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Dan Rodricks: With the help of MICA mentors, these Baltimore squeegee boys are moving into a new business

The Baltimore Sun

November 1, 2019


I walk in on the weekly board meeting of Korner Boyz Enterprises, and it’s pretty much what you’d expect —12 people seated around a long conference table, projection equipment set up for a video presentation and everyone with a bottle of water.

But there are a couple of noticeable distinctions from the usual tableau: Four of the people at the table are teenage boys, three of them in hoodies, and the water bottles are as much a product demonstration as a source of refreshment.

Korner Boyz Enterprises is a startup created by a small group of Baltimore squeegee kids with the help of adult mentors. The boys are now wholesalers, selling their own brand of bottled water by the case, half-pallet or pallet. The business has been in development for months — the boys already have had some sales — and their official rollout is slated for Friday night at the Shake & Bake Family Fun Center in West Baltimore.

Those looking for an alternative to the contentious street enterprise in place across the city — teens and young men at busy intersections, variously pleasing, annoying or accosting motorists with their spray bottles and squeegees — might want to look at what’s happened here.

But warning: Korner Boyz took considerable time, creativity and consistent nurturing. This was no top-down intervention. It started with listening to the boys and, says one of their mentors, “treating them like human beings.”

Last winter, a young man who works at the Maryland Institute College of Art started talking with squeegee boys who worked near MICA, at Mount Royal and North avenues. Kai Crosby-Singleton is community liaison for MICA’s Office of Strategic Initiatives. He observed the squeegee boys, all of whom are black, being verbally abused with racial epithets as they tried to earn some bucks cleaning windshields. He got to know the kids by name — Taetae, Leroy, Khalil, Keyon and Deauntae — and learned about their lives. Some had been recruited into the drug trade but resisted and took up the squeegee instead. Most just needed money for food and their cell phones.