Ms. Angelou Spoke of Weed, Now it's Time for Us to Listen
By: DM BLUNTED
It can feel great to look towards the future of cannabis and feel so amazed at what the seemingly endless paths from where legality and decriminalization intersect. And as 420 came so did the inspirational posts on what the cannabis industry expects to do in the future months and years with these paths. Unfortunately but not surprisingly, when we clear the smoke a little bit we notice that those endless opportunities don’t always include black and brown folks - nor do they embrace communities affected by the War on Drugs. So as a 420 after-cap, I wanted to talk about someone from our past that has been inspired and bemused by cannabis just like so many of us today.
The late, great Maya Angelou is better known for her acclaimed work as a writer, civil rights activist, and poet - but that’s just one layer to Ms. Angelou. Maya Angelou, just like you and I, had a past that gave her the experiences she needed to create her future. But because we live in a white patriarchal society dead-set on maintaining dying respectability politics - history and narratives of POC are often white-washed to make them more “palatable” or to upkeep “American values.” Which is a tragedy. It let Ms. Angelou’s beautifully-crafted writing to be quoted and posted every day somewhere on the internets like a badge of “progress,” without any attempt to read a full body of her work and understand the life she lived, from her own words.
Because before she was awarded more than 50 honorary degrees, before she became one of the United States most influential autobiographers before she was a multi Grammy winner, Ms. Angelou labored job to job. She held work as a fry-cook, stripped in bars and sang in night-clubs as a Calypso singer, and hustled as a prostitute. These years in her life helped her become the woman we know, love and admire today.
I’m sure someone's probably reading this and is like, wow that’s all really cool and stuff - but what does it have to do with weed? Well, I’m getting to it, enjoy the buildup.
As I mentioned, Maya Angelou was working hard but still found a way to enjoy herself. It was during her time as a server at a bar that Ms. Angelou was introduced to cannabis - or “grifa” as she called it, by two lesbian prostitutes that were regulars there. This all happened sometime around in 1946 when Ms. Angelou was eighteen, right at the beginning of a very long “War on Drugs.” Ms. Angelou describes what cannabis made her feel in her autobiography “Gather Together in My Name.”
“I learned new postures and developed new dreams. From a natural stiffness, I melted into a grinning tolerance. Walking on the streets became high adventure, eating my mother’s huge dinners an opulent entertainment, and playing with my son was side-cracking hilarity. For the first time, life amused me.”
No matter how many times I read and re-read that paragraph I’m filled with joy at the representation Ms. Angelou effortlessly gave us. I’ve always felt that the cannabis industry has lacked depth and lived experiences - exactly why it’s become such a capitalistic industry now. But that’s where Ms. Angelou has continued to be way beyond in years with her writing, even in this space. She gave us the representation of Black Womxn in cannabis that the industry and community so desperately need. Just as she spoke on the experience of being a mother who needed a break, a way to enjoy herself and still be able to take care of her child. And let’s be real, who doesn’t think food taste best with a high as an appetizer? I’ll wait.
Ms. Angelou isn’t just a literature icon but she’s also a queen of the green. She sprinkled many reflections on her time with cannabis throughout her work - and I encourage y’all to go beyond the cutesy and Instagrammable captions, get your mind right with a Kush Queen CBD Pre-Roll and read some of Ms. Angelou’s work!
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