Nonprofit: Line 4 Line

Walking along the vast hyper-colored mural outside of O’Neil’s Barber Shop, Travis Dabney pauses, motioning to the wall and the young boy depicted getting a trim while he reads from a storybook.

“That’s my son,” Dabney says, his voice loaded with a brawny sense of pride, not only in his precocious 5-year-old, but just maybe something bigger. “They surprised me with that, actually. But see, that’s the future right there.”

Dabney oversees security at L’Auberge Casino, and he grew up in this economically challenged neighborhood just north of Mid City. The one from the nightly news. The 70805.

He is dropping off a giant pan of jambalaya he whipped up at home. Once a month he cooks a filling dish that can feed dozens and brings it to O’Neil’s.

“I know what it’s like to come home from school and not have anything to eat,” Dabney says.

Inside the narrow barbershop, a handful of young neighborhood children along with their dutiful moms and aunts and grandmothers are digging into Dabney’s spicy rice and a spread of chicken, fresh fruit, chips and cookies.

Just under the buzz of proprietor O’Neil Curtis’ silver and black clippers comes the soft voice of a young student named Mason Wheeler. As the 37-year-old barber cuts his hair, Wheeler reads from a novelized version of Marvel’s The Black Panther.

O’Neil Curtis

O’Neil Curtis

His voice rises and falls in step with the action-packed adventure. He only pauses once to figure out a word, and smiles broadly when turning the page.

“You really see a change in people when you show them care and love by cutting their hair,” says Curtis, who has owned the shop for 15 years and manages multiple jobs and businesses. “Even if they come in and their heads are hanging down, you can see how uplifted they feel after. It lifts their spirit.”

It’s an unusually warm evening in December, and today’s event marks the start of the fifth year of Line 4 Line. The nonprofit literacy and mentorship program provides children with a free haircut, a meal and a book if they read to their barber while they are sitting in his chair.

Curtis and his colleague Keith Davis, aka Jimi Jump, are trimming, clipping and fading, but while they do, they are giving pep talks about school and life and everything in between. They are listening to problems and hopes. They are being there.

And these children get visibly excited about the stacks of books lying around while they eat, complete art projects and dive into a huge bin of LEGOs.

It was 2014 when Curtis agreed to host and partner with the launch of the program after meeting Lucy Perera, a longtime literacy advocate who was working as coordinator of school and community programs at the LSU Museum of Art at the time, and now serves as director of learning innovation at Knock Knock Children’s Museum.

“Lucy was going into the heart of the ghetto already,” Curtis recalls of his partner’s passion for creating greater access to books. “From another side, another race, straight to the hood, in this area where there’s crime and killing, and that really struck me.”

Line 4 Line now conducts periodical events at local schools and outreaches for the homeless, too, but once a month, Curtis’ shop fills with children who are pulled like gravity to new books.

They are a common sight on Saturdays, too, when working parents will drop their children off in the mornings and not pick them up until dinner time.

Books and art supplies, a basketball goal in the parking lot, and banter with “Jimi Jump” and Curtis—himself a devoted father to an 11-year-old daughter—keep the children occupied.

“They are in a place that’s not a conventional reading space, and that’s exciting for them,” Perera says. “They get to associate reading as a cool thing that’s not just something to do at school. Lots of these kids grow up in houses that don’t have books. Libraries are great, but we have to make kids identify as readers so they don’t see it as a burdensome activity.”

The program has a legion of young students turning a page in their literacy journey to discover not only a real love of the written word, but a safe place where positive adult support and a pursuit of learning are encouraged every day.

But it’s not just the children who are learning from Line 4 Line. Local school teachers have taken notice; they are volunteering monthly and seeing the program impact adults, too.

“Parents look over my shoulder as we work with the students on reading, and they learn how to better read with their own kids,” says teacher Theresa King of White Hills Elementary.

The casual atmosphere of the shop has certainly contributed to the program’s success. “Walk-Ins Welcome” is painted above the entrance, and the greeting has a deeper meaning now.

“O’Neil’s isn’t just a barber shop, it’s a family with an open door,” says Cujo Dah, who the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge recruited, along with Rahmaan Barnes, in early 2018 to create the traffic-stopping murals outside of O’Neil’s.

"We had the opportunity to create an inspirational and colorful backdrop for this growing community.”

Barnes is based in Chicago but has traveled often to paint large public pieces. The instruction and giving he’s seen at O’Neil’s reminds him of what big city and community centers felt like in their early stages. “O’Neil is a good-hearted guy who’s deeply connected to his neighborhood and its people,” Barnes says. “Seeing parents drop their kids off for the day, there’s trust there, and it’ll be amazing to see how this develops and grows.”

Line 4 Line thrives because it is completely nonjudgmental, Perera believes. Reading level and social status don’t matter. Clothing brands don’t either. All are welcome. The only thing students have to do is wait their turn.

“Lucy has a strong arts mind, so her approach really makes this program a success,” King says. “She’s created this space that’s like a book nook, and it’s welcoming and comfortable.”

The latent potential of such a literacy-focused program in the heart of a low-income neighborhood was not lost on Tania Inniss, the photographer who documented the earliest iterations of Line 4 Line.

“I could already tell how successful the program was going to be after the first day,” Inniss says. “You could see a change in the boys from when they first walked in the doors of the barber shop to when they finished reading. They walked out with confidence and joy.”

In its fledgling years, the program has survived with volunteers like Travis Dabney donating their time and a modicum of funding for children’s books and supplies. But as the community has embraced the concept, and O’Neil’s has evolved into a friendly neighborhood hub, Perara believes it is time Line 4 Line expanded with more school programs, and site improvements to Curtis’ empty buildings adjacent to the barber shop into a community center for children. The program is seeking new funding streams.

“We want to go further with schools and in homeless shelters,” Perera says. “We want to help parents be better readers with their children, and having a dedicated space for that will be crucial.”

She envisions the renovated rooms containing a permanent library of children’s books and hosting Saturdays filled by area artists and teachers who volunteer to lead classes and workshops or just show up and hang out with the youth.

“Drug dealing and violence was all I saw when I was a kid,” Curtis recalls. “No one came around and separated us kids from that back then. I’m seeing the problem now, and you can see how much these kids appreciate Line 4 Line as a safe place and positive thing.” On his way out of O’Neil’s, Dabney stops and says hello to another family walking past the children calling themselves LeBron and Curry beneath the basketball hoop. “This place is positive and brings a great feeling to the community,” he says after the family passes him by. “We aren’t rich, but we can make great things happen.”


His voice rises and falls in step with the action-packed adventure. He only pauses once to figure out a word, and smiles broadly when turning the page.

“You really see a change in people when you show them care and love by cutting their hair,” says Curtis, who has owned the shop for 15 years and manages multiple jobs and businesses. “Even if they come in and their heads are hanging down, you can see how uplifted they feel after. It lifts their spirit.”

It’s an unusually warm evening in December, and today’s event marks the start of the fifth year of Line 4 Line. The nonprofit literacy and mentorship program provides children with a free haircut, a meal and a book if they read to their barber while they are sitting in his chair.

Curtis and his colleague Keith Davis, aka Jimi Jump, are trimming, clipping and fading, but while they do, they are giving pep talks about school and life and everything in between. They are listening to problems and hopes. They are being there.

And these children get visibly excited about the stacks of books lying around while they eat, complete art projects and dive into a huge bin of LEGOs.

It was 2014 when Curtis agreed to host and partner with the launch of the program after meeting Lucy Perera, a longtime literacy advocate who was working as coordinator of school and community programs at the LSU Museum of Art at the time, and now serves as director of learning innovation at Knock Knock Children’s Museum.

“Lucy was going into the heart of the ghetto already,” Curtis recalls of his partner’s passion for creating greater access to books. “From another side, another race, straight to the hood, in this area where there’s crime and killing, and that really struck me.”

Line 4 Line now conducts periodical events at local schools and outreaches for the homeless, too, but once a month, Curtis’ shop fills with children who are pulled like gravity to new books.

