All the buzz on DePauw’s campus barber DePauw’s campus barber is helping solve a continuous, half century struggle for students of color: finding a barber that is willing and capable to cut their hair.
For minority students, it has been challenging to get haircuts in Greencastle. There has been a history of students of color going into a barber shop and the barbers either don’t know how to cut their hair or turn them away, according to Assistant Director of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion Joseph Harris.
Over the years, DePauw students, staff and faculty have reported being refused service at local barber shops.
“Vernon Jordan, one of our most famous alumni, talks about how he had to threaten to sue a barber to get a haircut for Parents Weekend,” Harris said. “Fast forward 40 or 50 years, when I first moved to Greencastle. One of the first things I said was “Hey, where can I get a haircut around here?” A young black girl laughed and said, ‘Plainfield.’”
When the CDI was being designed, the institution made sure to build it with a barber shop and hair salon.
Harris said, “Our benefactors Justin and Darren, who were alumni here, I think they were very aware of the history and probably had to deal with that themselves. It’s just a small win that we could give students and say, ‘Hey you belong here too. We’re going to make sure that you belong here.”
Bryan Lomax Sr. is DePauw’s newly hired barber who takes on this responsibility.
Lomax is from Indianapolis where from a young age, his older brother would attend a barber school and teach him the different techniques he had learned. At 13 years old, Lomax was charging the friends in his neighborhood $3 for a haircut.
As he got older, barbering got away from him as he began taking interest in the performing arts. Lomax got married, had kids, and it was not until later that barbering came back into his life.
Lomax went on to be one of the barber’s for the Indianapolis Colts football team and former barber for the Indiana Pacers.
“What I love best about barbering is the interaction with the people that sit in my chair. I’m kind of like a counselor, because people open up to me about anything and everything,” Lomax said.
His son, who is a student at DePauw, told his friends that his dad is a barber. Word spread and reached Troyanna Jefferson, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion’s office manager, who reached out to Lomax. He has been coming to campus two times a month for the past 4 months.
Lomax said, “ I love it. I love the students. I love it because everybody who sits in my chair from DePauw has a goal in mind and that’s an inspiration to me.”
With the help of Lomax’s services, the CDI hopes to aid students of color in providing a welcoming place to get their haircut.
Sophomore Micah Friedman shared his perspective. “Not being of color, I would say that I think students feel a lot more comfortable getting their haircut in the CDI, rather than a place in town. I know a bunch of my closest friends are in Brotherhood and they would never get a haircut in Greencastle and would rather drive 45 minutes to Indy,” he said.
Equipping the CDI with a barber shop and hair salon makes it easy and accessible for students to get a haircut.
Alvin Nieves, senior, spoke about his past experience getting a haircut in Greencastle.
“They butchered my s***. I knew he messed up when I asked for a tape up and he started with scissors. After that I never went back. That was my freshman year,” Nieves said.
For Nieves, having a barber shop on campus is essential. He said, “You look good, you feel good. If you look bummy, chances are you’re not going to want to leave your room. For me, if my hair is cut I don’t mind going outside. I feel good. I do my work. It’s a little thing but it matters.”
DePauw home’s several thousand students pertaining to various backgrounds, while the majority of Greencastle’s population is white. The latter will result in workers, like barbers and hairstylists, to not have the knowledge or skills to cut these students' hair to their needs.
To these barbers Lomax advises, “Give it a try. You want to expand your abilities. You don’t want to close yourself off to one race of people. We all have different textures of hair and it's worth the challenge to learn how to do that. I don’t just cut people of color’s hair, I also cut white people's hair as well, people not of color. It’s good to be diverse.”