A sit down at The Barbershop

While college campuses bring people together from all walks of life and backgrounds, being able to connect with those of a shared background and culture can make the college experience much easier to navigate. The members of The Barbershop, a club designed to advocate for unity and community engagement amongst men of color on campus. President Isaiah Braithwaite, a junior Marketing major, who joined the club his first year, said the club’s main tenets are brotherhood, unity and empowerment. “To have a group of Black men at a PWI (Primarily White Institute) is important, so we can get together…we have weekly meetings every Friday so we can get in a room and talk to each other.” Braithwaite is certainly not wrong when referring to Roger Williams University as a PWI, as RWU itself conducted a survey that found roughly 78 percent of active students are white. “It’s [The Barbershop] a good spot, since we do go to a PWI, to have that group of people that understand us, understand our background, understand where we’re coming from,” Braithwaite said. He also said that the club has been very important to him in his last four years at RWU. This was echoed by the other members of The Barbershop. Junior Engineering major Joshua Ongera joined hoping to meet men of color outside his own major. “I wanted to have that connection with them in case we didn’t have a class or something that brought us together.” Ongera also said that coming to a PWI could be a “culture shock” for some people. “There’s a lot of new feelings and emotions and thoughts and ideas you start to have when you come to college, and those change as a minority or minoritized group on campus,” said Ongera. “Having a safe space to talk about these feelings and all the new things that are happening in your life and the new things that you’re seeing in this new environment is very important.” 

Ongera added that going to a Barbershop meeting is “very relaxing,” and that members are able to unwind and chat with each other. 

When asked about the importance of having a club like The Barbershop on campus, Braithwaite touched on how the club has grown overtime, while also referencing the Evolution Fashion Show put on by The Barbershop on Oct. 22. “Before it was a safe space for us to come together…I think we’ve accomplished that, and now with events like the fashion show, it’s also allowing us to put our cultures out there,” said Braithwaite. “One of the biggest things people loved about the fashion show was the culture around it, and I feel like at a PWI you would never get that exposure to all of these different types of cultures.” Braithwaite also thinks that having diversity and visibility of other cultures is very important, especially for a PWI. The Barbershop has a March Madness basketball tournament planned for next semester, as well as some professional development days that are more focused on “creating a path to success outside of college.” The Barbershop meets every Friday at 5:30 p.m. in Global Heritage Hall (GHH) G05, and you can follow them on Instagram @barbershop_rwu.