They are a common sight on Saturdays, too, when working parents will drop their children off in the mornings and not pick them up until dinner time.

Books and art supplies, a basketball goal in the parking lot, and banter with “Jimi Jump” and Curtis—himself a devoted father to an 11-year-old daughter—keep the children occupied.

“They are in a place that’s not a conventional reading space, and that’s exciting for them,” Perera says. “They get to associate reading as a cool thing that’s not just something to do at school. Lots of these kids grow up in houses that don’t have books. Libraries are great, but we have to make kids identify as readers so they don’t see it as a burdensome activity.”

The program has a legion of young students turning a page in their literacy journey to discover not only a real love of the written word, but a safe place where positive adult support and a pursuit of learning are encouraged every day.

But it’s not just the children who are learning from Line 4 Line. Local school teachers have taken notice; they are volunteering monthly and seeing the program impact adults, too.

“Parents look over my shoulder as we work with the students on reading, and they learn how to better read with their own kids,” says teacher Theresa King of White Hills Elementary.

The casual atmosphere of the shop has certainly contributed to the program’s success. “Walk-Ins Welcome” is painted above the entrance, and the greeting has a deeper meaning now.

“O’Neil’s isn’t just a barber shop, it’s a family with an open door,” says Cujo Dah, who the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge recruited, along with Rahmaan Barnes, in early 2018 to create the traffic-stopping murals outside of O’Neil’s.

"We had the opportunity to create an inspirational and colorful backdrop for this growing community.”

Barnes is based in Chicago but has traveled often to paint large public pieces. The instruction and giving he’s seen at O’Neil’s reminds him of what big city and community centers felt like in their early stages. “O’Neil is a good-hearted guy who’s deeply connected to his neighborhood and its people,” Barnes says. “Seeing parents drop their kids off for the day, there’s trust there, and it’ll be amazing to see how this develops and grows.”

Line 4 Line thrives because it is completely nonjudgmental, Perera believes. Reading level and social status don’t matter. Clothing brands don’t either. All are welcome. The only thing students have to do is wait their turn.

“Lucy has a strong arts mind, so her approach really makes this program a success,” King says. “She’s created this space that’s like a book nook, and it’s welcoming and comfortable.”

The latent potential of such a literacy-focused program in the heart of a low-income neighborhood was not lost on Tania Inniss, the photographer who documented the earliest iterations of Line 4 Line.

“I could already tell how successful the program was going to be after the first day,” Inniss says. “You could see a change in the boys from when they first walked in the doors of the barber shop to when they finished reading. They walked out with confidence and joy.”

In its fledgling years, the program has survived with volunteers like Travis Dabney donating their time and a modicum of funding for children’s books and supplies. But as the community has embraced the concept, and O’Neil’s has evolved into a friendly neighborhood hub, Perara believes it is time Line 4 Line expanded with more school programs, and site improvements to Curtis’ empty buildings adjacent to the barber shop into a community center for children. The program is seeking new funding streams.

“We want to go further with schools and in homeless shelters,” Perera says. “We want to help parents be better readers with their children, and having a dedicated space for that will be crucial.”

She envisions the renovated rooms containing a permanent library of children’s books and hosting Saturdays filled by area artists and teachers who volunteer to lead classes and workshops or just show up and hang out with the youth.

“Drug dealing and violence was all I saw when I was a kid,” Curtis recalls. “No one came around and separated us kids from that back then. I’m seeing the problem now, and you can see how much these kids appreciate Line 4 Line as a safe place and positive thing.” On his way out of O’Neil’s, Dabney stops and says hello to another family walking past the children calling themselves LeBron and Curry beneath the basketball hoop. “This place is positive and brings a great feeling to the community,” he says after the family passes him by. “We aren’t rich, but we can make great things happen.”


His voice rises and falls in step with the action-packed adventure. He only pauses once to figure out a word, and smiles broadly when turning the page.

“You really see a change in people when you show them care and love by cutting their hair,” says Curtis, who has owned the shop for 15 years and manages multiple jobs and businesses. “Even if they come in and their heads are hanging down, you can see how uplifted they feel after. It lifts their spirit.”

It’s an unusually warm evening in December, and today’s event marks the start of the fifth year of Line 4 Line. The nonprofit literacy and mentorship program provides children with a free haircut, a meal and a book if they read to their barber while they are sitting in his chair.

Curtis and his colleague Keith Davis, aka Jimi Jump, are trimming, clipping and fading, but while they do, they are giving pep talks about school and life and everything in between. They are listening to problems and hopes. They are being there.

And these children get visibly excited about the stacks of books lying around while they eat, complete art projects and dive into a huge bin of LEGOs.

It was 2014 when Curtis agreed to host and partner with the launch of the program after meeting Lucy Perera, a longtime literacy advocate who was working as coordinator of school and community programs at the LSU Museum of Art at the time, and now serves as director of learning innovation at Knock Knock Children’s Museum.

“Lucy was going into the heart of the ghetto already,” Curtis recalls of his partner’s passion for creating greater access to books. “From another side, another race, straight to the hood, in this area where there’s crime and killing, and that really struck me.”

Line 4 Line now conducts periodical events at local schools and outreaches for the homeless, too, but once a month, Curtis’ shop fills with children who are pulled like gravity to new books.

They are a common sight on Saturdays, too, when working parents will drop their children off in the mornings and not pick them up until dinner time.

Books and art supplies, a basketball goal in the parking lot, and banter with “Jimi Jump” and Curtis—himself a devoted father to an 11-year-old daughter—keep the children occupied.

“They are in a place that’s not a conventional reading space, and that’s exciting for them,” Perera says. “They get to associate reading as a cool thing that’s not just something to do at school. Lots of these kids grow up in houses that don’t have books. Libraries are great, but we have to make kids identify as readers so they don’t see it as a burdensome activity.”

The program has a legion of young students turning a page in their literacy journey to discover not only a real love of the written word, but a safe place where positive adult support and a pursuit of learning are encouraged every day.

But it’s not just the children who are learning from Line 4 Line. Local school teachers have taken notice; they are volunteering monthly and seeing the program impact adults, too.

“Parents look over my shoulder as we work with the students on reading, and they learn how to better read with their own kids,” says teacher Theresa King of White Hills Elementary.

The casual atmosphere of the shop has certainly contributed to the program’s success. “Walk-Ins Welcome” is painted above the entrance, and the greeting has a deeper meaning now.

“O’Neil’s isn’t just a barber shop, it’s a family with an open door,” says Cujo Dah, who the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge recruited, along with Rahmaan Barnes, in early 2018 to create the traffic-stopping murals outside of O’Neil’s.

"We had the opportunity to create an inspirational and colorful backdrop for this growing community.”

Barnes is based in Chicago but has traveled often to paint large public pieces. The instruction and giving he’s seen at O’Neil’s reminds him of what big city and community centers felt like in their early stages. “O’Neil is a good-hearted guy who’s deeply connected to his neighborhood and its people,” Barnes says. “Seeing parents drop their kids off for the day, there’s trust there, and it’ll be amazing to see how this develops and grows.”

Line 4 Line thrives because it is completely nonjudgmental, Perera believes. Reading level and social status don’t matter. Clothing brands don’t either. All are welcome. The only thing students have to do is wait their turn.

“Lucy has a strong arts mind, so her approach really makes this program a success,” King says. “She’s created this space that’s like a book nook, and it’s welcoming and comfortable.”

The latent potential of such a literacy-focused program in the heart of a low-income neighborhood was not lost on Tania Inniss, the photographer who documented the earliest iterations of Line 4 Line.

“I could already tell how successful the program was going to be after the first day,” Inniss says. “You could see a change in the boys from when they first walked in the doors of the barber shop to when they finished reading. They walked out with confidence and joy.”

In its fledgling years, the program has survived with volunteers like Travis Dabney donating their time and a modicum of funding for children’s books and supplies. But as the community has embraced the concept, and O’Neil’s has evolved into a friendly neighborhood hub, Perara believes it is time Line 4 Line expanded with more school programs, and site improvements to Curtis’ empty buildings adjacent to the barber shop into a community center for children. The program is seeking new funding streams.

