Cut to the Chase Breaking Barriers

Published on January 3, 2024

A Cut To The Chase session addressing mens’ mental health issues in progress in Sacramento.

Author: Jamie Kennedy, Spectrum News
Published: December 26, 2023

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — For decades, Kendall Robinson has been cutting Black men’s hair, and concurrently listening and speaking to them about their issues in his barbershop.

“The barbershop is one of the most safe places you can go and feel relaxed,” said Robinson, who owns Five Starr Fades. “Like you are a part of a family.”

It’s part of the reason his shop is now also being used to host group therapy sessions for Black men in the evenings called Cut To The Chase.

“I’m very surprised at the turnout,” Robinson said. “Because when we first started, we got together, well, we had about 12,14,15 people. Then as it evolved, the numbers grew.”

In a recent study by the California Health Care Foundation, it found nearly 50% of Black Californians with mental health conditions report being treated poorly by health care providers.

The sessions are hosted by the Greater Sacramento Urban League (GSUL).

Their chief impact officer, Dr. Troy Williams, said findings such as those from the study, along with understanding the need for more mental health programs for Black people, were part of the impetus for starting the barbershop sessions.

“We knew that there was a decline in mental health, and we knew that our community needed access to mental health services. So eventually when we created this program, we absolutely knew that the turnout would be phenomenal,” said Williams.

Williams said in six months they have served over 450 people.

Part of the success, Williams said, is the mental health professionals at the sessions.

Bryant Howard is a therapist who runs Heart of the Matter Counselling and works with the league at the sessions.

“It’s so important that we’re doing these here because there’s no stigma here,” Howard said. “There’s no stigma to having a conversation about what’s real inside anyone in particular. So we can talk about really, really deeper level things.”

Robinson said the sessions have been hugely helpful to him dealing with his skin condition vitiligo.

“I have to look at the man in the mirror and say, Man, I don’t like what I look like today,” he said. “But today, because of the men I’m affiliated with, I have better coping skills now.”

With the success of the sessions Robinson, Williams, and Howard said there will soon be sessions hosting women programs to at salons.