5 Hartford artists share their thoughts on the revolution, creating change, and what they believe the future has in store for Black people and our younger generation.
David Elliott and Jasmine Jones
Elijah Patterson, Claudine Fox, Ephraim Adamz, Jocelyn Cerda, and Tree Sage
Elijah Patterson is an entrepreneur, community organizer, creator of DOITFORTHECULTURE (DIFTC), a minority partner of 6D Salon, and runs the Heavensk8park Instagram page.
1. What does revolution mean to you? It's kind of like [the] John Adams quote: "The real revolution began 15 years before a shot was ever fired as an intellectual and moral revolution in the minds and hearts of the people." When I first read the quote it simplified my thinking and later gave root to what I believe a revolution really is. It was one of those quotes early in my life that impacted my way of thinking and shifted my belief 2 degrees. I bring it up because for me a revolution starts in the minds of the oppressed class and overtime the powder keg of change and new ideas gets too big to further ignore. So… long story short, I believe a revolution is just romanticized idealism meets active change.
2. How have you used your voice to create change? I use it to create change through the lens of whatever I believe in and can make a little difference. Me using my voice as being a skateboarder or being a Black entrepreneur, or being in whatever other subpocket, just utilizing my tools and the things that I have at my disposal to always make some kind of change. So, in the sense of using my voice, I try not to use my voice, and try to use more so my legs and hands to actually do things, create action, and change collectively that [which/or what] we want to see. When you say voice, I know you were talking about platforms and the things that we’ve already done, but I think of using our platforms and our power to help achieve whatever positive we want to see in our world. I like to use my voice for the things that I believe in, whether it be women's equality or the mobility of Black women, and using my platforms to highlight that. I’m not the person who waits on Superman, I’m the person that… just [does]. I started DOITFORTHECULTURE, not waiting for the culture. And it’s not about being pompous or arrogant, it’s just if we really believe in what we say, I believe it’s your obligation to invest in it, figure out how it can work, and just try and show up. You don’t have to be the best, but knowing you tried is the most powerful thing.
“...it's not about being pompous or arrogant, it's just if we really believe in what we say, I believe it's your obligation to invest in it, figure out how it can work, and just try and show up.”
3. What do you want for the younger generation? I don’t want anything for them. I think today’s failures are tomorrow’s opportunities. I can’t be arrogant, trying to be the mom and dad of the house, saying, “You guys should do this, and you guys should do that.” I think they will figure it out. The leaders of tomorrow will figure it out. I just believe it’s up to us to give them the best foundation that we can, and they'll keep it moving forward. Kind of like how the baton was passed to us, because I don’t think I have all the right answers for the younger generation, I just hope they keep hustlin’. The winners are going to win, whether it’s 3,000 years in the past or 3,000 years in the future. I believe knowledge, power, leverage and execution is the differentiator in every generation, community, culture, etc.
4. What is your vision for the future of Black people, and how do we get there? My vision for the future of American Blacks is a couple of things... not quite a one size fits all approach. Some things I believe we can start with to be competitive in the New World is practicing group economics and bettering our personal financial literacy. Being more involved in political affairs (active in local and National politics and policies), elevating our social and emotional intelligence/ mental health. So how do we get there? … Now that we are a more sophisticated economic, social, and political class. I believe it has to start at home young and in our educational institutions. There's just too much information at our fingertips. It has to be a personal accountability of the community to preach the gospel of the importance of knowledge/education and investing in it, if we want to be competitive. Because the better our institutions and market share in certain industries, the better I believe we'll be long-term. Money, power, infrastructure is how we get there.
5. What led you to putting together so many community projects and events that focus on Black and Brown people, specifically creatives? When you have too many creative people in one room, ideas start happening, and when ideas start happening, things happen and then events happen. DIFTC was all about the Black empowerment and empowering "blank" just in general. We wanted to highlight certain creatives within the community. Especially the ones we thought were underserved. I’m just a firm believer that if you have a platform, utilize it for whatever good. So with the events, it was literally just us doing what we wanted to do. Instead of us wishing and saying, “It would be cool to have a poetry night,” it’s just, “Next month, what are we doing? Let’s have a poetry night.” So it’s more of actually doing something and just being creative and empowering ourselves. We know where we stand and our morals & every event just helped spread the message. Because, when you throw an event it becomes a learning curve and a snowball effect. The conversations that happen, the ideas that come out of those events, the connections… Sometimes I may not have thrown the greatest event, but I got to see what happened from those events. That’s why I do them, and to inspire the next person who will inspire the next person. When it comes to Black and Brown people, I never want to politicize it kind of thing, but it’s just us being us, doing the best we can and playing to our strengths.
