Meridian barbers appear in independent film about race in America

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Jun. 11—When people think of barbershops, they probably think of getting a haircut.

But for independent filmmaker Kyle Schickner, these shops are places to have conversations about race.

"We have to start to be able to talk about it openly, without people getting nervous or getting canceled," Schickner said.

His film, called "A White Man Walks Into a Barbershop" will have its world premiere at the Temple Theater at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 12. Proceeds will benefit the Boys and Girls Club of East Mississippi.

Over the course of eight years, Schickner stopped in barbershops and churches across America to discuss race and racism.

Because most of the movie was filmed in Meridian, the filmmaker decided to host the premiere here.

"The plan was never to stop in Meridian," he said. We stopped there for lunch and we saw a barbershop and decided to go in."

Schickner, who was born in New Jersey, said the idea for the the movie started after the election of Barack Obama in 2008. He said he created the film because he felt people aren't comfortable talking about race.

Filming the movie allowed him to have conservations about race with people who weren't in his circle of friends, Schickner said.

'He kind of surprised us'

When he arrived in Meridian, Schickner first stopped at Jenkins Barbershop after finding it on Google Maps.

"He kind of surprised us when he walked into the barbershop," recalled Kevin Lewis Sr., the shop's owner. "Out of all the barbershops in the city, he came to us."

Lewis said Schickner, who is white, was so interested in the Southern experience that he went to church, a football game and shared dinner with Lewis' family.

"It made me feel good for him to walk into a Black barbershop, attend a Black church, to eat dinner," Lewis said. "It was a privilege to have him at home to see what down South living is all about."

Lewis hopes that viewers will gain insight into the Black community by hearing the conversations in barber and beauty shops featured in the film.

"This is our everyday life,"Lewis said. "We want to enlighten people."

For his part, Schickner hopes the film will make people more comfortable talking about race in America.

"We have to start admitting that we still have work to do," he said.

More information

Tickets for the movie can be purchased at Jenkin's Barbershop at 1727 6th Street, at the Temple Theater Box Office at 2320 8th Street, or online at barbershoppremiere.eventbrite.com.

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