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Pumps Brooklyn is back! Dancers tell us what it means to be free again

On the day before re-opening night, Pumps Brooklyn is humming with low rock through the speakers. Girls reflect off the mirrored walls as they swing around poles, or lean against the counter. Immediately upon entry into Pumps Brooklyn, it is clear: the stigma around stripping holds no weight.

Past the bar, past the fluorescent staircase, past the colorful locker room with powder and fishnets in various states of array, is the owner’s office, where Andy sits.

To the wall on his right is a calendar filled every night with the names of dancers, each handwritten. Directly behind him is a computer that controls the music, which he turns down to hear me more clearly. Outside, a sign declaring Pumps Brooklyn is back beckons, reminding the world that a return to normalcy in many respects is here.

pumps brooklyn
Brooklyn, NY — Andy and his wife Kat outside of their club (Cred: @img.mos)

“I had 80 people working here… to have 70 of them come back after a year is just unheard of,” Andy says, leaning back in his office chair and looking over at the calendar. He’s talking about the return of Pumps, the waves of people that have come back in support.

“As far as the girls go, I don’t tell them to do anything. This strip club is like no other strip club.”

Andy, Owner of Pumps
stripping stigma
Brooklyn, NY — Model Areola Grande, @Areola_Grande (Cred: @img.mos)

Pumps Brooklyn

Pumps is, in fact, like no other strip club. For one, it’s outlasted many of its competitors in its 24-year legacy along the border of Williamsburg and Bushwick.

Housed in a two-story building with a black awning on Grand Street, the “social institution,” or “strip club,” or “exotic dancing bar,” is known for its laid-back energy.

On any given night the music is an assortment of genres, “not just rock, not just hip-hop,” Andy emphasizes, gesturing with his hands, and the girls vary in their style of dancing. 

stripper stigma
Brooklyn, NY — Model Sunny, @Sunny_Sidesup (Cred: @img.mos)

Many girls have returned for the opening month, or even just opening night – partly to make some money, partly because they love Pumps.

At the bar, they hand each other bottles of water and take turns posing on the pole for a visiting photographer. They catch up with each other, talking over the music and passing a joint around.

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Brooklyn, NY — Model Marley Dee, @GnarlyMarleyDee (Cred: @img.mos)

Some of them, like Marley Dee, who has her shiny black hair in a deep part with one side tossed over her shoulder, have been here for eight or nine years. “This place attracts really good people,” she says, her smile sweet and posture perfect.

“The dancers are awesome, the owners are awesome; it’s like a family here.”

Marley Dee, @GnarlyMarleyDee

Pumps Brooklyn is a club of openness and welcoming authenticity

The sentiment is echoed by every dancer returning for the club’s reopening last week – because they get to wear whatever they want, because their schedule is flexible and entirely of their choosing, because they love it here.

“The girls had all their stuff here until two weeks ago; I had girls coming to pick up money from lockers that weren’t even locked and it’s still here,” Andy tells me. It is a club that has survived on an ethic of treating each other right.

pumps brooklyn
Brooklyn, NY — Model Areola, @Areola_Grande (Cred: @img.mos)

“I don’t feel forced to be outside of who I am in here,” a dancer who goes by Brandy, tells me, smoothing out their foundation in the well-lit mirror downstairs.

It is just the two of us in the locker room for a while, since she got here a little later than all the other girls because of work. “I’m a certified security guard and I have a F80 license to be a fire safety coordinator – it’s a license to have someone’s life in my hands in a burning building or an emergency.”

“But I actually work in a women’s homeless shelter. I help homeless women get off the street, help women on drugs get off the drugs to better their lives. This pandemic, I think, kind of screwed with everyone.” 

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Brooklyn, NY — Model Cheeky Lane, @CheekyLane (Cred: @img.mos)

I tried other clubs in Manhattan and stuff… I think I’m too much of a stoner for the city.


“Fall of 2012,” Sunny says matter of factly when I ask how long she’s been here. She blinks her doe-like eyes behind light curly hair. “Nine years,” I respond, which makes her look so surprised we both begin to laugh.

“Holy shit,” she says, “The pandemic year just makes you, you know, forget the count.”

pumps brooklyn
Brooklyn, NY — Model Sunny, @Sunny_Sidesup (Cred: @img.mos)

The club, however, is well aware of the pandemic year.

“I think my whole industry was really beat up because they weren’t eligible for any government assistance of any sorts,” Andy explains from across the desk. His look is one of exasperation.

Stripping away the stigma of stripping/dancing

It’s old news to anyone in the industry that puritan standards built into the law allow the government to avoid sending aid to sex workers or sex work businesses. There is a stigma in many places around stripping, and that stigma goes all the way up to the government.

Andy himself spent almost all his savings keeping the lights on and the phone running.

During this past year in the pandemic, he and his wife have been selling merchandise to loyal fans and sending the profits to dancers, to “keep the girls going.” Most of them, as workers in nightlife or dancing and largely due to the stigma around stripping, have been out of work for over a year.

pumps brooklyn
Brooklyn, NY — Model Bianca Dagga, @BiancaDagga (Cred: @img.mos)

“It’s really insane – a lot of my dancers didn’t get anything. They had to go back to wherever they came from – who knows why they left to begin with,” Andy says.

It shows you that you can be who you want to be and it shows you that you can do anything. [The pandemic] made me want to be bigger than I’ve ever been… And once I said I could do anything I just put my head to it.


Maneuvering around a year of uncertainty

Some dancers took to the virtual stage, showcasing talents like pole dancing or sword-swallowing. Others dipped into savings or explored options like streaming on Twitch.

One girl, who goes by Sandra, moved out of state to work and teach pole dancing somewhere the COVID-19 restrictions were not so severe. She found it hard to meet clients, however, who trusted her as a professional outside of her community in the city.

Content for platforms like OnlyFans, which involves a great deal of production like lighting and shooting, and editing, is not only less rewarding, some dancers tell me, but dangerous.

“It’s not a matter of when your content is gonna get stolen,” Sunny tells me in a slightly more serious tone. “It’s a matter of when.”

OnlyFans has no monitoring system that prohibits screen recording or sharing exclusive content. Those videos end up on a subreddit thread full of insults or attacks.

The stigma around stripping isn’t just misguided, it is extremely dangerous. On the internet is perhaps where the stigma around stripping is most pervasive, and sex workers were not protected during the pandemic.