How can we encourage others to get involved and support one another? You can’t. To tie it back to the point before, when I say the winners are gonna win, the losers are gonna lose, you can bring a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. And like you said with the voice, it’s gotta be a certain kind of person. I believe I can help and influence a certain amount of people, but others may need another kind of person to bring that same message. One person can't save everyone. It’s kind of like the old Eddie Griffin stand-up — Mohommad said it, Jesus Christ said it, Bhudda said it, but it’s all the same fucking message, did you get the message? Some people just need certain things to be palated to them a certain way to see the light, and whatever you think the light is, it’s not up to me to define that. It boils down to the person. The leader’s gonna be the leader, the person’s gonna see that opportunity, the person that’s supposed to rise up in that occasion will rise up in the occasion. We don’t need outside help from the community, we have leaders in every community. There’s a Nipsey Hussle on every block. It’s about spotting and helping those leaders and arming them with the tools and resources they need.
Claudine Fox is an artist, harbinger of justice, former city councilwoman, dope facilitator (and a ton of other powerful things). She is Haitian and does a really great job centering the stories and experiences of Black folks across generations. Fox is the Campaign Manager at the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut (ACLU CT) and a firm believer that everyone deserves an opportunity to thrive. She is also the moderator of AFReats, a video podcast which features a collection of cross-cultural dialogue surrounding food and the Black diaspora.
1. What does revolution mean to you? When I think about revolution I think about a lot of different things. I think about a tearing down process and a simultaneous building up process. I think about people not being afraid to dream of collective liberation. I think about people not being afraid to challenge. I think about us actively recognizing that white supremacy is a thing. I hear the word “revolution” and I think it’s an active process, it’s not just a pop, right? I think when people think about revolution they think it’s like an explosion and then things happen. I think it’s an active, slow, burning, building, tearing down thing that you have to actively be thinking about and engaging with for it to be a revolution. And there are a bunch of different ways, I think revolution can be a bunch of different things, right? It doesn’t have to be a political process. It’s Black artists taking their space, it’s Black chefs calling for more equity in the mainstream food system. It’s people demanding to be seen, to be heard, to be valued, and that can happen in so many different ways. So when I hear the word “revolution” it’s like an active thing where everybody is playing a little piece in it to make that giant collective tear down and build up.
2. How have you used your voice to create change? In so many ways! [laughs] In so many ways. Professionally and personally, I was a city councilperson for Hartford that actively challenged the police while I was there. I work for the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union), so I work on trying to end mass incarceration with formerly incarcerated folks. I do police accountability stuff, trying to end the police, and that’s my professional role. I’m a professional organizer and a personal organizer, so on a personal lens I use my voice with AFReats. I moderate conversations, not only with AFReats which is focused on food, the Black diaspora, centering Black folks and culture, us taking up space because our shit gets appropriated all the time, and us taking ownership and forcing people to look at us. I do it through my art, I moderate conversations about immigration and taking up space and joy. I think just talking about it, and again, this acknowledgement that change needs to happen and we’re going to make it whether people like it or not. That’s how I do it, so many ways. Me existing as a Black woman is a voice for change. Waking up everyday and daring to enter spaces that tell me I don’t belong.
“[Revolution is] Black artists taking their space, it's Black chefs calling for more equity in the mainstream food system. It's people demanding to be seen, to be heard, to be valued, and that can happen in so many different ways.”
