The Natural Edges Salon in Dallas, Texas, is a rowdy barbershop where black men gather to loudly talk smack, politics and sports.
But on one wintry November morning last year, the men suddenly stopped talking. Someone turned the radio off, and the barbers’ clippers stopping humming. A man had just challenged the customers’ manhood.
The man was President-elect Obama. He was giving a televised speech challenging men to get involved in their communities.
The men had heard the message before, but this time they could relate to the messenger. Obama had shared their struggles — raised by a single mom, never really knowing his father — but had never used his struggles as an excuse.
Nor could they anymore, some of the men decided. Seven joined Big Brothers Big Sisters of America that morning, barber Michael Johnson says. One of them was Johnson, who says he grew up without his father but was saved by the friendship of an older man.
“I just said, ‘You know what, I can do this today instead of tomorrow,’ ” Johnson said. ” ‘Tomorrow may be too late. I can save a young man’s life today.’ “
As the nation approaches the first anniversary of Obama’s election, the glow of Obama’s ascendancy may be fading. But it’s still burning bright for some black men. Inspired by Obama, a growing number of black men across the nation have decided to become mentors and pledged to become better fathers, community leaders say.