It takes time to learn how not to overwhelm yourself, or overdo things. Sometimes, if you come out once one night a week and you fully put all of yourself out to make the money, you won’t have any energy left. And you know that you have to still work for days. You have to really learn your limits.

pumps brooklyn
Brooklyn, NY — Model Snow, @Alien.Ninja.Snow (Cred: @img.mos)

But the year did have some better moments too. Brandy made TikToks with her daughter. Another dancer by the name of Snow played video games at home in Puerto Rico. Marley Dee spent the year surfing.

Alas, Pumps Brooklyn is back

Now, for everyone’s sake, Pumps Brooklyn is reopening. Girls hug each other as they walk through the door, Andy watching over everyone at the bar.

“I was waiting for this moment the whole time,” Sandra says earnestly. “And I want to say it’s not even about making money as much as just talking with people that I’ve been working with for so long.”

stripping stigma
Brooklyn, NY — Model Areola Grande, @Areola_Grande (Cred: @img.mos)

Outside, cars honk as the girls pose for a photo. “We had to come inside before we caused a traffic accident,” Sunny laughs. “People are definitely excited.”

Andy is excited too, in a way that seems like an immense relief after the year he’s had in this business. “I’m looking forward to it being March 16th. There is nothing new going on here. We have the same music, same girls, same place – we’re not missing a beat.”

Who is Angela Boatwright? The metalhead with a love for hip-hop photography

Angela Boatwright – photographer, film director, metalhead – is a living legend of hip-hop, punk, and music photography at the turn of the century.

Though she’s known widely for her work documenting East L.A.’s underground punk scene, and for her film Los Punks: We Are All We Have, Boatwright is as versatile as they come.

From shooting Jay-Z, Kanye, Nicki Minaj in their earliest moments starting out in New York, to throwing herself into the mosh pit of backyard punk shows in L.A., Boatwright is a photographer without limits. Her work is dynamic, energetic, and always growing – a reflection of the artist herself.

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Photo Courtesy Angela Boatwright. Jay-Z, New York City, 1998

Now working towards a degree at UC Irvine and continuing to study the relationship of culture to its environment, Boatwright is in a moment of change. We caught up with the photographer below, about where she’s been, and where she’s going. 

Angela Boatwright’s early beginnings…

KH: How does a metalhead from Columbus, Ohio end up so deep in the Los Angeles punk scene? What was your move from New York to L.A. like?

AB: I grew up very into metal, yes! As an early, early teen I was obsessed with metal (mostly thrash and hair metal if those two things even belong in the same universe) but as I got older it became metal, punk, and hardcore. 

Photo Courtesy Angela Boatwright. Def Squad Proof Sheets, 1997

When I moved to Los Angeles— I knew that L.A. has a massive punk history, but I wanted to see what was happening now. So I did some digging and long story short, I was invited to attend my first backyard show in a neighborhood called City Terrace in East L.A. in 2013 and was instantly hooked! 

My move from New York to L.A. was supposed to be temporary, actually. My friend and fellow photographer, Scott Pommier, needed someone to stay in his place in Los Angeles for four months and all I was doing in New York was staying up crazy late, spending hours editing a documentary that I was filming at the time. I had no life and it was becoming mega-expensive.

“I thought a change of scenery would be good, so I took Scott up on the offer to sublet and never left southern California. I’ve been here now for nine years!”

– Angela Boatwright, Photographer & Film Director
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Photo Courtesy Angela Boatwright. Backyard show in South Central, L.A. July 20, 2015

Her journey as a music photographer

KH: Your work covers a wide range of subject matter, from punk culture to early hip-hop royalty. Is there a difference in shooting subjects in the scene you grew up in as opposed to the streets of New York in the 90s?

AB: Yes and no. Yes, because every single person is different, of course.

“Being a photographer is all about the ability to get familiar with your subject, super-fast (emotionally and socially, not by doing research) in a very organic way— especially people that are inherently different from you.”

– Angela Boatwright, Photographer & Film Director

Hip hop also comes from such an authentic place. It’s like punk in that way. The message is important and has a strong foundation in community in culture; punk is similar. Metal can get kind of frou-frou and ridiculous, at least the hair metal that I was listening to in the early 90s— hair metal isn’t so relevant right now for exactly those reasons— but hip hop and punk are still very much relevant.

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Photo Courtesy Angela Boatwright, Kanye West, 2005

I would be nowhere without the hardcore scene I hung around in when I lived in Ohio, for photographic and emotional reasons, but nothing compares to the streets of New York City. The early 90s was a time when hip hop artists wanted to be photographed in their community and on the streets… I, for sure, will always prefer the organic, neighborhood locations. 

Photographer Angela Boatwright remains a student of the game

KH: You’re in school now for Urban Planning at UC Irvine. Do the intersections of geographic, demographic, and cultural forces inform your work as an artist?

AB: I’m actually in school for what’s called Psychological Science, which is kind of a merge between psychology and urban studies, but since we first chatted I think I’ve officially decided to double major in Urban Studies as well!

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Photo Courtesy Angela Boatwright. Crusty Drunks play a backyard show in an alley on 83rd and S. San Pedro in South Central, L.A. Aug. 1, 2014

This being said, I absolutely believe that geographic, demographic, and cultural forces inform my work as a documentarian and as a student. I loved learning about the history of Los Angeles, especially about redlining and immigration, the inherent racism within the LAPD, how an entire community of Mexican-American residents were displaced from Chavez Ravine to make way for Dodgers stadium… so much stuff.

I couldn’t get enough of hanging with the punks, I had zero interest in pandering to people in the film industry, which ended up being a mistake apparently…,

“I just loved being with the punks— hearing their stories, meeting their families, learning about their experience. It was the best time of my life.” 

– Angela Boatwright, Photographer & Film Director

Scoping the landscape

KH: Those early photos of Nicki Minaj are some of my favorites, coincidentally because that was the diner closest to me in high school, where I would go for a midnight snack or a hungover breakfast. Are there locations or shoots that have meant the most to you throughout your career?

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Photo Courtesy Angela Boatwright. Nicki Minaj, Queens, 2008

AB: Oh wow, that’s amazing that you used to go to that diner! Their pancakes were so good! We shot those photos while the diner was open and actively serving customers, that’s how unknown Nicki was at the time. The place would probably be swarmed if we shot her there nowadays! 

I love that shoot. It was on my birthday and Nicki was great. She spent so much time with us and was down to do whatever. 

