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The Barbershop - A Liberatory Haven for Black Male Mental Health

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In a recent conversation with my barber, a 50-year-old Black man from Boston with Southern roots, we discussed the shifting political environment and the importance of staying vibrant. My barber, who has been a mentor and master teacher to future barbers, shared his commitment to adding value to others' lives, building relationships, and integrating wellness into his business. He emphasized the importance of being a supportive presence, actively listening, and helping clients feel better when they leave than when they arrived.

For nearly two decades, my barber has been a safe and brave space for me. Even after I recently came out to him, he remained supportive and non-judgmental. He embodies how barbershops serve as therapeutic spaces for Black men, where we can have meaningful conversations and receive mental health support in an environment of trust and understanding. This mirrors the supportive dynamics often portrayed in media like the "Barbershop" movies and LeBron James' HBO series, "The Shop."

In our discussion, my barber and I delved into the intersections of the political environment and how it is shifting. Born and raised in Boston but with deep Southern roots, my barber shared his ongoing efforts to stay vibrant and add value to the lives of others. Despite being over 50 years old, he continues to seek out people with great energy and purpose, driven to make a difference.

As a master teacher, he is a guiding force for future barbers, stylists, and business people. He is committed to bridging wellness with his business, recognizing that every client in his chair is an opportunity to build and extend relationships. He actively listens, helps clients cultivate a better sense of self, and ensures they leave feeling better than when they arrived.

During slow business periods, he has had to find ways to stay relevant and vibrant, reflecting on his internal work as a practicing Muslim and Christian. A husband, father, and brother, he represents so much for me and others. For almost two decades, he has been my barber, someone I felt safe with, someone I could talk to about anything. Even when I came out to him, he remained loving and caring, never projecting his beliefs onto me.

He has always gone above and beyond for me because we are aligned in our purpose. He is a safe and brave space, not just for me but for everyone who sits in his chair. He listens, does their hair, and pours a little bit of insight, kindness, and love into them before they walk out the door.

This dynamic is one that every man, regardless of sexual orientation, gender expression, or sexual preference, should experience. Unfortunately, it is not the norm. The reason I chose my barber is because of how he carries himself with integrity. He doesn't work in environments that are hateful or make people feel insecure. He has a subtle yet firm way of calling folks in for their thinking or actions. I can never think of a time in which I felt unsafe while in his space. I have heard some conversations among other barbers in the same shop that may share some misogynistic views and whatnot, but never to the degree that folks can't chime in, push back, or have a good laugh.

This dynamic is part of how Black men have cultivated community and found safety in barbershop conversations. These one-off or group discussions resemble the supportive environments seen in movies like "Barbershop" and LeBron James' series "The Shop." Sometimes, the smallest place to get therapy and mental health support is with our barbers.

The need for open and honest conversations about mental health among Black men extends beyond the barbershop. Here are some valuable resources and media that provide platforms for these crucial discussions:

  1. Barbershop talks: A safe place to discuss black masculinity

    • This article explores how barbershops serve as safe spaces for Black men to discuss masculinity, mental health, and societal issues. It highlights the therapeutic role that barbershops play in Black communities.
  2. Barbershop Conversation - YouTube

    • A powerful video that delves into barbershop conversations, showcasing how these spaces provide a unique and supportive environment for Black men to talk about their lives and mental health.
  3. The Shop: Uninterrupted - HBO

    • LeBron James' HBO series offers a platform where Black men, including celebrities and athletes, discuss a range of issues from mental health to identity, masculinity, and societal pressures. The show normalizes mental health discussions and helps break down stigmas.
  4. Express Yourself Black Man Podcast - YouTube

    • This podcast provides a space for Black men to discuss mental health, relationships, and personal growth. It emphasizes the importance of mental health awareness and offers support and advice to its listeners.
  5. Man Enough Podcast - YouTube

    • The Man Enough Podcast explores what it means to be a man in today's society, challenging traditional notions of masculinity. It features conversations that encourage vulnerability and self-reflection among men.


The integration of these discussions into everyday environments like barbershops, along with the amplification provided by media, helps create a culture where Black men feel safe to express their vulnerabilities and seek support. These conversations are not just life-giving but life-saving. They empower Black men to reclaim their mental health and foster a sense of community and resilience. By continuing to engage in these dialogues, whether in a barbershop or through a podcast, we can build a stronger, more supportive network that uplifts and protects the mental well-being of Black men.