The cannabis community is filled with amazing stories of courageous people fighting for what they know is right. Cannabis remains federally illegal, even though the government holds the patent 6630507, referring to cannabinoids as antioxidants and as a neuroprotectant. The plant has affected so many people’s lives differently, and for some, it’s saved their life and ended their suffering. One amazing leader for the plant is 13-year-old Alexis Bortell. Her family moved from Texas to Colorado to treat her intractable epilepsy with cannabis. Alexis and her father, Dean Bortell, are taking a stand against the federal government. In fact, they are among several cannabis patients and advocates challenging the federal scheduling of cannabis. Grass Roots America Magazine recently had the honor of speaking with Alexis about her journey.
“I didn’t start treating with cannabis or hemp products until we moved from Texas to Colorado in 2015 and I had my red card. I treat with medical cannabis for intractable epilepsy for which there is no other effective treatment. First, I tried low-THC oil, and it worked better than the pharmaceuticals, but I still had a seizure about a month after starting it. My doctors switched me from a 26:1 oil to a 15:1 Haleigh’s Hope oil and added high-THC products daily to my medicine. I am now over 4 years with no seizures and I am only taking Haleigh’s Hope botanical (hemp) oil, Cannatol THC oil, and Mary’s Medicinals THC products. Without High-THC products I would NOT be seizure free.”
Alexis and her father, Dean Bortell, are taking a stand against the federal government.
Although Alexis has been seizure free for over 4 years, there are still challenges she faces every day, especially because of the laws pertaining to her traveling with her medication and limited access in her home state of Texas. Alexis says, “I don’t see my family much except for my parents and my sister, and when my grandparents from Oklahoma and Texas come visit me once or sometimes twice a year. We used to see them in Texas every weekend. It’s made our family here closer, but
everything else has pretty much gone away because I can’t safely travel to Texas with my medication (which I need to keep with me at all times, like an EPI-Pen) until the classification of cannabis under the controlled substance act is rescinded or deemed unconstitutional.”
The Bortell family are very generous and passionate about helping others. Together they own and operate OneLuv Organics, where they make luxury hemp soaps, shampoos and more! “OneLuv Organics is my company (with my sister Avery and Mom) that I started to share products we make and use everyday to help raise money for my Patches of Hope program. Patches of Hope provides USDA Organic fruits and vegetables to homeless and medical refugee families at places like the Marion House in Colorado Springs. We have a 35 acre farm and since cannabis law prevents me from collecting most of my dad’s VA benefits or even going to veterinary or medical school (can’t test positive for THC and have a federal prescribers license), I had to find something I enjoy and I could do after high school. Right now, we make amazing soaps and shampoos that we sell nationwide online and in some retail stores. This summer (June), we are starting to sell our vegetables at farmers markets near Castle Rock, CO. I hope to expand my Patches of Hope program and OneLuv Organics products to every state someday.”
Alexis has overcome and achieved so much and she does so with an admirable passion. Being part of a lawsuit against the federal government to allow access to her medicine for herself and the country is something she’s especially excited about. Alexis says she’s looking forward to, “Winning my lawsuit and having the same opportunities as anyone else if I work hard. Right now, I can’t. I can’t legally cross any state lines without committing a federal felony, so even with my business, I can’t travel so I’m limited. I can’t even go in a post office in legal states because it is federal property. It’s frustrating and makes my OneLuv Organics work harder because we ship soaps almost every day and I have to either hire or ask someone else to take them to the post office. Teachers say you can do anything if you work hard but for people like me, that’s not true. I don’t think the framers of the constitution would have ever agreed to create “medical refugees” when they wrote the constitution. That’s why I am researching Article V Convention of the States and have some current and former state legislators that are and will help me. Some in “non-legal” states even. I think if my lawsuit fails, Article V Convention of the States may be the only hope for freedom cannabis patients have.”