Yes, there are lots of locations that mean a lot to me but the people have always been more important, for sure.

“Remembering any given shoot for everything that it embodied, the entire experience, that kind of stuff is more memorable to me.”

– Angela Boatwright, Photographer & Film Director
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Photo Courtesy Angela Boatwright. Portrait id Wilmington, CA metal band Iron Blade at Graff Lab in Pico Union June 30, 2013

That being said, I did have my favorite spots but generally, if my subject(s) was open to it, I’d always prefer to take them out on the street and walk around. I was always good at finding great spots on the street without previously scouting it.

Angela Boatwright always craved to be creative

KH: I love the story about you sneaking into Nirvana when you were 16, and taking photos for your high school photography class. When did the work start to feel real for you as a career, or were you always just shooting what you wanted and letting the chips fall where they may?

AB: I think I always wanted to be a professional photographer, although I had no idea what that meant (running your own business can be a nightmare, especially for a creative person) but it was always 100% my goal to get out of Ohio and make something of myself. I grew up in a fairly dysfunctional family and felt that I had a lot to prove to everyone around me as well as myself. 

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Photo Courtesy Angela Boatwright. LAPD raids a backyard show in South Central, L.A. Nov. 28, 2014

In all honesty, I moved to New York out of spite, as in, ‘you think I’m not so special, I’ll show you!,’  and apparently it was a great motivating factor because it worked! I did pretty well in New York as a photographer. I still find spite to be such a solid, legit reason to go out and do something. There’s nothing more punk than succeeding at something solely because you wanted to thumb your nose at the entire world…

“I’m a pretty organized, hard-working, passionate person so I have to be 200% into whatever I’m doing or I can’t do it at all.”

– Angela Boatwright, Photographer & Film Director

And, of course, live band photography was frowned upon in the early 90s and considered snapshot photography by art academics, so shooting a live band was another way to say ‘fuck you’ to the world, too, which was great. 

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Photo Courtesy Angela Boatwright. Ronnie Rot in Anaheim, CA, Jan. 17, 2016

Weaving through moments of doubt

KH: It seems you’ve been on a roll since you arrived in New York, straight out of high school. Did you ever have a moment of doubt? How did you get through it?

AB: I have moments of doubt weekly. I go nuts for a little while, sometimes I write things down to get a sense of where everything went wrong…

“I always keep working towards my goals even if it means making only one phone call during any given day. Some days I get a lot done and sometimes nothing but I am always striving.” 

– Angela Boatwright, Photographer & Film Director
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Photo Courtesy Angela Boatwright. After a punk show in South Central, L.A. Nov. 28, 2014

Los Punks was such a huge undertaking that it left me confused about the photo and film industries as I was all of a sudden significantly more interested in not only research but how I can get the credentials to help and advise people outside of giving them the opportunity to tell their story. School has been great in that it is helping me refine my interests further all while working towards a degree.

There’s a massive $500,000 grant to preserve HBCU’s archives

In an unprecedented effort to preserve the visual archives of HBCU’s (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), Getty Images has announced a new grant program in partnership with Stand Together.

All HBCUs will be eligible to apply for the $500,000 grant that will go towards two photographic archives. These funds should support the digitization of up to 100,000 HBCU archives per grant recipient.

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(Original Caption) Washington, DC: Photo shows an exterior view of Founders Library (campus landmark). Howard University, Washington, DC. Undated photograph.

The Getty Images archive grant

Black history is American history. While some of that history is known, too much is still hidden. Our HBCUs hold precious and treasured experiences, stories, images, and artifacts. We are excited to participate in this important initiative to preserve and strengthen the ability to amplify our collective story. 

Grant judge, Aba Blankson, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, NAACP

In addition, the visual assets will be consolidated in the “HBCU Photo Collection.”

This collection will be available for licensing on the world’s largest privately-owned archive.

getty images archive grant
Portrait of African American painter Aaron Douglas (1899 – 1979), long-time professor at Fisk University, and a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance, painting at his easel, Tennessee, ca.1970s. (Photo by Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty Images)

The collection will be channeling all royalties back still into the larger project. 50 percent will go to grant recipients, 30 percent will go to scholarship funds for HBCU students. And then 20 percent will go back to the grant initiative to fund the following year. 

Making Black history accessible through the HBCU grant

Outside of private licensing, the collection will be freely accessible for non-commercial use. Through this accessibility initiative, Getty Images aims to increase visibility of Black history and storytellers. This project is in tandem with “Getty Images Black History and Culture Collection,” set to launch later this year. 

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Students of historically black college Morgan State hold mass meeting to protest cuts in student budget made by state’s governor, Annapolis, Maryland, March 22, 1947. (Photo by Afro American Newspapers/Gado/Getty Images)

Collective and individual memories are the foundation of these photographs highlighting the classrooms, student activities on campus, scientific explorations, art practices, and the making of portraits from college presidents to teachers and visitors to the campuses.  The Getty Images Photo Archive Grants for HBCUs is an essential part of the ongoing documentation and preservation of Black images at HBCUs.

Grant judge, Dr. Deborah Willis, Academic Director, Professor & Chair, NYU Tisch School of the Arts

Submissions to the Getty Images Photo Archive Grants for HBCUs will be judged by a panel of industry-leading professionals.

The board this year will include Dr. Deborah Willis, Chair of NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Aba Blankson, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer at NAACP, and also Mercedes Cooper, Vice President at Array Film Collective, amongst others. 

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MOREHOUSE COLLEGE, BLACK UNIVERSITY IN ATLANTA (Photo by John van Hasselt/Sygma via Getty Images)

Promoting accessibility and interest in history through archival preservation

Stand Together is dedicated to philanthropic work around criminal justice, K-12 education, poverty, and addiction. Heal America, another organization involved in this effort, is a group that seeks to bring tools and resources to impoverished communities. 

Stand Together and Getty Images intend for this program to support and uplift talented Black students at HBCUs.

It is a reflection of both organizations’ commitment to anti-racism and the visibility of Black history in America, through the promotion of images that have yet to be made available for private licensing. Not only does the grant seek to increase the visibility of HBCU’s archives, but also to create revenue streams to provide fiscal support. 

Stonewall Riot

The memorable photography of the Stonewall Riots years later

At the center of Pride Month in New York City is the commemorative space that Stonewall Inn carved out in the summer of ‘69. Incited by a police raid, the Stonewall Riots laid the foundations for queer liberation in the years that followed. The revolutionary period of the Stonewall Riots was documented by photography that makes up the archive of visual history we still have today.

