Growing up in Newark, often it’s about which hobby or which extracurricular is going to save you.
When I say “save you,” I mean keep you distracted from all of the outside world that could harm a young person. Early on, the thing that grabbed me was poetry. I got the opportunity to be raised in the hood as a performing arts kid. My life was about memorizing and performing poetry, and debating, particularly against white performers and writers. That is a strong memory that I have from elementary to high school—always being involved in oratory competitions, and enjoying winning them.
Growing up in Newark, often it’s about which hobby or which extracurricular is going to save you.
The first poem I was ever asked to memorize was “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou. But I gravitated towards energies and literature and writing that sound rather militant. One of the first pieces that I ever wrote was about burning the American flag. So even though people wanted me to listen to or recite or be like Maya Angelou, I gravitated more to, like, Tupac, or other people like him. The things I wrote were very, very militant. My family was concerned about it. They were like, “She’s writing and we love that she is writing, and she’s engaged in these things, but we are unsure about how we should feel about it.”
I don’t think my family started honoring my career as a poet until I created Black Girl, Call Home. Because they didn’t truly understand. They were like, “Well, you’re a poet, but you’re not Maya Angelou. So don’t you think you should get a job?” That’s literally like what it is. You’re either a broke poet or you shouldn’t be one or you’re Maya Angelou. They were just like, “You should probably figure your life out.” But I stopped trying to get them to understand, and focused more on just becoming. It wasn’t until maybe the last three or four months that they were like, “Huh, you really do got a book coming out. Oh, okay. You really are all right. All right.”
Sometimes your parents just exist in a smaller world than you do. Like my mother doesn’t have an Instagram or anything like that. So saying, “Mom, I have a book deal,” and then being able to help your family in a way that you weren’t able to before, I think that they do see the shift. I’m supportive in a different way. But then they saw Amanda Gorman and they were like, “But you’re not her.” My mother probably won’t think I’m truly successful until I sit down with Oprah.
My mother probably won’t think I’m truly successful until I sit down with Oprah.
I wrote Black Girl, Call Home as a poem and put it on Instagram. It was just one line. It was years ago but I knew it was something to come back to. I didn’t know how I was going to come back to it, but I was like, Doesn’t it feel like something? Doesn’t it feel warm? Doesn’t it feel inviting? Doesn’t it feel emotional? Doesn’t it have gravity? That’s what I wanted.
When I was asked about a title for the collection, I immediately knew it was Black Girl, Call Home. There was no question about it. Usually when you’re meeting with publishers, they may change the cover or the title. That’s always up to be changed. And you have to look like you are okay with that. But when we presented Black Girl, Call Home, no one ever questioned it. It made me feel special as a creative—we don’t all get the opportunity to get what we want. I’m so grateful and happy that they saw my vision.
We don’t view art as a trade in this country. We don’t even teach it as a trade. We imply that there has to be something incredibly special or that it’s this 1% thing. But I’ve been blessed to have the opportunity to engage in poetry as a trade where I not only write poetry, but I perform poetry, I teach poetry, I direct poetry, and I create voiceovers. I get to engage in the craft and break it down into bits and pieces. But that’s a whole different part of poetry that so many people don’t get to experience.
We’ve seen how poetry has shifted so many cultures, but sometimes the commercial world forgets to value us.
A friend of mine, Rudy Francisco, was the first poet on Jimmy Kimmel maybe two years ago. The poetry community is at home cheering each other on and waiting for these moments because each step forward is an opportunity for people to honor poetry. When we see Amanda Gorman at the inauguration and then later at the Super Bowl, it’s like, let this be the moment where people start honoring the story of the Black woman, honoring Black girls.
We’ve seen how poetry has shifted so many cultures, but sometimes the commercial world forgets to value us. And then we have these moments where now everybody is reminded and I love it. And so when Beyoncé puts poetry in her albums—like Lemonade—that’s for the culture. The same for when you see something receive a million likes on Instagram, and it’s just one line. These things are moving the message and the storytelling forward. I’ll always support it.
