Thursday, June 1, 2023
Gaulien "Gee" Smith
North Division High School - Blue-Devils
I live by ‘To whom much is given, much is required.’
Gaulien "Gee" Smith is the founder and owner of Gee's Clippers, a Milwaukee barbershop, and Gee's MKE Wellness Clinic, both making huge strides in the community.
Gee's Clippers opened on June 1, 1995. The barbershop has created community partnerships with the Milwaukee Bucks and numerous other large companies in the Milwaukee area. Gee's MKE Wellness Clinic is a health clinic within the barbershop providing health care and education to individuals in the community. Gee has worked collaboratively with Froedtert Health to support skin cancer screenings and will be supporting colorectal cancer education.
Gee sponsors “Real Men, Real Talk” - a safe place for men of color to build, connect, discuss, release, and find resources to help handle the day-to-day dealings of being a man of color in Milwaukee and America. Real Men, Real Talk is a platform that, along with the Milwaukee Father Initiative, the City of Milwaukee Club, and Kwabena Antoine Nixon as host, creates a platform, where on average, between 100 and 150 men (men only) come together to just talk, learn, unload or bounce things off of other men.
"We understand that being a man is really tough, right? And sometimes they may not always have that platform or that space where they can just be themselves, right? And that's what ‘Real Men, Real Talk’ is all about," explains Gee. One of the things that he is most proud over these past 28 years has been the opening of the clinic, Gee’s, MK II Wellness Clinic, which is a clinic in the rear of the barbershop. "The clinic has definitely been a blessing to many people. It’s a place where one could come to Gee’s Clippers and get their blood pressure checked, their blood glucose level checked. We’re about to start doing prostate exams, and colon guard, where, instead of a colonoscopy, you can literally see if a guy has colon cancer remnants. So, yeah man, a lot of good work is happening through this barbershop, and like I said, it's just what I feel we should be doing as a barbershop in the community. I always say that there are two businesses in urban communities that can truly change the trajectory of their community; one being the barbershop, the other being the church. Both have audiences, both have influence and both have the ear of the community."
“Barbershops are the heartbeat of the community,” Smith maintains. "They are one of the few places many of these men feel comfortable talking about their vulnerabilities." Many men don’t know where to look for help so they choose to go to their barber, someone they trust, a place they can let their guard down.
Gee’s Clippers allows for one-on-one conversations between barber and customer. These conversations allow men to talk through their frustrations, find guidance and be more present when they go back to their families.
"The essential thing that barbershops provide is trust. When boys and men sit in their barber’s chair to get a haircut, they are sitting in the chair of a man they confide in. In this day and time, for the most part, a barber is the only positive male role model a kid might talk to on a regular basis. We don’t have enough positive African American men out here,” says Smith. Gee believes barbers have a responsibility to impart as much positive energy and insight as they possibly can. While inside a barber shop, a man gets to escape from the burdens of daily life and be in a sanctuary that guides him to become a stronger man. Gee feels that a lot of good work is happening through this barber shop, and has said that it is what he feels we should be doing as a barbershop in the community. "There are two businesses in urban communities that can truly change the trajectory of their community; one being the barbershop, the other being the church. Both have audiences, both have influence, and both have the ear of the community."
Gee lives by the phrase, ‘To whom much is given, much is required.’ "I feel that I was given a stage of notoriety, and the positioning of Gee's Clippers in the community is not by chance." His shop has notoriety, so he feels that there is a responsibility that comes with it. "I'm just trying to do what I can to be as helpful to my community as possible. And I'm just, basically running Gee's Clippers like I felt barbershops did back in the 1940s 50s, and 60s, where we the barbershops were truly the heartbeat of the community. Where good news was shared, where politicians could speak to their constituents, and where we can basically heal the community in which we reside. So basically, what you see at Gee’s Clippers are the efforts that we've been able to provide."
Gee attended North Division High School but received his diploma from MATC in 1991. "I claim North Division as my alma mater." During his time at North, he had many teachers and adults who influenced him in a positive way. "Those influential leaders that come to mind include Texas Bufkin, Ms. Benning, Mr. Kern, Mr. Cummings, and Mr. Trimble - they were a big inspiration to me."
"I always like to hear about the alumni from North Division who are doing well and giving back to their community. There are many from North Division who are leaders and are leading great lives. I have a classmate who went on to become a doctor, and a few friends who went on to become police officers – and they went to North Division, a place that was basically a 'throw-away' school. But we made the best of it. I just feel that when I speak to alumni from North, they all have that Blue Devil Pride!"
If you had an opportunity to go back to North Division and talk to the current students, what advice might you give them with regard to the future?
Enjoy this time! Because the future will be here before you know it. I always look at life from this perspective - life is God's gift to you, and what you do with it, is your gift to God. So, try your best to leave this world better than the way you found it. When you're younger you don't think about legacy work as much as you do when you're older. I would tell them to really embrace the time game right now. Enjoy it. Because you never know. The footprint that you leave here, at North Division, will impact lives to come.
If you had an opportunity to speak at your high school reunion, and you had a chance to talk to your classmates or other alum from North Division, what could you possibly say to inspire them to give back to the community?
So many people have poured their hearts and soul into us. It is our time to give back. I mean, we can’t take it for granted that we were blessed with the experiences that we were blessed with, and now it's our turn to empower the next generation. Don't keep those experiences to yourself. Don't keep the thoughts that you might have that could possibly empower hundreds, thousands of individuals. Share it, and get involved. Get involved!
Well, you definitely have said a lot of inspiring things Gee, but one of the things that I usually ask every alum that I meet using the same phrase - I was inspired to inspire. How would you finish that, I was inspired to inspire…?
Change. I was inspired to inspire change.
For more on Gee from the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel - https://archive.jsonline.com/news/opinion/giving-more-than-haircuts-ib9ai8e-201694791.html/
Are you an MPS Alum who is giving back to your community? Do you know of an MPS graduate who is making a difference in their community? Send information to the Alumni Hub - email@example.com