“We want to go further with schools and in homeless shelters,” Perera says. “We want to help parents be better readers with their children, and having a dedicated space for that will be crucial.”

She envisions the renovated rooms containing a permanent library of children’s books and hosting Saturdays filled by area artists and teachers who volunteer to lead classes and workshops or just show up and hang out with the youth.

“Drug dealing and violence was all I saw when I was a kid,” Curtis recalls. “No one came around and separated us kids from that back then. I’m seeing the problem now, and you can see how much these kids appreciate Line 4 Line as a safe place and positive thing.” On his way out of O’Neil’s, Dabney stops and says hello to another family walking past the children calling themselves LeBron and Curry beneath the basketball hoop. “This place is positive and brings a great feeling to the community,” he says after the family passes him by. “We aren’t rich, but we can make great things happen.”


His voice rises and falls in step with the action-packed adventure. He only pauses once to figure out a word, and smiles broadly when turning the page.

“You really see a change in people when you show them care and love by cutting their hair,” says Curtis, who has owned the shop for 15 years and manages multiple jobs and businesses. “Even if they come in and their heads are hanging down, you can see how uplifted they feel after. It lifts their spirit.”

It’s an unusually warm evening in December, and today’s event marks the start of the fifth year of Line 4 Line. The nonprofit literacy and mentorship program provides children with a free haircut, a meal and a book if they read to their barber while they are sitting in his chair.

Curtis and his colleague Keith Davis, aka Jimi Jump, are trimming, clipping and fading, but while they do, they are giving pep talks about school and life and everything in between. They are listening to problems and hopes. They are being there.

And these children get visibly excited about the stacks of books lying around while they eat, complete art projects and dive into a huge bin of LEGOs.

It was 2014 when Curtis agreed to host and partner with the launch of the program after meeting Lucy Perera, a longtime literacy advocate who was working as coordinator of school and community programs at the LSU Museum of Art at the time, and now serves as director of learning innovation at Knock Knock Children’s Museum.

“Lucy was going into the heart of the ghetto already,” Curtis recalls of his partner’s passion for creating greater access to books. “From another side, another race, straight to the hood, in this area where there’s crime and killing, and that really struck me.”

Line 4 Line now conducts periodical events at local schools and outreaches for the homeless, too, but once a month, Curtis’ shop fills with children who are pulled like gravity to new books.

They are a common sight on Saturdays, too, when working parents will drop their children off in the mornings and not pick them up until dinner time.

Books and art supplies, a basketball goal in the parking lot, and banter with “Jimi Jump” and Curtis—himself a devoted father to an 11-year-old daughter—keep the children occupied.

“They are in a place that’s not a conventional reading space, and that’s exciting for them,” Perera says. “They get to associate reading as a cool thing that’s not just something to do at school. Lots of these kids grow up in houses that don’t have books. Libraries are great, but we have to make kids identify as readers so they don’t see it as a burdensome activity.”

The program has a legion of young students turning a page in their literacy journey to discover not only a real love of the written word, but a safe place where positive adult support and a pursuit of learning are encouraged every day.

But it’s not just the children who are learning from Line 4 Line. Local school teachers have taken notice; they are volunteering monthly and seeing the program impact adults, too.

“Parents look over my shoulder as we work with the students on reading, and they learn how to better read with their own kids,” says teacher Theresa King of White Hills Elementary.

The casual atmosphere of the shop has certainly contributed to the program’s success. “Walk-Ins Welcome” is painted above the entrance, and the greeting has a deeper meaning now.

“O’Neil’s isn’t just a barber shop, it’s a family with an open door,” says Cujo Dah, who the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge recruited, along with Rahmaan Barnes, in early 2018 to create the traffic-stopping murals outside of O’Neil’s.

"We had the opportunity to create an inspirational and colorful backdrop for this growing community.”

Barnes is based in Chicago but has traveled often to paint large public pieces. The instruction and giving he’s seen at O’Neil’s reminds him of what big city and community centers felt like in their early stages. “O’Neil is a good-hearted guy who’s deeply connected to his neighborhood and its people,” Barnes says. “Seeing parents drop their kids off for the day, there’s trust there, and it’ll be amazing to see how this develops and grows.”

Line 4 Line thrives because it is completely nonjudgmental, Perera believes. Reading level and social status don’t matter. Clothing brands don’t either. All are welcome. The only thing students have to do is wait their turn.

“Lucy has a strong arts mind, so her approach really makes this program a success,” King says. “She’s created this space that’s like a book nook, and it’s welcoming and comfortable.”

The latent potential of such a literacy-focused program in the heart of a low-income neighborhood was not lost on Tania Inniss, the photographer who documented the earliest iterations of Line 4 Line.

“I could already tell how successful the program was going to be after the first day,” Inniss says. “You could see a change in the boys from when they first walked in the doors of the barber shop to when they finished reading. They walked out with confidence and joy.”

In its fledgling years, the program has survived with volunteers like Travis Dabney donating their time and a modicum of funding for children’s books and supplies. But as the community has embraced the concept, and O’Neil’s has evolved into a friendly neighborhood hub, Perara believes it is time Line 4 Line expanded with more school programs, and site improvements to Curtis’ empty buildings adjacent to the barber shop into a community center for children. The program is seeking new funding streams.

“We want to go further with schools and in homeless shelters,” Perera says. “We want to help parents be better readers with their children, and having a dedicated space for that will be crucial.”

She envisions the renovated rooms containing a permanent library of children’s books and hosting Saturdays filled by area artists and teachers who volunteer to lead classes and workshops or just show up and hang out with the youth.

“Drug dealing and violence was all I saw when I was a kid,” Curtis recalls. “No one came around and separated us kids from that back then. I’m seeing the problem now, and you can see how much these kids appreciate Line 4 Line as a safe place and positive thing.” On his way out of O’Neil’s, Dabney stops and says hello to another family walking past the children calling themselves LeBron and Curry beneath the basketball hoop. “This place is positive and brings a great feeling to the community,” he says after the family passes him by. “We aren’t rich, but we can make great things happen.”


His voice rises and falls in step with the action-packed adventure. He only pauses once to figure out a word, and smiles broadly when turning the page.

“You really see a change in people when you show them care and love by cutting their hair,” says Curtis, who has owned the shop for 15 years and manages multiple jobs and businesses. “Even if they come in and their heads are hanging down, you can see how uplifted they feel after. It lifts their spirit.”

It’s an unusually warm evening in December, and today’s event marks the start of the fifth year of Line 4 Line. The nonprofit literacy and mentorship program provides children with a free haircut, a meal and a book if they read to their barber while they are sitting in his chair.

Curtis and his colleague Keith Davis, aka Jimi Jump, are trimming, clipping and fading, but while they do, they are giving pep talks about school and life and everything in between. They are listening to problems and hopes. They are being there.

And these children get visibly excited about the stacks of books lying around while they eat, complete art projects and dive into a huge bin of LEGOs.

It was 2014 when Curtis agreed to host and partner with the launch of the program after meeting Lucy Perera, a longtime literacy advocate who was working as coordinator of school and community programs at the LSU Museum of Art at the time, and now serves as director of learning innovation at Knock Knock Children’s Museum.

“Lucy was going into the heart of the ghetto already,” Curtis recalls of his partner’s passion for creating greater access to books. “From another side, another race, straight to the hood, in this area where there’s crime and killing, and that really struck me.”

Line 4 Line now conducts periodical events at local schools and outreaches for the homeless, too, but once a month, Curtis’ shop fills with children who are pulled like gravity to new books.

They are a common sight on Saturdays, too, when working parents will drop their children off in the mornings and not pick them up until dinner time.

Books and art supplies, a basketball goal in the parking lot, and banter with “Jimi Jump” and Curtis—himself a devoted father to an 11-year-old daughter—keep the children occupied.

