Barbershops that turn out Black men to vote

barbershop-voter-participationFor men, the local barbershop can be the proverbial community water cooler where they let down their guard and socialize over everything from sports to the news.

That’s the insight behind a new Black voter participation project founded by Duerward Beale, the executive director of the Youth Outreach Adolescent Community Awareness Program in Philadelphia. As he noted to NBC News, “barbershops are trusted places in the African-American community”—thus uniquely positioned to spread the message about voting and civic participation. Through his initiative, Sharp Insight, Beale is now seeking to recruit barbers to do just that and ultimately reach at least 60,000 men.

Especially valuable is the opportunity it creates to inform the barbershops’ clientele about restored voting rights after run-ins with the law, given the hard-to-reach nature of this population. As Beale explained, “[w]hen we register people to vote, a lot of guys would tell us ‘this situation happened’ and once they explained it we understand they have problems with the law. [But] they have some misinformation. We have to connect the dots for them.”

It’s a promising effort that has caught the eye of the Knight Foundation, which recently awarded it a grant. For more information, see the Knight Foundation press release announcing the winners of the Knight News Challenge and check out the group on Twitter at @YOACAPphilly.