Non-Profit to Help African American Men Talk About Social & Emotional Issues

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- One Little Rock man is helping African American men fight depression one barbershop at a time. 

Lorenzo Lewis started the non-profit The Confess Project in hopes of establishing a network of men who support and strengthen one another through discussion.

Lewis has been busy on the road traveling to various states with The Confess Project. 

“We’ve noticed that different communities have different complex issues but this is a nation’s problem,” says Lewis. 

He’s visited states like Tennessee, South Carolina, Kentucky and Georgia on a mission.   “African Americans struggle so hard with the stigma,” says Lewis.

A stigma that’s all too familiar to Goodfellas Barbershop owner, Matt Dillon. 

“We have this stigma of us being so strong,” says Dillon.  “[We] have to be a certain way and a lot of time we have to go through a lot of stuff on our own.”

“Stuff” that Dillon says he hears about every day while he’s cutting hair.

“Some of us may lose a job, some of us may lose a family member or we’re going through a breakup with the family,” says Dillon.

Lewis grew up in his aunt’s beauty shop.  He says he first decided to bring The Confess Project to barbershops because it was a setting where men felt comfortable and may be more inclined to open up.

“It’s a really organic conversation that happens between myself and one of my colleagues as we begin to tell stories about our own journeys to mental health and wellness,” says Lewis about how he gets started.

It’s been a journey that keeps gaining momentum.  Lewis says it starts with a story to break the ice, then a presentation, an activity and finally a symbol of unveiling. 

By creating a dialogue in this environment and teaming up with Dillon to offer advocacy training to barbers about mental health, Lewis says he’s already seeing a positive impact.

“People really respond the way you kind of want them to respond,” says Lewis.

“You can come out and release because what goes on in the barbershop stays in the barber shop,” says Dillon.

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Brave Bureau