Arnold Tutson (T.J.) FAITH Story
What can I say about “the 89”? It’s an amazing place of self-discovery in so many ways.
Way before the famed Jackie Joyner-Kersee Community Center (“JJK”) was ever built, I stayed on 25th down the street from Schnucks and across the street from Jones Park. If you know ESTL you know, this Jones Park sadly used to be a popular place for dumping bodies.
Growing up, something that began to stir passion in me for greatness and impacting my city was how I saw people. Everybody who was anybody passed through 25th Street and I would watch them closely. I watched people in the streets, curious about their character. I compared them to other people I knew like teachers, “church folk”, and family members. I was looking for authenticity, searching for what was real.
My journey to purpose and authenticity also manifested in thoughts I had while simply existing as a kid on my block. I remember playing football and basketball every day. I would get up and try to run from my world and my life on “the 89” by jogging laps around the park. It always felt like I was just running in a circle (because I was).
I left the city a year after high school to join the military, only to return home to the same people doing the same things. I hungered for change, but authentic and impactful change has always been hard to find in ESTL.
In 2018, I finally got my shot to become the person I always knew I could be. I was so inspired and overwhelmed with the potential I believe has always existed in the streets of the “89 Blocks” that I committed myself to opening a new Barber Salon in the city!
I saw it as an opportunity to change the often destructive and discouraging narratives that circulate about ESTL. I figured, God showed me my purpose, changed my life, and I wanted to extend that same grace to my community. The community that I always knew could embody its slogan of “City of Champions”.
The Barber Salon I opened needed some updating and, as I renovated my shop, I faced many obstacles. The shop suffered from vandalism and I fell victim to bad contracting from my own people. It hurt me deeply but the pain fueled a fire within me to continue working towards a God-sized goal in a situation that most would consider lost and forgotten.
So, as a true FAITH walker would, with God’s help I pushed through all adversity and opened what I see as the best new, community-driven, and wealth-building Barber Salon in the St. Louis Metro Area on August 4, 2022.
Though we have only been open for 6 months, we have done a toy drive, raised funds for breast cancer awareness, started a teen employment program (for the summer), and even partnered with Leslie Bates Neighborhood House, providing services for their program participants.
It’s crazy because I grew up running the neighborhood and going to those same programs. It feels amazing to be building something special on the soil I’ve always believed in. To GOD be the Glory!