As the idea for the barbershop program took shape, Releford asked Kelly to be the liaison to shops across the country.
Finding funding for the program was difficult; foundations are much more likely to give to programs for women and children than for men, especially black men. (The barbershop outreach project receives grants from the Abbott Fund, a foundation of Abbott Laboratories, which makes medical products, including blood-sugar monitors and insulin syringes for diabetes.) Charles Drew University of Medicine and Sciences in South Los Angeles, where Releford is an associate professor, is helping him gather statistics on high blood pressure and diabetes.
For Releford, the drive to end racial health disparities began when, as a college student at Cal Poly Pomona, he made what would become the first of many pilgrimages to Elmina Castle in Ghana, for 300 years a key stop in the Atlantic slave trade.
"I swear I think the ancestors talk to me when I'm there," Releford said. "That's where I recharge my spiritual batteries and ask myself, 'What impact am I going to have? What cause am I going to embrace that's bigger than me?' "
If health is his ministry, the barbershops have become his churches.
Jeanty Bourcicault, 39, a barber at Inglewood's Finest, found out at a screening last year that he had both high blood pressure and high blood sugar.
Despite having diabetes on both sides of his family, he had not been to a doctor in years.
"Men don't go to the doctor unless they have to," he said. "That's the way we are."
Now he eats a bowl of oatmeal and a banana every morning for breakfast and has traded fast-food hamburgers and chicken for fish and vegetables.
He was amazed, he said, at how quickly his numbers dropped.
Robinson, his fellow barber, used to avoid the doctor because he didn't want to know if anything was wrong.
"I had an attitude of being a tough old bird," he said. "Whatever happened, I could handle it. You'll find that in almost all men."
But when a screening revealed he had high blood pressure, he stopped smoking. He counsels his customers to follow his example.
"I pride myself on being a wise old man now," he said.