Black alumni, students, and faculty members gather for morning hikes during the pandemic.


Black alumni, students, and faculty members gather for morning hikes during the pandemic.

By Sandra Baltazar Martínez | Photos by Stan Lim


hen the coronavirus pandemic hit in March 2020, Jalani Bakari ’88 and Bert Wright ’99 knew that sitting around all day at home would be detrimental to their well-being. So the pair created an unofficial group called the Barbershop Walk, which meets Monday through Friday on the UC Riverside campus. Gatherings have included as few as three people and as many as 20, and consist of alumni, faculty, students, and friends. The group is intentionally designed as a space for Black men to gather and recharge their physical and mental health, Wright and Bakari said.

“Traditionally, barbershops have been spaces that allow men to gather and create their own sense of community,” said Bakari, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history and has lost 40 pounds since June 2020.“So we’re calling this the Barbershop Walk.”

Participants laugh with one another and discuss politics, finances, and career plans, while offering mentorship to younger walkers. The men come from all over the Inland Empire — as far as Corona and Hemet — and wear face coverings while trying to keep a safe distance as they traverse the campus. Sometimes they run up and down the softball field’s bleachers, other times they challenge one another as they ascend and descend the yellow circular stairways of the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. The morning walks allow the group to explore the campus and watch construction projects unfold week after week.

“It’s a great reason to get out of the house and take care of ourselves,” Wright said. “It’s great comradery and a way to give ourselves some self-care.”


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Jalani Bakari
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“The pandemic inspired everybody to wear a mask, to be healthier, to exercise before we go to work. We all have some sort of affinity to UCR. Some had not been to campus in decades, and it has grown! The bell tower and Botanic Gardens look the same — nothing else!”


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“We had been walking separately … but why not safely walk together? We need to get out of the house and take care of ourselves.”

Bert Wright ’99

Bert Wright
Deyv’s Deshommes
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“It’s great to pick their brain,
to learn from their experience
and life journeys.”

Deyv’s Deshommes,
fourth-year African American Studies major

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“When they invited me, I said,
‘Great, I’ll join you.’ It’s an opportunity to safely get together and eliminate that sedentary life.”

Paul Green,
associate professor of ethnic studies

Paul Green