Solonje Burnett of Humble Bloom – On Cannabis, Creativity & Criminalization

by | Mar 16, 2021 | Homepage Featured, People | 0 comments

On March 22 at 6pm, oHHo is joining forces with Humble Bloom to present a collection of strong femme voices in cannabis, art, abolition, and social justice.The live stream conversation, titled Cannabis, Creativity & Criminalization, is intentionally scheduled during International Women’s Month, and is presented in support of the Women’s Prison Association (WPA). Click here to RSVP and receive the live stream link.

Inspired by the WPA’s unique vision and in honor of its 175th anniversary, oHHo has partnered with WPA artists to design limited edition labels for the collaboration. Through sales of these limited edition items, oHHo will donate a percentage of proceeds with the goal of raising $20,000 for the WPA. This is enough to provide one woman with the tools to build the life she wants for herself and family through alternative-to-incarceration programs offered by the WPA.

The conversation includes the powerful voices of moderator Solonje Burnett (co-founder of Humble Bloom), Sage Adams (Artist & Activist), Arissa Hall (Co-Founder National Bail Out), Rebecca Pak (Director WPA), Annette Washington (WPA Resident Artist), and will include an open space mindfulness moment led by Nami Soga (Ajna Pura).

We sat down with Solonje in preparation for the experience, to speak with her about Humble Bloom, how she’s a cannavist, what we can look forward to on March 22nd, and more. Thank you Solonje for your time!

Please tell us about Humble Bloom and what inspired you to create the company with Danniel Swatosh?

Humble Bloom began in cannabis experiential marketing with our first HB Field Trip to Tonic’s Tricolla Farms. We collaboratively curate the culture of cannabis, breaking stigma, elevating brands with integrity, forging partnerships with thought leaders and experts, providing consultative support to humanize growing brands, and connecting diverse communities through plant education, advocacy and inclusive immersive experiences. 

Building bridges between communities through experience is something I’ve done for years. Whether it has been in the entertainment and nightlife space by providing access to exclusive members clubs or high end venues, through startup company culture diversity and inclusion work, curating and booking independent musicians, producing connective conferences and summits, doing creative activism with groups like Brick x Brick or uniting us publicly through the power of song with the Resistance Revival Chorus. I live for connecting people to each other, themselves and the world around them through a variety of access points be it music, art, dance, food, wellbeing, or advocacy. Cannabis touches on everything from racial inequity, reparative justice, regenerative agriculture and access to medicine. Danniel and I saw an opportunity to make an impact and influence this industry as it grows through education – creating conscious consumers or more generally thoughtful humans who care.

Since the pandemic began we’ve switched focus to our online shop that highlights Womxn x BIPOC brands and consulting to help brands bloom consciously. We continue to immerse people in education. We provide strategy to entrepreneurs who care about infusing their brand with their inclusive values.

You describe yourself as a Cannavist – please tell us more about what this role in our community means to you.

When Danniel and I were thinking of titles I immediately said that I was a cannavist (cannabis activist) but then started pushing humanism. A cannavist is someone who uses the plant to advocate for something they deeply believe in usually because of personal experience. Whether it’s wellbeing, social equity, expungement, sexual health, sustainability, decriminalization, reparations, craft industry, workplace discrimination, disproportionate incarceration, representation and reflection, access to investment dollars or to legal, quality and affordable medicine. Cannabis touches on all things and it is an opportunity to usher in real cultural shifts towards equity for all. I believe in the betterment and advancement of all humans. I don’t believe in hierarchy, capitalism, monarchy, or any oppressive structures where someone has to be at the bottom because by design the bottom tends to look like me. Humanist or cannavist, it’s all in the same vein of someone who uses their voice and takes action to care for those with whom they share this planet.

How did your relationship with oHHo come about?

Ruby Warrington of the Numinous e-intro’d us late last February. Little did we know that COVID was about to change everything. We had an exploratory call to discover partnership opportunities, Nicola sent us some product and just days later we were told to shelter in place. Remember, at that time Humble Bloom was really all about in person experiences. When we were forced to pivot from IRL to URL, oHHo supported our Allyship + Weed Summit with Miss Grass benefiting the Movement for Black Lives and later joined our affiliate shop. Nic continued to be in touch and about a year after our initial conversation, she reached out to update me on oHHo. Once she told me the journey into the WPA partnership, shared more on product development, and what she wanted to do with the event I couldn’t say no.

We are honored to have you as our moderator and co-curator for the event on the 22nd! What are you most excited about for the conversation?

I’m really enlivened by the intersections of creativity and criminalization. The personal freedom that one finds through self expression is immense and for Black people in a society that is created to keep us down it can be transcendent. I look forward to being in conversation with creatives who will share how their art has helped them escape, evolve and engage.

I didn’t select all the participants but I wanted the individuals I did add to deepen and expand upon the audience education through their personal experience. They help to weave a more complete storyline of how cannabis, creativity and criminalization collide.

Why is this conversation so important to have, and what do you hope the audience (and world at large) will take away from this?

There are so many takeaways but I hope it will show how white supremacist systems and ideologies influence how we see, mistreat, criminalize and cage Black people and women specifically, yet our resilience is immeasurable. I’m so inspired by my people’s ability to demonstrate strength, faith, and joy in the face of racism, stereotypes and injustice. Additionally, it’s remarkable to see how a community of women is dedicated to providing opportunity, transforming and shifting systemic injustice. 

You are an advisor on so many important boards and committees – how do you choose which organizations to lend your talents to?

Honestly, the organizations choose me! They are led by progressive purpose driven individuals who want to act on their values and ethics, but need a co-conspirator to get there. They value the time I put into their brand and I consider them family. Our collaboration is based on honesty, trust, respect, accountability and the ability to discover joy in a mutually uplifting values aligned partnership. My advice is know yourself. Ask them all the questions – even if it is challenging. Let your light shine and that energy will be reflected in the work.

How can the cannabis industry at-large improve & how can they better represent those that are currently underrepresented?

Stop feigning innovation while socially you’re doing the same. Sitting in circles of sameness and thinking you’re doing something different. Utilizing racist, sexist, consciously oppressive and destructive systems to your advantage. Understand the history of the industry, not just your interest in it. Halt the hiding behind or spitting out terminologies like allyship without truly putting it into action. Hire, bring on advisors, and give equity to Black and indigenous people of color. Then fight for reparations, reflection, expungement, social equity, and legalization that is inclusive of all and rebuilds what has been destroyed by this War on People of Color.

What brands deserve a moment of praise?  Who is doing it well?

Shout out to the brands in our shop! These small businesses are tested and true. From Ardent, Potli and Barbari to oHHo, Quim and PrestoDoctor. We know the founders and value how they show up in the world. They operate from a heart space of honesty and integrity. Our partnership with them is about elevating womxn and BIPOC brands to start the equity-based healing necessary in this industry and beyond. Head over to the Humble Bloom marketplace to see all 20 brands that are 95% womxn, 55% BIPOC and 33% Black owned.

To learn more about Solonje and her work, please follow along @solonjeburnett and @humblebloomco on Instagram
Photo credit: Myla Dalbesio @myladalbesio