What ‘Barbershop 3’ taught me about saving our community

This article originally appeared in the April 21, 2016 issue of the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper Barbershop 3

This past weekend, my mother and I decided to link up downtown to catch dinner and a movie. Going to the movie theater is an infrequent activity of mine, due to the fact that I’m cheap and can’t stand spending $10 on a movie ticket. Despite my frugality, we headed over to Circle Centre to catch the new Ice Cube flick, “Barbershop 3.” I’ll admit I was not at all impressed by the movie’s trailer, but the opportunity to see one of my favorites, Common, on the big screen was all the motivation I needed.

To avoid any spoilers, I’ll simply say the film was full of what you’ve come to expect from the “Barbershop” franchise: humor peppered with social commentary, Cedric the Entertainer shuffling around in a gray wig, barbershop drama and politics, all against the backdrop of Chicago’s Southside.

What I didn’t expect was for it to be so good. Once I got past the tacky sexual innuendos and the stereotypical Hotep sista with subpar braiding skills, it was truly excellent and exceeded all my expectations. The storyline, which was practically ripped from news headlines, explores the turmoil many community residents experienced during another one of Chicago’s bloody summers. As I continued to watch, I whispered to my mother that it all felt familiar. You could have simply changed Chicago to Indianapolis in the script, and the situation would be the same.

In January 2015, Indianapolis made Huffington Post’s Top 10 Murder Capitals of 2014 list. In March of this year, a study conducted by the Violence Policy Center revealed that Indiana had the highest rate of Black homicide victims in the country. Last weekend, 12 people were shot and six of them passed away, all within a 60-hour span.

All of these victims had families and people who cared about them. I know there are no perfect words to share at this time to ease the grief of their loss, so I will simply offer one of my favorite scriptures: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. (Isaiah 41:10)”

In the film, Calvin (Ice Cube’s character) and his employees decide they have had enough of the violence ravaging their neighborhoods and decide to do something about it. Their plan was to stage a weekend-long ceasefire. They enlisted the help of two gang leaders to pass the word to their members that no shooting was to go down all weekend. Calvin and his team offered their shop as neutral territory and gave out free haircuts all weekend to bring attention to their cause. Now, I know what some of you may be thinking — that’s stupid and it’s never going to work here. What do free haircuts have to do with stopping people from shooting each other?

Honestly, I can’t tell you what the perfect solution is to end the violence in our streets, but I can share with you one surefire way to guarantee nothing gets done — simply do nothing. At this point, we need all hands on deck. I applaud every person and organization that has been out in the street and in the community working to turn things around. We have to continue to be creative and do whatever needs to be done to address the issue, whether that’s free haircuts at shops in the so-called “hot spot” areas, radio marathons, anti-violence rallies, underwater basket weaving, whatever! We, of course, need the support of our elected officials and police force, but there comes a time when we need to be real and admit that no one is going to save us but us. It’s not about applause, cameras and accolades, either. This is a matter of life and death. It’s been said that desperate times call for desperate measures, and I think this is as desperate a time as any.

On another note, next week I’ll be making a cameo appearance in a different section of the paper. I sat down with Congressman Jim Clyburn of South Carolina to discuss presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. We talked about mass incarceration, the fact that many Blacks have Clinton trust issues and, of course, the hot sauce she apparently keeps in her bag. Stay tuned!