they may have a PhD and they’re doing the right thing…but yet, for some reason, that person who inflicted that on upon us thought that it was the right thing to do. That we were a criminal or we were doing something wrong. Like a Black man being in the wrong neighborhood, and you know, that’s not right.
So the discrimination that my brothers…my Brown, Latino, Asian have felt…the discrimination, it’s hard to get over that. It’s like you have to fight on a daily basis to overcome that to make sure that the other people know that you are a human being first. And yes, that we do have different skin color, but you know, I’m an individual just like you are. And would hope that you would treat me with the same respect, but I guarantee you that’s not the case in a lot of instances. And so that’s one of the daily challenges as we leave our houses and leave our families, that we face. It’s almost like, Man, are we going to come home tonight? Some people feel like that. In different areas of the country, they don’t go out at night or they don’t do certain things, because they don’t know how they’re going to be treated in the situation that they’re going to be facing for the day. And so discrimination, it’s a huge thing. It’s real. Sometimes people like to think, Oh, that doesn’t happen and everyone’s equal. We all have the right opportunities. But for a lot of people that’s not the case.
My dreams for society would be that people had a better understanding of the individuals that they come in contact with. I believe that if in the workforce and private corporate sector, if they had a better understanding — as opposed to having the stereotypes that we see on a daily basis — If they got to know a person as an individual, you could then form your own opinion. Not just go off of what someone else said or what someone else is doing. You’ve got to think. To tie in what I was saying in the very beginning, that’s what makes us our unique individual selves. You have the opportunity to change your thought pattern and what you think, to where it would affect someone else in a positive way, not just say something to hurt someone or to do something to hurt someone. So I hope that people would have an understanding of…give somebody a chance, don’t just judge. The last thing I would say is, Don’t judge a book by its cover, like my dad used to say.
Another great quote of my other brother, who was badly beaten, Rodney King…I mean, “can we all just get along?” And you know, it seems cheesy, but it’s like, Yes, if we could have a mutual foundation of respect for one another without any sort of bias, without any sort of racist thoughts, things will be a lot better. If we just realize that I’m not that much different than you, except from the hue of my skin… Our cultures may be different, but we’re human beings. We are all individuals. We all want to take care of our families. We all want to provide for ourselves. We all want to do better in our jobs or become entrepreneurs. We just have to be able to give the other person the benefit of the doubt and not just discount them because of the color of their skin or how they look or what sexual preference they have. And I believe if you just did that, that opens the door for a lot of communication and understanding of what that other person is going through and how they are.
The advice that I would give to another Black person — male or female… young or old — is don’t give up. Don’t let your circumstances be the bane of your existence. Let yourself be free. Come up with ways that you can better yourself. Don’t let your circumstances determine how you’re going to live in life. Treat people fair. And do the best that you can. Also find someone or other people that are like minded, as yourself, and get with them and learn and read and have a better understanding of what it is to be a human being.
I would tell them, don’t go off of what anyone else says. Use your own experience and give people the benefit of the doubt. People deserve second chances. Don’t just discount a person for a reason that someone has given you, a thought that someone else has put in your head. Use your own common sense. Use your own knowledge. Do your own research. Don’t just discount cause it’s whatever your grandfather had told you or your friends have told you about certain people. You have to do your own research. You do your own due diligence. You have to form your own opinion. Don’t just be a sheep being led around by somebody that’s telling you, this is the way it is or this is the way it should be. No. Do your own research. So…the people that aren’t African-American…you need to be more sensitive. I would definitely say get to know someone else that’s not in your race or your culture and see how it feels to walk in their shoes for a day.
I’ve taken the traditional barbershop…and for individuals that are needing service in their office or at their homes, they’re not able to get to the barbershop…. I just found a clever way to go and package it up and deliver that service to them. It’s been very positive. It’s been a fantastic experience. It’s not for everybody. I am a barber shop owner and I do have hours in the shop, but then for certain individuals that, for one… can afford it, I’m willing to come to them and to take care of their needs. So I’ve kind of put my own spin on it.
That actually came from me being in the barber shop as a young barber and not getting people to come and sit in my chair, because I was brand new. So basically what I did is I picked myself up by my bootstraps and I decided that I was gonna ask individuals and take the haircut experience to them. Not only do I do haircuts going to people’s businesses or their homes…It’s not only that…I go and take care of other people in a way that is non traditional in the barbershop and it works for them. It’s a pretty unique thing, but it’s working for me and I’m very proud of that. So, I’m very happy to be a barber for sure.
Man, it’s a beautiful thing to be a barber and a Black man at this time. I, personally, have been able to figure out a way to be able to service and communicate effectively and befriend and network with everyone that sits in my chair. That is what has helped me develop and have my business flourish. I love Black men and helping them achieve their goals through grooming and self care and regimen building and that sort of thing… But, you know, it’s not just about African American men. It’s about men in general that come and sit in my chair and how I’ve been able to effectively service. I feel like I’m doing God’s work and a lot of times — that’s why I believe that I’m going to be doing this forever — I’m taking care of the people. And so, being a Black business man, it’s fantastic because it’s not just being a Black businessman and working with Black individuals. It’s working with the people and service and the people. And that’s what God did. And I feel like, in a small sort of way, I am taking care of the people. Doing the best that I can by helping them, all of the positive things that they want. You know, obviously you come to see barber on all of the occasions. People love us, people want to come see us, people need us. And so providing a service for them and making them feel happy, man…There’s no other feeling in the world.
And just the fact that I’m a Black businessman and I own a business, I own a barber shop. That was not something that I dreamed about, to be honest with you. But what I’m doing now, it’s part of my calling. I’m relishing in it. I’m happy to be a Black business owner. I’m going to continue to be a Black business owner. And I would love to pass this down to my son or my daughter if they’re willing to do it in some sort of form or fashion because I think it’s something that’s needed …and it’s recession proof, so that’s good too.
Well, it has to do with, you know, the barbershop has been “the Black man’s country club”. We weren’t allowed…we weren’t admitted…we weren’t allowed to go to certain places…we had to stop and use different restrooms and faucets to drink water…and we couldn’t sit at certain counters….And so it started from a long time ago when Black men felt comfortable to go into a Black barbershop in his own community and be able to speak frankly about some of the issues and the things that were going on with Black men.
For me, being a Black man and now owning a barbershop, it’s a little bit different, but really to its core, it’s the same thing. It’s about networking. It’s about taking care of a gentleman who comes through the door and making sure that he looks his best –he may be getting married, he may be going off to college, he may be having his first baby … And even in passing, if I was to take care of someone’s grandfather before he passed…before he was put in the grave, it’s a very important position to have and I don’t take it lightly.
I am willing to stand in those trenches and be able to continue on the “Black man’s country club”, if you will. The individual wanting to come in and get taken care of and allowing me to do that to him, that is a special thing. I plan on doing it, like I said, for the rest of my life. And…I feel like the barbershop in the Black community was a cornerstone thing. It was the doctor, it was a therapist, it was sometimes a babysitter, it was your mother, it was your father…It’s everything. And so I feel like I am in carrying on that tradition and I’m proud to do so.