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Making history: Woman becomes first, black woman to open a barber school

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    Mobile (WALA) — A local woman is changing the barber game in the port city. Not only by working in a male dominated industry, but also providing a chance of a lifetime for others in the community.

She goes by Joker, but there’s nothing funny about the way Joker Cross cuts her clients’ hair.

But neither is there anything funny about how she’s breaking barriers in this male dominated field.

“I’m super excited and I don’t know where it’s going to take us,” Cross said.

Cross turned her smooth skills into a career in 2011, and since getting her official license she hasn’t stopped in her effort to changing the way barbers operate in Mobile and for that Cross is getting kudos. Last month, Cross was recognized for opening a barber school, a first for any black woman in the city that raised her.

“It means a lot to me. I’ve never been the first at anything to do anything,” Cross said. “So to be the first African-American female in a man-based industry is amazing. I had a goal and wrote down a plan. When I went to barber school I wanted to teach it one day and I just stuck to the plan and here we are.”

Cross says her dream started after she spent time in federal prison. She says once she was out, finding a job was nearly impossible until she went to Isaac White, Sr., asking for a chance.

“Mr. White took a great chance on me. My mom, at the time, didn’t think I’d do the right thing. I was notorious for doing the wrong thing,” Cross said. “Mr. White told my mom to take a chance on me and it’s literally been the best decisions either of us ever made.”

Mr. White opened his barber shop and school on this corner in 1941. Cross says he really served as a living grant for people like her to come to school and turn their talent into a career. He passed away earlier this summer and Cross says she owes it to him, to keep the legacy he started strong and alive and taking the same chance he took on her, on others in need. She’s starting with the Reggie Crenshaw, Jr. scholarship, named after a close friend that passed and believed in her dream.

“It’s AKA the ‘Trap Scholarship’,” Cross said. “If I see a young man or woman falling into the trap of society or falling into the trap of getting in their own way, we’ll step in to give them that chance to make a difference.”

Jarvis Pryear is Cross’ first student and scholarship recipient.

“Joker, she’s the real deal. She’s a great person,” Pryear said. “She’s willing to listen, she’s willing to give advice and it’s awesome to come under her. I’m the same person, but I’m not the same person. I rather be here instead of being anywhere else.”

“Mr. White was like a grandfather to a lot of us. He paid the bill for a lot of us to go to school,” Cross said. “You have 24 hours in a day and no matter those 24 hours are going to go by and it’s up to you to make the most of your time. I see a lot of us wasting time. I saw a need in our community for this and that’s just what I’m trying to do – change our community.”

And to see her work and dedication to her craft and the lives she is seeking to change is no joking matter.

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