Grassroots Engagement: Barber and Hair Shop Talk Is Setting the Stage for Vaccination Education in Our Communities

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(Screengrab from video/https://blackcoalitionagainstcovid.org)

Making It Plain: What Black America Needs to Know about COVID-19 and Vaccines

By Josephine Reid

There are trusted voices unique to the Black community. Black barbers and salon stylists are two such trusted voices that have been prominent in Black communities for several decades. Community leaders have been working vigorously to educate their respective neighborhoods about COVID-19 vaccinations. They are now passing the torch to those who touch the lives of many in the barber and salon chair. In a recent town hall meeting hosted by the Black Coalition Against COVID-19 (BCAC), minority health professionals and the Black hair community came together to bring accuracy to the conversation about the COVID-19 vaccine.

There is still a wealth of misinformation being spread throughout communities about the vaccine. “A lot of that bad information comes from the dark corners of the Internet meant to confuse, conflate, and confound. The only thing that can beat back bad information is good information from an even better messenger,” said Dr. Cameron Webb of the White House COVID-19 Response Team. 

Katrina Randolph, a Black-owned salon representative for the town hall event, talked about ways she combats misinformation about the vaccines. “I keep plenty of literature in the salon so when they come in there and I can’t answer their questions, I have something for them to read, even if it’s under the dryer,” Randolph said. 

“Shop talk creates that crosstalk where you don’t have to debate with someone one-on-one,” said Dr. Webb. “Every time I go into the [barber] shop, I just open it up to the room, and I’m just like, ‘push off!’ And you just let the shop take it, and you’ll get the range of perspectives and the shop will handle it, just like it does with the Lebron versus Michael Jordan, who’s the GOAT [Greatest of All Time] conversation.” 

Using the TVs in their shops, barbers are culturally tailoring vaccination messaging for their specific audiences. “Trust is so important. I say why aren’t we spending time where people already have trust?” said Dr. Stephen D. Thomas, founding director of the University of Maryland Center for Health Equity and a professor in the School of Public Health. “That’s why the Black-owned barbershops and salons are so important,” he added.

Well-known barber shop owner and town hall guest Mike Dynamike Brown called for us to “identify the problem” and put our energy into the solution. “The solution is to get vaccinated so we can get back to normalcy,” he said. “If I haven’t seen you in a while, I can give you a ‘dap’ and a hug instead of these elbow bumps.”

Togetherness such as this in our communities is a great indication of how we are “fighting for each other’s lives,” said Dr. Reed Tuckson, the event’s host.

To see a replay of this BCAC Facebook Live event in its entirety, go to BlackDoctor.org. For a list of upcoming events, COVID-19 health and wellness information, and other events, go to BlackDoctor.org , the world’s largest and most comprehensive online health resource specifically targeted at African Americans.

For more information about COVID-19, health, and wellness, see Black Coalition Against COVID-19, a key health resource for African Americans. 

Josephine Reid is a member of the Public Relations Team at Creative Marketing Resources, a strategic marketing agency in Milwaukee and a partner of the BCAC.

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