“They are in a place that’s not a conventional reading space, and that’s exciting for them,” Perera says. “They get to associate reading as a cool thing that’s not just something to do at school. Lots of these kids grow up in houses that don’t have books. Libraries are great, but we have to make kids identify as readers so they don’t see it as a burdensome activity.”

The program has a legion of young students turning a page in their literacy journey to discover not only a real love of the written word, but a safe place where positive adult support and a pursuit of learning are encouraged every day.

But it’s not just the children who are learning from Line 4 Line. Local school teachers have taken notice; they are volunteering monthly and seeing the program impact adults, too.

“Parents look over my shoulder as we work with the students on reading, and they learn how to better read with their own kids,” says teacher Theresa King of White Hills Elementary.

The casual atmosphere of the shop has certainly contributed to the program’s success. “Walk-Ins Welcome” is painted above the entrance, and the greeting has a deeper meaning now.

“O’Neil’s isn’t just a barber shop, it’s a family with an open door,” says Cujo Dah, who the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge recruited, along with Rahmaan Barnes, in early 2018 to create the traffic-stopping murals outside of O’Neil’s.

"We had the opportunity to create an inspirational and colorful backdrop for this growing community.”

Barnes is based in Chicago but has traveled often to paint large public pieces. The instruction and giving he’s seen at O’Neil’s reminds him of what big city and community centers felt like in their early stages. “O’Neil is a good-hearted guy who’s deeply connected to his neighborhood and its people,” Barnes says. “Seeing parents drop their kids off for the day, there’s trust there, and it’ll be amazing to see how this develops and grows.”

Line 4 Line thrives because it is completely nonjudgmental, Perera believes. Reading level and social status don’t matter. Clothing brands don’t either. All are welcome. The only thing students have to do is wait their turn.

“Lucy has a strong arts mind, so her approach really makes this program a success,” King says. “She’s created this space that’s like a book nook, and it’s welcoming and comfortable.”

The latent potential of such a literacy-focused program in the heart of a low-income neighborhood was not lost on Tania Inniss, the photographer who documented the earliest iterations of Line 4 Line.

“I could already tell how successful the program was going to be after the first day,” Inniss says. “You could see a change in the boys from when they first walked in the doors of the barber shop to when they finished reading. They walked out with confidence and joy.”

In its fledgling years, the program has survived with volunteers like Travis Dabney donating their time and a modicum of funding for children’s books and supplies. But as the community has embraced the concept, and O’Neil’s has evolved into a friendly neighborhood hub, Perara believes it is time Line 4 Line expanded with more school programs, and site improvements to Curtis’ empty buildings adjacent to the barber shop into a community center for children. The program is seeking new funding streams.

“We want to go further with schools and in homeless shelters,” Perera says. “We want to help parents be better readers with their children, and having a dedicated space for that will be crucial.”

She envisions the renovated rooms containing a permanent library of children’s books and hosting Saturdays filled by area artists and teachers who volunteer to lead classes and workshops or just show up and hang out with the youth.

“Drug dealing and violence was all I saw when I was a kid,” Curtis recalls. “No one came around and separated us kids from that back then. I’m seeing the problem now, and you can see how much these kids appreciate Line 4 Line as a safe place and positive thing.” On his way out of O’Neil’s, Dabney stops and says hello to another family walking past the children calling themselves LeBron and Curry beneath the basketball hoop. “This place is positive and brings a great feeling to the community,” he says after the family passes him by. “We aren’t rich, but we can make great things happen.”


His voice rises and falls in step with the action-packed adventure. He only pauses once to figure out a word, and smiles broadly when turning the page.

“You really see a change in people when you show them care and love by cutting their hair,” says Curtis, who has owned the shop for 15 years and manages multiple jobs and businesses. “Even if they come in and their heads are hanging down, you can see how uplifted they feel after. It lifts their spirit.”

It’s an unusually warm evening in December, and today’s event marks the start of the fifth year of Line 4 Line. The nonprofit literacy and mentorship program provides children with a free haircut, a meal and a book if they read to their barber while they are sitting in his chair.

Curtis and his colleague Keith Davis, aka Jimi Jump, are trimming, clipping and fading, but while they do, they are giving pep talks about school and life and everything in between. They are listening to problems and hopes. They are being there.

And these children get visibly excited about the stacks of books lying around while they eat, complete art projects and dive into a huge bin of LEGOs.

It was 2014 when Curtis agreed to host and partner with the launch of the program after meeting Lucy Perera, a longtime literacy advocate who was working as coordinator of school and community programs at the LSU Museum of Art at the time, and now serves as director of learning innovation at Knock Knock Children’s Museum.

“Lucy was going into the heart of the ghetto already,” Curtis recalls of his partner’s passion for creating greater access to books. “From another side, another race, straight to the hood, in this area where there’s crime and killing, and that really struck me.”

Line 4 Line now conducts periodical events at local schools and outreaches for the homeless, too, but once a month, Curtis’ shop fills with children who are pulled like gravity to new books.

They are a common sight on Saturdays, too, when working parents will drop their children off in the mornings and not pick them up until dinner time.

Books and art supplies, a basketball goal in the parking lot, and banter with “Jimi Jump” and Curtis—himself a devoted father to an 11-year-old daughter—keep the children occupied.

“They are in a place that’s not a conventional reading space, and that’s exciting for them,” Perera says. “They get to associate reading as a cool thing that’s not just something to do at school. Lots of these kids grow up in houses that don’t have books. Libraries are great, but we have to make kids identify as readers so they don’t see it as a burdensome activity.”

The program has a legion of young students turning a page in their literacy journey to discover not only a real love of the written word, but a safe place where positive adult support and a pursuit of learning are encouraged every day.

But it’s not just the children who are learning from Line 4 Line. Local school teachers have taken notice; they are volunteering monthly and seeing the program impact adults, too.

“Parents look over my shoulder as we work with the students on reading, and they learn how to better read with their own kids,” says teacher Theresa King of White Hills Elementary.

The casual atmosphere of the shop has certainly contributed to the program’s success. “Walk-Ins Welcome” is painted above the entrance, and the greeting has a deeper meaning now.

“O’Neil’s isn’t just a barber shop, it’s a family with an open door,” says Cujo Dah, who the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge recruited, along with Rahmaan Barnes, in early 2018 to create the traffic-stopping murals outside of O’Neil’s.

"We had the opportunity to create an inspirational and colorful backdrop for this growing community.”

Barnes is based in Chicago but has traveled often to paint large public pieces. The instruction and giving he’s seen at O’Neil’s reminds him of what big city and community centers felt like in their early stages. “O’Neil is a good-hearted guy who’s deeply connected to his neighborhood and its people,” Barnes says. “Seeing parents drop their kids off for the day, there’s trust there, and it’ll be amazing to see how this develops and grows.”

Line 4 Line thrives because it is completely nonjudgmental, Perera believes. Reading level and social status don’t matter. Clothing brands don’t either. All are welcome. The only thing students have to do is wait their turn.

“Lucy has a strong arts mind, so her approach really makes this program a success,” King says. “She’s created this space that’s like a book nook, and it’s welcoming and comfortable.”

The latent potential of such a literacy-focused program in the heart of a low-income neighborhood was not lost on Tania Inniss, the photographer who documented the earliest iterations of Line 4 Line.

“I could already tell how successful the program was going to be after the first day,” Inniss says. “You could see a change in the boys from when they first walked in the doors of the barber shop to when they finished reading. They walked out with confidence and joy.”

In its fledgling years, the program has survived with volunteers like Travis Dabney donating their time and a modicum of funding for children’s books and supplies. But as the community has embraced the concept, and O’Neil’s has evolved into a friendly neighborhood hub, Perara believes it is time Line 4 Line expanded with more school programs, and site improvements to Curtis’ empty buildings adjacent to the barber shop into a community center for children. The program is seeking new funding streams.

“We want to go further with schools and in homeless shelters,” Perera says. “We want to help parents be better readers with their children, and having a dedicated space for that will be crucial.”

