For more than a decade Philadelphia has had one of the highest rates of violent crime amongst metropolitan cities in the US. The Barber Shop project is a community level intervention developed and implemented by community stakeholders. The goal is to regain control over their community making it safe for their families and businesses. Even though the local Newspapers and TV stations report that, according to police stats crime has declined this past year (NBC 10), there are still hotspots where criminal activity is high in and around Philadelphia and therefore still of concern to community residents. Thus the community stakeholders have decide to take a proactive and remedial approach to rebuilding value systems, and community norms by involving African American men that frequent the local barber shops, i.e., men from all walks of life, as well as ex-offenders, in the project.
The barbershop project pilot will engage African American men using the Empowerment Theory that suggest that a problem posing process can help groups overcome their sense of powerlessness and become “Change Agents” in their communities. These “Change Agents” goal is to change the culture of violence in their community through community projects they design.
Through the Empowerment Theory Process, African American men of the community will come together in the barber shop setting to:
- See a dramatic video presentation on violence
- Then participants actively engage in an open-ended problem solving dialogue about those issues related to violence and participate in a five step process which includes:
- Asking individuals to share their feelings about violence
- Defining as a group the many levels of the issues around violence
- Sharing similar experiences from their lives that relate to violence or the judicial system or social system
- Questioning why these issues exist
- Then develop an action plan to address the issue
Finally, these individuals will implement the action plan to address the problem at the community level.
It is through community engagement that the culture of a community can change, men who are not only “Change Agents” but role models that offer an alternative to the violent gangster image in the community.