"I want to be part of the transformation of the city that I think is underway right now. I want some different headlines."

WHO: You can’t get a haircut from Gee without hearing a pep talk. A lifelong Milwaukeean, Gaulien Smith
has made the ’dos of at least 200 NBA players – from Ray Allen to Shaquille O’Neal – “look crispy.”

WHERE: Gee’s Clippers, 2200 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Dr.

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I work at an inner-city barbershop: I hear everything. And the good outweighs the bad by a long shot. We’ve been known for some time as being the most segregated city in the United States. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see it, too. But also, I see the change coming.

People wouldn’t believe how peaceful Milwaukee truly is. It’s a town that embraces culture and embraces people.

I want to be part of the transformation of the city that I think is underway right now. I want some different headlines, man.

You’re bound to come into the shop on any given day and see some white clients in here. I reach out myself and go to predominantly white restaurants and bars, because that’s what it takes to promote change.

It’s going to take all of us, looking at ourselves in the mirror and deciding to stop being so comfortable.

In order to change this city around, we need to be a little uncomfortable. And then those uncomfortable
moments are going to lessen and lessen and lessen.

It’s going to take white folks and black folks coming out of their comfort zones, experiencing those different environments, to see that it was not so bad.

— Gaulien Smith, as told to Adam Rogan

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“Why I Love” appears in the October 2019 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning August 1, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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