Robert Cradle: 2012 Give Back Day Hero


With the help of Rodney Peete, a former NFL quarterback and co-founder of the HollyRod Foundation, Allstate Insurance Company kicked off their 4th Annual National Give Back Day. This is a program that pays tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by encouraging individuals to volunteer in their communities on MLK Day, January 16, 2012, and every day. As part of the program, Allstate recognizes four African-American Give Back Day Heroes in different cities across the U.S. for their commitment to community service.

This year, Robert Cradle, a Baltimore native and founder of Rob’s Barbershop Community Foundation, has been chosen as one of the Give Back Day Heroes. A talented barber who now provides grooming services to the underprivileged community of Baltimore, Rob has a very unique story that I thought you all might enjoy.


by Weusi

Because of his selfless work of providing haircuts to persons who may not have the resources or freedom to go to a barbershop, Robert Cradle has recently been honored by Allstate Insurance Company as a Give Back Day Hero. When I heard about the great work he’s doing, I knew that I wanted to interview him!

To many, the barbershop is a sacred place, in part because it’s a place where aesthetic pride is groomed and community relationships are developed. Robert Cradle is a barber in Baltimore, MD, who has taken this to another level! I’ll let him tell you about it!

Congratulations on the recent honor! Can you tell the readers about your organization, the work you do and your recent honors?

Thank you! Rob’s Barbershop Community Foundation (RBCF) is an organization that raises funds to operate projects that provide grooming services and products to individuals who cannot afford them. Our current projects consist of operating two full-service barber/beauty shops located in two Baltimore Area homeless shelters.

I am currently in the process of being honored by Allstate as one of their Give Back Day Heroes. I am so excited about this honor because Allstate is using my story as a way of inspiring others to volunteer in their respective communities on the Martin Luther King holiday.

How did the idea for the organization come about?

The idea came about when I used to own a barber shop that was near a homeless shelter. I met the volunteer coordinator of that shelter who told me that their residents could not afford to patronize the local barbers or beauty salons. Many of the shelter’s residents lived below the poverty level and many had several children. So I decided not to just handle the problem alone, but created an effort that would also allow the community to get involved. I placed a collection box at my barbershop so my customers could contribute toward the cost of hiring barbers to go to local shelters and provide free grooming. This approach would, in essence, create a win-win situation. Local barbers would be employed, the public would have a good cause to donate towards and, most of all, individuals living at poverty level would have access to services and products that they are currently unable to afford. Now they are able to attend job interviews and school with a neat and clean appearance!

Can you tell us a little about what it took to make the transition from informal favors to an official organization?

It took a lot of training. To make the transition, I had to take classes on non-profit management and fundraising. I read tons of books/manuals and did lots of research. I also did some volunteer work with other non-profits and churches to get some hands-on experience. It made a big difference. The education and experience helped me to know what to expect and how to avoid mistakes.

Baltimore gets a bad reputation via some TV shows and mass media. The nickname, “B-more careful” is one of the most gangster nicknames for a city that I’ve ever heard! Do you think that the media depictions of the city are true? Do you see the city changing? How? What would you like people to know about Baltimore?

Sadly, most (if not all) of the depictions are true. Baltimore is a place suffering from some really systemic problems. I love Baltimore and won’t take shots at it, but I will give credit to all of the media sources that have pretty much displayed the truth about the city. Baltimore will eventually change, because personally I think that there are many stakeholders that see the city as an economic force. So, they are going to work hard to relieve those problems that create that negative reputation. This mostly has to do with lowering the level of crime, violence, poverty, drugs and their lingering effects.

I would like people to know that Baltimore has its own unique identity that really could be appreciated on a national stage. We actually have our own unique culture, style, language, music, art, history, heroes and hairstyles, which is unlike any other city in this country.

I have to ask you about hair trends in Baltimore. I heard that the DC-bred Temple Taper is making a comeback and that the designs in the hair are getting more elaborate. But, I also heard that the Philly-style darkened waves and full beards are in there too . What trends have you seen?

Lately, I’ve noticed a comeback in hi-top box fades and different variations of the Mohawk. It’s more of a return of the 80’s style, which is cool because that’s when I was a teenager and got a chance to wear those same types of styles.

Do you cut both male and female patrons?

Yes. Male, female, Black and White. Fortunately, I’ve worked in all types of shops: upscale, “hood,” military, small-town, you name it. I was also a teacher in a barber school for a couple of years, so I had to have some experience in several different areas of cutting and styling to be able to teach others.

Do you stay abreast of natural hair, hair products, technology and healthcare for brothers? If so, what would you say is the best thing brothers can do to take care of their hair?

Yes, I pretty much stay abreast of all the new products and equipment that come along. My advice is that brothers should focus more on the ingredients of products, rather than focus on the brand name. Focus on which consistency (cream, lotion, gel, pomade, oil, grease, liquid) gives you your desired result, rather than what the label promises it will do. Try each consistency; you will eventually find out what works best.

What do you think is the worst common practice that brothers are doing now that they should stop? Coming to the shop with too much grease (or any product) in their hair. The cleaner the hair, the better the haircut! That goes for anyone of any gender or race. I know it may not be possible all of the time but, believe it or not, we want to do our best for our customers.

We know that barbers have to keep up with various aesthetics/styles, but is there a role of responsibility to community that barbers should also have?

A barber’s responsibility to the community is basically a personal decision. Their decision should jive with the owner’s mission of the shop as a whole. Nevertheless, the least any barber/cosmetologist should do is abide by the rules and regulations of their state’s Board of Barbers/Cosmetologist.

Is there anything else that you would like to share with the readers of Hairscapades?

Sure. I would like people to know that there are many people who can’t go to the barber and/or beauty salon. Just think, if you did not have access to regular grooming services, your entire life would change. You could actually lose a job or maybe even a relationship. People would even treat you differently. There are children who are neglected, abused, live with an elderly grandparent, have too many sibling in one household, etc., so they may not get regular grooming. You can see them at any school near you. There are also so many adults who are homeless, laid-off or have to opt for food and housing and forgo regular grooming.

Thank you Robert!!

And with that last sentiment, let’s remember the 5th Principle of Kwanzaa, NIA, which means purpose in kiswahilli. The word is included within KWANZAA’s seven principles (Nguzu Saba) because of the idea that, collectively, we should work to improve our community and restore it to its historical greatness. So, with that being said …

Robert Cradle … on this, the 5th day of KWANZAA … in the spirit of NIA … I salute you!



Want to help? Visit to make a donation that will help provide grooming services to those who can’t afford them. To participate in Give Back Day 2012, visit to find volunteer opportunities in a city near you.


3 responses »

  1. I live in Baltimore and as I was driving to work the morning a commercial from Allstate Insurance came on the radio and saluted this gentleman for his work in the community. I was like, “hey that’s the guy from the blog!” I thought it was great that his work is being highlighted across the web and the airways. Way to go!


  2. I just read an article in Ebony August 2012 about what Robert Cradle is doing for his community. I wish more African Americans would participate in their community once they become famous. I live in Grand Rapids, MI and have yet to see what several celebrities have done onTHIS kind of scale for the Grand Rapids Community.


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