WEB EXTRA! Beauty Shop Politics & the Black Church

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COLUMBIA, SC -- The beauty shop. For many black women, it's like their home away from home. On any given day of the week (except Monday - when most salons are closed) you will find a room full of African-American women of all shapes, sizes and hues getting relaxers, locks, wash and sets, manicures and pedicures.

It has been estimated that the average black woman spends anywhere from $60-$100 each month on marinating their "do." That accounts for more than $410 million each year.

So it's no wonder that the Barack Obama campaign decided to take their message to hair salons and barbershops across the country.

Click play to watch video of Clinton's faith-based team.

In Columbia, S.C., the campaign has chosen Salon Fabulous as one of the places where they've taken their grass roots message.

When you walk in Salon Fabulous, you will see Obama signs on the wall.

"Our people, especially our youth, need someone positive that they can feel that they can look up to," Danyelle America, owner of Salon Fabulous said.

The black vote in South Carolina is not only critical to Obama's campaign, but to his front-runner rival Hillary Clinton. About half of the Democrats in the Palmetto state are black.

According to a recent Winthrop College/SCETV poll, Obama leads overall among black voters 35% to 31%. His lead among men is 42% to Clinton's 30%.

"I think for the first time in a long time, the African-American community feels like they are not just a billboard, but they are at the table knowing their vote is so crucial … It is time to take a close look at who's going to help the African-American community, particularly the African-American women," Rev. Joiquim Barnes pastor of Community CME in Columbia, SC said. Barnes is also the Midlands Regional Field Director.

The Black Church

Barnes and six other ministers in the Midlands of South Carolina are a part of a faith-based task team that has taken up the charge to do what they can to "spread the good news" of Clinton's platform.

The ministers believe that the role of faith in this election is pivotal.

It is especially important to South Carolina blacks.

"Black people are pretty much social conservatives," political commentator Juan Williams said. "I don't think this is a secret. Pretty much everybody knows this. Blacks are church-going people, strong believers in family."

And Clinton and Obama are tuned into this fact.

Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have spent countless hours in South Carolina, at churches and prayer breakfasts - trying to sell their campaigns.

Obama launched a Faith Forum that invites people from different faiths to the table to talk about their concerns.

"Religion and the church is the backbone of the black community in South Carolina," said Rep. Bakari Sellers (D-Florence), who endorsed Obama. Sellers, 23, is the youngest representative in South Carolina. He likes Obama's message of hope and change and his vision for South Carolina and the country.

"For Sen. Obama to … go into these communities and do these faith forums is an awesome, awesome opportunity. It's kind of a throwback to how politics used to be in the South and his campaign has definitely taken that initiative and run with it."

Clinton can be seen frequently at Sunday morning worship services in black churches not only in South Carolina, but nationwide.

"If you've ever been to a worship service and seen Sen. Clinton there, especially in the African-American churches, outside the fact that she's a white woman among African-American congregants, you would think that she fits right in. It's just very natural."

That combined with Clinton's past experience is all they needed to make their decision.

"I think the world is too large, too huge and the problems too great for someone to come in on the job training. I think because of… her years in the White House, in the Senate, have given her the opportunity to explore and to see what is needed for this country," said state Rep. Terry Alexander (D-Florence). Alexander is the pastor of Wayside Baptist Church in Florence, SC.

Rev. Barnes believes the decision goes much deeper than race.

"We cannot base our decision on our shared ethnicity, but the experience we have. And while Sen. Obama is very qualified (there's) the experience that comes with Senator Clinton. She's the one that's going to put our country back on track. Raised by a woman, I think a woman can do it."

And many black women relate to Clinton because she is a woman and can relate to them.

"African-American women are the caretakers of the family and they want make sure they have someone who's there and can provide them with that type of security," Alexander said.

Undecided Voters

But for many, the decision between Clinton and Obama is a very difficult one.

Among African-American women in the state, it's a statistical dead heat at 30 percent each.

"There is a struggle, and actually if Obama were not running, Hillary would be my choice because I do believe in the agenda that she offers also with the health care," America said.

Some say the decision the undecided voters face is a good thing.

"I think it opens up dialogue among the voters." Rev. Barnes said.

But America worries that some may say the indecision many voters face confuses Hillary Clinton with her husband.

"A lot of people are going on the Clintons' past and the reputation that Bill Clinton had, and they're assuming that his wife will follow in his footsteps and that's what they're depending on and that's the only hope that they have."

Sellers believes Obama's grassroots campaign is evidence that emphasis is being put in the right place.

"We're building relationships going into people's homes, and I think if we continue to work extremely hard… and if we continue to go into neighborhoods where individuals haven't gone, and create a new voter base, I think we will definitely have the opportunity to succeed in this campaign."

On January 29, the Democratic primary will be held in South Carolina. And as Clinton and Obama step up their campaigning efforts in South Carolina, blacks understand that this election is an historic one.

"It's an exciting time in this country," Sellers said. "It's an exciting political landscape."

Pastor Travien Capers Clinton's Faith Outreach Coordinator for South Carolina. He is also the pastor of St. Luke Missionary Baptist in Fairfax, SC agrees.

"We've got a legitimate African-American candidate and a woman running, doing quite well," Capers said. "And both of them have every intention of becoming our next president."

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CBN News
Robin Mazyck

Robin Mazyck

Washington, D.C. Bureau Chief

Robin Mazyck serves as Bureau Chief for CBN News' Washington, D.C., bureau. Robin has interviewed a number of prominent politicians and national figures for the network, including Mike Huckabee, Dennis Kucinich, Michael Steele, George Lopez and more.