She envisions the renovated rooms containing a permanent library of children’s books and hosting Saturdays filled by area artists and teachers who volunteer to lead classes and workshops or just show up and hang out with the youth.

“Drug dealing and violence was all I saw when I was a kid,” Curtis recalls. “No one came around and separated us kids from that back then. I’m seeing the problem now, and you can see how much these kids appreciate Line 4 Line as a safe place and positive thing.” On his way out of O’Neil’s, Dabney stops and says hello to another family walking past the children calling themselves LeBron and Curry beneath the basketball hoop. “This place is positive and brings a great feeling to the community,” he says after the family passes him by. “We aren’t rich, but we can make great things happen.”


His voice rises and falls in step with the action-packed adventure. He only pauses once to figure out a word, and smiles broadly when turning the page.

“You really see a change in people when you show them care and love by cutting their hair,” says Curtis, who has owned the shop for 15 years and manages multiple jobs and businesses. “Even if they come in and their heads are hanging down, you can see how uplifted they feel after. It lifts their spirit.”

It’s an unusually warm evening in December, and today’s event marks the start of the fifth year of Line 4 Line. The nonprofit literacy and mentorship program provides children with a free haircut, a meal and a book if they read to their barber while they are sitting in his chair.

Curtis and his colleague Keith Davis, aka Jimi Jump, are trimming, clipping and fading, but while they do, they are giving pep talks about school and life and everything in between. They are listening to problems and hopes. They are being there.

And these children get visibly excited about the stacks of books lying around while they eat, complete art projects and dive into a huge bin of LEGOs.

It was 2014 when Curtis agreed to host and partner with the launch of the program after meeting Lucy Perera, a longtime literacy advocate who was working as coordinator of school and community programs at the LSU Museum of Art at the time, and now serves as director of learning innovation at Knock Knock Children’s Museum.

“Lucy was going into the heart of the ghetto already,” Curtis recalls of his partner’s passion for creating greater access to books. “From another side, another race, straight to the hood, in this area where there’s crime and killing, and that really struck me.”

Line 4 Line now conducts periodical events at local schools and outreaches for the homeless, too, but once a month, Curtis’ shop fills with children who are pulled like gravity to new books.

They are a common sight on Saturdays, too, when working parents will drop their children off in the mornings and not pick them up until dinner time.

Books and art supplies, a basketball goal in the parking lot, and banter with “Jimi Jump” and Curtis—himself a devoted father to an 11-year-old daughter—keep the children occupied.

“They are in a place that’s not a conventional reading space, and that’s exciting for them,” Perera says. “They get to associate reading as a cool thing that’s not just something to do at school. Lots of these kids grow up in houses that don’t have books. Libraries are great, but we have to make kids identify as readers so they don’t see it as a burdensome activity.”

The program has a legion of young students turning a page in their literacy journey to discover not only a real love of the written word, but a safe place where positive adult support and a pursuit of learning are encouraged every day.

But it’s not just the children who are learning from Line 4 Line. Local school teachers have taken notice; they are volunteering monthly and seeing the program impact adults, too.

“Parents look over my shoulder as we work with the students on reading, and they learn how to better read with their own kids,” says teacher Theresa King of White Hills Elementary.

The casual atmosphere of the shop has certainly contributed to the program’s success. “Walk-Ins Welcome” is painted above the entrance, and the greeting has a deeper meaning now.

“O’Neil’s isn’t just a barber shop, it’s a family with an open door,” says Cujo Dah, who the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge recruited, along with Rahmaan Barnes, in early 2018 to create the traffic-stopping murals outside of O’Neil’s.

"We had the opportunity to create an inspirational and colorful backdrop for this growing community.”

Barnes is based in Chicago but has traveled often to paint large public pieces. The instruction and giving he’s seen at O’Neil’s reminds him of what big city and community centers felt like in their early stages. “O’Neil is a good-hearted guy who’s deeply connected to his neighborhood and its people,” Barnes says. “Seeing parents drop their kids off for the day, there’s trust there, and it’ll be amazing to see how this develops and grows.”

Line 4 Line thrives because it is completely nonjudgmental, Perera believes. Reading level and social status don’t matter. Clothing brands don’t either. All are welcome. The only thing students have to do is wait their turn.

“Lucy has a strong arts mind, so her approach really makes this program a success,” King says. “She’s created this space that’s like a book nook, and it’s welcoming and comfortable.”

The latent potential of such a literacy-focused program in the heart of a low-income neighborhood was not lost on Tania Inniss, the photographer who documented the earliest iterations of Line 4 Line.

“I could already tell how successful the program was going to be after the first day,” Inniss says. “You could see a change in the boys from when they first walked in the doors of the barber shop to when they finished reading. They walked out with confidence and joy.”

In its fledgling years, the program has survived with volunteers like Travis Dabney donating their time and a modicum of funding for children’s books and supplies. But as the community has embraced the concept, and O’Neil’s has evolved into a friendly neighborhood hub, Perara believes it is time Line 4 Line expanded with more school programs, and site improvements to Curtis’ empty buildings adjacent to the barber shop into a community center for children. The program is seeking new funding streams.

“We want to go further with schools and in homeless shelters,” Perera says. “We want to help parents be better readers with their children, and having a dedicated space for that will be crucial.”

She envisions the renovated rooms containing a permanent library of children’s books and hosting Saturdays filled by area artists and teachers who volunteer to lead classes and workshops or just show up and hang out with the youth.

“Drug dealing and violence was all I saw when I was a kid,” Curtis recalls. “No one came around and separated us kids from that back then. I’m seeing the problem now, and you can see how much these kids appreciate Line 4 Line as a safe place and positive thing.” On his way out of O’Neil’s, Dabney stops and says hello to another family walking past the children calling themselves LeBron and Curry beneath the basketball hoop. “This place is positive and brings a great feeling to the community,” he says after the family passes him by. “We aren’t rich, but we can make great things happen.”


His voice rises and falls in step with the action-packed adventure. He only pauses once to figure out a word, and smiles broadly when turning the page.

“You really see a change in people when you show them care and love by cutting their hair,” says Curtis, who has owned the shop for 15 years and manages multiple jobs and businesses. “Even if they come in and their heads are hanging down, you can see how uplifted they feel after. It lifts their spirit.”

It’s an unusually warm evening in December, and today’s event marks the start of the fifth year of Line 4 Line. The nonprofit literacy and mentorship program provides children with a free haircut, a meal and a book if they read to their barber while they are sitting in his chair.

Curtis and his colleague Keith Davis, aka Jimi Jump, are trimming, clipping and fading, but while they do, they are giving pep talks about school and life and everything in between. They are listening to problems and hopes. They are being there.

And these children get visibly excited about the stacks of books lying around while they eat, complete art projects and dive into a huge bin of LEGOs.

It was 2014 when Curtis agreed to host and partner with the launch of the program after meeting Lucy Perera, a longtime literacy advocate who was working as coordinator of school and community programs at the LSU Museum of Art at the time, and now serves as director of learning innovation at Knock Knock Children’s Museum.

“Lucy was going into the heart of the ghetto already,” Curtis recalls of his partner’s passion for creating greater access to books. “From another side, another race, straight to the hood, in this area where there’s crime and killing, and that really struck me.”

Line 4 Line now conducts periodical events at local schools and outreaches for the homeless, too, but once a month, Curtis’ shop fills with children who are pulled like gravity to new books.

They are a common sight on Saturdays, too, when working parents will drop their children off in the mornings and not pick them up until dinner time.

Books and art supplies, a basketball goal in the parking lot, and banter with “Jimi Jump” and Curtis—himself a devoted father to an 11-year-old daughter—keep the children occupied.

“They are in a place that’s not a conventional reading space, and that’s exciting for them,” Perera says. “They get to associate reading as a cool thing that’s not just something to do at school. Lots of these kids grow up in houses that don’t have books. Libraries are great, but we have to make kids identify as readers so they don’t see it as a burdensome activity.”

The program has a legion of young students turning a page in their literacy journey to discover not only a real love of the written word, but a safe place where positive adult support and a pursuit of learning are encouraged every day.

