If black culture were a pie, a slice of the pie would be found in the neighborhood barbershop.
The black barber shop is this amazing institution. It is a safe place black men go and just talk. They talk about religion, politics, relationships, and life as seen through the eyes of the black man.
After growing up afraid to go the barber shop, I finally started going regularly after college. I have been to several neighborhood shops, in several cities, and it seems they all have the same cast of characters wielding the clippers.
The “entrepreneur” occupies one chair. He is the barber who sells anything and everything between heads. I have witnessed the selling of expensive gold car rims, copied CDs and DVDs, weed, and even lawn fertilizer. The weed and fertilizer were two separate transactions and not to be used with each other.
The “scholar” holds class everyday all day in the barber shop. As he trims, cuts and shapes one head, he shares his knowledge on all subjects. There isn’t an area that he doesn’t specialize in. The only thing he does not have a grasp on is the fact that no one on this planet shares his same beliefs or opinions.
The “sleeper” relaxes in his chair. Between naps he summons the courage to ask a customer if they want a cut. He is always turned down because his hands lack the skill to cut the head right. As he drifts off to sleep he is the punch line for joke after joke.
The “elder” is the oldest of all the barbers. He is seasoned from years of standing and cutting. He is calm and only speaks at the right time. His vocabulary is sharp and his view points are sharp and crisps. His use of profanity is conservative and sprinkled in at just the right time. His advice is sound and if the other barbers are calm and quiet enough, they can glean from his experiences of life.
This crew of characters is universal and comforting. The atmosphere is alive and soothing. This slice of life should be witnessed by everybody no matter how your hair lays on your head.