By RayJaun Stelly, The Seattle Medium
Father’s and Son’s Together (FAST) held their annual barbershop event last Saturday, designed to raise awareness of the impact of gun violence in the community. The event featured eight barbers and braiders who provided free haircuts, lunch, and a host of activities for kids at the Rainier Beach Community Center.
FAST Founder Larry Wilmore says that the event is an extension of the organization’s work, which centers around prevention versus intervention and focuses on development, guidance, and support for families of color. In addition, Seattle City Light, Impact Schools, Mothers for Police Accountability, the Urban League, and other organizations were present to provide access to resources that the community could benefit from.
“It’s kind of like going fishing,” says Wilmore. “You know you throw your fishing pole into the water and hope to catch something, which is what we do with events. I want to be a resource guy for the community. We use the events to bring people together and give them resources once they come.”
“This event is extremely important because it takes one more thing off our community’s plate,” said FAST Community Event Coordinator Afrah Eltom. “Having somewhere you can get a haircut, free food, and resources. This is something that we hold annually two times a year, it’s a stepping-stone to creating a better relationship with the community.”
FAST promotes lifestyle changes that support the improvement of educational outcomes, health, and wellness, in hopes that participants within the program will make better decisions and inspire community advocacy and engagement from youth and parents alike. According to FAST, children who enjoy the support of an active father figure display better decision-making skills, are more likely to achieve academically and do better in the workplace as adults–all of which contribute to the lowered risk of involvement in the criminal justice system.
“I have seen a lot of things going on that should not have been going on with our young people, and I thought instead of talking about it, I wanted to do something about it,” says Wilmore. “As a result of that, FAST was organized. I wanted to reach fathers, sons, mothers, and grandparents. I wanted to reach everybody because I felt like in order to reach those, I had to do some things that were cutting edge, so what we decide to do was come up with empowerment camps, a whole lot of things in order to make that father-son relationship grow. Primarily focusing on empowering fathers to be involved in the development of their sons is key in not only helping sustain families but in helping to strengthen the community as well.”
“Everyone benefits from FAST, the father, son, mother, the entire community because when that father-son relationship is strengthened, a lot of good things happen,” said Wilmore. “The family maneuvers and does better, the community does better, everybody benefits and we’re all winners.”
Seeing the negative impact of gangs and gun violence on the community is one of the reasons why Wilmore began the FAST program, and 12 years later, the decision to do so has paid off.