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Project To Get Black Men To The Voting Booth, Through The Barber Shop, Gets Knight Funding

By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- To paraphrase the 2003 movie "Barbershop," Duerward Beale believes something as simple as a haircut can change the way a man feels about the electoral process.

Beale, the executive director of the Youth Outreach Adolescent Community Awareness Program, has just won $250,000 from the Knight News Challenge to increase voting among black men by training barbers in Philadelphia to engage in serious conversations with their clients about elections.

"Our 'Sharp Insight' project will work with barbers to 'cut through' misinformation on elections and educate black men to increase their civic engagement," he says.

Beale is a long-time believer in the power of the barber, who has a captive audience in his chair during a haircut.

"We've done some things around health and STD screenings inside of barber shops and beauty salons," he says.

So it was a natural extension, when he heard about the Knight Challenge, to look there for ways to improve voter turn-out.

His proposal calls for training 50 barbers in 25 barbershops to provide non-partisan information to their clients. He thinks they could reach, conservatively, 6,000 potential voters and that they, in turn, will talk with another 12,000.

"There's a certain magic to that idea," says Chris Barr, director of media innovation for the Knight Foundation. The Foundation funded 22 projects nationally through the News Challenge. No others were in Philadelphia.

Beale is now looking for barbers and barber shops to sign up for the project. You can reach him at

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