Haircuts are usually another mundane thing to work into a busy schedule. But not for students involved in Brother 2 Brother. Brother 2 Brother is a Black male initiative designed to foster brotherhood for Black men on campus. The initiative started in 2018 and was started through the Office of Multicultural Affairs.
According to Shawna Edmond, the assistant director for retention programs in the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, this initiative is something that is backed by research, numbers and retention, but it also was something that was found to be a need after asking students.
“The initiative was created to help with the retention of Black males on campus and getting them involved in campus,” Edmond said.
One of the main events students involved in Brother 2 Brother participate in is Cuts and Conversations. It is hosted twice a month in the Multicultural Intersection Lounge in the lower level of Russell House.
“It’s similar to like, a barbershop, almost,” second-year media arts student Isaiah Jackson said. “While we’re there, sometimes we’ll talk and goof off and have fun, but sometimes we really just sit down and just have serious conversations and just educate each other on the things that’s going on.”
Brother 2 Brother provides dinner and a free haircut from a local barber at Cuts and Conversations.
Michael Wheeler, a first-year media arts student, said the best part about Cuts and Conversations is the environment.
“It’s at least nice to know that it’s a space where we can be open, where we feel like we belong — we’re accepted and don’t have to have that idea of isolation,” Wheeler said.
Edmond said the group has some lighthearted conversations, but oftentimes it has in-depth discussions that allow Black men to unpack in a safe space.
Jackson said the group has discussed marginalization within the community.
“We just speak on topics that’s serious, and we try to give each other tips and education on how to handle these situations so we won’t be a statistic,” Jackson said.
Outside of Cuts and Conversations, Brother 2 Brother hosts a Black male community dinner each semester and a retreat each spring.
Edmond said the community dinners are an opportunity for students to build brotherhood with older Black men in the Columbia community.
The retreats are an opportunity for students to get off-campus. During one retreat, Brother 2 Brother focused on building leadership, professional development and brotherhood. Edmond said they had sessions on things such as navigating mental health and what to do after graduation.
“The initiative is pretty young and we’re continuing to grow. We’ve had a lot of success with it,” Edmond said. “We’ve been able to also work with Brothers of Nubian Descent (BOND), and that is one of our Black male student organizations on campus, and we have a really organic relationship with that organization.”
According to Wheeler, many of the students who have gotten involved in Brother 2 Brother and attended Cuts and Conversations are also engaged in BOND.
“It was a need. It was a space that was needed for those Black men,” Edmond said. “It’s a space for them to feel comfortable and feel relaxed and being able to not feel judged, and they could just talk about anything.”