Perfect timing can be a Godsend.
Elder Tracinia L. Brooks, founder of Dwelling Place Ministry, would probably agree. She met a man named Samuel Rawlings when he attended a church service that Brooks held through a church collaboration more than 17 years ago. Brooks, who ministers globally, became acquainted with Rawlings and his giving spirit when she needed it most.
“I had adopted two boys from my neighborhood who had lost both of their parents to tragedy. These boys had no one at all. Meanwhile, I have three boys of my own. Samuel came up to me during the service and stated that God laid it on his heart to cut all five of my boys’ hair for free until God tells him to stop. I was so overwhelmed and grateful at the same time,” Brooks recalled.
She reflected on the manner in which Rawlings provided motivation for the young boys to succeed. Rawlings has used his blessing of inheriting a barbershop as a tool to reach and teach others. The lifelong Baltimorean and father of five is a truck driver. He is also an entrepreneur who owns Kingdom Cutz, located at 1103 Greenmount Avenue. His father, Johnny Rawlings started the business that was previously named The Neighborhood Sanitary Barbershop. The visionary passed along the gift of entrepreneurship to his son who once swept the floor and shined shoes there.
“My father’s shop was there before I was born,” Samuel recalled.
Samuel’s small business has become more than a place where haircuts are given.
He now refers to himself as a “kingdom builder” who helps other people rise up that he can give back to in some manner. Some customers have come to know Kingdom Cutz as a place where they could get advice, hugs or Christian comradery from a trusted person.
“I take my time with each person like it was my first time cutting their hair,” Rawlings said. “My father started it and we pretty much are the only Black business in that neighborhood now.”
Through Kingdom Cutz, Rawlings’s father blessed people in the community who needed a helping hand. His son carried on the tradition. Samuel held tight to humanity in a time when it can be forgotten. He also provided a specified number of hours to cut hair for clients of T.I.M.E., a nonprofit human service agency offering psychiatric and substance abuse treatment services with offices in Baltimore and Glen Burnie, Maryland.
“I had retired from cutting hair and just went full time at the UPS, but I still had my shop open. And when that did that, it kind of pulled me back into the community. I was like ‘Okay, I’ll do that for a couple months. They can come in every other Saturday. I’ll cut their hair for free.’ And then once I started doing that, my old clients started seeing me cutting [hair] and they brought me back into the shop,” Samuel said.
He reflected on other ways that he has supported people of all ages. He offered free back to school haircuts, school supplies and hair cutting lessons to kids who may not decide to head to college.
“Barbering is a good trade,” Samuel said while explaining what he teaches them.
Away from the barbershop, Samuel has been divorced twice. He coparents his children who range from 13-32, with their mothers. He still has joint custody of a 13-and 14-year-old girl and boy.
“Children need a mother and father. Girls need to see how one is supposed to be treated through the father. And for sons, you can teach them how to be a man,” Samuel said.
He added that just because the relationship with the mothers of his children did not work out, it did not stop him from being a father and role model for the sake of their children.
Heading to the gym, riding motorcycles, bowling, going to the movies and enjoying time while eating out are some of the activities that he and his children enjoy doing together.
Samuel successfully balances fatherhood, giving back and entrepreneurship. He proves that great fathers in Baltimore do exist. More youth would benefit from having a kingdom builder in their lives, if given the chance to experience knowing one. The tools of manhood are first introduced at home, or by a caring community dad who toils to make room for his children, plus a few more.
“His [Samuel’s] encouragement helped uplift my boys and myself during this time in life. From his obedience to God, we developed a forever friendship,” Brooks said.