Fraternity offers haircuts to empower black men on campus

Alpha Phi Alpha, a historic African- American intercollegiate fraternity, will be hosting “The Barbershop Series” on the first three Tuesday nights of the fall quarter at the Black Cultural Center as a means to reach out to incoming black male freshmen on campus, surround them with a network of other black students and provide them with free haircuts from professional barbers.

Attendees will get the opportunity to participate in student-led seminars where there will be discussions related to issues that affect the black community at DePaul, such as how to operate on campus as a black male and defining that specific culture.

Other discussion topics that are planned include lifestyle briefings on where to shop and where to get haircuts. The discussions will then shift to talks about campus shortcuts, where to grab food in close proximity to the Lincoln Park campus, and good study spot recommendations under the duress of midterms and final examinations.

In addition to the lifestyle seminar, the series will be offering seminars that will teach attendees about cultural factors that lie beyond being an African-American male at DePaul. Alpha Phi Alpha will also talk about how to get internships and jobs, the impact of building coping skills in relation to mental health and lessons on self-care, and how to take care of financial aid related affairs.

“The Barbershop Series” was named because of the cultural relevance of the barbershop in the African-American community. DeWayne Thomas, who has been a professionally licensed barber in Chicago for six years, indicated that the black barbershop experience is culturally significant.

“You have to create a space that you feel comfortable in. It’ll kind of create that path and gateway for helping the next young black man you see on campus.”

— Marquis Morgan

“Black barber shops are historically known for being able to have such sociopolitical kind of dialogues that have affected a lot of the people that are there,” Thomas said. “It kind of almost creates a setting where guys feel like they can openly discuss certain things because it’s not about what somebody else is feeling or how they’re gonna respond to whatever it is you have to say, especially based on race when everybody who’s in that particular setting mostly look like each other.”

“The Barbershop Series” was created to bring a welcoming atmosphere for black freshmen, according to its founding members. In an effort to include students regardless of whether they are outgoing or shy, Alpha Phi Alpha members said that they decided to include snacks and offer video games for students to play.

Alpha Phi junior member Darnell Langston and senior member Marquis Morgan, who were primarily responsible for planning out “The Barbershop Series,” mentioned that a huge part of getting everything set up revolved around the fact that DePaul’s African-American community is not very big. According to the university’s enrollment summary on its website, the African-American student population stood at just over nine percent out of a combined 22,769 undergraduates, graduate students and those enrolled in the law school in 2017.

“Basically, what we had in mind was to create an event for incoming black freshmen, specifically incoming black male freshmen, to show them that there is a population of black men at DePaul (and) introduce them to what DePaul is,” Langston said. “DePaul is different from like other (PWIs). DePaul, it’s very small, it’s very compact, you know it’s not the typical college town campus experience, so there are certain ways you have to operate differently.”

Both Langston and Morgan expressed the importance of building upon what they already describe is a thriving black male population in a DePaul community that puts a focus on growing into your own diverse identity.

“Black people don’t really have too many safe spaces here and the black male population is very small as it is, so you know anything that we can do as like a show of fellowship, like that’s always a big thing for us,” Langston said. “DePaul is different from other campus towns, so you’re gonna have to be respectful of people’s identities and people’s safe spaces. You’re gonna have to be respectful of all of that, and this is sort of like that guideline of that, to set a standard for the beginning of the year for what we want from each other as far as black men and brotherhood because this gives us the platform to communicate and gives us the platform to speak with each other in one area with the sole purpose of coming together.”

Alpha Phi Alpha wanted the events to take place at the beginning of the year not only to reach the freshmen as soon as they arrived on campus, but also to create a collective brotherhood that entails a system of both upperclassmen reaching out to underclassmen and underclassmen reaching up to upperclassmen.

“You have to create a space that you feel comfortable in,” Morgan said. “It’ll kind of create that path and gateway for helping the next young black man you see on campus.” The first event of “The Barbershop Series” is planned for 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 11 at the Black Cultural Center located on the third floor of the O’Connell Building in Lincoln Park.