As an immigrant, a decedent of African slaves from the Caribbean, I have faced tremendous racism and prejudice from within my own Latino and African-American community, while living in the United States & throughout Latin America.
The first twelve years of my life I lived outside the US. I lived in the Dominican Republic, and I [naively] believed we all looked alike. In the fourth grade, I was playing, jumping around, and being a regular 9-year-old kid when one of my peers turned to me laughing and exclaimed, “I didn’t know black people’s faces can get red!” I was mortified. It was the first time someone had made me feel like I was different than the rest and that being black was something to be laughed at. I was shocked to learn that I was different from others. I went home that day sad and disappointed. I know that every person of color can think back to the moment when someone made them feel lesser than because of the color of their skin.
People like me, find ourselves in a never-ending battle of colorism within our communities – Latinos don’t accept you because you’re black; Black people don’t want you because you’re Latino and “don’t understand the struggle” of black folks in the United States. People of color are constantly being placed in categories and sub-categories to further divide us. In my own case since my first racial experience in the Dominican Republic, I have had countless other racial encounters in the United States, and even while on vacation in Latin America. Each of those hurtful events have been reminders that people like me don’t “fit” anywhere.
The cannabis industry is reflective of this same dichotomy, where folks like me are left looking for their “people.” At each cannabis industry event I have participated in, I show up being my full self, never code-switching (which is a whole other article onto itself). Being myself means that I show up being loud, obviously black, and with an unmistakable Latino accent. Folks in the room are always taken aback, because they see my dark hue, and can’t understand why the dreadlocks on my head don’t match the heavy English Caribbean accent I am “supposed” to have — I absolutely do not fit perfectly into these Eurocentric societal categories. My questions are always delivered with intent, passion, and with a sharp tongue — no holds barred — because our communities have suffered for too long with too many of us pussyfooting around the REAL issue with the purported “war on drugs.” This cannabis industry is a billion dollar industry, poised to make $77 billion by 2022, so we don’t have the luxury of time to wait and hope to be included in these profits. The time in NOW to ask the hard questions and demand equity.
My podcast, BlueDream Radio, is working to do that exactly – using an intersectional framework to re-introduce communities of color to cannabis and ask those hard questions; to demystify the cannabis plant; introduce the medicinal benefits of the plant; to teach folks how they can build generational wealth from entering the cannabis industry [like so many white folks have done for decades]. If we want real equity, we have to work on this issue of colorism internally as a communities because it intersects with so many issues. We see ourselves as separate people, but ultimately, we’re more similar than we are different. What separates us are the people who have colonized our countries, but fundamentally, we are all people who are living under the legacy of 500 years of colonization. Let’s get free, y’all! Pa’lante!