Black men have worn crowns of royalty, war, destitution, and protest. We have lived as pharaohs, mercenaries, slaves, inventors, merchants, three-fifths of a human being, felons, moguls, civil rights leaders, and much more.
The list of our human continuance is long and we will probably go down in history as the most adaptable and versatile species to ever survive on this planet.
The versatility is unreal, yet we still struggle to find our identity because it was broken, scattered, and left for us to put back together in a world that has been developed to work against us.
Yet, in the midst of adversity, as toddlers, adolescents, and men, there was always one place that we could go to express ourselves, no matter what corner of the globe we stood. That hub is the Black barbershop.
The barbershop plays a huge part in our communities and serves as a pillar for the community, a sanctuary of safety, and is the core of our Black beauty. The Black barbershop is the epicenter of our culture.
The delicate personas of Black men are able to exit the hard shell that encases their beautiful souls as soon as they enter their neighborhood barbershop.
For many, it’s something to look forward to every week or every other week, depending on how fast your hairline grows back.
We allow pampering fingers to caress our crowns and form an imaginary coronet making us feel relaxed enough to let our guard down.
Conversations of your top five rappers arise and social issues are discussed as the barrier between you and your barber breaks down into something naturally satisfying to the mind.
You watch youths play around with a crank style candy machine in the corner as they await their haircut and are reunited with their neighborhood friends.
Besides your fresh cut, nothing is better than seeing young Black children of all shades playing together under a roof where they are safe. Beauty, legacy, community, and kinship all under one roof.
The preservation of Black beauty is nostalgic.
So, where did this newfound Black enlightenment come from? It was after attending the Brother’s Keeper Art Exhibition, which was showcased at Bishop Gallery in BK where I learned to start throwing respect on the impact these Black barbershops have had on my race and the communities we live in.
The exhibition was beautiful and displayed work by several artists including Jeffrey Henson Scales, Anthony J. Thomas, André Gray, Antoinette Thomas, and Flash Ketchum. Make sure you check out their IGS and #SupportBlackArt.
Each artist brought to light a new perspective of Black beauty. Scales brought to the exhibition a timeless flavor showcasing pictures he took in 1986.
It was as if the pictures were taken today providing proof that the Black barbershop is a permanent staple in the Black community.
Thomas’ photographs brought a vulnerable vibe as his photographic triptych showed “vanity, and it’s introduction into the life of a young child, visiting the ‘shop’ for the first time.”
still, moved by the grace of @sribria and @coyote.agency for enlisting such a multi-faceted group for meditation on the barbershop. I have personally learned the varying definitions behind protection and the crucial element of listening, as men often position their bodies in front of the challenges of loving, believing – lifting each other in a confined space, away from the persistent surveillance of the world. As an ode, I presented a photographic triptych on the order of vanity, and it's introduction into the life of a young child, visiting the "shop" for the first time. As time progresses, the young figure, immediately learns the sanctity behind waiting, submission and vulnerability of partnership in order to unmask a "new" version of their identity, marking the first of many confrontations with this ritual. thank you, again semaj – you literally, are a gift from above. (WORKING TITLE, NEW CAESAR), 2018. 16" x 24" inches. (courtesy of Bishop Ford Gallery).
Pictures, portraits, and paintings on the walls weren’t the only installations that grabbed your attention.
Handling haircuts in the midst of people gazing upon the beautiful epitome of the “ultimate barbershop” was female master-barber, GAIA Earth Peace.
She’s a part of a new wave of women barbers who are exploring the process of grooming Black men.
Check out this docu-film she starred in, was put together by SVNCRWNS, and played at the Brother Keeper’s Exhibition.
This exhibit truly left its mark on me and Bria Brown, founder of Coyote Agency is the brain behind it. Her beautiful soul was encouraged to bring these artists and sponsors together in the interest of our brothers.
“I find that in a world of patriarchy, muled by Black women, our brother’s need a space to escape, to learn, to be reminded that they have a home. Brother’s Keeper is an embrace, from me and my partners to Black men especially,” said Brown.
After Brown lost her cousin in 2015, she felt it necessary to keep his spirit alive through Brother’s Keeper proving that energy never dies. The exhibition came through hard work, prayer, and the spirit of her cousin-brother Harold.
Brown stresses the importance of Black men not only finding an outer shapeliness in the Black barbershop but also finding a deep inner beauty knowing that we are gorgeous inside and out.
Even Mariah Kunkel, marketing director at Brooklyn Gin, a sponsor of the exhibition, was more than willing to support Brother’s Keeper because the barbershop is such an important symbol in the Black community. She said,
“A sense of community can emanate from many sources, however, that unique spirit of connectedness, mutual support and self care found within Black barbershops is especially vibrant and rightfully cherished. Brooklyn Gin is proud to support Coyote Agency and the Brother’s Keeper exhibition in Brooklyn to celebrate such an important symbol, its traditions and its place in the community.”
Recognize how real the roles of barbershops in our neighborhoods really are. It’s no game. Make sure this Black History Month you throw some respect on the barbershop’s name. To peep a recap of the Brother’s Keeper Exhibition click here.