Now that New York’s adult-use cannabis program is kicking into high gear, the events and education platform On The Revel brought their Revelry summit to the heart of the legacy market for the first time to Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant (Bed-Stuy) neighborhood. Featuring the inaugural block party for the Revelry series, the event signaled the end of summer and the dawn of a new era in the state’s approach to regulation of the plant.
On The Revel Brings Revelry's First Block Party To Bed-Stuy
“Bed-Stuy has been abused by the War on Drugs and its racist policing,” said On The Revel co-founder Jacobi Holland. “Now that legalization is on the horizon, On The Revel's doing our part to make sure our community is well-informed and prepared to take advantage of the economic opportunities. We felt it was important to celebrate this moment and attract our community in the best way we know how - a Brooklyn Block Party.”
Revelry embodied its classic block party vibe from the moment the seven-hour event began on Bed-Stuy’s Restoration Plaza. 90s and early 2000s tunes boomed from the DJ booth across the length of the open-air venue, pumping attendees up for the live concert that would start in the latter half of the day. Brightly colored posters with names of the musical artist and conference speakers greeted guests at the plaza entrance, as well as a handful of booths for community-based sponsors and organizations such as Lantern, Etain, PrestoDoctor, TLBK, Cannaware Society, and Students for Sensible Drug Policy. For the crowd of 550 people that entered Revelry that super Sunday, it was more like arriving at an amusement park than a networking seminar – exactly the way On The Revel envisioned.
Weedmaps, as Revelry’s title sponsor, had its booth in the center of the main arena decorated like a carnival. Attendees were invited to spin a large wheel to see which of numerous prizes they could win. The signature Weedmaps giant joint was also a welcome sight, beckoning people to elevate their experience.
On The Revel Opens Revelry With A Cannabis Education Summit
Indeed, the Revelry block party commenced with enlightenment first, its initial two-hour summit showcasing curated panels and presentations that covered all aspects of getting into the cannabis industry. Due to Bed-Stuy’s long history as both a cultural hub for the Black community and an epicenter of mass incarceration, On The Revel’s team saw it as particularly significant to host such a definitive educational event there.
“We wanted to reach outside the cannabis echo chamber and into the communities where information and access are not always available,” commented Lulu Tsui, On The Revel’s co-founder and Chief Experience Officer. “We created a quintessential Brooklyn Block Party experience to attract people who may not know about the opportunities the New York adult-use cannabis market could bring. This moment of new opportunities should not be missed by folks who have been the most harmed by the War on Drugs.”
A superb lineup of 15 speakers packed Revelry’s summit full of knowledge for entrepreneurs, legacy operators and professionals seeking more information about New York’s legal industry. Centered around creating restorative pathways for communities adversely impacted by the War on Drugs, the topics included how to start dispensary or cultivation businesses, ancillary opportunities, workforce development, and firsthand stories from cannabis pioneers.
New York's Cannabis Control Board Chair Tremaine Wright
Tremaine Wright, New York’s Cannabis Control Board Chair and a Bed-Stuy native, delivered the summit’s opening remarks in what audience members agreed was like a religious experience. Not only did she go into detail about the state’s Conditional Adult-Use Retail Dispensary (CAURD) licenses, but she also shared her effervescent passion for the power of the cannabis industry to transform New York’s employment offerings, create generational wealth, and reform the justice system. The portal to apply for CAURD licenses opened just recently on August 25th, and will accept applications as the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) will seek to qualify up to 150 businesses for this special category. Applicants must be “justice-involved,” meaning that they have a cannabis-related conviction from before March 31, 2021, and they must prove they have at least a 51 percent ownership interest in a business that’s been profitable for at least two years. (Spouses, parents, children or dependents of an individual with a cannabis conviction are also eligible to apply.)
Bed-Stuy's Community And The Legacy Cannabis Market
Following Wright, Bed-Stuy’s City Council representative Chi Ossé spoke about the importance of his community entering the legal cannabis industry. Alex Norman of Budega NYC shared the perspective of a longtime legacy operator, while the Community Restoration panel spotlighted education and economics working together. Vikiana Reyes of Medgar Evers College, Keneth Eble of Black Entrepreneurs NYC, and artist-producer Shiest Bubz, co-founder of legendary events company The Smoker’s Club, came together for a conversation moderated by On The Revel’s Jason Starr. The crowd listened spellbound to Bubz’s visceral statements on how legacy operators risk their lives for cannabis.
Developing New York's Cannabis Careers And Workforce
Akele Parnell, Head of Partnerships at the social equity incubator Lantern, discussed plant-touching careers in cannabis; Cedric Haynes, Associate Vice President of Government Relations at Weedmaps, talked about the value of ancillary opportunities. Jennifer Cabrera, an attorney with the leading cannabis firm Vicente Sederberg, addressed avoiding predatory practices in an evolving industry. In the Workforce Development panel, again moderated by Starr, methods of recruiting, hiring, and workplace standards were all front and center. Nikki Kateman, Political and Communications Director for Local 338 RWDSU/UFCW, represented the labor voice for the developing cannabis sector. Sarah Ibarra, Senior Account Strategist for Weedmaps, and Kelsea Applebaum, Vice President of Partnerships for Vangst, raised the topic of how business practices with employees would reflect back to consumer experiences, including price points.
