When Kobe Richardson had been shot 14 times, Sally Hazelgrove was one of the few people he remembers who stayed by side while he recovered in the hospital.
Hazelgrove, founder of the Crushers Club, a non-profit dedicated to supporting at-risk youth in Chicago, is usually at the receiving end of accolades, but has recently found herself under crushing scrutiny. Last week, photos surfaced on social media of Hazelgrove cutting Richardson’s dreadlocked hair and calling it “symbolic of change” and his “desire for a better life.”
In an interview with theGrio, Richardson says the controversy is all a misunderstanding and Hazelgrove only stepped in to help him because he didn’t feel comfortable going to a barbershop.
“I was like ‘Yeah I’m ready to cut my hair.’ She was like ‘Oh you ready?’ I said yeah. She was like ‘Okay I’ll cut it for you,'” says Richardson.
“Even the picture like everybody’s judging her. Making it seem like she’s a bad guy or something. She’s not. They don’t know the bond that we have. Like Sally is a good woman. She helped people a lot.
“I went fishing for the first time in my whole entire life because of her. Even after the time when I got shot 14 times. I woke up out of my coma she was one of the people there. Helping my family, helping my mom, make sure we have food and bringing the boys up to come see me,” he explained.
Damn Jay and @RocNation, is this the “Power Move?”
This what we had to wait and see?
Is this the next move after kneeling?
Let me know.
— Sweet baby Brae’s (@MsSabrae) September 9, 2019
Richardson says the desire to cut his hair came from his understanding that locs were a trend popularized in Chicago by drill rappers such as Chief Keef, and also popularized by many of the gang members he associated with. He does not associate the natural style as one chosen to honor his culture or ancestral roots.
When asked why he didn’t go to a barbershop, Richardson says: “I trusted her and I was broke around the time.”
Richardson had been shot 14 times by a friend who set him up, which he says impacted his trust towards other people.
“I was gang-banging, so I just felt like I was comfortable there than to go to a barbershop where I could get shot,” he says.
Hazelgrove has since apologized after receiving backlash online once the photo of cutting Richardson’s hair and that of another young Black man’s resurfaced, writing: “My goal is and will always be to equip our youth with the resources to improve their neighborhoods, maximize their potential and develop into the leaders of tomorrow.”
Richardson also says he believes that Hazelgrove’s service to the community outweighs any racial division, including political divides since Hazelgrove’s tweets supporting President Donald Trump and pro-police messaging were also exposed.
The entire controversy sparks a national debate about topics such as white savior complexes, Jay-Z’s tricky and surprising collaboration with the NFL, and the stigmas associated with Black hair, so much so that acclaimed filmmaker, Ava DuVernay stepped into the conversation. DuVernay started the hashtag #loclife to uplift positive images of natural hair in response to Hazelgrove’s photo.
Watch more from the full interview with Kobe Richardson above.