But it’s not just the children who are learning from Line 4 Line. Local school teachers have taken notice; they are volunteering monthly and seeing the program impact adults, too.

“Parents look over my shoulder as we work with the students on reading, and they learn how to better read with their own kids,” says teacher Theresa King of White Hills Elementary.

The casual atmosphere of the shop has certainly contributed to the program’s success. “Walk-Ins Welcome” is painted above the entrance, and the greeting has a deeper meaning now.

“O’Neil’s isn’t just a barber shop, it’s a family with an open door,” says Cujo Dah, who the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge recruited, along with Rahmaan Barnes, in early 2018 to create the traffic-stopping murals outside of O’Neil’s.

"We had the opportunity to create an inspirational and colorful backdrop for this growing community.”

Barnes is based in Chicago but has traveled often to paint large public pieces. The instruction and giving he’s seen at O’Neil’s reminds him of what big city and community centers felt like in their early stages. “O’Neil is a good-hearted guy who’s deeply connected to his neighborhood and its people,” Barnes says. “Seeing parents drop their kids off for the day, there’s trust there, and it’ll be amazing to see how this develops and grows.”

Line 4 Line thrives because it is completely nonjudgmental, Perera believes. Reading level and social status don’t matter. Clothing brands don’t either. All are welcome. The only thing students have to do is wait their turn.

“Lucy has a strong arts mind, so her approach really makes this program a success,” King says. “She’s created this space that’s like a book nook, and it’s welcoming and comfortable.”

The latent potential of such a literacy-focused program in the heart of a low-income neighborhood was not lost on Tania Inniss, the photographer who documented the earliest iterations of Line 4 Line.

“I could already tell how successful the program was going to be after the first day,” Inniss says. “You could see a change in the boys from when they first walked in the doors of the barber shop to when they finished reading. They walked out with confidence and joy.”

In its fledgling years, the program has survived with volunteers like Travis Dabney donating their time and a modicum of funding for children’s books and supplies. But as the community has embraced the concept, and O’Neil’s has evolved into a friendly neighborhood hub, Perara believes it is time Line 4 Line expanded with more school programs, and site improvements to Curtis’ empty buildings adjacent to the barber shop into a community center for children. The program is seeking new funding streams.

“We want to go further with schools and in homeless shelters,” Perera says. “We want to help parents be better readers with their children, and having a dedicated space for that will be crucial.”

She envisions the renovated rooms containing a permanent library of children’s books and hosting Saturdays filled by area artists and teachers who volunteer to lead classes and workshops or just show up and hang out with the youth.

“Drug dealing and violence was all I saw when I was a kid,” Curtis recalls. “No one came around and separated us kids from that back then. I’m seeing the problem now, and you can see how much these kids appreciate Line 4 Line as a safe place and positive thing.” On his way out of O’Neil’s, Dabney stops and says hello to another family walking past the children calling themselves LeBron and Curry beneath the basketball hoop. “This place is positive and brings a great feeling to the community,” he says after the family passes him by. “We aren’t rich, but we can make great things happen.”


His voice rises and falls in step with the action-packed adventure. He only pauses once to figure out a word, and smiles broadly when turning the page.

“You really see a change in people when you show them care and love by cutting their hair,” says Curtis, who has owned the shop for 15 years and manages multiple jobs and businesses. “Even if they come in and their heads are hanging down, you can see how uplifted they feel after. It lifts their spirit.”

It’s an unusually warm evening in December, and today’s event marks the start of the fifth year of Line 4 Line. The nonprofit literacy and mentorship program provides children with a free haircut, a meal and a book if they read to their barber while they are sitting in his chair.

Curtis and his colleague Keith Davis, aka Jimi Jump, are trimming, clipping and fading, but while they do, they are giving pep talks about school and life and everything in between. They are listening to problems and hopes. They are being there.

And these children get visibly excited about the stacks of books lying around while they eat, complete art projects and dive into a huge bin of LEGOs.

It was 2014 when Curtis agreed to host and partner with the launch of the program after meeting Lucy Perera, a longtime literacy advocate who was working as coordinator of school and community programs at the LSU Museum of Art at the time, and now serves as director of learning innovation at Knock Knock Children’s Museum.

“Lucy was going into the heart of the ghetto already,” Curtis recalls of his partner’s passion for creating greater access to books. “From another side, another race, straight to the hood, in this area where there’s crime and killing, and that really struck me.”

Line 4 Line now conducts periodical events at local schools and outreaches for the homeless, too, but once a month, Curtis’ shop fills with children who are pulled like gravity to new books.

They are a common sight on Saturdays, too, when working parents will drop their children off in the mornings and not pick them up until dinner time.

Books and art supplies, a basketball goal in the parking lot, and banter with “Jimi Jump” and Curtis—himself a devoted father to an 11-year-old daughter—keep the children occupied.

“They are in a place that’s not a conventional reading space, and that’s exciting for them,” Perera says. “They get to associate reading as a cool thing that’s not just something to do at school. Lots of these kids grow up in houses that don’t have books. Libraries are great, but we have to make kids identify as readers so they don’t see it as a burdensome activity.”

The program has a legion of young students turning a page in their literacy journey to discover not only a real love of the written word, but a safe place where positive adult support and a pursuit of learning are encouraged every day.

But it’s not just the children who are learning from Line 4 Line. Local school teachers have taken notice; they are volunteering monthly and seeing the program impact adults, too.

“Parents look over my shoulder as we work with the students on reading, and they learn how to better read with their own kids,” says teacher Theresa King of White Hills Elementary.

The casual atmosphere of the shop has certainly contributed to the program’s success. “Walk-Ins Welcome” is painted above the entrance, and the greeting has a deeper meaning now.

“O’Neil’s isn’t just a barber shop, it’s a family with an open door,” says Cujo Dah, who the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge recruited, along with Rahmaan Barnes, in early 2018 to create the traffic-stopping murals outside of O’Neil’s.

"We had the opportunity to create an inspirational and colorful backdrop for this growing community.”

Barnes is based in Chicago but has traveled often to paint large public pieces. The instruction and giving he’s seen at O’Neil’s reminds him of what big city and community centers felt like in their early stages. “O’Neil is a good-hearted guy who’s deeply connected to his neighborhood and its people,” Barnes says. “Seeing parents drop their kids off for the day, there’s trust there, and it’ll be amazing to see how this develops and grows.”

Line 4 Line thrives because it is completely nonjudgmental, Perera believes. Reading level and social status don’t matter. Clothing brands don’t either. All are welcome. The only thing students have to do is wait their turn.

“Lucy has a strong arts mind, so her approach really makes this program a success,” King says. “She’s created this space that’s like a book nook, and it’s welcoming and comfortable.”

The latent potential of such a literacy-focused program in the heart of a low-income neighborhood was not lost on Tania Inniss, the photographer who documented the earliest iterations of Line 4 Line.

“I could already tell how successful the program was going to be after the first day,” Inniss says. “You could see a change in the boys from when they first walked in the doors of the barber shop to when they finished reading. They walked out with confidence and joy.”

In its fledgling years, the program has survived with volunteers like Travis Dabney donating their time and a modicum of funding for children’s books and supplies. But as the community has embraced the concept, and O’Neil’s has evolved into a friendly neighborhood hub, Perara believes it is time Line 4 Line expanded with more school programs, and site improvements to Curtis’ empty buildings adjacent to the barber shop into a community center for children. The program is seeking new funding streams.

“We want to go further with schools and in homeless shelters,” Perera says. “We want to help parents be better readers with their children, and having a dedicated space for that will be crucial.”

She envisions the renovated rooms containing a permanent library of children’s books and hosting Saturdays filled by area artists and teachers who volunteer to lead classes and workshops or just show up and hang out with the youth.

