MANSFIELD — In the eight minutes and 46 seconds George Floyd lay on the pavement, suffocating under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, he managed to gasp America’s most haunting phrase: “I can’t breathe.”
Then, he called for his mother.
It produced a visceral reaction for six women discussing race, femininity and motherhood in Mansfield, Ohio during the third installment of "Shop Talk" on June 21 at 419 Barbershop.
“It’s so deeply personal,” said participant Deanna West-Torrence. “Everyone who looked at that video knew it could be them. It could be your son, your dad, your brother. There was something that shook everyone.”
Created by Damien Beauford, owner of 419 Barbershop, the goal of "Shop Talk" is open, honest discussion between the participants seated in the barber chairs.
Guests included entrepreneur Marie Holbrook, urban farmer Amanda Stanfield, thought provoker Kathryn Bartlett, mother Christina Beauford, founder of NECIC Deanna West-Torrence, and pastor Kristin Scott. The discussion was moderated by Engagement & Solutions Editor Brittany Schock.
Four of the women at 419 Barbershop were mothers of Black boys – children and adults – and the discussion centered largely around the toll of raising and caring for them in today’s racial climate. While America is still reeling from the death Floyd, West-Torrence said Black men have feared police brutality for decades, and that her motherly fears are deep-rooted.
“It just hasn’t changed, you know? Nothing’s really changed…” she said.
This is the balancing act of being a mother to a Black child: instilling love and confidence and optimism, while also making sure that child is tough enough to handle the real world.
“I fear that I’m not doing enough by him to raise him in a world like this – if he’ll make it, because he is so sensitive…” said Mansfield resident Kathryn Bartlett, who has a 10-year-old Black son. “That’s my biggest fear, is raising him to be strong enough to live in this world.”
419 Barbershop has partnered with Richland Source, Mankind Murals Inc. and DRM Productions to bring "Shop Talk" to life.
Richland Source editors moderated the discussions using solutions journalism principles to complicate the narratives and give space for understanding and nuance.