It’s early Saturday morning and Headliners Barber Shop and Hair Salon is open for business. But on this morning there’s a deeper discussion going on in the shop than your typical conversations around sports. On this day customers, barbers, and others from around the community all gather to discuss the issue of race in America. The beauty of the “Barbershop Rap Sessions” is that all opinions are welcome without the fear of being attacked by anyone. It’s an open forum meant to breed an honest discussion between people of all colors in an attempt to bridge the divide and understand one another better.
Every first Saturday of the month at 8:00am at Headliners in Cary, NC, a group of men come together to discuss sensitive issues within the community. I was invited by a mayoral candidate Paul Fitts who is a white man. The barber shop was predominantly made up of African Americans but sprinkled among the group was Apex Police Chief John Letteney (a white man), two other police officers who were white, a middle school teacher (black man), a mortgage lender (black man), a couple barbers (black men) and other men working in various industries who were Black, White, and Latino.
The gentlemen leading the discussion name was Tru Pettigrew. A fitting name for someone who could be the perfect talk show host. Tru was an excellent lead and moderator of the discussion. Clearly well educated around the issues, interesting to listen to as he had that rhythmic cadence, the perfect blend of professional and urban language that can capture the attention of any audience, and an east coast swagger and accent similar to Denzel Washington.
The topic of discussion was in reference to race and what could be done to bridge the gap between black and white people around the country. Tru posed a number of thought provoking questions to everyone in attendance and each person who wanted to offer a comment had the opportunity to do so without fear of anyone lashing out.
Tru posed one interesting question to the group, as I paraphrase, “Where does the responsibility lie for us to teach our children the appropriate ways to deal with racial issues?”
Numerous people offered their opinions as law enforcement professionals, politicians, educators, business people, media, and parents. The overall consensus was that everyone could do a better job to not only be more sensitive to racial tensions but also reach out to bridge the divide and teach the next generation of Americans the appropriate way to deal with people who have differences.
The most refreshing part of the entire discussion was that everyone spoke honestly with one another and everyone laughed together. A clear step in the right direction as a community.
By Steven Gunter, Founder of Urhous