There is a new movement kicking off in North Minneapolis and it’s centered on the health and wellness of African Americans. The initiative started with the “Live Your Healthy Lyfe” Block Party that took place last weekend, August 20.
With such attractions and headliners as local comedian Bruce Leroy, who emceed the event; musical guests Lewie Blaze, Bdotcroc, and Jamela Pettiford, to name a few, the event was an opportunity for the community to be entertained while learning about health initiatives.
Teto Wilson, the owner of Wilson’s Image and Barbershop, got things rolling and has garnered multiple partners including certified health organizations like NorthPoint Health & Wellness among others.
Most know Wilson, who moved to Minnesota 22 years ago this August, from his barbershop located in North Minneapolis. But in the last few years, he has expanded his professional repertoire to include Wilson’s Image College Scholarships, a nonprofit that is focused on funding collegebound African American students on the city’s North Side.
This project has grown substantially since 2018 when Wilson started it in response to the barriers his daughter encountered when applying for scholarships. “So, it actually went from me giving $500 to two different students. It ended up being that first year that we gave out $5,000 to five different students,” Wilson said. “And since then, we’ve given out over $20,000 to 18 different African American scholars.”
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wilson Image Barbershop was transformed into a COVID-19 vaccine clinic. “I want for people to know that Wilson’s Image is not just a place where they can come and get a haircut—we’re very intentional about serving our community,” Wilson said.
In addition to the above-mentioned initiatives, Wilson’s shop has also served as a space for sickle cell research, and as a community conversation space regarding socio-economic issues in the Black community.
The “Live Your Healthy Lyfe” block party can be seen as another manifestation of Wilson’s willingness to address community issues. His idea for the block party really started in late 2019, early 2020, but as Wilson stated, “COVID came in and took all that away. Nobody wanted to meet up during COVID. It was not an option.” So, he waited until the time was right.
That waiting period unintentionally helped Wilson set up valuable relationships that could further the event’s goal. “What ended up happening is during the time when we turned the barber shop into a vaccine clinic, [I was able to] meet all these doctors and health professionals.
“And, you know, I had a contract with the Minnesota Department of Health and Black Nurses Rock Foundation. [I was] meeting doctors and nurses, from different departments, different organizations,” Wilson continued. “So, [I’m] meeting all these different health professionals, and I’m thinking to myself, you know, ‘there’s something more that can be done here.’”
Speaking on the lack of healthy food options, Wilson stated, “If [people in North Minneapolis] want to have some healthy food, they really have to get outside of North Minneapolis.” So, in order to combat the problem, Wilson stated, “I wanted to have an event where we brought in 10 to 15 healthy food trucks.
“You know, just have people come out and explore their options, get some ideas and try the different types of foods, whether it’s, you know, like completely vegan, gluten-free, or even meatless options.”
Some of the food vendors at the event included The Bougie Waffle, Flame Mobile Kitchen, Drew’s Memphis Style Wings, Nadia’s Jamaican Catering, The Brown Pan & Grill, Big Bell Ice Cream and Life Juices.
Wilson is one of many community leaders concerned about healthy eating, and one of the ways he’s been able to get organizations on board is through the customers of his barbershop. For example, James Burroughs II, senior vice president of the Children’s Hospital, is a client of Wilson’s Barbershop and arranged for Wilson to meet with hospital officials to discuss issues of health equity in the Black community.
Numerous other notable health and equity leaders and activists like Dr. Zeke McKinney (HealthPartners, Twin Cities Medical Association) and Tiffani Daniels (Minnesota Business Coalition for Racial Equity) are together transforming the idea of healthy living from a barbershop conversation topic to a movement in North Minneapolis.