"When we hear those magic words 'you next' from the barber, it means we are about to be transformed," Antonio Johnson said.
Black-owned barbershops nestled in neighborhoods across America seem to have far more value than just a place for getting hair cuts. Barbershops are embedded in the Black culture - for being safe spaces to have an important conversation and have evolved into establishments for the wellness of the black community.
NewsOne reports that through his photo project, You Next, Philadelphia native Antonio Johnson visually captured the influence and impact that these businesses have on the lives of Black men and women. Johnson recalls his experiences as a child in Philly barbershops, which reminded him of their cultural importance, that led to "You Next".
Johnson knew that 'You Next' was something bigger than himself and wholeheartedly believed that it would be an important contribution to Black culture. Through the project, he’s been to 16 cities—including New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Oakland—and has highlighted over 100 barbershops.
Johnson has transformed his photo project into a coffee table book that will feature 250 black and white images that he’s captured and poignant essays from individuals in the barber community, cultural critics, and leading voices in the literary world.
Moreover, the written pieces will cover entrepreneurship, gentrification, faith, and sexuality. It will be published by the Chicago Review Press and is slated to be released in September 2020.
Johnson is of the opinion that in a time where Black people have a lot at stake socially and politically, barbershops are needed now more than ever. Given that the 2020 presidential election is fast approaching, he wants barbershops to be used as tools to increase voters among the Black community.
Going beyond politics, he hopes that discussions about ownership, economic empowerment, and wellness practices are brought to more barbershops. Barbershops are often key to economic freedom for individuals who have been incarcerated.
“Barbershops have cultivated a sense of community. They are the most important small businesses in our country and when we invest in them the return is strong." He told NewsOne.
"The You Next project stands on the shoulders of Black barbers that started their own businesses and have allowed us to look fresh for important life milestones like birthdays, weddings, and even job interviews. 'You Next' celebrates the most important business in our community," Johnson ended.
See more of his awesome work here: