hen the coronavirus pandemic hit in March 2020, Jalani Bakari ’88 and Bert Wright ’99 knew that sitting around all day at home would be detrimental to their well-being. So the pair created an unofficial group called the Barbershop Walk, which meets Monday through Friday on the UC Riverside campus. Gatherings have included as few as three people and as many as 20, and consist of alumni, faculty, students, and friends. The group is intentionally designed as a space for Black men to gather and recharge their physical and mental health, Wright and Bakari said.
“Traditionally, barbershops have been spaces that allow men to gather and create their own sense of community,” said Bakari, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history and has lost 40 pounds since June 2020.“So we’re calling this the Barbershop Walk.”
Participants laugh with one another and discuss politics, finances, and career plans, while offering mentorship to younger walkers. The men come from all over the Inland Empire — as far as Corona and Hemet — and wear face coverings while trying to keep a safe distance as they traverse the campus. Sometimes they run up and down the softball field’s bleachers, other times they challenge one another as they ascend and descend the yellow circular stairways of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. The morning walks allow the group to explore the campus and watch construction projects unfold week after week.
“It’s a great reason to get out of the house and take care of ourselves,” Wright said. “It’s great comradery and a way to give ourselves some self-care.”