Not only were the Stonewall Riots captured in photographs, they also left a lasting impact on the artistic community as well. The Stonewall Riots were a liberating movement for the LGBTQIA+ community, and photography that had previously suppressed themes of queerness.

The movement was also a fight for visibility that transformed the expressive limits of photography. Photography during and after Stonewall was having its coming out – below are some of its key actors and defining images. 

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McDarrah captured this view of paradegoers during the fifth annual Christopher Street Liberation Day march at Gay and Christopher Streets in June 1973. Courtesy of Fred W. McDarrah Archive/MUUS Asset Management Co LLC.

Fred McDarrah

A longtime staff photographer for the Village Voice, Fred W. McDarrah is the photographer behind still many of the most recognizable images from the scene.

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Fred McDarrah’s “Celebration After Riots Outside Stonewall Inn, Nelly (Betsy Mae Koolo), Chris (Drag Queen Chris), Roger Davis, Michelle and Tommy Lanigan-Schmidt, June 1969” (1969).Credit…Photo by Fred W. McDarrah/Getty Images, courtesy of Pavel Zoubok Gallery, New York.

There was still no demand for photos of transexual or queer people from museums or galleries. But McDarrah knew they were valuable subjects.

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Marsha P. Johnson, the trans activist and co-founder of star (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries), the radical, intersectional activist collective, June 27, 1971.Photographs by Fred W. McDarrah / Courtesy OR Books

He shot countless Pride Month parades, hearings, and also marches that summer in New York City on his film camera. The images were developed in a makeshift darkroom in his family’s Greenwich Village apartment. All together it was about 40,000 prints by the time he passed in 2007.

Now McDarrah’s work is an invaluable part of this history. And it has been featured in countless institutions telling the story of queer liberation. 

Diana Davies

Another essential photographer of the movement was Diana Davies. She was a big-name photojournalist at the time that she turned her attention to the queer liberation movement.

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Photo by Diana Davies, 1971. Source: NYPL.

As a result, Davies was able to capture those figures at the head of the movement including Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson, Ellen Broidy amongst others.

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Diana Davies, Untitled (Marsha P. Johnson Hands Out Flyers for Support of Gay Students at N.Y.U.) c. 1970 © The New York Public Library:Art Resource, New York

Her participation in the movement and presence there was read by the public as an admittance of her own queerness and was a kind of ‘coming out’ in and of itself.

This kind of shallow judgment failed to deter Davies from continuing to capture the transformational work happening at the Stonewall Riots. 

Photography After Stonewall

The art world now stages countless exhibitions that seek to honor the photographers of the movement and beyond. One particularly notable exhibition by Soho Photo Gallery in 2019 commemorated the 50th anniversary of Stonewall by highlighting the work of 23 artists.

Titled Photography After Stonewall, the exhibit showcased the work of photographers that have developed a creative approach to LGBTQ issues. The works, which include themes of gender/sexuality, the AIDS crisis, the American nuclear family, would have been unthinkable before the riots.

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Image by Fred McDarrah, courtesy OR Books

As a queer liberation, the Stonewall Riots rippled out into the artistic community, and the lives of people around the world.

5 ocean photographers that help us learn more about the underwater world

Ocean photography captures a world of unknowns miles below the surface. The creatures, their behaviors, and their environments are brilliant subject matters that make arresting images. Underwater photographers, many of them skilled divers, give us a glimpse into these hidden ecosystems, often with the goal of providing photography for ocean conservation. 

But in recent years, ocean photography has taken on a role in conservation efforts. Through the fascination that ocean photography inspires, these photographers are attempting to save our oceans.

ocean photographers
Image by Elena Kalis

Elena Kalis

Elena Kalis is an underwater photographer based in the Bahamas, known for her surreal imagery.

Some of her well-known works feature models underwater fully clothed, behaving as they would on land but instead suspended in shallow waters.

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Elena Kalis, image via Ikelite

Her work has been featured in magazines worldwide and was recently featured in a campaign for Samsung that demonstrates the underwater photo technology of its cellphones.

Together with her daughter, who has been appointed the first ambassador for Bahamas National Trust, Kalis works in her photography to bring attention to the ocean conservation of her local marine environment in the Bahamas.

An island that depends on tourism for economic stability, there is also a financial imperative to protect its native creatures.

Elena Kalis for Samsung

By showcasing the different national parks and reefs around the island through her awe-inspiring photography, Kalis hopes to inspire audiences to join the movement to protect her homeland. 

Karim Ilya

Karim Ilya is the most recent winner of the Marine Conservation category for Underwater Photographer of the Year Competition 2021.

ocean conservation photography
Aerial view of a crowded island in Guan Yala by Karim Ilya. Image via Underwater Photographer of the Year.

The image ‘Aerial view of a crowded island in Guan Yala’ struck judges for its display of how human beings have consumed land.

Iliya, who is based in Hawaii and Colorado, specializes in photographing whales, threatened wildlife, and delicate ecosystems.

National Geographic Magazine has published his work with humpback whales and aerial photography, using the Ilya’s talents to tell larger stories. Ilya’s work documenting and framing perspective on human impact in the environment continues to stir a sense of urgency in audiences. 

Christine Shepard

Christine Shepard is a researcher, photographer, and, most notably, a shark specialist. Her work researching and photographing sharks moved her into the spotlight as part of the University of Miami’s R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation program.

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Christine Shepard. Image via Searaya

The group is an active shark research group, but is set apart from other institutions by the scale of its engagement online. This social media presence features a great deal of Shepard’s critically acclaimed photography.

The vibrant colors and dynamic lines make for brilliant images that compound her work as a researcher. She is passionate about conservation and views her photography as a way to permeate the consciousness of a wider audience.

ocean conservation photography
Image by Christine Shepard via Coral Cove Imagery

As a scientist and a photographer in contact with mass media, she is often at the intersection of trying to make something marketable while still keeping it grounded in the facts. For Shepard, being one of many crucial ocean photographers is an uncompromising means of maintaining that integral balance. 

Renee Capozzola

Another star from this years Underwater Photographer of the Year Competition 2021, is Renee Capozzola. This photographer took home first place for her piece ‘Shark’s skylight,’ that displays two black tipped reef sharks beneath parallel seagulls in uncanny synchronicity.

