There is power that lies in the cultural influence of barbershops; especially within the Black community. These establishments have become far more than places where folks come to get their haircut; they’ve evolved into safe spaces where everything from political and social issues to health are discussed. A group of students from Hampton University is tapping into the impact of Black barbershops by utilizing them as an avenue to spread awareness about cancer prevention within the African American community, Southside Daily reported.
The HBCU students teamed up with Hampton University nursing professor Jonathan Romero to launch an initiative called the “Barbershop Outreach Project” which was designed to address the disproportionate survival rates amongst men after they are diagnosed with cancer. Romero and the students—who are all pursuing nursing and pre-med degrees—teamed up with the Hampton-based barbershop BK’s Barbershop to provide health screenings for Black men. The project was created to cultivate a stronger relationship between Black men and the health system and to insert the importance of health screenings into barbershop conversations.
“We set up right at the side of the building and we just asked ‘would you be interested in talking to us about your health?’” Romero told the news outlet. “Machismo or masculinity stubbornness will kill you in our community and has killed people in our community. People don’t seek out care so others won’t think they’re weak.” He hopes that Hampton University will be the leading force of change when it comes to Black health in the local community.
As far as what’s on the horizon for the Barbershop Outreach Project, the organizers are planning to host more health-focused events at other barbershops. Black barbershops have become vessels for social change on many fronts. Through his program Barbershop Books, entrepreneur Alvin Irby is bringing literature to barbershops across the country to inspire young African American boys to read.