Alexis understands there are so many people who do not have access to their medicine and recommends relocating to gain legal access. “If they are in Texas, I would recommend they move to Oklahoma. Seriously, I know it sounds terrible to have to pick up and move to another state just to be able to take necessary medication, but I think Texas leaders showed again this year that they believe in tyranny and not liberty. I think as long as Lt. Gov. Patrick and Gov. Abbott are in office, patients like me will never be Free. For everyone else, each state is different. If you live in a state that doesn’t have access to cannabis and most politicians won’t help you, maybe you shouldn’t advocate for cannabis. Instead, maybe we should all advocate for ‘Ballot Initiatives’ so the people can decide and take power back from the government. That seems to get legislators attention more than asking for permission to get a plant. I’ve mostly lost faith in government and believe it is time to remind the government that our medical decisions and private life are NONE of their business.”
“Cannabis isn’t a choice for me, I need it to live.”
For those interested in learning more about cannabis medicine, Alexis recommends, “Find a doctor that will at least talk to you on the phone so you know what you are talking about. One of my doctors (Dr. Gedde) at Vibrant Healthcare used to do something like that and still might. I wouldn’t mention it to any doctor in an illegal state. I hear lots of stories about doctors and hospitals stabbing parents in the back and it’s sad.”
Alexis is one of several plaintiffs in the Federal Cannabis Lawsuit against the federal government petitioning the rescheduling of cannabis as a Schedule 1 Drug. The lawsuit was filed against the Justice Department in 2017. Michael Hiller represents the Bortell family as well as the other plaintiffs. They include Sebastien Cotte, father of Jagger who needs cannabis medicine, Jose Belen, A united States Army Combat Veteran, Marvin Washington, former professional NFL player, and the Cannabis Cultural Association, which is a nonprofit. The Cannabis Cultural Association is based in New York who helps marginalized and underrepresented communities engage in the legal cannabis industry, emphasizing criminal justice reform, access to medical cannabis, and adult use legalization. Following the release that the Federal Appeals Court reinstated the complaint and declined the dismissal of the Federal Cannabis Lawsuit on May 30th, Hiller stated, “This case represents the first time in history that a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Controlled Substances Act has survived dismissal.”
He told Grass Roots America Magazine, “That this is the most important legal battle in which I’ve been involved. Every day we work on this, we are reminded of how much is on the line. We are fighting for the rights of medical patients; fighting for principles of social justice and the hundreds of thousands of persons of color who have been wrongly incarcerated under the auspices of an unjust law; we are fighting for the personal freedom of millions of all Americans.”
“This case, which we’ve been handling pro bono since its inception, has cost us over a million dollars to prosecute. And I wouldn’t take any of it back for a second. Some day, when the history is written on how the laws pertaining to cannabis changed, I’ll know that we were a part of something important that helped improve the lives of others. As a lawyer, I couldn’t ask for more than that.”
We asked Alexis her thoughts about the lawsuit and recent announcement and here’s what she had to say. “This lawsuit may be my last chance federally except for my Article V work. If we lose in court I can’t really do anything with federal legislators because I can’t even go on federal property to lobby. And if I did, there would be a court ruling against me so if me or my parents could get arrested and we could potentially go to jail or my parents could be taken away from me and my sister. I want to be brave, but the thought of losing my parents or being separated from my sister scares me.”
GRAM is presenting this article unedited. We did not change anything in the quotes supplied for this article. Only very minor edits were made to the additional content.
*GRAM is presenting this article unedited. We did not change anything in the quotes supplied for this article. Only very minor edits were made to the additional content.
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Cannabis Justice is Racial Justice
Last Prisoner Project
“Ever since Harry Anslinger implemented [cannabis prohibition] in the United States, it’s main purpose has been a method of racial control by white people over communities of color and that continues to this day. We will not have racial justice in this country without cannabis justice and vice versa,” says Steve DeAngelo, the Father of the Legal Cannabis Industry.
GRAM spoke with Steve, the founder of Last Prisoner Project. He shared with us the mission and programs that drives Last Prisoner Project, as well as the stories of two specific men they are working to help.