Renee Capozzola
‘Shark’s skylight’ by Renee Capozzola, image via Underwater Photographer of the Year 2021.

Capozzola credits her affinity to French Prolynesia, where this image was created, to its efforts to protect its sharks.

With a background in painting and professional work in biology, Capozzola’s eye is able to capture the larger than life movements of deep sea creatures.

Renee Capozolla, image via Bluewater Travel

This [‘Shark’s skylight’] is a photograph of hope, a glimpse of how the ocean can be when we give it a chance, thriving with spectacular life both below and above the surface.

Judges announcing the winner of the 2021 Underwater Photographer of the Year

She has won over forty international awards, including 2019 United Nations World Oceans Day Photo Competition and ‘USA Photographer of the Year’ in the 2019 World Shootout.

When she is not in the water with the sharks, Capozzola teaches biology in hopes of raising awareness and engagement in combating threats to our marine ecosystems today. 

Lewis Burnett

Working out of Australia’s Southwest is Lewis Burnett, recently featured on Ocean Conservancy as a 2020 Photo Contest Winner.

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Lewis Burnett, image via Ocean Conservation

A lifelong interest in life underwater culminated for Burnett when he took his first solo trip around Southeast Asia. Since then, the photographer has been trying to bring about positive change in our marine environments through individual self-awareness.

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Image by Lewis Burnett via Ocean Conservation

Burnett credits the crisis in our oceans to the loss of connection between mankind and their natural home. He hopes, by partnering with conservation agencies and continuing to produce vibrant photographs, to inspire others. 

The necessity of ocean conservation photographers

Conservation efforts are complicated. With large scale industrial neglect and ever growing consumption, the oceans are not safe.

An impending sense of doom threatens to overtake grassroots efforts to save our marine ecosystems. But these photographers keep a sense of hope alive by dedicating their lives and careers to the ocean. These individuals are stoking consciousness that has the potential to change our reality. 

Queer culture and Black roots’ revolutionary impact on pop music

Pop music, like most genres, has Black and queer cultural roots in the early 20th century. The genre of “popular music” implies an innately performative element. Often music of this genre plays on this artificiality as a kind of self-aware reclamation of what performance offers.

It’s maybe this explicit synthetic quality that opens up a particular space for gender and sexual fluidity in the genre. Artists from the 70’s and 80’s, Bowie, Freddie Mercury, Prince, are well known for this. The influence of queer culture and artists, however, continues into the pop music of the 21st Century.

Below we take a brief look at some of pop culture’s most influential agents.

Ma Rainey and the early Black roots in pop music

Ma Rainey, image via the New York Times

A blues singer in the early 20th century, Ma Rainey is an unlikely figure in this history.

But the singer was among the first to so publicly use music as a way to transgress sex and gender. Rainey’s signature low, gravelly voice described Black female experiences in a new way.

Using the combination of her lyricism and voice, the artist carved out a specific canonical space for herself.

queer pop music
Ma Rainey and her George Jazz Band, 1923. Image via Time Magazine.

Rainey, in her over-the-top tiara and campy gold jewelry, sang about women who were as messy and unapologetic as men.

One scholar on the queer history and Black roots of pop music describes Rainey as “setting the stage for pop music” in terms of the potential for androgyny or queerness.

The 70s and 80s of queer culture

The radical quality of Ma Rainey and her influences, however, won’t come into the mainstream until the 70s and 80s when pop music really took off.

Rock and roll that precedes this moment will also have queer roots in it’s explicitly anti-establishment sound. The artist

black roots pop music
Esquerita influenced Little Rich, who influenced Prince and Elton John. Image via Country Queer

Esquerita, for example, was a gay Black artist whose sound had a lasting influence on the rock scene. Even Elvis, performed songs written by, and in the cadence of, Black, queer performers before him. “The King of Rock” himself had a kind of extravagance that went against the hyper-masculinity of the time. 

With the sexual revolution of the late 60s behind it, electronic, house, and disco music opened up queerness in an unprecedented way. Rather than claim legacies as an emblem of homosexuality, figures like Grace Jones, or Elton John simply left the question unanswered.

queer culture pop music
Harry Styles performs at the 2021 Grammys. Image via Hello Magazine

Pop music allowed for a kind of androgynous ambiguity that went against compulsory heterosexuality and gender binaries of the time.

Disco was, simultaneously, coming from the underground and into popular culture. The very metropolitan, very underground ballroom “house” culture brought drag, gender performance, and expansive sexuality into the public eye. Pop music is heavily effected by this era of disco music, rhythmically and aesthetically.

SOPHIE and modern pop music

Today, pop music continues to control the charts. Modern-day trailblazers in the industry, the likes of Lady Gaga or Madonna, have pushed the envelope on sex and gender with their performances.

queer culture
SOPHIE 2019. Photo by Renata Raksha, image via ArtForum

Electronic mastering systems, and the synthesized sound of pop, have further expanded possibilities for experimentation or fluidity.

One particular icon whose death had a tragic impact on the queer community this year, was multidimensional entertainer and artist Sophie Xeon. Known as SOPHIE within the industry, the grammy nominated artist transformed the pop landscape in their lifetime.

The rise of hyper pop figures like Charli XCX, the dynamic gloss of FKA Twigs, the intense brashness of Vince Staples. All of these artists were profoundly influenced by transgender, queer, and genius producer SOPHIE.

Charli XCX produced by SOPHIE, via Vroom Vroom Recordings

Pop music owes much to Black roots and queer culture

Pop music is uniquely fantastical and performative, while simultaneously bolstered by its self-awareness and sense of endless possibility.

The genre is campy and curated, which is precisely its authenticity. The championing of fluidity is the closest thing to a definite, stable sense of identity there is. As queer influencers of the genre have shown us, pop music is about alchemizing oneself and having fun in the process.

Tae Park is the fashion brand for a new generation of identity

If fashion is a reflection of our shifting culture, no brand better embodies the moment than the newly-launched label Tae Park.

Based in Brooklyn, Taehee Park founded Tae Park in late 2020. She had recently quit her job, inspired in quarantine to run the entrepreneurial risk and create her own line from the ground up.

tae park
The corset tank over mahjong tiles by James Bee, image courtesy of Tae Park

The designer was born in Busan, South Korea, and raised as a “third culture kid,” splitting her childhood across China, Indonesia, and Vietnam.

