How A Black Barbershop Is Educating Its Customers About Civic Engagement

“There's a lot of mistrust of systems with black men, particularly when you talk about government."

With this year’s presidential election less than a month away, a new program is trying to cut through the misinformation between politics and the black community.

Sharp Insight, which launched in March, is created and led by Duerward “DJ Woody Wood” Beale of Youth Outreach Adolescent Community Awareness Program. The Philadelphia-based initiative provides local barbers with bipartisan information on the importance of civic engagement and African American voter participation to disseminate to black customers .

For Beale ― who is also a member of ‘90s hip-hop group Three Times Dope ― working with the City of Brotherly Love is in comparison to assisting a family member.

“We are a pillar to the community. We touched a lot of lives, believe it or not and I think this is major,” Beale told HuffPost in the video above. “It’s like an avenue, we’re like a teacher. We’re basically... we’re raising them. In the community, we all know who’s doing what and that person who’s doing it could be my friend. It could be my family. It could be my homey. I need to talk to them and give them a different outlook.”

According to the Urban League of Philadelphia, voter participation among eligible African American voters is comparatively low.

To help combat the statistic, Beale and his team collected data from various black men, including 60 barbers, and found the social effects of mass incarceration to be among the most common fundamental challenges for black men. In addition to voting restrictions placed on ex-felons in some states [the inability of ex-felons to vote], having a prison record also yields itself to limited employment opportunities for former inmates.

To tackle these issues, Beale and his barbers discuss the prevalence and impact of incarceration in black communities.

“There’s a lot of mistrust of systems with black men, particularly when you talk about government, when you talk about systems that impact their families,” Beale added before outlining his future hopes for Sharp Insight. 

“We believe over the next six months and leading to the election, that these guys will be more involved with improving themselves, their families and their communities through civic engagement. That’s what Sharp Insight is all about.”

Check out more on how Sharp Insight is educating its customers in the clip above. 

Clarification: A prior version of this article implied that ex-felons are prohibited from voting nationwide. Restrictions on voting vary by state.  



Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall