Akil Wilson, owner of Wilson's on 18th, opening on June 1 (Ja’Mon Jackson/The Washington Informer)
Akil Wilson, owner of Wilson's on 18th, opening on June 1 (Ja’Mon Jackson/The Washington Informer)

With the launch of a new Black-owned barbershop in Adams Morgan comes the opportunity for its owners and barbers to expand the limits of what Black people can do in a racially compartmentalized industry. 

Starting June 1, patrons of various cultural backgrounds will be able to visit Wilson’s on 18th, not only for a quality haircut but what owner Akil Wilson describes as a welcoming atmosphere that represents the highest potential of a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. 

Weeks ago, Wilson and his wife and business partner Lynette Monroe Wilson announced the launch of Wilson’s on 18th, which operates on the premises of the now-shuttered Wise Owl Club, a barbershop where Akil Wilson had been a founding barber.  

Since acquiring ownership of the business, the Wilsons have been at work curating a multiethnic team of barbers. Three barbers followed the Wilsons over from Wise Owl Club. Right now, Wilson’s on 18th has six barbers, most of whom are Black with experience cutting and styling various hair types. 

“Our segment of the industry leans heavily on familiarity,” Akil Wilson explained. “The diversity is reflected in the clientele and everyone having the capability to service everyone. You can feel confident that, no matter your hair texture, our operators can take care of you.” 

As part of an effort to collaborate with D.C. Public Schools (DCPS) in the future, Wilson’s on 18th, located near Marie Reed Elementary School in Northwest, will provide haircuts on June 12 for rising high school freshmen who are attending 8th grade prom. 

There is also an apprenticeship program in the works. When people walk into Wilson’s on 18th, whether as barbers, apprentices or patrons, they will hear emanating from loudspeakers nothing but uplifting music with messages that are devoid of obscene language. 

The Wilson Legacy 

Lynette Monroe Wilson said that Wilson’s on 18th, just by its name alone, carries on the legacy of the Wilson family.  

Akil Wilson’s father, the late George Wilson, was a barrier-breaking international correspondent and Congressional reporter who amassed several bylines and radio clips as “Black America’s Voice on the Hill” for 30 years. 

Before his death, George Wilson had reported for National Black Network, Sheridan Broadcast Network, American Urban Radio Network, Sirius XM radio, WHUR, and The Informer. 

Meanwhile, Akil Wilson’s mother, Iris Wilson, currently serves as a DCPS curriculum specialist. Her work deals mainly with laying the foundation for a system-wide career and technical education program that equips young people with college and career readiness skills before they graduate high school. 

Both of her in-laws, Lynette Monroe Wilson said, unified people around common ideals and their work continues to pave the way for future generations. 

“Wilsons on 18th is building upon George and Iris Wilson’s legacy by educating and serving the community,” she told The Informer. 

“At one point in time, barber shops were a meeting place, specifically for men to gather and have conversations that could be as light as sports or as heavy as politics,” she added. “Adams Morgan, as a creative hub in D.C., is a neighborhood in which this type of gathering space can add value.” 

Celebrating Diversity, Bringing More Education to Adams Morgan

Adams Morgan, often referred to as “D.C.’s last funky neighborhood” stretches along 18th Street on Northwest between Columbia Road and Florida Avenue, not far from Dupont Circle. The name comes from two formerly segregated elementary schools, the now-shuttered Thomas P. Morgan Elementary School, which served Black youth, and the all-white John Quincy Adams Elementary School. 

At almost anytime during the week, people of various races and ethnicities can be found in Adams Morgan frequenting live music and entertainment venues, international eateries, fashion boutiques and even embassies. 

For Wilson’s on 18th barber Godfrey Victor, the Adams Morgan community also represents the continuation of a decades-long journey in the barbering business, the better part of which he spent working for himself. 

Victor, a Prince George’s County native, counts among those who transferred over from Wise Owl Club. He told The Informer that after speaking to Akil Wilson, the decision to stay made sense. 

Victor said he respected Wilson’s vision, especially as it related to cultivating young barbers. 

“We never had this type of teaching as barbers about dealing with people and managing ourselves as barbers. People are talking about bringing in younger guys and having them with seasoned guys to learn how to interact with clients,”  Victor said. “We want to give them a better way of life in the barber trade.” 

Through his tenuous experiences with previous employers, Victor always expressed a willingness and desire to help younger barbers, whether it’s through donating clippers to barbering schools or showing a young person some tricks of the trade. He said that’s how he entered the business at the age of 14. 

Decades later, Victor looks forward to carrying out that mission at Wilson’s on 18th. 

“We believe in not cutting just one brand of hair, and having the charisma to deal with different types of people. Being a barber gives you that advantage.”

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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