This multicultural upbringing comes across in authentically inspired designs and imagery for Tae Park; models posing with mahjong pieces artfully through the glass, gyoza-inspired pleats lining a sweetheart neckline.

tae park
The third drop shot by James Bee, image courtesy of Tae Park

Park’s clothes also capture her own day-to-day styles. The first drop elevated loungewear following a year in which no one, including Park herself, ever seemed to find themselves in anything but sweats.

Through youthful whimsy and sophisticated design, Tae Park brings culture into the center stage.

An authentic message and care

Beyond the clothes, the label is about authenticity. Tae Park leans into, rather than away from, the social conversations of its moment.

tae park
The second drop shot by James Bee, image courtesy of Tae Park

Now on its third drop, the brand continues to champion its pre-order-only model.

The limited, made-to-order production model reduces waste while maintaining a high quality. Earlier lines featured comfortable basics reimagined with a curated, vixen-like energy for the quarantine uniforms we all donned. 

“It took the pandemic for me to realize life was too short and it was now or never. I was ultimately burnt out and for the first time in my life, I decided to prioritize my mental health over a job.”

Designer Taehee Park for Hype Bae
shot by James Bee
The second drop shot by James Bee, image courtesy of Tae Park

Taehee herself describes the project as something that started with the intention of growing a portfolio while channeling her creative energies towards something she could call her own. As a result, the clothes are vulnerable, and genuine, in the way that passionate works of care are. 

“…my affirmation really comes from my community. The pieces I design and sample initiates with numerous intimate fittings at my apartment. I invite my friends over to try on the pieces — this way, I can guide them through my process and intentions and also hear their feedback, which I always apply back to improve my designs. I am beyond grateful if my friends want to wear my clothes, I think that’s what matters to me the most right now.”

Designer Taehee Park for Hype Bae

AAPI Representation in Tae Park

As AAPI identities have come to the foreground in the past few months, the brand also stands out for its uncompromising claims to heritage, and community. Just as the clothes are workshopped with and for the designers friends, so is every stage of production and photography.

The first drop shot by James Bee, image courtesy of Tae Park

Most notably, James Bee is the man behind the surreal and musing images that announce each drop.

Bee is a fashion and commercial photographer/director that boasts a wide-ranging roster from ELLE China, to CFDA, to Prabal Gurung. Currently working between Brooklyn and Shanghai, the photographer says his work is influenced by both his American and Chinese roots

Drop 3 is special for this reason. Titled “Growing Up,” the latest line is about being raised in America and reckoning with being “American enough.”

shot by James Bee
The first drop shot by James Bee, image courtesy of Tae Park

The promotional videos shot for the campaign feature three Asian American models. In their own way, each model describes how their Asian heritage has been met with strife coming up against their lives as an American.

The brand is a celebration of oneself – one’s experiences and communities – through design. At a time in which people have grown into a new sense of self, while longing for community too, Tae Park is the perfect union of both.

Hip hop is still the best genre out: A look into the genre’s legacy

Hip-hop, and its genre-defying, politically-charged legacy, originated at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in 1973. Though the genre has evolved since DJ Clive “Kool Herc” Campbell’s block parties, the era remains the blueprint for rap today.

Hip-hop has taken on the work of activism at some moments, life-affirming energy at others. It is at once true to its roots and innovating upon itself constantly. Below we take a look at how 70s and 80s hip-hop continues to shape the industry today. 

hip hop's legacy
Image by Martha Cooper, 1980’s New York, via Almaz Camporeale

Early days

While the claim that DJ Kool Herc invented hip-hop is contested, his influence, and that of Jamaican calypso tradition on the form, is not.

hip hop legacy
DJ Kool Herc was the first to invent track switching, image via Hip Hop Hooray

The first hip-hop tracks were born from a layering of the break section from a funk or soul song. Herc would switch back and forth between two copies of the same record to create a whole new beat.

Over these tracks, he’d perform call-and-response routines with the audience. This was the early version of what would come to be known as MC’ing. 

Herc was our first original DJ, MC, Graffiti writer, and B-boy. That’s why we call him the father since all the four elements of Hip Hop seems to be embodied in him.


MCing, which later evolved into rap, comes from the Jamaican tradition of impromptu toasting, and folk poets known as griots from West Africa. The idea was to speak rhythmically over the track, not quite singing, but not just talking either.

DJ Kool Herc party flyer
The first ever hip-hop flyer for a DJ Kool Herc party, image via The Source

What’s considered some of hip-hops most distinct qualities – boasting raps, rivalry, throw downs, and political commentary – can all be found in music dating back to the 1800’s in Jamaica. 

DJ Kool Herc’s talents were adopted and later perfected by big names like DJ Grandmaster Flash, and MC Kurtis Blow.

This age of DJing is associated with the famous “scratching” noise, which Flash’s kid brother invented at a house party. A budding DJ himself, Flash’s brother accidentally slid the record under the needle, thus creating the scratching technique.

Entering the mainstream

What had mostly been an underground movement, was quickly gaining traction by the turn of the decade.

the sugarhill gang
The Sugarhill Gang, image via The Guardian

In 1980, hip-hop fully broke out into the mainstream with Sugarhill Records founded by Sylvia Robinson. The Sugarhill Gang’s single “Rapper’s Delight” became hip-hops first mainstream hit in an age defined mostly by post-punk rock.

The then chart-topping band Blondie released “Rapture,” which features a lengthy rap performed by Deborah Harry herself. The song became the first rap video to ever broadcast on MTV.

Blondie’s rapture was the first song with a rap to be played on MTV, video via YouTube

The Beastie Boys, taking a cue from Blondie’s references to the East Coast hip-hop legacy, rebranded from a post-punk band to a hip-hop group around the same time. 

Around this time, Russell Simmons came on to the scene with Kurtis Blow and his kid brother DJ Run. After Run and his friend Daryll, or “D”, graduated from high school, Russell Simmons named them “Run-D.M.C.” and finessed a deal with Profile Records.

hip hop's legacy
Run D.M.C. and Russell Simmons signing with Profile Records, 1983. Image via Classic Hip-Hop Magazine

Kurtis Blow, also managed by Russell Simmons, became the first rapper to sign a record deal with a major label. When Russell Simmons met Rick Rubin, a young rap music aficionado, the two found a small record label. They ran operations out of Rubin’s Weinstein dorm at NYU and named the label Def Jam.

