I am from a place that many people refer to as the deep south; the “Magic City” of Birmingham, AL. In the early 1900s Birmingham was known as the Pittsburgh of the South. Like “The Steel City,” the city of Birmingham saw an industrial boom after the Civil War in the late 19th century into the early 20th century. But before then, Birmingham was infamously known for its hate for people of color and its love for Jim Crow. Even earlier back, Alabama served as the capital of the Confederate States of America. During that time Alabama was rooted in racism, the exploitation of slave labor, and maintaining white supremacy. As evidenced since the birth of this nation, Alabama’s state history serves as no better example of the oppressive juggernaut of hate and envy that straddles the backs of African Americans and Native people to this very day.
One hundred and fifty-five years ago my grandparents’ grandparents were enslaved. Ironically, though like so many of my southern peers, I am also a direct descendant of Natives and Euro-American terrorists who fought valiantly for the Confederacy during the American Civil War. But as conflicting and complex as my ancestral ties may be, I undoubtedly live and experience life as a black man with parents and grandparents who were raised by former slaves. In fact, my parents’ generation were the last to experience de jure slavery, a notion supported by the fact that they did not, by law or practice, have agency over their own lives until the 1960’s, nearly 100 years after the passing of the 13th Amendment. My father did not achieve full human status until he was abroad fighting in Vietnam.
Still, as painful and repulsive as that is, I have been truly blessed to grow a medicinal plant that can amongst a host of other thing, heal and unite the world while simultaneously aiding in the economic advancement of many people who look and live like me. For far too long the hemp and cannabis industry has disfavored African Americans’ involvement. For example, blacks make up only 4.3% of licensees in the legal cannabis industry and even less in the burgeoning Hemp market. Contrarily, they represent almost half of those incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses.
For too long, we have been forced to build and support a country that has yet to benefit us financially. Considering the racial unrest and turmoil that we are currently facing, we must not overlook the role that finances play in the fight for social justice. We must also consider how vital the need is to support African American entrepreneurs and small businesses. They are the opposite of large corporations and well-endowed companies who shower down billions of philanthropic dollars that never make it to the ground they were intended to irrigate.
During this time, it is imperative that we build and strengthen our own communities. If you or anyone you know is genuinely interested in the advancement of Black Lives, please support small black-owned business by purchasing your favorite products or services directly from them. Be sure to start at home or in your local economy to produce the greatest and most immediate impact. BUY BLACK! -JOE MAY