Milwaukee youth of color open up at Bay View barbershop

A Bay View barbershop is offering more than trims and fades. It has become a space where young people can freely open up about their mental health. 

There is a buzz at Flashy Faded Barbershop in Bay View.

"The sky is the limit to the point you can impact lives," said Jose Perez, owner.

Perez has been cutting hair since he was 14 years old. He knows the power a barbershop has on a community.

"If they’re coming in with a bad day, they walk out smiling," said Perez. 

Perez is using his passion and space to help Milwaukee youth of color open up about their mental health. 

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"Kids don’t want to open up to teachers," said Perez. "They don’t want to open up to parents. So who can actually make them feel comfortable and make it OK to open up? That’s where we came into play."

Along with friends Sebas Fuentas, Ambrose Wilson-Brown and Samer Ghani, Perez hosted a series of conversations with youth on mental health. 

Portraits of those who attended were posted on the wall. They tackled tough topics while offering advice, support, positive communication and haircuts. 

"We hear so much about pressure about school, social media, bullying, relationships," said Perez. 

The group hopes to continue to help Milwaukee's youth discuss mental health. 

"Every people of color, it doesn’t matter what it is, if you need help we’re going to be here. We can listen," said Perez.

The organizers work with youth and have experience in mental health counseling. The barbershop hopes for more conversations with youth and adults in the coming months.