“I am hoping to have a gathering of engaged minds … Some will come to learn … Some will share their knowledge and experience.”
There have been a lot of cannabis events these past few months, but none quite like the Mad Izm gathering planned for Nov. 11 at Hibernian Hall by organizers with the Blackstonian Arts & Culture Series.
For starters, it’s named for a classic hip-hop track and one of the artists behind the song, Hakim Green of the group Channel Live, will be there front-and-center.
At this all-evening community gathering, panelists including Leah Daniels of Holyoke’s Alchemy League dispensary and Sieh Amura of Yamba Market in Cambridge will join hip-hop and activist icon Green on stage. Following the talk, musicians including JuneLyfe and Fredua Boakye of Bad Rabbits will bring the party.
The whole time, Yoga Mike Massey of 33 Degree Yoga & Bodywork will be on hand giving massages, while Frugal Bookstore will be set up with essential canna reads.
We asked Blackstonian organizer and occasional Dig contributor Jamarhl Crawford about not just the event, but also the cannabis climate in which it is taking place.
When we first got recreational cannabis, what were your predictions for how social equity initiatives might play out? And how has what has happened in the time since met up to or fell short of those expectations?
In my cynical mind I kind of expected it to go just like it has—the process would be long and drawn out, and the little guy would have little to no or at least limited opportunities to compete with the Big Green Machine which is often an unholy alliance of the cannabis green and green of investors.
I, myself, am both an Economic Empowerment (EE) and Social Equity Program (SEP) certification recipient but I quickly became discouraged at business opportunities in the cannabis industry because of large start-up costs and over-regulation, plus the slow roll out of delivery and social consumption venues. It seems to be well on its way to become yet another industry in which the wealthy and the white will reap the benefits of the war on drugs on the back of the poor and disenfranchised.
How do you feel changes in the time since have impacted the plight of social equity applicants and of people from impacted communities in the cannabis world in general? What are you hearing from people when you talk about this stuff?
The problems are the same as starting any business—limited access to capital and in some cases lack of business expertise. Some people seem to have thought that just because you smoke weed and love it that you are somehow destined to be a cannabis business expert. Just like anything else, it requires training in both the cannabis-related aspects but also the business and scientific aspects of this blooming business.
Most people I talk to are frustrated by the influx of big money into the industry which has cut out or at least made it very difficult for smaller businesses and the very people that EE and SEP were supposed to be carved out for and benefit.
All things considered, what are you aiming for with an event like this? What’s important to have on the agenda and what do you want people to get out of it?
I think anytime we can have a discussion that is informative and people can leave with information they did not previously have is always good. With this event I am hoping to have a gathering of engaged minds at all stages of development. Some who come will be beginners and they come to learn. Some will be advanced or experts and they will share their knowledge and experience. On top of that we also want to provide an opportunity for Boston to experience true hip-hop culture and have a good time as well. Bringing in Hakim Green who is probably the reason most people still spark Mad Izm and brought that term into the mainstream was just a no-brainer. Hakim is an educator and activist and one of the best true school MCs who remains active both musically and politically.
How did you decide on the speakers? What perspectives are they bringing?
All of our panelists are thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and people who I have watched forge their own paths in the cannabis space. I think the audience can expect to be engaged, educated, and challenged as each panelist comes with both a business and political analysis. I am sure the panelists will share their own experiences of healing and delve into some of the deeper discussions in the cannabis industry. It was also important to create a panel of people of color and for folks who come from, raise families in, run businesses in the communities that they engage.
How about the other things going on? Why make it more of a big event rather than just a panel?
I thought it was important to give people the chance to mix and mingle and have fun. The cannabis theme is throughout the night with not only the panel but also the performance as icing on the cake. There will also be vendors at the event and there will be multiple opportunities to network and build relationships. People are still just coming back outside since dealing with the pandemic. This is a great opportunity for the best of both worlds. Get some information and have a good time. It’s a win-win. In the future, this could easily morph into a multi day conference or festival.
Why is it important to have this event at Hibernian? As opposed to out in the suburbs somewhere?
Hibernian Hall in Nubian Square. It’s ironic actually the contrast of Hibernian and Nubian. The fact of the matter is we have this beautiful historic Irish hall in the middle of the newly named, and equally historic Nubian Sq. (formerly Dudley Sq.).
Hibernian Hall is in the heart of Roxbury and I think provides an accessibility that I really wanted to capture. It is central to the city and easy to get to whether driving or public transportation. For those that have been before it is also an excellent facility, clean, state of the art, video and sound, ability for food, vendors, etc.
Hibernian is also somewhat sentimental for me having done so many events from town hall forums, film showings, and of course bringing the legendary Last Poets. Anything that I do through the Blackstonian Arts & Culture Series will always have a focus on bringing it back locally to share good information, good people, good music, and good vibes. I am not opposed to organizing events elsewhere but Roxbury is my homebase and central to the city—it’s the place to be!
We’re not getting gentrified for nothing ya know. Everyone wants to come here!
More info and tickets at bit.ly/MadIzm617