3. What is your vision for the future of Black people, and how do we get there? I think we’re getting there. I… [laughs] I don’t know how to answer these questions without being depressing. This reminds me of a question that Breakfast Lunch & Dinner asked me about freedom and how I define what freedom looks like to me. My vision for Black folks is so many things. Our generation, what I’m trying to get to is the collective trauma that we experience, and how intergenerational trauma is real and it can get passed down through nervous systems. Being able to recognize that that’s a thing that every Black person lives with, whether they actively think about it or not, it’s real. You can’t heal and move forward until you acknowledge that you’re in pain, and I think people now are starting to acknowledge that we’re in pain. As resilient as we are, and as [much as] we don’t give a fuck, we’re taking back our space, I think the internet has us seeing in real time Black bodies dropping to the ground. And COVID made us all collectively stop and not do that thing where we can process away from that pain that we’re all experiencing. I think that’s probably why George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery hit us so much harder than all of the deaths that came before them in this last decade. We’re forced to stop and recognize that this shit actually hurts, and that’s ok that it hurts, that means we’re people and we’re feeling. So my vision for Black people is that now that we’ve acknowledged the pain, the real healing and the real work can begin. Not saying that our ancestors didn’t do the work, because they did, they gave us a foundation for us to do this shit. We are our ancestors' wildest dreams. I don’t want us to settle for statues. I don’t want us to settle for Mount Rushmore being blown up. I want us to keep pushing. I want us to collectively dream of a society where police don’t exist. I want us to not be afraid to dream and have joy, because it’s very easy, once you acknowledge the pain, it’s very easy to get stuck in that cycle of pain, pain, pain, burning, burning, burning. When you start thinking about joy and what could be, I think we can get there. And I think there is work, but we can get there.
4. What do you want for the younger generation? Oh, my babies! I love the youth so much! They’re so lit, yo, they’re so lit. I want them to keep giving the middle finger to every adult that tells them they can’t. They are the reason people like me want to work harder. When I said I can’t answer these questions without being depressing, it's because when I think about revolution and freedom, part of me doesn’t feel like I’m going to see what that collective liberation will look like in my lifetime, but that doesn’t mean that I stop working and pushing for it to exist, because we do what we do for the babies, right? We do it for her (points to Tree’s daughter). We do it so that she can enter a room when she’s an adult and not have to have seventeen different senses operating at the same time about how people are viewing her. I just want them to keep being them. They’re brilliant, they're creative, they take this shit on the internet and they give me joy. I open Instagram and like, the “Don’t Leave Me” challenge? That shit is hilarious, and it’s just dad jokes, but it’s so funny! And it’s the youth being creative and using this pause. They see joy, they see liberation, they see the windows that open that they can leap through to make lemonade out of lemons, and whatever other cliché you can throw in there. And so I look to them to keep being creative and resilient and free. They inspire me, I think they’re dope as fuck. They inspire me.
5. What led you to become involved in AFReats? I love food! [laughs] I love food. I love to eat it, I love to talk about it, I love to be around it, I love watching people enjoy it, I love the joy that food can create. Food can do so many different things, it’s healing for people. It is the process of making it, the love that goes into it with your grandma, your tati, in the kitchen, knowing that her babies are coming over? She is putting her foot in that shit, right, because she wants her people to enjoy it. And I get butterflies inside when I think about it because it brings people joy. Just like having barbecues like yesterday are beautiful. Black people, as difficult as life is for Black folks, we manage to find collective joy out of the smallest thing, right? Small joys, small joys, small joys. And food does that. Food don’t even have to try, it just do it. I was out at brunch with a friend, pre-COVID, and I was talking about my dreams. I have a food Instagram page, @emptyplatefox, where I take pictures of food that I eat, food that I make, and I was trying to build the food community. I have dreams about talking to elders about their relationship with food, and how we continue to pass on their stories because once they’re gone the magic goes with them, unless they’re actively passing them down. And it’s on us to engage them to get that to happen, right? The same way I feel joy and inspiration from young folks, I feel it from elders too, because they’ve seen some shit and their hands have worked. And the work that goes into food, when you get them working on food, the stories just pour out. I was talking about this idea and Masem was like, there’s this thing that we’re trying to build up and it’s called AFReats. I think you need to meet Chizi to do this conversation. Me and Chizi went out to eat, over food [laughs], and we talked about it, and I got put in as the moderator. This joy, the brightness that I feel when I talk about food for myself, I get to do that with people while they're cooking, I get to do that with the collective community. It’s beautiful. It makes me so happy, it’s beautiful.