“Drug dealing and violence was all I saw when I was a kid,” Curtis recalls. “No one came around and separated us kids from that back then. I’m seeing the problem now, and you can see how much these kids appreciate Line 4 Line as a safe place and positive thing.” On his way out of O’Neil’s, Dabney stops and says hello to another family walking past the children calling themselves LeBron and Curry beneath the basketball hoop. “This place is positive and brings a great feeling to the community,” he says after the family passes him by. “We aren’t rich, but we can make great things happen.”


His voice rises and falls in step with the action-packed adventure. He only pauses once to figure out a word, and smiles broadly when turning the page.

“You really see a change in people when you show them care and love by cutting their hair,” says Curtis, who has owned the shop for 15 years and manages multiple jobs and businesses. “Even if they come in and their heads are hanging down, you can see how uplifted they feel after. It lifts their spirit.”

It’s an unusually warm evening in December, and today’s event marks the start of the fifth year of Line 4 Line. The nonprofit literacy and mentorship program provides children with a free haircut, a meal and a book if they read to their barber while they are sitting in his chair.

Curtis and his colleague Keith Davis, aka Jimi Jump, are trimming, clipping and fading, but while they do, they are giving pep talks about school and life and everything in between. They are listening to problems and hopes. They are being there.

And these children get visibly excited about the stacks of books lying around while they eat, complete art projects and dive into a huge bin of LEGOs.

It was 2014 when Curtis agreed to host and partner with the launch of the program after meeting Lucy Perera, a longtime literacy advocate who was working as coordinator of school and community programs at the LSU Museum of Art at the time, and now serves as director of learning innovation at Knock Knock Children’s Museum.

“Lucy was going into the heart of the ghetto already,” Curtis recalls of his partner’s passion for creating greater access to books. “From another side, another race, straight to the hood, in this area where there’s crime and killing, and that really struck me.”

Line 4 Line now conducts periodical events at local schools and outreaches for the homeless, too, but once a month, Curtis’ shop fills with children who are pulled like gravity to new books.

They are a common sight on Saturdays, too, when working parents will drop their children off in the mornings and not pick them up until dinner time.

Books and art supplies, a basketball goal in the parking lot, and banter with “Jimi Jump” and Curtis—himself a devoted father to an 11-year-old daughter—keep the children occupied.

“They are in a place that’s not a conventional reading space, and that’s exciting for them,” Perera says. “They get to associate reading as a cool thing that’s not just something to do at school. Lots of these kids grow up in houses that don’t have books. Libraries are great, but we have to make kids identify as readers so they don’t see it as a burdensome activity.”

The program has a legion of young students turning a page in their literacy journey to discover not only a real love of the written word, but a safe place where positive adult support and a pursuit of learning are encouraged every day.

But it’s not just the children who are learning from Line 4 Line. Local school teachers have taken notice; they are volunteering monthly and seeing the program impact adults, too.

“Parents look over my shoulder as we work with the students on reading, and they learn how to better read with their own kids,” says teacher Theresa King of White Hills Elementary.

The casual atmosphere of the shop has certainly contributed to the program’s success. “Walk-Ins Welcome” is painted above the entrance, and the greeting has a deeper meaning now.

“O’Neil’s isn’t just a barber shop, it’s a family with an open door,” says Cujo Dah, who the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge recruited, along with Rahmaan Barnes, in early 2018 to create the traffic-stopping murals outside of O’Neil’s.

"We had the opportunity to create an inspirational and colorful backdrop for this growing community.”

Barnes is based in Chicago but has traveled often to paint large public pieces. The instruction and giving he’s seen at O’Neil’s reminds him of what big city and community centers felt like in their early stages. “O’Neil is a good-hearted guy who’s deeply connected to his neighborhood and its people,” Barnes says. “Seeing parents drop their kids off for the day, there’s trust there, and it’ll be amazing to see how this develops and grows.”

Line 4 Line thrives because it is completely nonjudgmental, Perera believes. Reading level and social status don’t matter. Clothing brands don’t either. All are welcome. The only thing students have to do is wait their turn.

“Lucy has a strong arts mind, so her approach really makes this program a success,” King says. “She’s created this space that’s like a book nook, and it’s welcoming and comfortable.”

The latent potential of such a literacy-focused program in the heart of a low-income neighborhood was not lost on Tania Inniss, the photographer who documented the earliest iterations of Line 4 Line.

“I could already tell how successful the program was going to be after the first day,” Inniss says. “You could see a change in the boys from when they first walked in the doors of the barber shop to when they finished reading. They walked out with confidence and joy.”

In its fledgling years, the program has survived with volunteers like Travis Dabney donating their time and a modicum of funding for children’s books and supplies. But as the community has embraced the concept, and O’Neil’s has evolved into a friendly neighborhood hub, Perara believes it is time Line 4 Line expanded with more school programs, and site improvements to Curtis’ empty buildings adjacent to the barber shop into a community center for children. The program is seeking new funding streams.

“We want to go further with schools and in homeless shelters,” Perera says. “We want to help parents be better readers with their children, and having a dedicated space for that will be crucial.”

She envisions the renovated rooms containing a permanent library of children’s books and hosting Saturdays filled by area artists and teachers who volunteer to lead classes and workshops or just show up and hang out with the youth.

“Drug dealing and violence was all I saw when I was a kid,” Curtis recalls. “No one came around and separated us kids from that back then. I’m seeing the problem now, and you can see how much these kids appreciate Line 4 Line as a safe place and positive thing.” On his way out of O’Neil’s, Dabney stops and says hello to another family walking past the children calling themselves LeBron and Curry beneath the basketball hoop. “This place is positive and brings a great feeling to the community,” he says after the family passes him by. “We aren’t rich, but we can make great things happen.”


His voice rises and falls in step with the action-packed adventure. He only pauses once to figure out a word, and smiles broadly when turning the page.

“You really see a change in people when you show them care and love by cutting their hair,” says Curtis, who has owned the shop for 15 years and manages multiple jobs and businesses. “Even if they come in and their heads are hanging down, you can see how uplifted they feel after. It lifts their spirit.”

It’s an unusually warm evening in December, and today’s event marks the start of the fifth year of Line 4 Line. The nonprofit literacy and mentorship program provides children with a free haircut, a meal and a book if they read to their barber while they are sitting in his chair.

Curtis and his colleague Keith Davis, aka Jimi Jump, are trimming, clipping and fading, but while they do, they are giving pep talks about school and life and everything in between. They are listening to problems and hopes. They are being there.

And these children get visibly excited about the stacks of books lying around while they eat, complete art projects and dive into a huge bin of LEGOs.

It was 2014 when Curtis agreed to host and partner with the launch of the program after meeting Lucy Perera, a longtime literacy advocate who was working as coordinator of school and community programs at the LSU Museum of Art at the time, and now serves as director of learning innovation at Knock Knock Children’s Museum.

“Lucy was going into the heart of the ghetto already,” Curtis recalls of his partner’s passion for creating greater access to books. “From another side, another race, straight to the hood, in this area where there’s crime and killing, and that really struck me.”

Line 4 Line now conducts periodical events at local schools and outreaches for the homeless, too, but once a month, Curtis’ shop fills with children who are pulled like gravity to new books.

They are a common sight on Saturdays, too, when working parents will drop their children off in the mornings and not pick them up until dinner time.

Books and art supplies, a basketball goal in the parking lot, and banter with “Jimi Jump” and Curtis—himself a devoted father to an 11-year-old daughter—keep the children occupied.

“They are in a place that’s not a conventional reading space, and that’s exciting for them,” Perera says. “They get to associate reading as a cool thing that’s not just something to do at school. Lots of these kids grow up in houses that don’t have books. Libraries are great, but we have to make kids identify as readers so they don’t see it as a burdensome activity.”

The program has a legion of young students turning a page in their literacy journey to discover not only a real love of the written word, but a safe place where positive adult support and a pursuit of learning are encouraged every day.

But it’s not just the children who are learning from Line 4 Line. Local school teachers have taken notice; they are volunteering monthly and seeing the program impact adults, too.

“Parents look over my shoulder as we work with the students on reading, and they learn how to better read with their own kids,” says teacher Theresa King of White Hills Elementary.

