By Verbal Adam | OBSERVER Correspondent
In the Black community, the barbershop always has been a place of learning. It’s where generations gather, share stories, knowledge and experiences. It’s where we learn how to navigate everything from relationships to the workplace. Yet among Black men, there are limits to what we freely discuss, lest we appear weak or vulnerable.
Cut to the Chase, a new program through the Greater Sacramento Urban League, seeks to change that. Named because the talks take place in barbershops, Cut to the Chase is a series of healing conversations among Black men about traumas and issues not typically discussed. Licensed mental health professionals are brought in to moderate the conversations and offer pathways to healing.
“The health care system isn’t set up to hear us,” said Carter Todd, 34, who serves as president of Capital City Black Nurses Association. “These types of conversations either don’t happen or won’t be heard and received. If you ask why the barbershop, this is where we feel comfortable. This is where community takes place. We grew up coming here.”
Sacramento has a history of relying on Black barbershops to advance Black health. During the height of the AIDS epidemic, public health officials placed in Black barbershops glass bowls filled with free condoms and brochures on how to protect oneself from AIDS and how to be tested and treated.
“It’s a space where you can hear other men be vulnerable,” Todd told The OBSERVER. “That role-modeling in mental health is important. Seeing other men step up and do that, we can take those tools and learn from them.”
Kendall Robinson owns Five Star Fades. His shop at 1332 Del Paso Blvd. has served the community for 14 years and hosts Cut to the Chase at 6 p.m. on second Thursdays.
“African American men don’t have the advantage financially to acquire therapists to help us with the challenges we face in this day and age,” Robinson, 58, told The OBSERVER. “This is an opportunity to give back. It’s significant to help someone else who is not as privileged.”
The conversations are powerful and deeply emotional. One young man, who The OBSERVER won’t name to protect anonymity, asked “What can I do to stop hating my mother for putting me up for adoption, now that I understand she did the best she could when I was a baby?”
Travis Nelson, 51, a registered associate marriage and family therapist and registered associate clinical counselor, attended the event in his capacity as a mental health professional.
“It’s important that we get together like this as much as possible,” he said. “People wear these masks. They won’t have any healing if they can’t talk about [their issues].”