“Michael Thompson is in the 26th year of a 40-60 sentence for selling three lbs. of cannabis to an informant in 1994. After he was arrested, the cops went to Michael’s residence which he shared with his mother and his wife. And they went into a locked gun cabinet, they opened the cabinet and found some antique rifles that had belonged to Michael’s father. On those grounds, they said it was a gun crime, and because Michael had a couple of other minor offenses that had happened during this very intense street enforcement on the ground in the 1990’s in Flint, MI. Now he’s 68 years old; he has pre-existing medical conditions that make him more vulnerable to COVID, and COVID is present in the prison he’s incarcerated in. So we are desperately concerned that Michael is going to get COVID and potentially die, and his already outrageous sentence turns into a death sentence. There are two petitions on Governor Whitmer’s desk for his release right now. One is a compassionate release for COVID; one is a clemency request; those requests for release have been endorsed by the Flint Prosecutor’s Office which is the office that originally prosecuted Michael (that’s something that never ever happens), but Governor Whitmer continues to sit on Michael’s petition; each day exposing him to a possible death sentence,” Steve continues. “There’s dozens and dozens of other cannabis prisoners who are facing similarly long sentences on equally bogus charges.”
The reality of it is it’s not our constituents who are the criminals. The real criminals are the people who passed these laws and enforce these laws.
Steve says, “Our position is that nobody anywhere in the world ever deserved to be arrested for cannabis charges and that nobody ever deserved to be in prison on cannabis charges. We don’t care what the amount was; we really don’t care what the “complicating factors” were. The reality of it is it’s not our constituents who are the criminals. The real criminals are the people who passed these laws and enforce these laws.”
Corvain Cooper is serving a federal sentence of life without parole in Louisiana for a cannabis conviction because he had two minor charges on his record in the state of California that at one time qualified him for the three strikes law, but since he earned those convictions, the law has been revised, and the crimes that he was convicted for are no longer crimes that make you eligible for three strikes. “Yet, Corvain faces spending the rest of his life in prison when it’s really obvious that that is a grossly unjust thing,” says Steve.
Steve says, “Last Prisoner Project has a very single-minded mission, a very singular focus quite deliberately. There’s a lot of organizations who are working on cannabis reform in general, on legislation, who are working on equity and racial justice issues specifically. Our focus is even more narrow. We just want to make sure that every single cannabis prisoner on planet Earth comes home to their families and is given the resources they need to build the lives that were stolen from them. We are interested in further reform, we’re interested in legislative stuff, that’s not where we put our energy, we let other organizations focus there. We just want to get prisoners out.”
Within the first year of its inception, Last Prisoner Project figured out that there are about 40,000 people in prison for cannabis convictions in the United States. They still don’t know the world-wide total. “It’s many many times the 40,000,” says Steve. “Once we had our hands around the problem, the size of it, and where it was located, then we started thinking about the most effective ways that we could get the largest number of prisoners released in the shortest period of time with the funds that were available to us.”
Last Prisoner Project has a couple of programs that achieve that objective. Steve tells us, “One of them is our clemency program which works with governor’s offices in legal cannabis states to develop a set of standard parameters that would allow the governor, at the stroke of a pen, to release hundreds or even (depending on the state) thousands of cannabis prisoners.”
There are currently about 50 people in the United States serving sentences of life without parole for cannabis convictions. “For most of them, their cases are complicated and are challenging for governors to give clemency to. So we do know that–unfortunately, in some cases–we are going to have to raise the funds that are necessary to mount a new legal defense for people who have already (in some cases) been in prison for decades. It’s a very expensive proposition to do that; it’s a very time consuming proposition to do that; it’s an absolutely necessary thing to do.”
The second program within the Last Prisoner Project is the Prison to Prosperity Pipeline. “We want to make sure that when our constituents are released that they have a support network that is sufficient to make sure that their reentry is successful,” says Steve. That involves housing, training, and finding employment. Last Prisoner Project is already serving their constituents through this program and recently hired a full time staff member to administer the program.