The casual atmosphere of the shop has certainly contributed to the program’s success. “Walk-Ins Welcome” is painted above the entrance, and the greeting has a deeper meaning now.

“O’Neil’s isn’t just a barber shop, it’s a family with an open door,” says Cujo Dah, who the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge recruited, along with Rahmaan Barnes, in early 2018 to create the traffic-stopping murals outside of O’Neil’s.

"We had the opportunity to create an inspirational and colorful backdrop for this growing community.”

Barnes is based in Chicago but has traveled often to paint large public pieces. The instruction and giving he’s seen at O’Neil’s reminds him of what big city and community centers felt like in their early stages. “O’Neil is a good-hearted guy who’s deeply connected to his neighborhood and its people,” Barnes says. “Seeing parents drop their kids off for the day, there’s trust there, and it’ll be amazing to see how this develops and grows.”

Line 4 Line thrives because it is completely nonjudgmental, Perera believes. Reading level and social status don’t matter. Clothing brands don’t either. All are welcome. The only thing students have to do is wait their turn.

“Lucy has a strong arts mind, so her approach really makes this program a success,” King says. “She’s created this space that’s like a book nook, and it’s welcoming and comfortable.”

The latent potential of such a literacy-focused program in the heart of a low-income neighborhood was not lost on Tania Inniss, the photographer who documented the earliest iterations of Line 4 Line.

“I could already tell how successful the program was going to be after the first day,” Inniss says. “You could see a change in the boys from when they first walked in the doors of the barber shop to when they finished reading. They walked out with confidence and joy.”

In its fledgling years, the program has survived with volunteers like Travis Dabney donating their time and a modicum of funding for children’s books and supplies. But as the community has embraced the concept, and O’Neil’s has evolved into a friendly neighborhood hub, Perara believes it is time Line 4 Line expanded with more school programs, and site improvements to Curtis’ empty buildings adjacent to the barber shop into a community center for children. The program is seeking new funding streams.

“We want to go further with schools and in homeless shelters,” Perera says. “We want to help parents be better readers with their children, and having a dedicated space for that will be crucial.”

She envisions the renovated rooms containing a permanent library of children’s books and hosting Saturdays filled by area artists and teachers who volunteer to lead classes and workshops or just show up and hang out with the youth.

“Drug dealing and violence was all I saw when I was a kid,” Curtis recalls. “No one came around and separated us kids from that back then. I’m seeing the problem now, and you can see how much these kids appreciate Line 4 Line as a safe place and positive thing.” On his way out of O’Neil’s, Dabney stops and says hello to another family walking past the children calling themselves LeBron and Curry beneath the basketball hoop. “This place is positive and brings a great feeling to the community,” he says after the family passes him by. “We aren’t rich, but we can make great things happen.”


His voice rises and falls in step with the action-packed adventure. He only pauses once to figure out a word, and smiles broadly when turning the page.

“You really see a change in people when you show them care and love by cutting their hair,” says Curtis, who has owned the shop for 15 years and manages multiple jobs and businesses. “Even if they come in and their heads are hanging down, you can see how uplifted they feel after. It lifts their spirit.”

It’s an unusually warm evening in December, and today’s event marks the start of the fifth year of Line 4 Line. The nonprofit literacy and mentorship program provides children with a free haircut, a meal and a book if they read to their barber while they are sitting in his chair.

Curtis and his colleague Keith Davis, aka Jimi Jump, are trimming, clipping and fading, but while they do, they are giving pep talks about school and life and everything in between. They are listening to problems and hopes. They are being there.

And these children get visibly excited about the stacks of books lying around while they eat, complete art projects and dive into a huge bin of LEGOs.

It was 2014 when Curtis agreed to host and partner with the launch of the program after meeting Lucy Perera, a longtime literacy advocate who was working as coordinator of school and community programs at the LSU Museum of Art at the time, and now serves as director of learning innovation at Knock Knock Children’s Museum.

“Lucy was going into the heart of the ghetto already,” Curtis recalls of his partner’s passion for creating greater access to books. “From another side, another race, straight to the hood, in this area where there’s crime and killing, and that really struck me.”

Line 4 Line now conducts periodical events at local schools and outreaches for the homeless, too, but once a month, Curtis’ shop fills with children who are pulled like gravity to new books.

They are a common sight on Saturdays, too, when working parents will drop their children off in the mornings and not pick them up until dinner time.

Books and art supplies, a basketball goal in the parking lot, and banter with “Jimi Jump” and Curtis—himself a devoted father to an 11-year-old daughter—keep the children occupied.

“They are in a place that’s not a conventional reading space, and that’s exciting for them,” Perera says. “They get to associate reading as a cool thing that’s not just something to do at school. Lots of these kids grow up in houses that don’t have books. Libraries are great, but we have to make kids identify as readers so they don’t see it as a burdensome activity.”

The program has a legion of young students turning a page in their literacy journey to discover not only a real love of the written word, but a safe place where positive adult support and a pursuit of learning are encouraged every day.

But it’s not just the children who are learning from Line 4 Line. Local school teachers have taken notice; they are volunteering monthly and seeing the program impact adults, too.

“Parents look over my shoulder as we work with the students on reading, and they learn how to better read with their own kids,” says teacher Theresa King of White Hills Elementary.

The casual atmosphere of the shop has certainly contributed to the program’s success. “Walk-Ins Welcome” is painted above the entrance, and the greeting has a deeper meaning now.

“O’Neil’s isn’t just a barber shop, it’s a family with an open door,” says Cujo Dah, who the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge recruited, along with Rahmaan Barnes, in early 2018 to create the traffic-stopping murals outside of O’Neil’s.

"We had the opportunity to create an inspirational and colorful backdrop for this growing community.”

Barnes is based in Chicago but has traveled often to paint large public pieces. The instruction and giving he’s seen at O’Neil’s reminds him of what big city and community centers felt like in their early stages. “O’Neil is a good-hearted guy who’s deeply connected to his neighborhood and its people,” Barnes says. “Seeing parents drop their kids off for the day, there’s trust there, and it’ll be amazing to see how this develops and grows.”

Line 4 Line thrives because it is completely nonjudgmental, Perera believes. Reading level and social status don’t matter. Clothing brands don’t either. All are welcome. The only thing students have to do is wait their turn.

“Lucy has a strong arts mind, so her approach really makes this program a success,” King says. “She’s created this space that’s like a book nook, and it’s welcoming and comfortable.”

The latent potential of such a literacy-focused program in the heart of a low-income neighborhood was not lost on Tania Inniss, the photographer who documented the earliest iterations of Line 4 Line.

“I could already tell how successful the program was going to be after the first day,” Inniss says. “You could see a change in the boys from when they first walked in the doors of the barber shop to when they finished reading. They walked out with confidence and joy.”

In its fledgling years, the program has survived with volunteers like Travis Dabney donating their time and a modicum of funding for children’s books and supplies. But as the community has embraced the concept, and O’Neil’s has evolved into a friendly neighborhood hub, Perara believes it is time Line 4 Line expanded with more school programs, and site improvements to Curtis’ empty buildings adjacent to the barber shop into a community center for children. The program is seeking new funding streams.

“We want to go further with schools and in homeless shelters,” Perera says. “We want to help parents be better readers with their children, and having a dedicated space for that will be crucial.”

She envisions the renovated rooms containing a permanent library of children’s books and hosting Saturdays filled by area artists and teachers who volunteer to lead classes and workshops or just show up and hang out with the youth.

“Drug dealing and violence was all I saw when I was a kid,” Curtis recalls. “No one came around and separated us kids from that back then. I’m seeing the problem now, and you can see how much these kids appreciate Line 4 Line as a safe place and positive thing.” On his way out of O’Neil’s, Dabney stops and says hello to another family walking past the children calling themselves LeBron and Curry beneath the basketball hoop. “This place is positive and brings a great feeling to the community,” he says after the family passes him by. “We aren’t rich, but we can make great things happen.”


Baton Rouge Area Foundation