“Hair Me Out”: Barber Shops, Hair Salons & Community Safety

Photo Credit: http://www.cocoandcreme.com

I came across an interesting article the other day about a program called “Hair Me Out” which is looking at the role of Barber Shops and Hair Salons in the battle against intra-community violence (aka “horizontal violence”).  The project is designed to get beauticians and barbers to play an active role in the discussion around what causes community violence and to help put an end to this scourge.

This is amazing because we all know that barbershops and hair salons are like the Black person’s holy ground. We talk with our stylists and barbers about any number of things and the salon is often considered a safe space for conversations ranging from relationships, politics, religion, current events, community issues, physical illness, foods, you name it.

My husband frequently comes home from his barber’s chair regaling me with stories of the dynamic and intricate conversations he participated in while getting a shape up. The hair salon and barbershop has long been a staple in the Black community and is one of the few spaces where we can gather and communicate openly about what bugs us and inspires us the most.

According to the “Hair Me Out” program sponsor, a Brooklyn based group known as “Saving Our Streets (“S.O.S.”) Crown Heights,

The goal of Hair Me Out is to positively impact the local mentality around gun violence, and to influence people to work towards a safer and more productive community.

S.O.S. Crown Heights, is a

a community-based effort to end gun violence in our neighborhood. S.O.S. works closely with local organizations, neighborhood churches and pastors, community residents and the individuals most likely to commit a shooting.

I want to take a moment to point out that this is a group that is proactive in heading off horizontal violence in the Crown Heights community before it pops off. They focus their work on preventing

gun violence from occurring in the S.O.S. catchment area in Crown Heights by mediating conflicts that may end in gun violence and acting as peer counselors to men and women who are at risk of perpetrating or being victimized by violence. S.O.S. Crown Heights works closely with neighborhood leaders and businesses to promote a visible and public message against gun violence, encouraging local voices to articulate that shooting is an unacceptable behavior.

Now I wanted to hone in on that for a moment because many of us believe that it is easier to respond to violence after it has happened as opposed to heading it off in the first place.  This group is taking an alternate approach and seems to be achieving some positive and remarkable results.

But lets get back to the Hair Me Out Program.

The directors of the initiative, an intern named Angela Wright and fellow S.O.S. Outreach Worker Derick Scott, have visited with several barbershops and hair salons in the Brooklyn community. Their goal is to speak with the barbers and stylists about the role they can play in making the community safer.

Angela and Derick came up

with a series of questions that are posted on the mirrors and walls in barbershops, along with markers for people to respond. The prompts include questions like, “How can a positive role model make a difference in people’s behavior?” or, “If society stopped promoting gun violence on social media, would violence still be a problem in the community?”

Now, let’s hear it for taking the initiative! Kudos to Angela Wright and Derick Scott for seeing this opportunity and finding innovative ways to tap into our community’s strengths to address a community problem. If you’d like to know more about S.O.S. Crown Heights or how you can support this and other initiatives check out their site here.

And if you’re looking for more thoughts from an Afro State of Mind, check out my book “Afro State of Mind: Memories of a Nappy Headed Black Girl now available on Amazon.com in paper back or e-book! And if you want to stay connected follow me on Twitter, “like” Afro State of Mind on Facebook or catch up on my latest youtube videos!

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