82% of the arrests for the war on drugs were for cannabis possession.
“We have a few different ways that we work to fund those programs. Our ‘Roll it up for justice’ program asks cannabis retailers to ask cannabis consumers to make a donation at the end of their cannabis purchase, to at least round up to the next dollar from their cannabis purchase.” Steve states that the program spreads the burden out widely across the whole cannabis community and doesn’t call on anybody too much. “We encourage cannabis retailers to participate in the program, and we encourage cannabis consumers to patronize the dispensaries that do participate in that program. In a similar vein, we have our ‘Partners for Freedom’ program. This program allows cannabis companies other than retailers (growers, manufacturers, etc.) to make a commitment to be a sustaining partner for the Last Prisoner Project, and they earn the ability to put the Last Prisoner Project logo on all the packages of all of their products. The idea being that we want cannabis consumers to have ways that they can support the companies that are supporting the community.”
“We are in a unique time in this country right now. That’s put a fresh lens on law enforcement and what’s been going on with law enforcement over the course of the last two decades in the United States. And what many people don’t realize is that stop and frisk, cops on the ground in black and brown communities harassing people has been justified and driven by cannabis prohibition. 82% of the arrests for the war on drugs were for cannabis possession.”
Learn more about Steve DeAngelo and how he earned the moniker “The Father of the Legal Cannabis Industry” in an upcoming issue of GRAM. In the meantime follow @lastprisonerproject on social media and keep up with Steve on his new podcast: Radio Free Cannabis.
Seizing The Opportunity to Educate the World
How an inner-city kid from Chicago used art + cannabis to take Denver by storm in celebration of black love, black art, + black lives.
The Black Love Mural Festival may seem like a simple play on Black Lives Matter efforts, but it is much more than your typical mural walk. It is the evolution of years of effort on behalf of its curator, Robert Gray. Gray is more commonly known by his brand, Rob The Art Museum, a concept that came to him during some of his earliest visits to art museums in the midwest. Rob’s life journey has taken him across the country, all in the pursuit of living a life that allowed him to enjoy cannabis and give back to his local and global community.
Who is Rob The Art Museum?
Robert Gray, founder and curator of Rob The Art Museum, is originally from Chicago, Illinois. When he was in his early teens, he moved to Milwaukee. “I’m from Chicago, but I claim that I’m from Milwaukee, because that’s where a lot of my friends were when I grew up as a teenager,” Rob explains. It’s also where Rob was first introduced to contemporary and fine art, thanks to a newly built art museum, the same one that was featured in the Transformers movie series.
“Milwaukee is really where I got into art. That’s where a lot of it started. I would try to get away from the city, running around, doing shit I wasn’t supposed to, and it was when they first built the art museum…it was this big beautiful white art museum that looked like a boat right off the lake. So when they built it, I was like ‘this looks cool, let me go try it.’”
Not only did he notice the beauty of the art he was enjoying, but he also found respite in the lack of familiar faces. “Milwaukee was a small city…Like if you go to Walmart, you’re going to see someone from middle school, high school; you’re going to run into someone. So this was like the one place I never ran into someone who was from where I was from. So it was like a different scene. it was very peaceful… But I always wanted to smoke blunts and be in an art museum at the same time. And I never thought it would be possible.”
This idea would stick with him and eventually be the seed that grew into Rob The Art Museum. “It was always in the back of my head [and] that was kind of like where Rob The Art Museum started. I wanted people to have the same emotional reaction that I was having. I was having a spiritual reaction, a physical reaction, an emotional reaction when I was seeing these beautiful pieces of artwork, and it was like my first time really seeing any contemporary art…growing up in the city, we had art programs but it was like children’s art. Paint and paper. That was art, but I really never saw art like fine art growing up where I came from.”
