Master of her own Destiny

by Talia Rodriguez

You can’t underestimate the power of self-motivation. Often, I think about my grandmother. In the moments before she decided to board the bus to March on Washington with Martin Luther King jr, – what motivated her? I am often asked what motivated me? I close my eyes and sometimes I hear them laughing around me (even the adults laughed at me when I told them I wanted to be a lawyer). The most operative question is not really what motivates me today? Concisely speaking “I have no choice.” where I come from, we’re still fighting. We are still fighting for representation for visibility for acknowledgement (and our Evelyn Zapata is leading the fight). Talking motivation talk to 8-year-old me- nothing to play with. I had it rough – old school “your moms white you don’t belong to us- rough”, “Go back to your country” – rough, “sweetheart it doesn’t matter you can read in Spanish rough”.

8-year-old me didn’t know how to read. I didn’t know I was dyslexic back then, the school was racist, the children around me hated me, and they told me every day. My family was working overtime, like Evelyn’s mom did. I didn’t even have new clothes cus my parents were working their blue-collar asses off to send me to keep me in the racist school system. I remember walking to school in the pants I got from Amvets on elmwood thinking- I’m going to succeed. Looking back, I was worn out – at least for a kid, hyper vigilante, code switching, culture shifting, jumping from one area where if you looked rich you were a target to the next area where if you looked poor you were called last for everything.

That girl- I want to hug her so bad. The rough little thing I was, maybe about 70 lbs and all swinging at life with my softball bat.

I call her forward when I need to be brace. Brave like Evelyn Zapata, who is one of the bravest civil rights advocates I know. Civil rights are defined the rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality. Thus, our right to equitably participate in the repeal of marijuana prohibition, predominately expressed in our rights relative to administrative law, but also in shaping of general social public opinion.

I think its likely 8 years old Evelyn was taking any shit either- a Manhattan girl with a bright mind and a fast tongue. The sound of a self-motivated person’s voice sounds different, and when I heard Evelyn’s voice I knew. She was the master of her own destiny. She started one of the most valuable platforms IG has ever seen “the New York Cannabis Times” with 20k plus followers- her role? Lead us, share information with us, decipher the world of cannabis and cannabis regulation for us, represent us to the outside world of cannabis “us”- the Latino community oh and publicly appear and advocate in person.

Evelyn’s greatest inspiration was her mother, she worked hard to provide for her as a factory worker and that impacted her view on economics. Evelyn knows one thing, the women, the Latinas, we will be growing the cannabis, we will be cutting it, doing the hard labor, and we need a fair turn at the mic, when they call for voices and we won’t get one. That’s an economic fact. But it’s A LOT harder to ignore the opinions of our Latina advocates who, like Evelyn, are fighting for all the Latinas, who were disproportionately impacted by the prohibition of cannabis, predominately by holding our government leaders accountable.

Evelyn is like my grandmother, she’s like every other civil rights activist who personally knows the socio-emotional- and cultural impact mass incarceration has had on our people as the result of cannabis prohibition. And at every turn of the page of the 240 plus regulation, she will be reminding them. And for that reason, I personally, law degree, and all, have more hope. Take the time to follow Evelyn and COMMENT on the regulation, we only have 60 days (Evelyn told me).

Next read Evelyn’s full interview, follow her brand, learn from this Latina civil rights advocate and support her efforts.

Where were you born? – I was born in the United States. I am of Dominican Descent, my mother was naturalized and my stepdad as well.

What was your experience like as a student? – My experience was, as a student, difficult. I was an A student but I have ASD- borderline between ADD – Like 3% Autistic. I had to read things like three times to understand them.

When did you decide you wanted to start a business? – I been decided I wanted to start a business since I was a little girl. My grandmother owned a supermarket in DR so we were inclined to business. My mother had her cosmetology license and she would work in salons and she had her clientele so she would go house to house. But her first job was basically working in a factory out of Brooklyn, my first job was working at one of my moms factories out of Brooklyn for the summer, my second job was working also in a factory for the following summer. The second one was on Ohio st, near 207 and Nagael, there was a factory there. Again, I was born in 1970 here in Manhattan. I always worked a day job and had a second job.

What was your favorite job? – I worked all over Manhattan Hospital, riverside cab service, paratransit, black car services, I was a legal secretary but my favorite job was selling weed. From the age of 19 to the age of 37 I supported the weed industry in the heights. We were at risk of becoming homeless. My mom was always the drive behind my business whether she liked it or not.

What is your theory on human potential? – My theory on human potential is basically if you can see it you- you can have it, if you believe it you can have it, if you think it thoroughly you can have it. I learned that from the thugs on the corner, they helped me keep invisible, and I was not arrested, only for smoking weed in front of my mom’s building. When the creator knows what’s in your heart you will be protected- no matter what you think you are doing wrong. Because he knows what’s in your heart. I didn’t look at weed like drugs so I never got arrested for it.

Why did you start your business? – I started the NY Cannabis Times in 2001 it was a “DBA” it was supposed to be a website about the cannabis movement in the heights. It was under the core name of the G Times, then I reincorporated as “the New York Cannabis Times” and I been online since.

What are your future plans? – It should be a bi-weekly circular going through newsstands in a couple weeks and it should also be a monthly or quarterly magazine.

What do you do on hard days? – Well my mom died, my dad died in August of 2021 and my mom died in May. I just try to keep my mind busy, they have all been bad days since my mom died but again I keep my mind busy.

How do you define a business person? – A businessperson should know the fine line between friendship and business, should know the fine line between personal and business, should know the fine line between what is counterproductive when it comes to business.

Photo of marijuana-leaves by Alesia Kozik and photo of kush-in hands by Alexander Grey.

Talia Rodriguez is a bi-racial, bi-cultural, and bi-lingual Latina from Buffalo. Ms. Rodriguez’s mission is to write about Latina’s, who have shaped the face of our city and our region. It is Ms. Rodriguez’s believes that our own people should inspire us and in telling our collective stories, we push our community forward. Ms. Rodriguez is a community advocate and organizer. She is a 5th generation West Sider, a graduate of SUNY Buffalo Law School, and an avid baseball fan. She lives on the West Side with her young son A.J… Ms. Rodriguez sits on the board of several organizations including the Belle Center, where she attended daycare. Ms. Rodriguez loves art, music, food, and her neighbors.


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