Can you tell us more about the importance of how food connects to the Black diaspora? Yeah, it’s memories, it’s storytelling. I posted something on Instagram last week about the tools of white supremacy. There are a bunch of different bullet points about how we engage and don’t even realize how we’re continuing to perpetuate the tools of white supremacy, and one of them was worshipping the written word. People are like, huh? What it means is that when you only worship what is written and recorded physically, on paper, in history, you forget the multitude of ways that storytelling can happen. So again, when you think about how everybody plays a role in the revolution, white supremacy makes us think the only people that were part of creating history are the ones that were documented. It wasn’t the grandmas in the kitchen telling stories while you’re eating your Sos Pwa, it wasn’t the bomba dancing or salsa, or Kompa for Haitian music, right? Even music can tell stories.There are so many different ways to tell stories, and I think AFReats has this beautiful way of connecting and getting folks to dig into their history, and it’s just another way of storytelling. It’s a way for us to connect. Even though I’m from Haiti, and you said [you’re from] Barbados? Two different islands, right, but we have mad connections that you wouldn’t know until we start talking to each other, and food is a vehicle to do that. I have thyme tattooed on my arm. If you engage with cooking, the way I think about thyme is different maybe from how you think about thyme but we still have some connection to it, right? Our diaspora, our history, didn’t get recorded because Black people weren’t valued. It didn’t get recorded in the white people way. AFReats creates multiple opportunities for storytelling and recording people’s individual history and how it connects to the collective history.
You can follow Claudine Fox on Instagram @claudine_c and @emptyplatefox. Find AFReats on Facebook and on Instagram @afreats_inc. Find episodes on Youtube, as well as through iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play.
Effrem Adams, known by the stage name Ephraim Adamz, is an African American DJ, filmmaker, original music performer, and LGBTQ+ rights activist. His career in entertainment began as a DJ in the year 2000 at local skating rink discos in Virginia. Between 2004-2012 Effrem directed several independent horror and science fiction films in New England. In 2009 Adams was arrested on the set of his own production when a white woman called the Hartford, CT police department stating “black males had guns.” Twenty police vehicles with dogs arrived at the set, and Adams was taken into custody even after law enforcement realized the weapons during the scene he was recording were fake. The incident sparked interest in doing more socially conscious work. Effrem re-branded himself as Ephraim Adamz in 2014 with the music video release of “Twerk Bitch.” The song and video featured same-sex romantic scenes, as well as drag queens. It was the first time he had come out publicly about his sexual orientation. Twerk Bitch went viral with 3 million views on the internet. Since then he has worked with three of the largest pride festivals in history: Rhode Island Pride, World Pride NY Stonewall 50th, and Global Pride 2020 respectively.
1. What does revolution mean to you? For me, a revolution is to change internally. For example, a big thing for me this year is forgiveness and learning to forgive others, not for them but so that I can move on from the pain and better myself. Over history, we’ve seen many revolutions through technology, through political movements, and I appreciate those changes but I think that oftentimes we act out of reaction to tragedies rather than being proactive and making changes before they happen. So a real, true revolution to me would be not waiting until some type of technology is accessible, not waiting until some type of war happens, not waiting until some type of Civil Rights movement is needed. How can we be proactive before we get to that point? With all of the things going on with COVID and Black Lives Matter, it’s as if people needed undoubted truth and evidence of something that has already been taking place for generations, you know what I mean? A big thing for me is finding revolution within myself to start making some changes as soon as I see problems and errors and plights occurring. For a real, true revolution, you’ll need to be making constant change, not just taking action when things are going sour. 2. How have you used your voice to create change? It’s all about taking personal accountability for my own actions. If I see wrong, I do my best to call it out, and to not have that underlying fear. I know a lot of people out there feel like they can’t call out certain things because we all have a boss, we all have family who we might live under, or have a need that we rely on others for, depending on certain things. When people have that kind of power over you, you feel like you can’t speak out on certain issues. So, I would just give the advice that as soon as you have the ability to make moves on your own, please be diligent in speaking out and calling things out when you can. At the same time, I would never want to put anybody in a predicament where they’re going to see themselves in a bad situation, so you just have to make the right call and know when it’s really in your power to use your platform or make a sacrifice, and go for that. I promise and guarantee you that the universe won’t send that bad energy back to you. 3. What is your vision for the future of Black people, and how do we get there? I would like to see more Black unity intersectionality. It’s not about where you reside, if you’re in the states, if you’re in the Caribbean, if you’re in Latin America. I would like to see more Black unity and understanding. When I say that, I don’t mean us agreeing on everything, what I’m saying is just us knowing the value in saying, “I’m a Black person, you’re a Black person, and we may not agree on certain issues and topics, but how do we make this work together for the foreseeable future?” We all have to share this planet. Me being a queer person, a gay Black male, we’re hard on other members of the Black community. Whether it’s about their orientation, or what we think the movement should look like, or how the movement is driven, everybody’s going to have a different take on it, but that’s the beauty of being Black, having that diversity.
