Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature’s law is wrong
It learned to walk without having feet.
Those are the opening lines to “The Rose that Grew From Concrete,” a poem by the late legendary hip-hop artist and activist Tupac Shakur. The poem, which was featured in a song on an album bearing the same name, serves as a metaphor for overcoming adversity and having hope. That you are somebody no matter where you came from.
For local community activist and teacher Anthony Clark, the poem embodies his views on mental health, ultimately paving the path for a new business venture with one village trustee and one coffee shop owner. Clark, Oak Park Village Trustee Chibuike Enyia and Brewpoints Craft founder Melissa Villanueva recently launched Concrete Rose Organics, which offers a small line of CBD products including supplements and tinctures and holds a mission to uplift community and raise awareness for mental health.
“When we talk about mental health, when we talk about physical health – just healthcare overall – there’s a lot of stigma particularly in underserved communities, Black and Brown communities, and we all struggle. So many of us struggle silently,” Clark said. “I think it’s important to put out there that we still have the ability to grow.”
That perspective also comes from a personal place for Clark, Enyia and Villanueva. The three, who previously worked together on various community efforts and projects, have their own stories about their mental health and wellness journey, part of which introduced them to CBD and opened the door to explore as a consumer and later as entrepreneurs in the booming industry. CBD, or cannabidiol, is an active ingredient in cannabis and doesn’t cause a “high” unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), a psychoactive compound in cannabis, according to Harvard Health Publishing. CBD is often sold as an extract, a vaporized liquid or oil-based capsules and is known to help alleviate anxiety, insomnia or chronic pain.
Clark, an Air Force veteran, told Wednesday Journal he struggled to recover after he was wounded in a shooting in 2007 and honorably discharged from the military. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and Behcet’s disease, an inflammatory disorder that, among many things, causes skin and joint pain. Clark said he started self-medicating, drinking to ease his physical ailments, but reached a breaking point where he needed something more viable.
Clark, who paused his use of cannabis because he was in the military, said he searched for another alternative and later stumbled on CBD. He remembered buying his first product at a gas station in Washington, which was where he was living at the time. “I didn’t know what quality organic was, just that started my journey.”
“I’m a huge proponent of CBD based upon its mental and physical impact that it’s had on me. I’m in such a better place than I was in 2007. I’m a functioning member of society. I’m able to give back to society, and I attribute CBD, along with therapy, as being hefty factors in that,” Clark said.
Villanueva, however, began learning about the benefits of CBD during the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many business owners, Villanueva was stressed and overwhelmed by the uncertainty of the pandemic and its impact on her, her employees and customers.
“Running a business and being responsible for 40 individuals and trying to figure out people’s livelihoods …” she said, her voice wavering, recalling one worry after another. She added she decided to try CBD as a way to unwind and picked up a product from a small shop while on a weekend getaway.
As for Enyia, he said he learned about CBD’s benefits after adopting a rescue dog. Enyia said he adopted a dog from a shelter his neighbor operates. The dog, he described, was “anxious, jittery, hyper” and just starting to adjust to the Enyia’s home and living outside the shelter. Enyia said his neighbor recommended he give small doses of pet-friendly CBD to his dog to help him settle and taper the doses as he grows comfortable and accustomed.
“That’s what we did,” he said, adding he saw his dog mellow out and become less nervous.
The three used their experiences as a way to build their business model, one that is meant to be intimate, warm and inviting. Customers who use the webstore will be greeted with a soft rose-colored page and a row of tabs that breaks down CBD, products and the business’ mission. The idea here is to make customers feel comfortable, Villanueva said, recalling her own feelings when she first visited a brick-and-mortar store where she found and purchased her first CBD product. On the site, customers can take a quiz to bring attention to their needs and see what products best suit them and their lifestyles.
“I know that everyone has a different use, so it might not even be for a person. It can be for your pet. … I think for everything, there’s going to be a different type of balance,” Enyia said.
Beyond that, they said Concrete Rose Organics is about giving back to the community and bringing more representation into a budding industry that has criminalized and stigmatized Black and Brown people.
A 2017 survey from Marijuana Daily Business revealed that 81% of marijuana business owners were white, while roughly 6% were Hispanic; about 4% were Black and almost 2% were Asian. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, Black people are roughly 4 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana. Since cannabis has become legal, people of color have voiced concerns over access into the industry and setting up shop, as application fees and licensing are more available to those who are wealthier or have financial backing.
“It is really infuriating the lack of true representation for the Black and Brown community,” said Villanueva, who is a Filipina American, about the makeup of the cannabis industry, and whose business partners are both Black.
“Representation is just one of those things that matters on so many levels, not just in politics, not just in local leadership, but I think it matters, especially when you think about business and growth and development,” Enyia said.
Circling back to Shakur’s poem, Clark, Enyia and Villanueva talked about their pledge to donate and support different organizations. Ten percent of Concrete Rose Organics’ profits will be put toward partnering groups and raising awareness for the needs of youth, veterans and survivors of abuse.
“We still have the ability to bloom,” Clark said. “That’s why we chose Concrete Rose. No matter what the individuals are going through, we want to help them still find that bloom and still feel beautiful and still feel like they belong.”
Concrete Rose Organics
For more information on Concrete Rose Organics, visit www.concreteroseorganics.com.