The impression it left on him left him wanting to share those feelings with others. “So I was walking in an art museum and was like ‘Damn, I want to get this artwork out to my people who can’t afford–because it costs money to get into the art museum. If they can’t afford to get into the art museum, they definitely can’t afford anything on the walls. So how can I get this art out to the people? Rob The Art Museum. That’s kinda like where everything started. I was like ‘Oh, that’s funny. Like a double entendre with my name.’ But even then I did it like ‘I wish I could rob the art museum because I know that work is worth a lot. It doesn’t seem like they got top notch security either. I think a bank would be more difficult. Seemed like a good return on investment.’”
Chasing Promotions with No End In Sight
Rather than going through with this fantasy of robbing a museum, Rob ended up like many of us—in a job where he was simply chasing promotion after promotion. This led him from Milwaukee to Minneapolis to Kansas City. As he neared the age of 30, Rob realized his love of cannabis and his distaste for the promotional path meant he needed to reevaluate his pursuits.
“My passions were weed and art, and I was in Kansas City, and it’s an 8 hour trip [to Colorado], and I’m over here buying weed in gas stations from people who looked like they smoked weed,” Rob explains. “I didn’t have any friends out there. But I was like he looks like he smokes weed, so I’m going to ask him, ‘bro you know where the weed at?’…One day I just packed up my bags and went to Colorado and just tried to figure everything out. That was three years ago.”
The Mile High Move
When he arrived in Colorado, Rob quickly joined the legal cannabis industry, becoming a budtender, but not before a life-changing car accident would further call into question his decision to move to the mile high state. “When I first moved out here, I was staying on the couch at my brother’s house just trying to figure everything out and one day after I got done smoking like a blunt, I just went to go get food. So I jumped in the car with my friend, she was driving, and we’re going up the way and a drunk driver came out of nowhere and hit us in a head on collision. I was really shooken up…So I ended up going to the ER, and it was a traumatizing experience because I didn’t have like anyone really out here with me. Me and my brother were going through some trials and tribulations…I didn’t have any other family out here. I was in the ER emergency room thinking I was about to lose my vision. And also thinking about being paralyzed because I just got into an accident. I couldn’t feel my legs anymore…
“So, long story short…I have a disability now where like my vision isn’t there in my right eye. It’s crazy that I’m involved in art and my vision is fucked up. And I was going to City, O’ City, which is one of the partners of this festival and the accident happened like right up the street [from Civic Park/City, O’ City]… It’s funny how this has all come full circle, and that’s how I started my trip off in Denver. I was about to go home. I was like ‘Fuck this shit man. I just got in the worst car accident of my life. I don’t have a job. Like, I’m not going to be able to get a job now being injured. I don’t have insurance.’ I was just going to give it all up and go back home and figure shit out.”
After the accident, Rob began smoking cannabis with a specific medical intent. “I was on prescriptions because I was in a bad car accident, all opioids,” he recalls. “Back home, I was smoking weed because, not because it was the cool thing to do but because I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t for a medicinal purpose at that point. Maybe PTSD, but I was smoking weed just like every high school kid did. And this was the first time that I needed it to like actually relieve this pain, this unbearable pain. So it is great to be in a legal state and have legal access to it.”
Cannabis as a Career
As a budtender, Rob quickly learned the legal cannabis industry had its issues with race. He says it was a great experience as far as learning, but the work culture was toxic, comparing it to working as a cashier at a bad McDonald’s. “I got called the N Word by someone my first time working there. So it was like fuck, this shit’s shitty. There’s racism everywhere. But I just rode it out. I addressed it with corporate, and they handled it how I expected so that was nice. But budtending wasn’t for me.”
While corporate worked to fix internal issues, Rob found an opportunity selling concentrates for another company, Craft Concentrates. He recalls the experience being novel, giving he was selling weed on the phone legally, but it was a cold-calling effort and was hard to get accounts that weren’t already carrying the product, something he likens to selling cars. During his time with Craft, he was also doing humanitarian work on the side like park cleanups and feeding the homeless in places like Denver’s RiNO art district, which gave him a positive way to give back and an alternative focus to cold calls.
