Gorilla Rx Wellness is the first Black women-owned dispensary in Los Angeles, created by mother-daughter duo Kika Keith and Kika Howze. After nearly a decade in the food and beverage space, the pair pivoted to cannabis in 2017 and have been at the forefront of California’s social equity advocacy movement ever since. Now, they’re giving back in a major way, launching their community benefits arm called Gorilla University.
Gorilla Rx Wellness Launches Gorilla University's Expungement Clinic
This past weekend, close to a hundred people were in attendance for an expungement clinic hosted at Gorilla University in South Los Angeles. With community organization partners such as The Social Impact Center and The Hood Incubator, this program aims to activate a series of expungement clinics at the Gorilla University space located in the heart of Crenshaw, which serves as a training and educational facility for those in the community.
When asked what this clinic means to the community, Keith states, "Through our community-powered expungement clinic, we're not just erasing records, but rewriting futures. Clearing these records isn't just about legal relief, but restoring dignity, opportunities, and dreams that were once stifled. By breaking the chains of past convictions, we're opening doors to education, jobs, housing and brighter horizons for those who have long been marginalized. This isn't just a legal process; it's a profound step towards justice and empowerment, ensuring that our community members can thrive, uplifted by their potential rather than hindered by their past.”
These expungement clinics provide vital opportunities to ensure that communities impacted by mass incarceration and the War on Drugs directly benefit from cannabis legalization, by offering relief from the collateral consequences of a criminal record.
What Are Staff At Gorilla Rx Wellness And The Social Impact Center Saying About Gorilla University's Expungement Clinic?
As Sheila Borome, project manager at Gorilla Rx, arrived to open the clinic door, she saw the line which formed outside. “People came down from all over - North Hollywood, Long Beach, and a couple of people even flew in for this!” Once the clinic was open and helping people clear their records, Sheila went on to say, “Some people were crying because of how well the declaration letters were being written on their behalf. Even being able to get a free live scan on site was incredible, some people can’t afford live scans and that holds them back. It was overwhelming to witness and be part of something to help people that just want better for themselves.”
Felicia Carbajal, Executive Director of The Social Impact Center, describes the work as life-changing. “As someone who was formerly incarcerated myself, I know firsthand the impact of clearing your record and what these clinics can do for the community. I spent decades thinking I’d never be able to clear my record and because of the passage of S.B. 731 last year, someone who had a state prison sentence like me is able to do so. [The legislation provides a number of felony record reforms, including automation and eligibility to petition the courts for relief after being off parole or probation for three years with no other justice involvement.] Most people do not know that the option to clear your record is even possible, let alone how to start the process. I remember the relief and freedom I felt when knowing my conviction was dismissed and want to provide that to others.”
Under the new laws, many of those who have a California conviction are likely eligible to clean their record. This program was established to help people reduce or dismiss convictions from their record to get a chance at a fresh start. Additionally, the record cleaning clinic provides assistance with free background checks or ‘live scans’, covering all associated record-cleaning court filing fees — as the cost is a huge factor in barring people from being able to get this done on their own.
Here is what some participants at the clinic had to say:
“Thank you so much for this grand experience at today’s event. You have given me more confidence, wisdom, and hope in getting my record cleared. This clinic brought hope to the inner city community who face adversities on a daily basis due to having a criminal record. Just hearing the testimony and triumph of Felicia’s story made my heart smile. They gave exceptional presentations and had informed staff to assist with the process and answer all my questions and concerns.”
“This has been a great experience. The staff on-site helped me with my paperwork. I didn’t know anything about expungement until this clinic. The staff explained to me what live scans are and how they could help me clear my record. It was perfect. I am excited that I was able to get everything done and now I’m ready to get a good job!”
All participants had a story to tell as expungement clinic staff cheered them on like Cooks, who was given hope by the record clearing clinic. Other attending guests took multiple buses and trains to get there. For this reason, the clinic stayed open later than expected to ensure they could help people coming from near and far.
What Services Does Gorilla University's Expungement Clinic Provide And When Is The Next Clinic Event?
In all, the clinic provided free live scans (background checks done with inkless fingerprinting), onsite declaration writing, and access to pro-bono attorneys onsite. The next clinic is scheduled at The Gorilla University space (4241 Crenshaw Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90008) for Saturday, October 7th from 10am to 4pm. More clinics are being planned for the rest of the 2023 into next year and beyond, as this is slated to be an ongoing program to ensure people can benefit from these new laws and services.
For information on these events, call The Gorilla University hotline at 818-570-1548 and follow @GorillaRxWellness on Instagram.
Shirley Ju is a journalist, media host, and seasoned music industry professional. She is the founder of Shirley's Temple, a podcast series with a focus on mental health, where her guests include Trippie Redd, Chanel West Coast, Ricky Williams, Blac Chyna, and more. Shirley's work has been featured in publications such as Variety, Complex, Nylon, Flaunt, and REVOLT; she can also be seen doing exclusive interviews for leading urban news source VLADTV, featuring a platform with 5 million subscribers. Find out more about Shirley at @shirju on Instagram and Twitter, and on LinkedIn.
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Featured image: Attendees receive expungement services at Gorilla University's expungement clinic (C) Gorilla Rx Wellness