For One Night, a Brooklyn Barbershop Is a Political Forum

More than two dozen people came to a barbershop in Bedford-Stuyvesant to watch the presidential debate and to voice their own political views.

Posted: 10/04/2012 04:08 PM EDT

(Photo: Barbers for Obama/Facebook)

While many Americans deliberated about the performance of the two candidates in the presidential debate, in one barbershop in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, there was little question about who was considered the winner. 

“I think Obama did his thing and I think he won the debate,” said Dion Albert, a former Navy man who now works at a clothing store in Manhattan. “He made some great points and has great plans for the country. This was a great debate.”

Albert’s enthusiasm for the president could hardly be considered a surprise. He was among more than two dozen people from the community around the Dons and Divas Hair Salon who attended a debate-watching event hosted by Colin Rodney, the founder of Barbers for Obama.

While partaking in a meal of chicken wings, macaroni and cheese, yams and greens, the political discussions in the barbershop were far more impassioned and animated than anything that was on the televised debate in Denver. At various points, the discussions among the viewers in the shop drowned out the sound from the television as the guests offered their takes on politics, the economy, health care and education.

At one point, Mitt Romney, the Republican challenger, admonished the president saying that as commander-in-chief, Obama was entitled to a house and an airplane. “But you’re not entitled to your own facts.” That drew a loud chorus of boos and unprintable catcalls toward Romney. 

“He shouldn’t be dissin’ the president,” one man shouted. “Romney shows he has no respect for the presidency, so he is not worthy of having the position.”

Despite the unmistakable air of enthusiasm for the president in the room, there was nonetheless strong criticism from the guests in the barbershop that Obama should have been more forceful in making his case. Specifically, they suggested that he should have taken Romney to task for his view, revealed in secretly recorded comments, that 47 percent of Americans were dependent on the government and that he was unconcerned about such people.

“Romney doesn’t care about the average man,” another guest shouted. “Obama should get on him for that and that mess he said about the 47 percent.”

Rodney, who is the barbershop’s owner, said he was so busy serving as host that he was barely able to watch much of the debate. Still, he said he was thrilled have so many people from the community come to the shop and engage in an old-fashioned style of civil involvement.

“For me it was a great experience because a lot of people from the community came through,” who has organized barbers throughout New York City to urge their customers to register to vote and go to the polls.

“In the Black community, the role of the barbershop has always been important,” he added. “It’s always been the place where people from all kinds of walks of like gather and voice their opinions on every issue you can think of. I feel good because people came here because they wanted to be involved in this election.”


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