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Inspiring Inclusion: Proud and Not So Proud

When crafting an AHLOT Original Series product, it should come as no surprise that we put A Higher Level Of Thought into it. From the artwork to the accessories, we curate an experience around the theme, with the most recent celebrating most recent celebrating Pride.

We’ve wanted to collaborate with Lee D’Angelo who works under the alias RAT666TAT, ever since our CEO met them last year while discussing their most recent venture, Good Judy, an eco-responsible company that makes only plant based and biodegradable single use products for tattoo artists. From a self taught practice they started in 2014, Lee has developed tattooing into an international practice fostering connections with like minded tattooers across the globe. In 2017 they opened the first 100% queer owned and operated tattoo shop in Toronto, now known as Tapestry Tattoos. Since then Lee has continued to use tattooing as a platform to raise awareness around transgender, queer and environmental issues. Reflected through their visual art practice as well, Lee is focused on raising awareness around social justice and environmental issues. Immediately when discussing working together, they suggested collaborating on this piece with Thomarya “Tee” Fergus, a multi-dimensional artist currently based in Toronto.

Tee uses painting, tattoo artistry, photography and fashion to communicate with global audiences. She incorporates a range of mediums in her creative practice including large and small-scale canvas, textiles, and digital and analog photography. Born on the island of St.Vincent, Tee has been painting since 2009 and tattooing since 2007, carving out a style of her own that leaves a unique and colourful fingerprint on the world. Tee’s work is influenced by her reverence for the land, travel, and a deep commitment to healing the human condition through colour and texture. Tee has continually broken barriers in the tattoo industry, bridging gaps with her intersectional lens and shifting the culture to one that is inclusionary and safe for people of colour. As a self-taught artist, Tee incorporates detailed line work into her pieces, an ode to the universal threads that connect us all.

We could not be happier with this visual collaboration between Lee x Tee as this Pride 2020 design explores themes about the healing power of plants, growth beyond boundaries and the exploration of new rituals and pathways as they relate to the collective identity of queerness.

While we’re thrilled with the designs and craftsmanship, we’re not as proud as we could be of the accessories that have been curated.

In the spirit of inclusion, we asked Amanda and Kween from the AHLOT Cannabis Curation Committee to curate accessories from Canadian LGBTQ and BIPOC owned cannabis-accessory businesses. To everyone’s surprise - and dismay - they weren’t able to find any in Canada. Incredibly disappointed, Kween penned the following to us, which she has agreed for us to share with the AHLOT community:

Black Lives Matter - Industry Standards are White Washed

With our current social and political climate - we have never been in a more radical time. A time to make change, to push for new policies and make things right with the world. For too long has the BIPOC community been underestimated, unrecognized and unsupported.

And this concept applies deeply in the cannabis space. As a woman of colour - I have noticed I am one of few within the legal industry, one of the only BIPOC educators and one of the only cannabis advocates of colour within the KW and Guelph-Wellington area.

In recent events, I have been the organizer of a local march and protest to raise awareness for the lives lost in violence and to show solidarity for the families and communities most impacted. This protest happened in Guelph and more than 8000 people showed up to recognize the Black, racialized and non-racialized members of our community.

The lives that have been lost, reported and not, have carried with them the weight of their injustices. And these injustices have stemmed down to the cannabis community.

I was assigned a task from AHLOT to collect information on BIPOC owned cannabis-accessory businesses. This was going to be an opportunity for a BIPOC-owned cannabis-accessory business to be partnered up with a Ritual Box project and then to also highlight all the BIPOC businesses in the community.

I was very disheartened. Upset. Angry. Frustrated. Every negative emotion spiraled through my head as I searched and searched and came up with no results. While there are many in the legacy market - they were never given legal opportunities to grow and expand. After following up with a few options - I realized not only were they mainly female women but they were still legacy, had legal options presented and either ended up with those ideas taken and used or they were unwanted for whatever reason.

This is incredibly problematic. That there are no voices represented in the cannabis space for BIPOC members despite the majority of cannabis growth in our home countries and culture. Despite the fact that many of us have been in and out of the criminal system for minor cannabis charges or worse massive sentencing for cannabis. We have yet to see the systems make up for this and moreover no options for inclusivity.

The industry is not diverse. Over and over again I go to events, conferences and see very little representation. What I do see is more white males in blue suits - does that sound familiar - cops in blue. It is just systemic oppression built into something that is deemed as livelihood with our Rastas in Jamaica for example.

I feel this is time to make this known - Let’s find the stats on how many clinics, dispensaries, LP’s, accessory companies, lounges etc there are in the BIPOC community. It is time to reclaim our space and have at least a say. It is important that we see success in the cannabis space for the BIPOC females, males, LGBTQ2+. No more can we see us being arrested, deemed as violent and more over the same plant that white people are applauded for while making millions.

We were incredibly moved by this.

We can do better as an industry. We’re doing better at AHLOT. Keep watching.

1 Comment

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