“My mom always told me that it’s important that you give back. And I feel like inside, if you’re taking from a community, you should give back to that community.” One day, Craft was going to move offices and throw away all of the food in the refrigerator. Rob asked if he could have it. Knowing he was a vegan, they questioned what he would do with all of the meats and dairy products, and he told them he planned to cook it and make meals for the homeless with it. After that, they started to take note of his efforts, making him Head of the Communications department, with the entire focus of giving back to the community.
While this new opportunity was progressive for the cannabis industry, differing views on what “giving back to the community” actually meant, would lead Rob to end that chapter and, as he describes it, “circle back to smoking blunts in the art museum.” His pop up art shows were beginning to take off.
Pop Up Art Shows
The Rob the Art Museum pop up art show is a cannabis-friendly, art event with vegan-friendly foods highlighted, non mainstream, undiscovered and underrepresented artists. It started a wave that would eventually take the efforts nationwide.
“Now that I had a decent job [with Craft] that could fund my crazy ideas that I had, I used that money to rent an AirBnB because I wanted to make a cannabis-friendly art museum, and I couldn’t do that with the Denver Art Museum. So I rented out an AirBnB. It was four stories, had six different bed rooms, and I curated each room to be like a different theme.” Rob recalls approaching as many artists as possible on their Instagrams, only hearing back from about one in ten. They had a bunch of vegan food, good legal cannabis to enjoy, and he invited as many people as possible to see all of the art that he’d hung throughout the house. “We lost money the first time, but it was fun. People came out, and it was fun. I was like ‘I’m going to keep doing it.’”
His friends could not believe he was going to do it again, taking all the time and money to coordinate the event. But Rob valued being top of mind regularly with the audience. “Consistency is key; I knew we had to keep doing it so that people would take it seriously,” reiterating that it wasn’t a “one off” event due to its somewhat random and unprecedented nature.
Eventually, Rob ended up throwing one of the larger afterparties at the Indo Expo 2019 in Denver, inviting cannabis influencers to an art, cannabis, and smoke-friendly affair with good vegan food and good vibes. The next month, he repeated the event for his birthday party, telling his friends to come out and smoke with him since the AirBnB owner was allowing him to use the property. By March, they were actually focusing on art curation as the focal point of the event and starting to make a few hundred bucks each time.
4/20, Private Events, & High Times
With April came the annual celebration plans for 4/20, and Rob’s intention to use the AirBnB came to a halt when he received a letter ordering him to cease and desist because the owner had listed the location’s address publicly. The event had to be private to allow consumption according to Colorado law, and Rob was forced to make very public statements that the event was cancelled. For those in the know, the event still went on, but in a much more private manner.
After this issue due to a technicality, Rob was invited to throw pop up events under his moniker around the country at High Times events. He traveled to Detroit, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and a variety of large metro areas, setting up his museum and spreading the brand nationally. Denver may have taken a backseat, but as he became more introduced to the art scene and the people within, a chance encounter at a Denver Dispensary would be the seed that became the Black Love Mural Festival months later.
Black Love Mural Festival (BLMF)
After efforts with High Times came to a close, the transition to Rob upping his art efforts in the festival scene was an almost seamless transition. He met Annie, the owner of IRL Art, and they exchanged contact information when he learned she worked with Meow Wolf. They did big festival installations at Far Out Factory, Sonic Bloom, Arise, Gem and Jam, and similar events. Rob eventually secured a spot working with her in October 2019, and became CMO of IRL Art in February.
“Black Love Mural Festival started with being in festivals with [Annie],” Rob explains. “These are all her walls that we bought,” motioning to the black plywood board structures around civic park that were constructed in mere hours. Originally, the idea for the festival had stemmed from a park cleanup effort. One of Rob’s friends knew he was involved in park cleanups and asked for some help overseeing efforts to clean up after protests in Denver. During the cleanup, Rob invited a local artist to live paint a mural to help lighten the mood, and the idea to create walls that could be painted on while also protecting local landmarks came to fruition, initially dubbed “Protect The Park.”
