There was a point in time where spending three hours in a barbershop was like therapy to me. There was the wisdom of older men pontificating over headline news. I witnessed as my father would debate, in love, the topics that most affected black men.
My father would cut our hair as children and would instill barbershop etiquette. He would say, “Sit still! Don’t turn your head. Look straight.”
I don’t have a problem with adjusting to the barber’s instructions while looking for the pristine cut in selfies holding cigars.
I miss the older camaraderie from neighborhood scholars and historians that would bleed lessons amid razor shaves.
Black barbers have failed the community much like storefront church preachers.
The art of the barber is lost.
The shop used to be a place to vent and refill. We used to be able to shed the alter ego of the week. We would gain inspiration from other clients and barbers. Debates became intense, but we maintained the culture of group therapy.
Now Lil Wayne blares across speakers. Instagram beefs between stars and the latest Air Jordan are the topics of conversation.
I dread going to the barbershop.
Barbers want weed smoke breaks, talk way too much on cell phones and send too many texts while the client waits with clutched fists.
Barbershops were once the mecca of black men conversation. This was the only place where we could have “real talk.” The confidentiality rule was in full effect. We could say what we want knowing that it stayed within the confines of the walls of slapping capes, clipper buzz and good old fellowship.
I see now a breed of barbers stuck between manhood and youth. Barbers that yearn to be rappers promoting YouTube videos. I see more barbers bragging on rims and cars. They boast about getting into the VIP session of nightclubs.
I miss the barbers that encouraged education, reading, self-accountability.
Today’s barber echoes storefront preachers in terms of quantity in certain neighborhoods, but lack equity. There are many of them, but they serve only a purpose of a physical, feel-good mentality.
In the black community, we are hesitant to call out elected leaders for not raising the bar of quality life in neighborhoods. We don’t hold the preachers, barbers and other sub-cultural leaders accountable for the role they play in society.
While we debate the next mayoral candidate, we also need to search the daily activities that may or may not perpetuate the legacy of certain people.
My barber-client relationship these days has to comprise of the healthy balance between enlightening, guiding and leadership in our black communities.