“This generation really has the power to document things, preserve our history in a way that we never could, and I really want them to take and utilize what's out there, and give it their all, really.”
4. What do you want for the younger generation? For the generation on the come up: Generation Z, use what’s out there. Technology is always going to progress. For instance, what I’m noticing again with the movement, tragedies have always happened but we now have the technology to capture and film it. Even now, being in my 30s, I wish I could go back into time sometimes. I think, oh I wish I had the power to hold a camera at any given moment, go live, and document events that have taken place, because I’m not the same person that I was then that I am now. So I’ll never really be able to get those moments back or capture them. This generation really has the power to document things, preserve our history in a way that we never could, and I really want them to take and utilize what's out there, and give it their all, really. Our ancestors fought for us to have certain rights, so I want them to take those rights and utilize them. People fought and died for the right to vote, so go vote. We have the technology to do certain things, so use that to your advantage to better yourself. They really have the power to take it to the next level, become global citizens, network and interact with people from other countries and continents. Again, with this whole COVID thing, I look at it as an unfortunate situation, but I’m doing things virtually now that, 5 years ago I could have been doing these things. I could have been networking with groups in China. I could've been doing Prides in Guyana, 5 years ago, but why weren’t we doing it? It goes back to being proactive in our actions instead of being reactive to terrible and negative situations.
5. What led you to do New England Virtual Pride? New England Virtual Pride was a way for me to use my platform to create a new platform and put it into action. Pride events around the globe were cancelled, in-person Pride events, and this was really the time to especially let the voices of Black, queer people and trans women be heard in a way where we are not confined by the rules and regulations of the other groups that speak for us. I could get the raw statements, the raw stories, unfiltered, and put them out there for the world to see without any agenda and without any political narrative. Just telling their stories, providing a platform where all eyes will be on it at a time where, 5 years from now everything will be virtual and people will be desensitized to that until something new comes. Again, Pride is cancelled so everybody’s going to be in the house, stuck and feeling like they don’t have any safe place to be heard, but the internet is very powerful. That’s where this generation comes in, they have the power to really provide a platform in ways that were just unforeseeable before COVID.
What were the challenges, if any, and successes of putting this event together? Therapeutic success for me was very important. Virtually, I was able to speak with people in other places where they don’t have the same freedoms that we’ve achieved here in the States. I got to work on Global Pride 2020 which is hosted by an organization called InterPride, they also host World Pride. I was able to edit and piece together footage from places like Syria, where it’s still a crime; you can be detained. I got to hear stories from people who couldn’t show their faces on camera because things are so rough for them. So, it was therapeutic for me to understand that we should never take the freedoms that we have for granted. Not only was there therapeutic success, but hopefully it’ll send the message out to others that there is still a lot of fighting and work to do. The biggest challenge is always going to be understanding that there is value in your work for yourself, before the public even comes into play. Am I doing this for me, for a good cause, for the right reasons? And then from there, getting people on board to support you, I think that's the biggest challenge. Nevermind the editing, nevermind the COVID and the social distancing. Just making sure that I’m putting out a quality product, something that’s worth watching, and something that I’m pleased with before anything else.
Jocelyn Cerda is a 30 year old Hartford native, entrepreneur, and owner of SoChill LLC, a CBD lifestyle business that supports small, local hemp farmers with a mission to inform everyone that they have the right to chill. Jocelyn is always on the go so this mission hits home and reminds her to balance. When she isn’t on the go, Jocelyn loves being in nature, loves food (especially tacos), and being with her soul family.
1. What does revolution mean to you?
You being yourself is revolutionary. In a world that doesn’t want you to be, you showing up how you naturally show up, unapologetically, that shit is revolutionary. And then, shit, what does revolution look like when you can show up as yourself, right? But I think it’s just always striving for change. Challenging ourselves to transform, I challenge myself to transform all the time. I always want to challenge my current beliefs and ideas because that’s not just what it is. You should always be evolving and I think revolutions always start with that.