Other groups that built up hip-hop’s legacy

Hip-hop broke out into the mainstream in a big way, and made its way efficiently to the West Coast. Though the newcomers were unable to compete with New York City masters for the first few years, it didn’t take long for N.W.A. to change that. 

N.W.A. with a magazine spread, image via Biography

Hip-hop had one of its first run-ins with popular media when the press blamed Run-D.M.C. for inciting a riot after their show in L.A.

Shortly after, N.W.A. dropped “Straight Outta Compton,” marking a watershed moment in rap music. Their single “Fuck Tha Police,” pushed the boundary of what the genre could do. The group and Priority Records were issued a warning from the FBI, which became the origin of gangsta rap

In New York too, the center of hip-hop was spreading from the Bronx to Brooklyn. MC Lyte stunned the scene with her debut “I Cram to Understand U (Sam),” recorded at just 16 years old, addressing the widespread crack cocaine epidemic and romantic relationships.

One of MC Lyte’s most popular tracks, shot on the MTA. Video via YouTube

Her lyricism and realness lay the groundwork for a new era of Brooklyn rap. Artists like Biggie Smalls, Lil Kim, and Jay Z, among others, would go on to represent Brooklyn in her footsteps.

All of these influential artists and generative events have given us the hip-hop we know and love today. Without this generation of innovative artists, the rap and hip-hop games may never have made it this big.

As the game continues to change day by day, these artists have fixed a name for themselves in the culture of the world.

For International Dance Day, Red Bull Dance on the beauty of their art

In a contemporary political moment fraught with violence, artists across mediums are collaborating to uplift their creative communities. The breakdancing world in particular has been gaining traction as a competitive sport on International Dance Day. And largely through the help of Red Bull Dance and breakdancing photography, the day has garnered global recognition for an art form created by and for BIPOC.

Photographers offer their unique skills to frame and capture the fluidity of breaking in a whole new light. The two art forms are naturally compatible, bringing out the dynamism of photo work and the electrifying movement of breaking.

From the streets of the Bronx to the 2024 Paris Olympic games, breaking has evolved in the last few decades. The community values that have remained on International Dance Day, however, have allowed activism to find a natural home in this creative space.

Red Bull Dance

The recent spike in AAPI racism has rocked the diverse group of dancers at Red Bull Dance. Leaders and activists in their own right, Red Bull One dancers have continued their work with a renewed commitment to amplifying social change.

Red Bull BC One Hypest Rounds via Red Bull BC One Youtube

Red Bull BC One dancers are at the forefront of AAPI representation and continue to raise the bar for breakers. This is a curated group of sixteen b-boys and 16 b-girls chosen from thousands of breakers. These dancers will compete to represent at the Red Bull BC One World Final, which takes place in Poland this year.

In advance of International Dance Day, we spoke to breakdancing’s finest about what inspires them, and how breaking can be a vessel for change. 

Logan Edra

This natural starlet has been at the top of the game for almost a decade now – despite being only 17 years old.

breakdancing photography
Logan ‘Logistx’ Edra poses for a portrait in Miami, FL, USA on March 22, 2021 // Red Bull Content Pool

Logan Edra is an international dancer. She first made it into the public eye a few years ago when she appeared on the Ellen Degeneres show. Since then, the young artist has continued to hone her craft and put the platform it gives her towards the good of the community.

A natural-born dancer since she was just 8 years old, Edra is turning her attention towards mindful ways to make use of her platform. 

KH: What inspires you to take your dancing to the next level?

LE: There are many things that inspire me to take my dancing to the next level; and it is always changing as I continue to evolve as a human, artist, and athlete. My main source of inspiration as of recently has been to simply be a voice for the voices that are silenced. There is too much suffering on this planet to not use our art to uplift others.

I find a powerful source of drive in alchemizing the negative energy I’ve had through countless moments of getting life thrown at me in ways that seem unfair and/or the multiple times of “not getting it” despite my hard work. It’s a way for me to release hard feelings and deal with tough emotions in a healthy way.

If I see some of my friends get a new move, take their footwork to the next level, or up their battle tactics, I take it as a reminder to see what I need to work on so that we can all consistently evolve and help the culture/dance evolve.

red bull dance
B-girl Logistx from the USA competes at the World Urban Games in Breaking Category in Budapest Hungary on September 14th, 2019 // Little Shao/Red Bull Content Pool

Breakdancing’s effect on social change

KH: Can breakdancing amplify efforts towards activism and social change?

LE: Breakin in itself is one of the first elements of hip-hop.

Therefore, us being a community of mostly BIPOC who might have chosen this craft due to it’s low demand in expenses and have maybe come from/deal with marginalization in some way, we are already a walking symbol of social change, diversity, inclusion, things of this nature. Can we continue to evolve our ways of amplifying social justice? Yes, and we are.

international dance day
Logan Edra for Ysa Perez // Red Bull Content Pool

KH: How do you stay committed to your craft when you’re faced with obstacles?

LE: One, I take a step back to look at my life as an observer before moving forward. Sometimes obstacles can cause confusion, so in order to find clarity I automatically know that I need to just “oversee” rather than being “in it”.

Two, I power through the obstacle(s) with the motivation to overcome what is trying to hold me down.

Perspective and alchemizing these emotions plus having healthy outlets—such as meditation, breathwork, and other Therapeutic techniques—have all helped me stay committed to my craft when facing obstacles.

Victor Montalvo

red bull dance
Victor Montalvo // Red Bull Content Pool

No one in the game has more championships to their name than Victor Montalvo. Having toured around the world and won multiple solo competitions, Montalvo is the current record holder of most international titles in a year.

He is far from letting his notoriety get the better of his talent though. Thus, the world-renowned dancer is dedicated to the lifestyle, art, and community of breaking. 

KH: What inspires you to take your dancing to the next level?

VM: What inspires me to take my breaking to the next level is just the art of breaking. It’s a never ending cycle of creativity and expression. I want to leave a legacy behind and become on of the best to ever do it! 

breakdancing photography
Victor on the streets of Tokyo // Red Bull Content Pool

KH: Can breakdancing amplify efforts towards activism and social change?

VM: Definitely breaking can help towards social change. Breaking is a melting pot of different cultures, ethnicity’s and people. Hip hop in general is all about peace, love, unity and respect. That’s something we stand for. 

KH: How do you stay committed to your craft when you’re faced with obstacles?

