On the weekends that I stayed with my dad when I was a kid, those are the words he said to me every time I stepped into his car. Those weekends were full of excitement, but the most consistent experience was our time at the barbershop. The memories that we made in the barbershop have stayed with me well into my adult years. They have shaped me and taught me many lessons. I believe the most important lesson I learned is this: to find the right barber is to find a friend. Someone whom you can trade ideas and experiences with, someone who will become part of a sacred sustaining culture that will be here for you, your children, and eventually, their children too.
“So be it! See to it!” wrote Washington’s very own Octavia Butler, as a source of encouragement, in her personal notebook. The bestselling and award-winning author would be read by millions. In 1995, she became the first African American woman to win the MacArthur Fellowship. She is one of the greatest (if not the greatest) science fiction writers of the 20th century.
As participants of the Media 2070 consortium meeting on Thursday, April 21st, we meditated on those words and then were asked, “Now what will you do with your writing?”
“The House of the Rising Sun,” a traditional folk song made most famous in 1964 by the band The Animals, bellowed through Chiyo’s Garden in the Chinatown-International District. On the stage stood a young musical apprentice. Through his technical range and vocal discipline, this student transported everyone in the audience. It was this and many other live performances during the opening ceremony of Black & Tan Hall’s “Seattle Green Book Self-Guided Tour” that moved our bodies and took us back to that time period between 1936 and 1966, a time when the Green Book symbolized the Bible to Black folks traveling throughout the United States. The Green Book gave travelers the knowledge of which businesses, cities, and states would be accepting of them and their money while traveling to their final destinations.
As the product of the Great Migration, a historical period in American history where millions of African American citizens left all they knew and took all they had from the Jim Crow South to cities up North in hopes of a better life, my grandmothers took their rightful place in that movement in hopes of a Promised Land that wasn’t always so promising for them. What was stronger than the reality of that promise was the hope they brought with them. They came with hopes that one day their kids and grandchildren could reap the future benefits of their elders being uprooted.
Some of those benefits can be felt in the work of Black & Tan Hall, highlighted along with local Black history in the upcoming Seattle Green Book Self-Guided Tour app coming in March.
The haircut is a bonding moment for son and Father. This is an experience for you to see one of the many identities/roles Father takes on around other men. You get a glimpse into a world that is sacred to Father and important to the development of a son’s social skills. It is important for a son to pay close attention to the interactions: to learn how to compose himself, respect himself and others, and also how to approach the barber and other people whom he will one day interact with outside of the shop. You will be able to distinguish and study what type of man you want to be as you get older. The day will come when you will be taking this journey on your own.
It is important for a son to speak up for himself. If he doesn’t like something about the performance of the Barber, he has to be honest so the barber will change tactics. The son also needs to be aware of how important grooming is for himself and how he presents himself in public. He needs to be aware of how good he feels about himself after getting a haircut. It is a form of self-care. Grooming and taking care of oneself is a sign of self-respect, it will lead others to take the son seriously when maneuvering in professional settings. Embrace this time with your Father and store it in your memory. So that you can refer back to these memories when preparing for your own child. These steps will be repeated for future generations of Fathers and sons. You can get creative, but hold on to the core values.