ENGLEWOOD — Entrepreneur Sunni Powell is a busy man these days, as he makes plans to improve the South Side community where he works, lives and grew up.
The 43-year-old owner of Powell's Barbershop, 1139 W. 63rd St., will sponsor and host his annual block party from noon-5 p.m. April 19 in the parking lot outside his Englewood shop
For three hours before his third annual party, Powell and a group of volunteers will clean up four empty lots that surround his business.
"If we don't clean it up then who will? A lot of the young men who get their hair cut at my shop have agreed to help out. Hopefully, as we start cleaning up others will join us," Powell said. "It's a great way for students to earn service hours, but more importantly, it's an opportunity for them to see black men taking care of their neighborhood instead of destroying it by selling drugs or committing a crime."
Powell also said he is planning to open a barber college in Englewood, which he hopes to have open by March 2015.
"I have looked at a few sites, but I think I will end up going with a building near Kennedy-King College," Powell said. "This is a good location when you consider that it's a few blocks from Kennedy-King College, which could serve as a feeder for my school, since Kennedy-King does not offer this type of skills set."
The vacant commercial space was previously occupied by a convenience store and sits in the city's 6th Ward, which is represented by Ald. Roderick Sawyer.
"I have touched base with Ald. Sawyer, and he likes my barber college idea," Powell said.
Powell said since trade schools need to be opened for two years before being eligible to receive financial aid, the annual tuition the first two years at his college would not exceed $2,000. That would be significantly less than most Chicago barber colleges, including Cain's Barber College Inc., at 365 E. 51st St., which costs $11,700, and Larry's Barber College, at 10456 S. Halsted St., which costs $9,750.
"A barber college puts people in a position to make money in their own neighborhood," Powell said. "Having a barber college in Englewood means that people don't have to leave their neighborhood yet again for something they want."
Powell said the block party has been popular, with about 100 youths attending last year's event.
This year, Powell said he will barbecue hot dogs and hamburgers for the party.
"There will be a live DJ, games for the kids and a spirit of love presented to everyone who stops by," he said. "I like giving back to the community. After all, I live here, too."
Last year Powell hosted a job fair for youths at his barbershop.
"I am fully invested in my community," he said. "For me not to do anything to help these young men would be criminal, and I am nobody's criminal."