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  • Dorla White

Black Barbershops and Salons: Neighborhood Oasis

My name is Dorla White, Ed.M. I am a member of CCSS, and serve on the CC Community Leadership Committee, Strategic Planning Committee, and am a participant and facilitator of our monthly conversations. Following many attempts over the years, we were delighted to have a concrete partnership come to fruition when CCSS members joined a pre-screening and conversation via Zoom with the team involved in the soon-to-be released film Black Barbershops and Salons: Neighborhood Oasis, from the Harvard Anti-Racism Film Series. The online event was attended by over 70 participants from various communities in the Boston area.

I had the prestigious honor of joining fellow CCSS leaders Erinn Pearson (CC co-founder and owner of Simply Erinn Unisex Hair Salon) and Dr. Robin Reed, MD, MBA (CC faculty, Strategic Planning Committee Member) on the panel. David Harris (Director of the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School), Rudy Hypolite (film director), and Dennis Wilson (film co-producer) served as the panel hosts and moderators. Other panelists included Maurice Chatelier (owner of Chatees Barbershop in Stoughton), Latoshi Johnson (owner of Cookie's Hair Creations in Roxbury), Spenser Wayne Steele (barber and son of owner of O'Aces Barbershop in Roxbury), and James Jette (Superintendent of the Milton Public Schools and patron of Chatees Barbershop).

The film captures the vitality, honesty, authentic voice, diversity of perspective, and sense of wellbeing that comes from truly belonging to a community that embraces and holds brave spaces. Barbershops and salons embody an environment where people from a range of racial, socioeconomic, cultural, religious, and other social stratifications can gather and just be our authentic selves. The film also highlighted salons and barbershops as safe havens for folks from the community to feel confident and “be able to let their hair down” from the moment they set foot inside. It was reassuring to see this spectrum and depth of conversations across gender, race and generations captured on film.

I personally have had many of these experiences through my involvement with CCSS’s Barbershop Model, in which Black Women have an opportunity to talk with each other about issues related to our health and wellness with expertise and guidance from Black Women health professionals. These life-changing learnings happen in a friendly and welcoming setting, thereby educating participants with resources for their wellness toolkit, not only for themselves but also for their loved ones.

I truly believe that Black-owned barbershops and salons provide a sense of refuge and safety for their patrons, promoting engagement, conversation, and connection. They can also be a source of inspiration by creating a heightened expectation around having these types of establishments as part of the infrastructure and foundation of the community. And as we look to the future, salons and barbershops can and should continue to be a hub for networking, for multi-generational interactions, for storytelling, and for empowerment by providing an important tool for community preservation through consciously engaging us in being our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.

Watch a recording of the panel discussion here (Passcode: BBfs&d526).


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