“I didn’t know this was possible,” Rob explains of the mobile mural walls, “to take plywood and build into portable walls and have artists come out and do these big pieces, I didn’t know it was possible.” Originally, Rob had wanted to do a large scale art installation in small scale neighborhood parks to bring the beauty and influence of art into communities that wouldn’t otherwise see it. When the opportunity to take that approach and do it in the center of Denver happened, Rob couldn’t help but seize it.
After a quick pitch to local officials and the Mayor of Denver, Rob and his business partner hammered out a proposal and secured funds for the initial effort. “I want to make sure that black people aren’t blamed for what’s happening,” explains Rob of the motivation behind the festival. “Because, no matter who does the vandalism, no matter who does the looting, it’s going to fall back on the Black Lives Matter movement because that’s what everything is focused around… I want to put a black face to the good that we are doing.”
They pitched the idea as a dual-purpose initiative: for the city, they would protect the monuments using temporary structures to help minimize damage and vandalism. For the community, they would use the walls of these structures as blank canvases to showcase the love and art of Denver’s black community. Once approved, the structures had to be built. Rain and cleanups cut into setup time, leaving them less than 48 hours to have everything set up. Then, they set about recruiting artists, offering subsidies for supplies and starting a GoFundMe with the goal of raising $10,000 to pay all 30+ artists who have since become involved. As of the end of June, they have exceeded this goal.
Asked how it is going, Rob offers a simple “Awesome.” He comments on the fact that this is the first art event he has been to—and for many of the artists participating—that was all black artists, saying normally there is that one token black person, or maybe not even a single person of color, which prevents the artists from being themselves. He’s proud they have curated artists ranging in age from nine to sixty years old, and artists walked up off the street after seeing the news coverage, wanting to get involved in a positive art community that was bettering Denver.
As with everything that has taken him this far, Rob is seizing the opportunity to educate his peers and his community at large about the beauty of black culture as well as the ways humans can be better about treating one another equally.
Opportunities & Education
When asked how he has gotten to this point in his life, and what his advice is to others regarding treating one another better, his answers are the same: Education and Opportunities. Whenever an opportunity presents itself to learn, do so. Learn about other cultures. Learn about new thoughts. Learn about personal trials and tribulations. Seize opportunities to grow, to learn, and to advance yourself and society as a whole. If you have the opportunity to lift someone else up, do so.
Specifically, Rob speaks to the burden placed on people of color by those who are well-intentioned but lazy in their efforts. Wanting to learn more about the ways your black friends or co-workers may have encountered microaggressions or outright racism is healthy and helps acknowledge and change patterns of behavior, but there is a plethora of information available for you to get background information. Walking up to a black person and asking them to simply describe their plight is both burdensome and shows a lack of effort, contrary to the intentions of the question.
Similarly, if you look around and aren’t sure of how you can better the black community, or any community, consider the tools in front of you. Rob mentions the trade of a carpenter, and asks the head carpenter to look around at his team; do you see any black faces? No, maybe try to hire some? Not finding any qualified candidates of color? Maybe create the opportunity for an apprenticeship or an internship where a candidate who is otherwise high quality could learn the craft and help to make the industry more diverse.
Rob’s main point is: there is always an opportunity to help your fellow human and to learn more about one another, and we should seize every chance we can to lift one another up, regardless of color, creed, gender, or other generalizing characteristic.
even if they don’t exist.
The Black Love Mural Festival’s permit was extended through the end of July to allow for a longer display of the art and recognition of the black community. Rob is entertaining future ideas to not only bring the festival back annually, but hopefully to expand to other cities, and to preserve many of the pieces that were created in art galleries and museums, including those dedicated to preserving black art and history.
Educate yourself. Don’t just expect to be educated.
SEE IT LIVE IN DENVER, CO UNTIL JULY 30
Make sure to check out and follow all The talented artists participating in this fantastic event.
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