“As a consumer… you don’t want to purchase a product that has a high dollar amount,” Appelbaum stated, observing how the average New Yorker struggles with cost of living.
Engaging Communities Of Color And Special Guest Al Harrington
The summit was rounded out with an emphasis on a holistic approach to revitalizing Bed-Stuy and New York’s BIPOC communities. Cecilia Walsh, Project Coordinator for the New York Department of Labor’s newly-launched Cannabis Employment, Education and Development (CEED) unit, encouraged attendees to investigate career pathways through the department’s online database. Marlon Rice, Director of Event Services at the Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration Corporation, and Barry Cooper, founder and Executive Director of the nonprofit BRO Experience Foundation, stressed how crucial it is for communities of color to have access to resources that will address and treat generational and personal trauma. A complex process of healing must begin from the inside out.
In a semi-surprise, former NBA player Al Harrington – now better known as founder of the multi-state cannabis brand Viola – turned up for an interview with Jacobi Holland in a live broadcast of On The Revel’s Dope People podcast. The crowd went wild.
“We believe that there are good people in all rooms,” Lulu Tsui asserted. “Our mission at On The Revel is to create a room where all the good people can gather to connect, learn, build and grow with one another.” Of Revelry’s particular uniqueness, she said, “Jacobi and I have attended numerous conferences; they were pretty dry and one-note. We knew that we wanted to create something different that resonated with what cannabis means to us… A Brooklyn Block Party is where it’s at for summers in NYC. We had attendees send messages such as ‘I learned that there is something for me here. I am interested in learning more.’ ‘Wow, never in a million years did I think I would ever tell my story to an Assemblywoman!’”
Revelry Merges Cannabis And Hip Hop With Styles P, Dead Prez, And Smoke DZA
After the summit’s conclusion, the party revved up with a star-studded roster of artists. Styles P, fresh off the incredible 20th anniversary of his hit song “Good Times,” headlined. New York’s favorite hip hop talents were out in full force, with the iconic duo Dead Prez, Smoker’s Club co-founder Smoke DZA, and special guests Smiff-N-Wessun bringing audience members back to the core roots of rap. Mumu Fresh, DJ Beverly Bond, and DJ Odalys ensured that women’s talents were just as represented as the men’s – the queens more than held their court, allowing everybody to groove to their sick beats. The LOX’s DJ Technician and Dead Prez’s DJ MikeFlo, plus Chris Annibell and Brooklyn-born DJs OP! and o.negative, kept the focus on empowerment and self-determination.
“Cannabis and hip hop go hand-in-hand, so we were honored to have Styles P, Smoke DZA and Dead Prez as part of our very first foray in bringing music to our events,” Tsui commented regarding the concert. “They are not only iconic musical artists but also entrepreneurs who have launched very successful brands and businesses.”
“If you look at our lineup of artists (and speakers for that matter), they all stand for something greater than their music,” Holland stated. “They are all legends in their own right and they all understand and believe in our vision to democratize this information to the people so that we can take advantage of this moment. Styles P has been vocal about health and wellness, and giving opportunities to existing cannabis entrepreneurs.
Who Sponsored On The Revel's Revelry Block Party?
This season, Revelry more than lived up to its name with its debut block party. Honeysuckle was proud to be the event’s official media sponsor, joining title sponsor Weedmaps and the wonderful teams of Lantern, Dutchie, PAX, LeafLink, Treez, Doubt x Belief, Fox Rothschild, Cresco Labs, Nabis, Etain, Vangst, TLBK, PrestoDoctor, Cannabis Association of New York, and Magical Brands. It was also fascinating to see the wide range of vendors filling Restoration Plaza. Aside from the sponsors, booth and table displays introduced guests to CEED, OCM, NYC Small Business Services, The BRO Experience Foundation, Cannaclusive, the Bronx Cannabis HUB, Budega NYC, Certz, Liquid Death, Wadadli, Come Back Daily, cannafeelgood, Edens Room, Mu Healing, Mitch Clothing, Minka Brooklyn, Urban Aroma, and Kress Cream.
Holland, Tsui and their team say they’re still feeling the high from the latest Revelry success – and why shouldn’t they? Good vibes from a great block party can last forever. But the best party favor is one that On The Revel will continue to offer and shape for years to come, and that’s the education, networking, and distinctive experience that they are constantly refining to build an equitable cannabis industry. If you’re ready for that gift, better check out these Dope People to keep up on what’s next!
For more information about On The Revel and the next Revelry event, visit ontherevel.com.
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Featured image: (C) Sam C. Long / Honeysuckle Media, Inc. @tissuekulture