Harlem barbershop remembers slain college basketball star Darius Lee

Harlem barbershop remembers slain college basketball star Darius Lee

NEW YORK — Police are still looking for the gunman that opened fire on a crowd in Harlem on Father’s Day, killing 21-year-old Darius Lee. Lee is being remembered as a young man with a bright future, whose light was extinguished too soon.

The murder is sparking new conversations about gun violence in the Harlem community, including at the barbershop where Lee was a lifelong customer, CBS2’s Jessi Mitchell reported Wednesday.

“I’ve been cutting his hair since he was a baby,” said Earl Figueroa, owner of Fig’s Barbershop on Frederick Douglass at West 135th Street.

Figueroa smiled while remembering how tall Lee had grown when he returned home from his Houston college recently for summer break.

“When he got up I thought Shaquille was in my chair,” said Figueroa, adding, “The person that was going to bring the NBA to Harlem, had so much of a bright future, so pleasant. Just an angel. got a beautiful angel watching over us now, though.”

Fig’s Barbershop has lost clients to gun violence before.

“We’re all becoming desensitized because it’s happening so rampant and so often,” said barber Jeremy Chappelle. “I be feeling like I wish it was me because I knew all the bad I did back then, but then you get someone like (Lee) who wasn’t about none of that. We’ve got to fix things around here, man .”

“This is the beginning, the barbershops,” Figueroa said. “It’s the beginning of the healing because this is where everybody come in the hood for therapy.”

“I’ve had conversations in here that I might have never thought to start with anybody, and somebody else starts a topic that’s adjacent to something I was already thinking about and *poof*,” said client Eric Harper from the chair.

The conversations now seek solutions to prevent more pain.

“They need cameras down there,” Figueroa said of the Harlem River waterfront. “How are you going to have the side of the water coming through the hood with no cameras? People are supposed to jog there. Anything could happen. What are you waiting for?”

Some blame the glorification of violence in the new genre of drill music, and want rappers with a platform to speak up.

“Half of the stuff they’re saying is not even real, but it’s influencing them to do the real thing,” said another barber.

Figueroa is among neighbors who are starting to reconsider their previous opposition to the controversial stop-and-frisk policy.

“Let my wallet show in my pocket,” Figueroa said. “Pat me down, please, so I can feel safe.”

Some of his neighbors and clients say they are ready to move away.

“It’s a double edged sword,” Figueroa said. “You in the hood, these shootings. You move to the suburbs, it might be a more mass issue, somebody going to the school shooting up. So it’s like how can you win? The world needs healing.”

Figueroa and his barbers are starting on their block, healing over haircuts.

Have a story idea or tip in Harlem? Email Jessi by CLICKING HERE.

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