2. How have you used your voice to create change?
I think just telling my own personal story, and sharing that story with other people. Not that I have this magnificent story but I think, especially right now, people have a lot of fear and uncertainty and doubt, and they’re trusting this system that I don’t think Black and Brown people can really fully trust because it’s not for us. It’s about listening to folks who have other ideas, alternative ideas, and I always thought of myself as someone who has those alternative ideas. I’m not trying to make it about me, but it’s about sharing those stories and I think the more we share our stories the more we can foster change through all of this. We’re all fucking human, we all have shame, we all have trauma — Black, white, whatever, it’s in all of us.
3. What do you want for the younger generation?
I want them to know freedom. I want them to know, and I think the pandemic is like a catalyst for this but I want them to know freedom. I want them to… damn that’s all I really want, I want them to be free. And I want a better Earth for them, I don’t want our shit to be destroyed by climate change. I want them to know what love is, too. We live in a society right now, and I think again that’s changing, but we’re all so isolated. Even before Corona, we were isolating ourselves, and a lot of us didn’t have an idea of how important community is and how important connection is before COVID. So I want them to know what we’re figuring out now, how important community is; the individual is not really so important, it’s about our collective. I just really want them to be free. I don’t have any kids but the shit that I’m doing right now is for them, for these kids that I don’t have [laughs], it’s for the future, you know what I mean? I never do anything for myself, it’s always for the next generation. But out of everything, it’s fucking freedom, and I want them to know happiness and joy. I want them to know happiness almost effortlessly, but I know there are ebbs and flows to things.
“You being yourself is revolutionary. In a world that doesn’t want you to be, you showing up how you naturally show up, unapologetically, that shit is revolutionary.”
4. What is your vision for the future of Black people, and how do we get there?
I want to see Black people living happy ass lives. I want us to be prosperous, I want us to be wealthy and not in despair. I want us to have the same opportunities that are out there. Not in a capitalistic society, fuck that, we’re tearing that down. I want healthy ass people — mentally and physically. I just see where we’re at, especially in Hartford, with the lack of resources. I want us to have endless, endless, endless… I just want our lives to be full of abundance in everything. I want us to not have to worry about where our shit is coming from next. I want people living in beautiful homes, beautiful communities that are well kept and looked after, and gardens growing everywhere. I want Black people to be able to grow their fucking food, and take it and nourish their bodies. I just see this Black utopia, you know? Right now, it’s not hard to answer it, but there has just been so much pain. I’ve just been seeing like... we’ve been getting killed, right, and it’s just like damn, do I have any hope right now for our future? And the answer is yes, because all this shit has to get worse before it gets better. It doesn’t have to, but it usually goes that way. But, I can see it now, happy Black families, happy Black people. I just want us to be carefree.
5. What led you to start So Chill CBD?
Oh man, what led me to start So Chill CBD? Fucking, my body. My body wasn’t doing well, and I was using weed and shit to fucking cope but I had a bad trip because I had some laced weed. I was in the hospital, not gonna lie, one of the best fucking highs I’ve had but it wasn’t weed [laughs] and I will never forget it. Listen, I thought I was going to be reincarnated into a baby Shih Tzu. I was staying with my ex-boyfriend’s mom at the time and she had just gotten a puppy, and I’m on the couch about to pass out, and I’m like, “Oh man, this is why you’re in my life right now. I’m gonna be you,” and I wasn’t even mad because the puppy was so cute. But anyway, bad ass trip, couldn’t smoke weed for like, half a year, and still struggled even after the year. And I have Crohn’s and Colitis. Me and my best friend were watching a documentary on Vice about some 13-year-old that had Crohn’s and how CBD turned that around. So, after meeting my current collaborative partner, and seeing the access that he had, I just want to fucking give access to everybody so that they could feel better because it made me feel better, so I just wanted to help make other people feel better. It wasn’t to demonize marijuana or anything, it was just like, y’all have options. But really it was just to help take away the stigma of Black and Brown people using cannabis in general, because, I’m telling you, I will pass people flyers with the little marijuana leaf on it and they will be like, “Nope, nope, I’m not gonna look at it, I’m not even gonna touch it, I’m on parole.” It was just a flyer, you know what I’m saying? And it just really opened my eyes to how bad the trauma is, so the goal is just to help heal my community and make it accessible, because that shit changed my life. I’m in remission, my doctor is like, “What are you doing? How are you staying so well?” And I’m like weed, eating right, and that’s all I want for our Black and Brown communities, that’s it, you know? There are these businesses that are really capitalizing on the movement right now and there aren’t enough people that are my skin color or darker doing it. People would come across my table and ask how I got into it, and they would try to explain the process, like, “Oh yeah, I go to this company and they do blah blah blah,” and I’m like, I do the same shit, but on a smaller scale. SoChill’s goal was created to inform people that we have the absolute right to chill especially for Black and Brown communities to help them heal, that’s it.
