On July 1, July’s First Fridays Twin Cities honored two Minnesotans in its “Faces of the Month” recognition. The tradition continues in honoring people who are making a difference in the Black community.
Houston White, an entrepreneur, was the male honored. Since 2008, he has been the sole owner of the former H. White Mensroom, now renamed H. W. M. R., located at 1500 No. 44th Ave. in Minneapolis. White, a North Minneapolis native, is ready to take his business to the next level.
He told the MSR, “The concept behind the barbershop I think of as country club for Black men. Many places throughout our community have different things like a lodge where you need membership, but [the barbershop] is open to everyone from different socio-economic backgrounds. We converge. People get mentored. We tell stories.”
His original idea was to create something that was upscale. “As I matured, what I wanted for the barbershop matured too. [The shop] was born out of necessity for me, I guess.”
Moving up like George and Weezy from The Jeffersons television series, White is working on the Black Excellence brand. Although some people call it a clothing line (t-shirts currently for sale), White says, “It is a statement affirming what we are — a unit. I call it raising a collective consciousness of our people.”
He is now merging business ideas to reflect the changing Camden community. His idea is to introduce a coffee bar. He is currently studying the ins and outs of coffee and offers coffee to his customers at the barbershop. H.W.M.R. also has a study area for patrons to use at their leisure. White says, “I really don’t like to call it a barbershop anymore. It is a community space.”
Shawnta Turner-Richard was the female honored for the month of July. Being honored was “a shock to me,” she said. She has a background in community service, promotion and entrepreneurial work within the Twin Cities and Atlanta.
More recently, since returning from Georgia, she says, “[I’ve] made more of an impact with the Twin Cities Black Employee Network,” an organization “committed to the professional advancement of all Black employee groups in the Twin Cities,” according to their website. Advancing from a committee member to the co-director of events in community outreach for the network, Turner-Richard is ever seeking growth in her roles in the community.
A Wells Fargo financial employee by day and a promoter of community events and community services on evenings and weekends, she is consistently busy. Originally from Denver, Colorado, Turner-Richard calls herself an “army brat.” She and her brother were raised by their father after their parents divorced. But she’s been a Minnesota resident since 1985.
She attended Henry Sibley High School. She has a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business management, an associates’ degree in cosmetology, and a certificate in project management.
Turner-Richard has worked on events for the United Negro College Fund, including two walk events here in the Twin Cities, and she is currently a project manager at Black Data Processing Associates (BDPA) Drive camp. Through BDPA youth learn about technology.
Turner-Richard has been writing since the age of 10, which she attributes to a stuttering habit. She has published the first two books in a series, Situations and In Whom Should I Trust, and is working on the third. She describes her writing style as fictional, dramatic and comedic comparable to Eric Jerome Dickey or Zane. Her books can be found on Amazon.com, barnesandnobles.com, and xlibras.com.
For First Fridays event information, go to firstfridaystwincities.com.
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Updated 7/6/2016, 5:00 pm
Brandi Phillips is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.