Stephan “Step the Barber” Swearingen and his personnel of barbers do greater than function clippers. The four-member crew at Plush Midtown Barber and Beauty Salon in Atlanta banters with clients approximately sports while ESPN is on TV, politics as they test Twitter and Instagram on their telephones, tune that’s playing over the Bluetooth audio system, and the lunch menu from the meals truck that dropped via.
The speak receives personally. Once customers sit down on their barbers’ chairs, they open up about family and courting drama, careers, and educational interests. Like such a lot of Black barbershops within the U.S., Plush Midtown is a safe and heat area, in which men of all walks of life accumulate as a good deal for gabbing as for grooming.
“It’s an area where clients can come dump,” Swearingen informed HuffPost. “Barbers come to be therapists. We listen to customers’ problems. If clients accept as true with you with their hair, then they agree with you with what’s taking place internal their mind.”
In his case, the therapist metaphor is specifically apt. The team of workers at Plush Midtown participated in a workshop closing January led by intellectual fitness advocate Lorenzo Lewis, founder, and CEO of Arkansas-based nonprofit The Confess Project. The 4 barbers, every with a client in his chair, clipped and buzzed away. A handful of others sat in a semicircle on stools and lush fixtures as Lewis gave a forty-five-minute presentation sharing private testimonies of his history with depression and publish-disturbing strain. He allotted pamphlets on mental health recognition and played a video clip presenting radio host Charlamagne Tha God addressing his own mental fitness struggles. Then he asked the customers and barbers to open up, too.
“The workshop becomes quite intense and exciting because it stuck a number of the shoppers off guard, however not in a terrible way,” said Courtney Jackson, who works in scholar services at the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff and turned into in Atlanta to go to loved ones and take part within the Plush Midtown workshop. “It turned into something that changed into new to the clients, but it changed into eye-beginning because they had been able to hear from someone who works in and round that subject. Everyone turned into able to specific themselves and heard different perspectives from different patrons that had been there. … It turned into full of nice power and remarks.”
Lewis based The Confess Project in 2016 to equip Black men with equipment and solutions for fighting depression, tension, strain — and the disgrace and guilt that often come at the side of experiencing one’s feelings. He has hosted workshops with barbers and their clients in seven states within the South and Midwest.
“The Confess Project trains barbers at the importance of lively listening, having empathy, and giving their clientele validation after they feel unhappy or helpless,” Lewis explained. “It’s an attempt to interrupt the stigma and make Black guys extra at ease and vulnerable sufficient to cope with their trauma.”
And Lewis uses what he sees and hears on the barbershop workshops to inform the cultural sensitivity and racial bias training he does for educators, intellectual health specialists, teenagers and mentorship applications, and nonprofit businesses for boys and men of color.
Lewis turned born in prison, lost his parents using age eight, and joined a gang when he becomes a teen. When he changed into 17, a barber that worked in his aunt’s salon counseled him he was searching for therapy. He did and observed it as relatively beneficial and provoking. In his 20s, Lewis landed an activity in a juvenile detention center wherein he noticed African American men who were depressed and experiencing put up-annoying strain due to hard childhoods. He observed that the younger guys hadn’t obtained treatment, so he decided to create The Confess Project to introduce them and another Black mento to the right assets to deal with their pain.
Lewis says that getting private approximately his own struggles opens a door for others to start speaking about theirs. After sharing his mental health story with the clients at Plush Midtown, they started telling their own tales approximately disappointment, dying, family problems, bodily fitness, and activity problems.
“As we got further in dialogue, each person was given relaxed,” Leslie “Bud Tha Barber” Marks stated. “We need a superb push to help us within destiny. You handiest recognize what your parents train you, but as you become older, you have to retrain and unlearn certain matters approximately how Black guys ought to feel and what to talk about in public.”