By Dwight Hobbes
Arriving Sept. 26 at Wilson’s Image Barbers on West Broadway in North Minneapolis, there’s such bustling, both on the sidewalk and in the barbershop, you’d think somebody was giving something away.
You wouldn’t be wrong. The Hue-Man Project is offering the Clipper Clinic, vital information and hands-on outreach to safeguard men’s health.
Fred Evans of Minneapolis Department of Health and Family Support’s “Seen on da Streets” program greets you with hearty encouragement to come on in for a free, no-strings-attached checkup on your blood pressure, cholesterol, and other things you likely neglect about yourself. For all that that may sound like a snorer, consider: Scares you’ve heard for years about men in general and Black men in particular failing to outlive women aren’t just old wives tales.
Shirlynn M. LaChappelle, president of Minnesota Black Nurses Association, says that men don’t benefit by themselves in taking advantage of such an opportunity. “These are our husbands, our sons, our brothers, our uncles. So [women] have a vested interest in men seeking and maintaining good health care.”
Clarence Jones, outreach director for Southside Community Outreach, notes, “This is [the partnership’s] second project. The first one was at Sabathani [Community Center] to kick everything off. We had about 400 people show up.” [“Men’s health the focus of Hue-Man kickoff,” MSR, August 25]
There’s no fitting that many folk into Wilson’s Image Barbers, but the health fair went on from nine until one with a steady stream of sidewalk traffic drifting in. “I’m very pleased [with the turnout].” Jones adds.
“It’s important for the community to see that we’re here. We’re sincere in our commitment to the community about being healthier.”
Southside Community Health Services’ mobile unit was conveniently parked curbside for on-the-spot screening. Supervising and administering checkups was Dr. Kola Okuyemi, director of University of Minnesota’s Program in Health Disparities Research.
Footing the bill for the Clipper Clinic was UCare. Community Relations Manager Tony Becker points out that shallow pockets need not keep men from getting adequate health care.
“If testing shows, for instance, their blood sugar’s too high, or their blood pressure, we can refer them to resources. Medica Health Plan and UCare Health Plan are here to provide information on [affordable] insurance.”
Asked why he agreed to have the health fair at his establishment, Wilson’s Image Barbers owner Tito Wilson, who opened his shop on a Monday when he ordinarily would have the day off, answers, “This is a place many brothers come. A lot of [them] are reluctant to go to doctors or clinics to get health screening and other things. So, if we can catch them right here in the community, it’s better.”
You enter, and greeting you at the first station is a pleasantly smiling Del Gates, community relations and partnership manager with UCare. Clarence Jones, she acknowledges, approached Gates about getting Clipper Clinic off the ground.
“Actually,” she says, dovetailing with Wilson’s take on things, “I thought the concept was really wonderful. Outreach to men, providing programs and services. And taking those services direct to where men are. The barbershop concept is great. We’re looking forward to doing more activities like this in the future, in St. Paul and in South Minneapolis.”
Also there chatting at the Medica table was Alysha Price, research counselor at U of M Division of General Internal Medicine, with information on cigarette smoking. A brochure detailed that as regards teenagers trying to watch their weight, smoking is not a dietary aid.
The rate of sexually transmitted diseases continues to rise for boys and young Black men. Fred Evans’ organization was there to do testing, including rapid screening for HIV that, while it couldn’t immediately confirm cases of infection, was able within 15 minutes to rule that out for males who were negative.
Those who didn’t get negative results were referred for further assessment of the state of their sexual health. Evans emphasizes how important the STD testing is: “It’s just crucial that we continue to try to do something within the community to [inform] our brothers. That’s why we’re dying at alarming rates, because we’re not taking care of ourselves.
“More than half the new HIV cases are among Black women, and 63 percent of African American women who get HIV, they get it from heterosexual men. So, the stigma about gay men and all that kind of stuff, we need to throw that out the window and be real about this,” Evans continues. “We have cases in Minnesota [of males] as young as 14 years old. This is a disease affecting people who are sexually active with multiple partners.”
The business of being real about the epidemic goes for young men as well, he says, when it comes to debunking the vested status of super stud. Sexing as many girls as possible, bragging about not wearing a “jimmy hat” (condom), is a misperceived badge of honor. “They think that’s something to proud of when really it’s something to be afraid of,” says Evans.
The event, a clearinghouse of information and one-stop check-up, proved successful, mainly in reaching men who might otherwise forgo the opportunity.
Next for the Hue-Man Project, Jones says: “We’ll be working with veterans on November 11 at Sabathani, recognizing the contribution they’ve made to our country and inviting them in to take care of their health.”
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.