Why is it important for women of color to be involved in the cannabis industry?
Because we’re healers, naturally. Black women need to be in the cannabis industry especially because of the war on drugs, because of the effects of the war on drugs. How many Black women do you know who are in jail because of them being in an operation with their man or on their own? Actually, I know of a mom who had a marijuana operation and she fucking lost her kids, she went to jail, and she did time. She did get her kids back, but that shit set her back. Black people in general, but I say women because we’re often forgotten, so much. The thing is, women have this intuition, and other people do have intuition, but women have this intuition and this natural healing power that improves areas in our lives including business and to strongly influence the industry their business is in. And we do not get credit for what we bring to the table, it’s time and a shift needs to happen. Not just in the cannabis industry, anything, any industry. Women will unapologetically take charge in that, they already are. Black women are leading those major movements in the cannabis industry, because what movement hasn’t been created by a Black woman? And then it’s co-opted by other people, and then people forget, all the time. Healing begins with women, and most movements were created by Black women. We need to be at the forefront of the cannabis industry.
Kim Hinds Jr., known as Tree Sage, is an artist who began creating as a child, tracing images from various magazines. He is focused on growth in all aspects of his life, so his art reflects that growth, exploring any topic or idea that catches his interest. He has recently created a mural at Hartford’s Heaven Skatepark, using acrylic paint to honor George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. The mural, titled “Born a Target” features portraits of the two, both wearing crowns, alongside a faceless pig kneeling in a blue uniform.
1. What does revolution mean to you?
The revolution, it’s a change on how we perceive everything. I feel like a lot of the time people focus on one aspect of it, looking at things in bits and pieces instead of looking at it as a complete whole. I feel that it’s in everything, you feel me. It’s how you perceive things. The main revolution is to perceive things with love. I think a lot of people are coming from a negative point of view. There’s not that much that really has to change with the planet itself, with the stuff that’s already here, besides us. Because we give meaning when we perceive things in ways that affect other people… I feel like the revolution is “change” and how we interact with everything in our environment.
2. How have you used your voice to create change?
I feel like my whole life I’ve kinda done that, because I have my own perspective and I don’t change my mind for others easily. Just by me speaking out, like I see things in a certain way and I’ll really express how I see and perceive things. And sometimes just me breaking down how I see things definitely brings that change to other people. I always get told that, “Oh, you think about things differently,” or “I never thought about something like that before.”
3. What do you want for the younger generation?
I feel that my vision is to change the perception of people and especially for Black people, because we definitely have a negative point of view. And it’s one of the things I’ve learned and observed in my work while spreading a message and trying to change the narrative and how people see things. Somebody that I know from another culture mentioned, “Man, there’s a negative tone to your posts,” to what I was posting on Facebook. So it’s almost when I’m coming from that [negative] point of view, I lose people. I realized when it’s specially targeted towards Black people, I have a different kind of tone to how I would write. I even met somebody where you could give her a compliment and she wouldn’t notice it. But if you send a subliminal shot her way, she catches it so quick. It’s like her senses for negativity are super honed in, but then she’s missing the positivity in the things that people are trying to give her. So, that’s really what I hope for the future, to change people’s perspectives from a negative point of view. I see some change in bits and pieces, but I want massive change.
How do we get there? I don’t know. I’m one person, but I try to affect everybody I come in contact with. When my words aren’t exactly getting through to the full capacity of an audience I want to reach, I’m seeing that now, with my art, I can bring more people in and I can keep doing what I’ve always done, which is expressing myself with my own individual perspective. But because people always try to go with what’s going to get the most attention or the best response from the greater audience, they kind of give themselves a disservice.
