Correction: A previous version of this story misstated how many founders there are of Black Girls Smoke. The story has been updated.
BROOKLYN, N.Y. (PIX11) — There was food, drinks, and music playing at Prospect Park on Thursday, and people were lying in the grass and relaxing.
However, this wasn’t just any event or barbecue; it wasn’t even a picnic. It was Puff in the Park, an event where people of color and their allies could come together and smoke cannabis on 4/20, the unofficial international holiday for pot smokers.
“When I originally started this three years ago it was one blanket, 12 people and maybe a couple joints,” said Vic Styles, a New Yorker who hails from Los Angeles.
Styles is the sole founder of Black Girls Smoke, an organization that creates a safe space for Black women to consume, discuss, and connect through cannabis. Allies are also welcome to be part of that conversation.
“In L.A., there is such a big cannabis culture where people connect. You walk into these gorgeous dispensaries and there is such a community. I noticed there was a lack of that here in New York so I wanted to cater to that market,” Styles said.
She said she also realized cannabis was still highly stigmatized in the Northeast, especially after the first time she purchased weed. Her bud came in a crumpled plastic bag, which was dropped off by someone who pulled up and then took off. She was baffled.
But Puff in the Park was much more than just a festival. With good vibes, cannabis aroma in the air, and curated R&B and Hip-Hop music blasted by select DJs, it was also a movement to inspire change because smoking marijuana in parks is still illegal in New York.
“Today was also a peaceful protest,” said Amanda Greenidge, a staff writer with the organization. “In New York, you can buy cannabis, carry it with you, and smoke it, but it’s illegal to smoke in a park where there is fresh air and open space.”
Thursday’s event was a way to say cannabis culture is here, people of color are here, and this is a peaceful culture, Greenidge added. Black Girls Smoke also promoted an online petition to urge the state to designate areas in public parks where people can smoke.
The event also featured guest speakers like Chi Ossé, the council member for New York City’s 36th District, representing Bedford-Stuyvesant and North Crown Heights, as well as Arana Hankin- Biggers, the store president of Union Square Travel Agency, one of Manhattan’s new legal marijuana dispensaries.