Raleigh barbershop, damaged after protests, becomes place to talk about racial inequality

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — At City Market Barber and Style Shop on the corner of Blount and Martin streets, you can hear the sounds of shears, clippers and a lot of chatter.

“Brothers come in here all the time to talk,” said Richard Bowden, owner and manager of the shop.

He said this week the talks got tough – featuring candid conversations about race and social inequality. The barbershop offered a safe space for black men to express their concerns with others who can relate, Bowden said.

“People are just tired now,” Bowden said as he styled the hair of a client. “Young black men, it’s sad that every day we walk out the house and go somewhere, we are worried if we will make it back home because of the color of our skin.”

Bowden reopened the shop on June 1, after being closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The shop opened a day after the civil unrest in downtown Raleigh. 

Shattered windows welcomed them back, but they still got to work for a couple of reasons: The livelihoods of the men who work there and also to provide a sacred place to have those candid conversations. This week, the talks were rooted in race.

George Floyd’s death was a part of the conversation, as were the deaths of other unarmed black men at the hands of police.

The talk Friday was also about sports and their role in projecting racism. He said people had a problem with Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protests and now people are making noise.

“When they’re quiet and they don’t hear you, you’ve got to make noise,” Bowden stressed. 

He understands why some in the community are protesting and demanding changes.

“For our window to be broken out and all that stuff happening, it’s almost like we’re taking one for the team. We understand that. We know there are some elements that are breaking out windows that don’t need to be there, but a lot of this is just, we’re tired,” Bowden explained.

He wants the frustrations to lead to actions, starting with law enforcement.

“Policing needs to be reset and redone. There needs to be a lot of accountability with a police officer. They have body cameras and all of that and it’s time to use it. It’s really time to put people through a test if you’re going to be an officer,” Bowden said.

Earlier this week, Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said she plans to work with the city council on long-overdue reforms and plans to appoint people to the police advisory board.

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