“I wanted to do something, I used what I had, and I just stuck with it until I got my results. That's like what I was saying about the revolution, whatever we're trying to do, we have to stick with it, you feel me? Start small, and keep going.”
4. What do you want for the younger generation?
I think it’s the same thing for the younger generation. They get caught up in those popular roles and you get a lot of copy cats. People just doing what they see somebody else doing, trying to get that same attention, but you’re an individual, you’re unique, be you. I think that’s what people get lost in, trying to take something else and adopting it. That’s what I try to tell her [gestures to his daughter], because I’ll notice when she starts doing things just to get attention because other people are around her, or when I’m just there and she thinks that I’m not paying attention to her, but I’m always watching her, and I always see the difference. She has more power being who she naturally is rather than trying to be something that she’s seen somewhere else. Even wanting to be like Elsa [from Frozen], it’s not just about the outer shell that’s superficial, you have to bring real meaning behind it. It’s not just about wearing a tiara and having a fancy dress. What brought me to where I am now is just being true to myself. I like to blow bubbles, you guys caught me over here blowing bubbles, and that’s just what I enjoy. I want the young people to know that it’s ok to like what you like. You’re going to be better off in life by sticking to what is really for you. You have your path, stay on it, you feel me? Everything that you’re interested in, everything that you’re drawn to, that’s your guidance along that path, so stick with it.
5. What led you to doing the mural at Heaven Skate Park?
For a long time, I’ve been trying to spread a message and get people together to get past their trauma and work through their emotions so we can move towards the future. But [through words] I never get a response, it’s like talking to a brick wall sometimes. With George Floyd and everything else that’s been happening, I saw people were getting worked up and talking about different things, so I was like, “Who’s around to really do something about it?” I made a post on Facebook about it saying that I would be down at Heaven Skate Park, and that anyone is welcome to join me. I just headed out and started painting. I had an idea based off [the line] “Born A Target,” because of the Target stores being looted. I wasn’t going to paint [George Floyd’s] face, I was just going to paint “Born A Target” with a cop kneeling down with a pig face. But I kept going with it, people started seeing it, and it started to get a little buzz. When I added in George Floyd’s face, that’s when the Hartford Courant decided to do a piece on me. I went to my friend’s house and we started talking about George Floyd and she mentioned, “But I’m mad about Breonna Taylor,” and she really broke that story down to us, and it was really personal for her. That’s when I decided to add Breonna Taylor into the mural. Compositionally, I wanted it to be balanced, which is why I kept adding things. I thought about what I’ve heard from Black women and their main concerns, which are usually not being heard and not feeling protected. So, I used “Born A Target” for the men, but for the women, I thought “Automatic Danger Zone” was more fitting based on their concerns that I was hearing.
Why did you decide to do that piece in such a large scale, public way?
As far as going big, I’ve recently done a couple paintings, I did an Elijah McClain painting with Kamora’s Cultural Corner, they had an open forum to do creative things. I started with a sketch, and my sketches always come out how I want it, but when I go to paint it, everytime, I can’t help but to go big. My art teachers have always said, “You’re going a little too big, but it’s better that you go too big than too small.” So, even though that was my first mural, it worked out. It was easier for me to do things on a bigger scale. In general, when I do a portrait, I’ll pick one feature, start with that one feature, and then work my way out. I’ll make sure that feature looks the way it’s supposed to, and then I just build out from there. It’s funny, I just saw something the other day on Facebook, it was something like, “The man who moves mountains starts by carrying small pebbles.” That’s kind of how it is with my artwork. I used to look at huge murals and wonder, wow, how do they do that? But it’s just one step at a time. In my other interviews, I tried to talk about that but they kept cutting it out. Me working on that mural, I did it just with what I already had. People would ask me, “You did that with a small paint brush?” But that’s what I had, that’s what I’m comfortable with. I wanted to do something, I used what I had, and I just stuck with it until I got my results. That’s like what I was saying about the revolution, whatever we’re trying to do, we have to stick with it, you feel me? Start small, and keep going. People are used to only seeing the finished product, that’s why I like to show my progress as I work. That’s a big part of any revolution, you have to sit back and honestly look at what works and what doesn’t as you move through it. And it helps to have multiple perspectives, because you alone, you’re not going to be able to see everything.
You can follow Tree Sage on Instagram @extraordinarynothingspecial.