VM: The way I stand committed to my craft is by becoming more open-minded getting inspired by not just breaking but things, places, music, concepts, ideas and implementing them into my breaking. Make it feel more exciting and new. 

Ronnie Abaldonado

international dance day
Ronnie Abaldonado // Red Bull Content Pool

Abaldonado, a Red Bull BC One All-Star and member of multiple top dance crews, was originally an architect major.

Since he made the switch to breaking, Abaldonad has made a name for himself as a record-breaker with power moves. He’s been a member of Full Force, and Super Cr3w, a team that won the second season MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew.

Over the last decade, the dancer has expanded his work to include teaching breakdancing to children of all ages at his art studio, District Arts. 

KH:What inspires you to take your dancing to the next level?

RA: The endless possibilities of creating new moves, and the evolution of dance continuing to reach new heights. 

breakdancing photography
B-girl Sunny competes at the Red Bull BC One B-Girls Cypher USA in Houston, TX on May 18, 2019 // Little Shao/Red Bull Content Pool

KH: Can breakdancing amplify efforts towards activism and social change?

RA: Yes.

Since Breaking is part of the Hip Hop Culture we live by these words “Peace, Love, Unity and having fun.” 

Ronnie Abaldonado
red bull dance
B-Boy Ronnie poses for a portrait in Mumbai, India on April 12, 2019 // Ali Bharmal / Red Bull Content Pool

KH: How do you stay committed to your craft when you’re faced with obstacles? 

RA: Breaking has actually helped me navigate through life’s obstacles. When times were tough, breaking was my remedy. 

Support Red Bull Dance below

Today, on International Dance Day, we can draw strength and inspiration from these artists. Showcasing the beauty of photography and breaking, these dancers are keeping their craft alive.

Support Red Bull Dance and more breakdancing photography here.

How can we ensure equity in the bread rolling in from New York cannabis?

The war on drugs seems, at least in the eyes of Governor Cuomo and other policymakers nationwide, to be approaching its long-awaited resolution. Cannabis opportunities in New York are rolling in, and thus the money is too. But can the Social Equity Fund, part of the legislation passed, right the wrongs of the war on drugs?

Cannabis consumption and recreational sales were legalized in New York this spring, marking a momentous occasion in the long-contested struggle. The announcement then stirred discourse on its highly anticipated economic implications. How could it aid the state of New York and create opportunities for small businesses to flourish?

Money, however, is never that simple, and the legalization necessitates clarity on where exactly revenue would be going.

In response to anxieties that taxable businesses are but another opportunity for power-grabbing from big corporations, Governor Cuomo has proposed a number of initiatives to ensure equitable distribution of returns.

Social Equity Fund for cannabis in New York

Most notable in the legislation signed on April 30th is the Cannabis Social Equity Fund. The fund is for social equity applicants, namely companies owned by people of color or those with past marijuana convictions.

Many in the industry and involved in its policy rejoice in the implications the project has. Not only for the cannabis industry, but for the considerations towards social equity in future policymaking. With analysts estimating $350 million tax revenues in the first year alone, Cuomo also says $100 million will be put towards the Social Equity Fund. 

The numbers suggest that forty percent of tax revenue will be reinvested in communities that have historically been targeted by punitive drug policies. By contrast, corporations should then have a harder time getting around limitations that have been engraved into the bill itself.

Medical cannabis suppliers are not entitled to tax benefits or large-scale vertical integration. This is intended to curb the monopoly that wealthy firms can typically grasp by moving multiple separate production stages under one roof.

The number of operations a single company can oversee is capped at four medical locations, and three recreational ones. Existing centers will pay a fee in order to convert their locations into both medical and recreational centers. The money from which will be put towards the Social Equity fund.

While large companies will be barred from vertical operations, microbusinesses will be permitted to do so. This is with the intention of allowing them to cut costs and grow.

The war on drugs

The Social Equity Fund is meant to “correct past harms by investing in areas that have disproportionately been impacted by the war on drugs.” Or at least that’s what Gov. Cuomo says.

By “past harms,” Cuomo is referencing the racist and classist history of marijuana in the states. 

The lasting economic, ideological, and psychological consequences of marijuana’s heavy criminalization cannot be overlooked in the consideration of this new bill. Initiatives to legalize and ensure equitable allocation of resulting funds arise against a grim backdrop of terror in poor neighborhoods populated by BIPOC.

For me this is a lot more than about raising revenue. It’s about investing in the lives of the people that have been damaged.

Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, the sponsor of the bill in the Assembly, for the New York Times

Over-policing and jailing of BIPOC relied on a rhetorical demonization of weed. It made its consumers out to be “satanic.”

This ideological tool has been used for close to a century still as a weapon against marginalized peoples. To jail and extort unpaid labor from them, to bar them from participating in democracy. And to profit from their arrests or fines or bails.

The turning of a new leaf in NY legislature is a relief. But policy makers acknowledging and working to repair the harms they’ve caused their people is the bare minimum.

Can the fund deliver on social equity promises in New York cannabis?

As aspirational as these programs may sound, experts are already arriving on the scene with words of caution.

While initiatives to curb the upward flow of profit to big corporations seem to have been considered, Marijuana is still considered a Schedule I drug.

This means federal banks are less likely to extend credit to cannabis companies (even if the companies themselves are legal). This is due to fear of entanglement with criminal activity.

What else needs to be done to ensure complete equity?

Other initiatives, like the Economic Empowerment Program of 2016 in Massachusetts. Or New Jersey’s efforts towards retail dispensaries have been largely unsuccessful.

Two years after weed was legalized in Massachusetts, still zero EEP applicants managed to open a recreational retail business. With towns being tasked with their own license granting responsibilities, local governments created a habit of price gouging, so as to turn the most profit on a license. 

In New York, skepticism lies with the Division of Budget. It has not been known in the past to be attentive to the immediate needs of the community. Though the governor talks in sweeping statements about $100 million in the first year, the NYS Division of the Budget says it won’t reach that until at least 2025.

Meanwhile, more than 40,000 Americans are in jail for marijuana-related offenses, many serving a life without parole for petty possession charges. In 2020, 10,000 criminal court summonses for low-level possessions were handed out, 99 percent of which still went to New Yorkers of color. 

That said, the Social Equity Fund is also distinct from its predecessors in other states. As a bill with a contentious past, and a state office famous for empty words, the legislation hopefully reflects a new sense of awareness. While we wait for results on the economic turnout, it’s now safe to spark a celebratory blunt for this victory.