Tywanza Sanders

On his first day of work six or so months ago, Tywanza Sanders told Darren Spencer, “I’m gonna make this barbershop famous.”

When Sanders walked last winter into Against Da Grain in North Charleston, squeezed between a one-stop grocery store and an Avon supplier, Spencer thought he wanted a cut.

Tall and brawny in a gray sweatshirt and flat bill hat, Sanders introduced himself as Tywanza. “But everybody calls me ‘Wanza,” he said. Like the holiday without the “kwqua.”

Spencer loaned him a couple of bucks, so he could buy a pack of neck strips at the beauty supply store across the street. Their families grew up next door to each other on the peninsula’s Piedmont Avenue. So Spencer asked him how he’d been and what he’d been up to all these years.

He said he was an aspiring rapper, poet, motivational speaker and entrepreneur, as the back of his “WANZA’s CUTZ” business cards read, still on display at his booth near the front door. What’s left are a trio of electric hair clippers, a pair of scissors, various aerosol sprays, his state license and a bottle of Curve Crush cologne, three-fourths full. The other barbers can’t bring themselves to clear the space. Not yet.

On Sanders’ first day of work, Spencer joked right back.

“What makes you think it’s not already famous?” he said.

“No,” Sanders said. “You don’t understand. I’m gonna make it global.”

On Thursday, Spencer flipped through channels at his home on James Island. He turned to CNN before noon to hear the president address the nation and the world. A pastor and eight others, murdered in the night. Spencer couldn’t watch the TV, but he caught a glimpse of Sanders’ image on the screen. It was a still photograph of his face next to the president’s. Snapping a selfie. Smiling. Frozen in time.

Deanna Pan