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Barber Helps Rebuild Southeast Raleigh in Shadow of MLK Gardens

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RALEIGH — When Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of his dream of racial harmony and equality, life in America changed forever. His words inspired many people to pursue that dream, including one entrepreneur in southeast Raleigh who isliving King's legacy.

James "Monte" Montague's dream began with a pair of scissors.

"I got started in business by cutting hair in my mother's kitchen in Southview Apartments when I was about 15 years old," he says.

Montague went to barber college and opened up a shop of his own in southeast Raleigh.

Then came the vision. "The vision I had -- I'll never forget it -- it was October 19, 1997. I had a dream in which the Lord showed me this area of trees which, at the time, wasn't even for sale," he says.

That changed, and James Montague built his vision. He called it Statue Side Business Plaza.

At the time, some argued a commercial center adjacent to the King Memorial Gardens was out of place. Montague felt it was a perfect fit.

"It's positive for kids and other people in this community to see somebody doing something positive right here, instead of moving way out and contributing to other communities. Why not contribute to the community that you grew up in," he says.

The southeast Raleigh community Montague grew up in had a reputation for crime, for closed storefronts and few job opportunities.

"The job opportunities still lack somewhat," he says, "but that's why I'm here. I'm supposed to boost up the job opportunities for folks."

Montague is adding to the property and is helping Burnadette McCallister open a children's hair salon and computer learning center.

"A lot of the kids don't have access to computers in their homes," she says. "So this will give them the opportunity to come to a safe place and learn all that they need to know to get ahead in school."

The center is all part of James Montague's dream of opportunity, inspired, in large part, by his neighbor.

"Instead of sitting around dreaming it, I want to walk the dream," he says. "I actually want to do it and help other people fulfill their dreams."


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