Last Updated: Monday, Feb. 15, 2016, 8:25 p.m.
The black barbershop is often affectionately known as the “Black Man’s Country Club.”
Here, many topics are discussed, many debates are started and many attempts at solving community problems are made.
Sharod the Barber, who runs the “Against the Grain” barbershop along 16th Street South, says he tries to make his business a positive force in the community.
“I got a $5 Wednesday for kids,” said Sharod. “I do that every Wednesday because of the mothers don't have the opportunity to pay for kids haircuts and stuff of the nature. So I try to do my best to contribute my part.”
Some among his colleagues, like fellow barber Derrick Thomas, feel they need to do more.
“Martin Luther King tried to save us, we still in the same predicament,” said Thomas, “Malcolm X and the list goes on and on, we still in the same predicament. We gotta come back to the laws, statutes and commandments of the most high, and that's the Bible. And we'll see change.”
The recent violence in south St. Pete that claimed the lives of seven young black males has both barbers and clients at Against the Grain very concerned about the future of this community’s youngest residents.
“It ain't easy,” said Aquez Ramsey, 16, while sitting in of the barber’s chairs at Against the Grain. “Major influences, drugs, crime, just trying to fit in. You just gotta know what you want out of life. What do you want out of life? I wanna be successful. Successful doing what? Doing whatever I need to do -- putting money on the table, feeding my family, being respectful. Just growing up in this day and age, you don't know what's gonna happen.”
Aquez’s barber, Jason Robinson, is hoping Aquez will learn from his mistakes when he was that age.
“I went to jail when I was 18,” said Robinson. “Did some time, but luckily, glad I ain't been back. I'm trying to teach everybody else, don't even make that first mistake like me.”
Young people like Aquez give lifetime south St. Pete resident Wibur Hunter hope. As a senior citizen now, he says hope is something he’ll never let go of.
“There is hope, because there's life,” said Hunter. “So if they've got life within themselves and some energy, yeah, there's hope. There's always hope.”