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Shop Talk

Transformation from the barber's chair?

Shop Talk is a community-based project where trained mental health professionals and others who have a heart for the community, go into barbershops to shift the typical conversations—particularly the impact of violence—to ones that heal and transform. Information about mental health, spiritual and emotional wellness resources in the community are handed out to shop-goers for them to follow up in the future. We present community involvement as an important means to heal feelings of helplessness and victimization, transforming into action and empowerment.


Shop Talk (as this project is called now) is the second iteration of Joshua’s barbershop conversations and was ushered into service as a response to Baltimore’s civil unrest in early May 2015.  Eager to do something to impact what was going on, Joshua knew that another round of going into barbershops was in order, after talking to folks at the so-called epicenter of the riots, then witnessing the police response in the staging area—Penn-North. Joshua's interests, talents and skills would best be utilized by facilitating engaging conversations in barbershops, often the ear and mouth piece of the community.  Lots of conversations take place in barbershops.

Shop Talk is supported as a community project of Creating a Profound Sense of Community (see link) which is building a network of leaders that motivate others to actions that build a movement to hold our police departments, elected officials and ourselves accountable for what goes on in our communities


We are seeking professionals and community volunteers to help shift the culture of violence and bring peace to our communities, families and ourselves. Connect to Shop Talk by clicking on the link below.


In 2008, UMOJA Integrative Behavioral Health Systems founder, Joshua Lee, wanted to celebrate his deceased dad’s upcoming birthday and asked his siblings to participate. His request faced much upset and anger from a brother who declared that “Daddy was a bad, violent person!” although his father had been dead for about 20 years. Wondering why so much venom and upset was present no further answers came from his brother, but Joshua continued to consider if barbershops would make an ideal venue to hold healing conversations.

Several weeks later, he received his answer—going into barbershops was God-ordained. When Joshua met a 51-year old man at his old barbershop, he disclosed for the first time ever to anyone while getting his hair cut that he’d been sexually assaulted as a 6-year old.  He went on to describe how that incident changed his life for the worse. “I became a fighter and got into a lot of trouble,” he said. Lee then moved forward with certainty and commitment to holding conversations in barbershops as a way to help others’ healing. He started recruiting host barbershops and professionals to join his initiative. He launched “Haircuts and Healing Conversations,” sending a cadre of human service professionals (social workers, substance abuse, professional counselors, clergy) on a day of healing and reconciliation in the city of Baltimore.  Up to 10 people were dispatched out into six barbershops, including a professional camera crew.  The raw video footage was edited into a DVD, called “Haircuts and Healing Conversations: A Day of Healing.”