Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Barbershop Talks: A Safe Place to Discuss Black Masculinity

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Barbershop Talks: A Safe Place to Discuss Black Masculinity

Article excerpt

Barbershop Talks: A safe place to discuss Black masculinity

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This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site.

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Authors: Warren Clarke, Ph.D., Carleton University and Nadine Powell, PhD Student Department of Sociology; RA - Migration and Diaspora Studies, Carleton University

Many Black men have a special relationship with their barbers. This unique connection has resulted in a series of events called the Barbershop Talks, where the "neighbourhood barbershop" is used to create a safe space for Black community members to meet.

In these informal meetings, participants are encouraged to openly discuss Black masculinity and critical issues that affect Black men and boys in Canada. Besides stimulating conversations, the idea is to brainstorm about solutions to some of the significant stresses Black men and boys face.

The first Barbershop Talks was held Feb. 28, 2018, in a local Ottawa barbershop called The Rite Cut. It was scheduled for two hours but ran for three.

Based on the positive response, francophone communities were invited to the second discussion, which took place on July 11 simultaneously in three cities: Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto. Although it is likely that some of these conversations already occur in small interpersonal, informal or accidental spaces, we wanted to host a formal discussion with the community.

Both francophone and anglophone attendees of the July events said they experienced similar racially charged micro-aggressions in Canada. Common among those experiences was the feeling that Black Canadian men and boys were associated with negative stereotypes that demonized their existence.

Why hold them at barbershops? One participant said his barber was his "therapist, coach and his everything." He also mentioned that going to visit his barber for a haircut on a regular basis helped build his identity as a "Black man" and as he got older "it was a necessity" for him to visit his barber.

We felt it was important to focus on issues facing Canadian Black men because there are many misconceptions that racial discrimination does not exist in Canada.

In particular, misconceptions about Black men -- both anglophone and francophone -- can grow and fester. Stereotypes of Black men and boys can hinder their autonomy and dampen their ability to cultivate healthy self-perceptions. This denial of racism also robs people and communities of places where they can talk freely about the real issues they are dealing with as Black men.

As Black men and boys respond to and resist the false identities that are superimposed upon them, they wrestle with their identities as they struggle to process racist misconceptions of themselves. For young men trying to develop a healthy understanding of themselves, this is especially challenging.

Perceived as threats and not allies

Scholars like Franz Fanon and W.E.B. Du Bois documented these issues in their work published decades ago. More recently, critical race theorists like Stuart Hall, bell hooks, Paul Gilroy, Katherine McKittrick, Kimberle Crenshaw and George Elliott Clarke) have continued to discuss questions of Black consciousness in North America.

This sample of writers and scholars represents a range of expertise. While they may not agree on every issue concerning Blackness or racialized males, their diversity of thought and scholarship showcases the range of ideas within historical-political contexts. …

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