Anthem brings the barbershop experience to downtown Jamaica for their Black History Month programming

Jason Elder and Wendy Dominguez host Anthem’s Black History Month Program at their Jamaica location.
Photo by Athena Dawson

On Thursday Feb. 22nd, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield hosted a Black History Month event at their Jamaica community service center, located at 153-17 Jamaica Avenue.

Anthem partnered with local nonprofit La Jornada  and mobile barber shop, Platinum and Gold Experience Luxury Mobile Grooming Spa for Men to give community outreach information and free haircuts to residents that stopped by.

New York State Senator Leroy Comrie was among the attendees at the event, lending his presence to the occasion.

February also marks the start of American Heart Health Month, so staff members handed out flyers and hosted info sessions about the warning signs of heart disease and high blood pressure. 

“February is heart disease awareness month so we are highlighting the importance of heart disease and educating people on what they should do. High blood pressure and hypertension is the silent killer. We just want to educate the community and tell them to always make sure to check your blood pressure.” said Yasmin Hernandez, a health educator with the Jamaica center.

NY state Sen. Comrie attends the Anthem event. Photo Courtesy of Keith Klein

Community outreach manager Wendy Dominguez, coordinated the event to reflect the culture of the neighborhood. “If you look at the culture and the neighborhood of Jamaica Queens a lot of it is Afro-Caribbean and African American. We thought, what is something different we can do this year? We thought about barber shops because we know that barbershops and beauty salons are apart of the culture and if we bring the barber shop to our office, the barbershop will entice people to come and we are also educating people about American heart month and the dangers of heart disease and high blood pressure.” she said. “It’s about us celebrating Black History Month and educating the community to make sure the community stays healthy.”

The Jamaica center event is one of many ongoing citywide Black History Month programming initiatives. Jason Elder, who’s worked with Anthem for over 20 years, spoke about the importance of community outreach in downtown Jamaica. “ The population has grown drastically within the last 5 years. We don’t just offer insurance, we do coat drives as well, we also do food pantries for the community. We do a plethora of events to help out our community in the downtown Jamaica area,” he said.

Outside of the community service center, Brooklyn native Rodney Blackledge, owner of the mobile barber shop, gave haircuts while he spoke about his time volunteering at Anthem events across the city. “ Last week we did our first one at Church Avenue based out in Brooklyn, and we’re looking forward to doing many more,” he said. Blackledge started his unique mobile barber service in 2022 after inspiration struck during the pandemic. “ Since the pandemic and the quarantines I noticed  that stocks went up high…every place where people want things brought to them. I had seen a niche that no other barber was doing. I decided to see that the mobile industry was the next wave,” he said.  

Maritza Terrones, director of the healthcare department for La Jornada, described some of the services the organization provides to the southeastern Queens community. “ We are a community based organization. We started as a food pantry… we evolved according to the needs of the community. Now we have a local immigration clinic. We have some paralegals that are helping asylum seekers, so we try to connect the community members with all the resources they need,” she said.

Rodney Blackledge, owner of Platinum and Gold Experience Luxury Men’s Grooming Spa, cuts a residents hair. Photo by Athena Dawson