ORANGE, NJ — Orange High School alumnus Jeff Pierre has partnered with the Clarity nonprofit foundation and Unisex of America Barbershop at 192 Main St. to host a back-to-school giveaway featuring 100 free haircuts from Tuesday, Sept. 3, through Thursday, Sept. 5.
According to Reggie Miller, the coordinator of the Rutgers University Male Student Support Program at Orange Preparatory Academy, the free haircuts are available to Orange youth 5 to 15 years old and anyone interested in winning one of the coveted 100 giveaways can email firstname.lastname@example.org with “free haircut” in the subject box. He also said the giveaway is for “regular haircuts only.”
“I’m just glad my brother from Orange is giving back to Orange,” Miller said Sept. 3. “He was definitely a part of the brotherhood program, graduated from college, got a job on Wall Street, but didn’t forget where he came from. And now he’s back and giving back to the community and he wants to do even more things.”
The brotherhood Miller referred to is the philosophy he teaches as part of the Male Student Support Program course at OPA, based on the old question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” But Dawan Alford, another product of Orange’s public schools who participated in the program and started his own nonprofit charity in much the same way as Pierre, said it’s older and more profound than the Brother’s Keeper initiative instituted by former President Barack Obama.
“Brotherhood is an actual program in the schools,” Alford said Sept. 3. “Reggie Miller had the insight to implement that program in our school system. He implemented it 20 years ago and we were the first class.”
That’s why, Alford said, he understands why Pierre is giving back.
“This is an ode to Reggie Miller and brotherhood,” Alford said. “My work that I’m doing is a direct reflection of what he’s been doing. So I credit him for that.”
Alford formed the nonprofit charity with his friends and fellow Orange natives to do good works in the community, such as giving away scholarships to worthy city youths in the name of former West Ward Councilman Hassan Abdul Rasheed’s son Hassan C. Miller, who was killed in a cab in East Orange, and sponsoring an annual charity basketball game in his name. He said that’s why he can relate to what Pierre is doing now and what Reggie Miller has done and is still doing in OPA and the community.
“He’s a great kid and he’s doing a great job, giving back to the community,” Alford said. “He comes from an area where there’s a lot of adversity and now he’s back. He’s a good guy, so I’m going to go by and support him.”
Miller said that’s what he likes to hear.
“I always feel like this — once you got brotherhood, you’ve got brotherhood for life,” Miller said. “Jeff Pierre created his own platform and it’s good. He understands my ideology and my vision and he’s from here and he’s from 108. 108 was the address of the old Orange Housing Authority public housing projects. When somebody says ‘I’m from 108,’ that means you grew up in the projects.”
Miller also said he’s glad to see that Pierre and Alford really have embraced his brotherhood philosophy and they’re actually living it and paying it forward for future generations.
“It’s good to see them doing this, because it shows that they really were listening to everything I tried to teach about brotherhood in the Male Student Support Program,” Miller said. “Every little bit counts. We get pockets of positive stuff. It’s going to add up.”
Alford agreed with Miller.
“That’s the goal. The goal is to continue to do the work,” Alford said. “Hopefully, we inspire more young people to get engaged. Jeff’s seen firsthand the work that we’ve done and he came up in the Orange public schools system. He’s a product of what we’ve been doing.”
Pierre said he works on Wall Street, where money and math are really important, so Miller and Alford’s talk about all of them being products of their Orange environment also makes a big difference. He said brotherhood is very real for him and that’s why he wanted to give back with the 100 free haircuts giveaway.
“I founded Clarity in June of this year. I came from Orange, New Jersey. I’ve actually seen everything that happened all around me, when I was coming up but I took a different route,” Pierre said. “What inspired me was when Nipsey Hussle passed away he was doing great things in the community. I was a big fan of Nipsey Hussle and what happened to him kind of put a battery in my back and motivated me to get out and start doing things to make a positive difference in my community, just like he did in Crenshaw, Calif.”
Hussle, born Ermias Joseph Asghedom, was an American rapper, entrepreneur and community activist who denounced gun violence through his music, influence and community work. He was shot to death in March in Los Angeles.
Pierre said there’s “definitely big things popping and happening for 2020” and the 100 free haircuts giveaway is just the beginning.
“Growing up in an inner city community, I wanted to have a fresh haircut going to school,” Pierre said. “It’s basically giving back to the community, because once before, I was in their shoes. It just takes something off the parents’ plate, as well as giving back to the community.”
Alford agreed with Miller that “pockets of positive stuff add up” to something good for Orange.
“It’s all about the contributions of community members that have stepped up and put the work in,” Alford said. “Jeff’s been around it and I think this is a byproduct of it where we see other young brothers stepping up to contribute to what we’ve been doing for years. The goal is to eventually be able to inspire more and more people from our town to go to college, become engaged and give back to their community. We’ve got to keep this going, get the community to support our young people that are doing well, so we can have more stories like Jeff Pierre coming back to contribute.”