By Tonya Jameson
Shaun “Lucky” Corbett didn’t plan to be a community leader, but owning a barbershop left him little choice.
People from all walks of life visit Da Lucky Spot on North Tryon Street between East Craighead Road and Atando Avenue. It’s on a side of town where Charlotte Mecklenburg police officers see way too much action, and law-abiding residents try to make honest lives for themselves. Corbett hears from them all, such as the mother trying to keep her son out of trouble, and the woman who is so proud that her son is on the honor roll. There’s also the ex-con looking for a fresh haircut to help him land that job he’s been trying to get.
There’s no way the 38-year-old couldn’t become a community leader. He’s a husband and proud father of four, ages 10-21. What happens in the community not only affects his business, but also affects his family.
“My aim is to never forget my humble beginnings, work twice as hard to improve the quality of life and make a difference where I live and work,” he said. “I grew up knowing what it’s like to not have.”
And knowing that led Corbett to the streets. A few bad decisions to get quick money kept him in and out jail when he was in his 20s. He was following a path all too familiar in the Black community. It was a path that led to heartache or worse, but Corbett wanted something more for himself. Corbett got his GED and turned his life around. He got a string of minimum-wage jobs, but that wasn’t getting him anywhere.
He enrolled in No Grease Barber College in Charlotte and paid his way by working at a Fuel Pizza. After graduating in 2006, Corbett landed a job at a barbershop. Four years later, he bought the shop and renamed it Da Lucky Spot.
Corbett didn’t keep his success to himself. The barbershop hosts various annual community events, such as its backpack drive, turkey drive, coat drive and health fair. The shop’s latest effort is the new youth report card reward initiative that awards honor roll students with free haircuts and new shoes. He also returns to No Grease Barber College to speak to students about life in the barber industry.
“You own a business, you give back to the community,” Corbett said.
The aftermath of Michael Brown’s shooting death inspired Corbett to do even more. Although Brown was fatally shot by police in Ferguson, Mo., Corbett knew that tensions simmered here in Charlotte, as well. He also worried about the safety of his own sons, dealing with the police department here. Charlotte held its breath in 2015 as the city watched the trial of former CMPD officer Randall Kerrick, who is white, and was charged in the shooting death of 24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell, who is black and was unarmed. The case ended in a mistrial.
Corbett created and organized the Cops & Barbers initiative, along with the NC Local Barber Association and the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department. The idea was to host community forums in which cops and young black people talked at barbershops.
The successful program earned Corbett an invitation to the White House to speak with President Barack Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. He also accompanied CMPD Chief Kerr Putney to a police chiefs’ conference in Washington, D.C. to talk about the program.
Corbett was awarded the “Charlottean of the Year” by Charlotte magazine in 2015. He was among a small group of young African-American men who spoke with Hillary Clinton during one of her visits to Charlotte during the 2016 election campaign. His community events are widely attended by elected officials and candidates eager to talk to everyday people about issues in Charlotte.
It’s quiet at the shop on a recent Tuesday. Only a couple of barbers are there, and Corbett is trying to update his calendar and knock out a few to-dos. He takes a moment to reflect on his success from jail to community advocate.
“The real value is how many lives you touch,” he said.