How Black Barbershops Are Uplifting & Building Black Men

How Black Barbershops Are Uplifting & Building Black Men

December 6, 2021 0

“If clients trust you with their hair, then they trust you with what’s going on inside their mind.” – Stephan “Step the Barber” Swearingen (Plush Midtown)

Historically, Black barbershops have provided peace during personal turmoil. The Great Depression, World War I and II, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War prompted African American men, young and old, to find a communal space to make sense of the alienation and strife they often felt, said Quincy Mills, Vassar College history professor and author of “Cutting Along the Color Line: Black Barbers and Barber Shops in America”. “Black veterans came back from war and tried to make sense of what they’d just gone through, being away fighting for democracy that wasn’t for them at home,” said Mills. “[Barbershops] provided them private space in the public sphere outside of white surveillance and became good organizing spaces in the midst of national crisis affecting African American men.”

Heres how Black Barbershops are making a difference within their community and continuing to establish a positive environment worldwide:

The Confess Project

Lewis founded The Confess Project in 2016 to equip Black men with tools and solutions for combating depression, anxiety, stress — and the shame and guilt that often come along with experiencing those feelings. He has hosted workshops with barbers and their clients in seven states in the South and Midwest.Through a 12-month curriculum, barbers get trained on active listening, validating clients’ emotions and concerns, and how to use positive language to combat stigma around mental health.They also learn about mental health resources in their area to which they can direct clients. Family support, social support networks, and education are some of the primary factors men attend this shop.

Lorenzo P. Lewis, Founder, The Confess Project

These programs are designed to enhance the life trajectory and prolong the life expectancy of our black men by promoting health and wellness. Learn more about The Confess Project here

The Live Chair Health

Andrew Suggs of Baltimore wanted to help African American men get to the barbershop on time, so he created an app for that. But he soon found himself immersed in separate data showing Black men suffer from conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure at rates significantly higher than whites. Then there was Suggs’ father, who, like many Black men, wasn’t sufficiently connected to the health care system. John Suggs didn’t have a primary care doctor, so when he got sick, he’d head to the nearest emergency room.

Andrew Suggs

The combination of data and firsthand observations of his dad led the younger Suggs to an epiphany. He repurposed his Live Chair app and created Live Chair Health, a platform that can help African American men review their health, connect with a doctor and get screened for the coronavirus – all from the barbershop. To date, four barbershops in the Baltimore area are using the Live Chair Health program, but plans are in the works to add 17 more, thanks in large part to a recently announced partnership with Maryland medical provider LifeBridge Health.

Barbershop Books

Founder Alvin Irby, In his prior time as an early childhood educator was getting his hair cut across the street from his school when he saw one of his first-grade students sitting in the barbershop with nothing to do. “The whole time, I just thought ‘I really wish I had a children’s book to give him,’” Irby said. Irby saved his idea in an email and brought it to life years later as Reading Holiday Project, Inc.. The organization connects young Black readers to fun, culturally-relevant, and age-appropriate books to provide them with positive early reading experiences. To date, Barbershop Books has installed child-friendly reading spaces in 221 barbershops across 56 cities and 21 states to help young Black boys identify as readers. 

Alvin Irby, Founder of Barbershop Books

The Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program

Founded by Dr. Bill Releford in 2006, The Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program is dedicated to addressing health disparities in African American Men. The Black Barbershop health Outreach Program is the only national barbershop based initiative whose mission is to address health disparities among African American men. Since its inception in 2006, the program has screened over 30,000 men for diabetes and high blood pressure. Black Barbershop has been the inspiration for other similar programs across the country and around the world.

About Dr. Bill J. Releford, D.P.M.

Dr. Bill J. Releford, D.P.M.

Based in Los Angeles, the program is retooling its outreach efforts to address the devastating effects the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the African American community by launching the Black Barbershop Wellness app. African American patients can now have access to health care provider that better understands their needs and concern through the Black Barbershop telemedicine portal.

Learn more about “The Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program here

BMI Staff
BMI Staff