My mentor in high school built this funnel relationship that allowed creative artists to go from New York City to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to engage the fine arts. At the time, I was one of the first students to pilot the program. In turn, I got to go to the University of Wisconsin-Madison on a five-year scholarship that allowed me to engage in poetry while studying whatever I wanted. If it wasn’t for that program, I wouldn’t have gone to college. I stayed there for five years.
I knew I eventually needed to leave Madison. I’d been living around all these white folks and it was cold as hell, so I was ready to go home. When I got back, I wanted to be an artist and also a businesswoman. I began to think, What could I do, what communities could I belong in? And the Newark art community is and has always been so amazing and robust. I was welcomed by the community to create and build and curate. Newark is a big part of how I have been allowed to both sustain my career and be creative.
When I graduated, I started touring as an artist. In order for that to be sustainable, I knew you had to have merchandise. One of the key variables was to create something that was both affordable and thoughtfully “Jasmine.” I didn’t have much money at the time, so I was trying to spend no more than like, $500. Everything I created had to be black and white because I didn’t have enough money to do anything more complex than that.
One time I was playing around with designs and I came up with the idea, “Buy Weed From Women.” At the time, the closest I was to the cannabis industry was just, like, buying weed from my homies. It wasn’t like I had plans on working in the cannabis industry. But one thing that creating poetry merchandise taught me was that you only have a few characters to create a finite message and it has to be strong because you only have a second. That’s what we’ve been doing on Instagram for maybe the last six years now with poetry. And that’s why poetry is having this resurgence.
What makes “Buy Weed From Women” so beautiful is the words; the brand is the words.
On social platforms you see these one-liners that are poems, thick and heavy. They hit you straight in the chest, and people see them within seconds. They move around the world because of how relatable and how much depth they have. I was realizing the same thing applied to people buying my products and merchandise: They’re buying it because they’re not going to find this message anywhere else. What message are you giving them? It’s on a cup, so you can’t give them the Constitution. You have to give them something that holds the weight, and makes them fall in love. That’s what I was learning by creating poems on Instagram and creating pieces of merchandise.
What makes “Buy Weed From Women” so beautiful is the words; the brand is the words. It’s four letters. It’s sharp. But I found it very, very unique and rather brilliant, that these simple words can come together and represent an industry because of how it falls off the tongue. It’s the words, it’s the simplicity, it’s the quickness of the lettering. I think that that’s something that I learned poetically over these last years, where you’ve seen poetry evolve from this long form and become shorter and shorter and more accessible on different platforms. “Buy Weed From Women” was a gem that stumbled out of all of that.
All these leaders in the cannabis industry started responding to me because I just put some words together. I had this moment where I was just like, If I stop focusing as much on designing products and merchandise for Jasmine Mans, and instead focused on Buy Weed From Women, what could that become? The industry was responding faster than I was, essentially, because I’m just a poet putting my art on product and not truly a designer.
[Smoking] is not necessarily a creative thing, but it’s definitely a part of how I function.
Now I’m trying to sharpen myself up and straighten my tie and learn as much as I can to engage in the industry and to know where my brilliance lies. I have the beautiful opportunity to study the cannabis industry through product, design, and mantras like “Buy Weed From Women.” It’s a slow and steady process, of course. It’s something that I’m still learning, and it’s so much fun. I think I have two really, really fun jobs to engage with every day.
It’s funny, when I got to college, I was the girl who was like, “I will absolutely not smoke weed with you in the dorms.” But then I started with my roommates and some of my friends. Then it became a way of coping with my anxiety around my art and poetry. One of my first poems was almost like a public coming out, and it was like, If they hear that poem they’ll know you like women. This created a wealth of anxiety, which made me smoke even more. It’s not necessarily a creative thing, but it’s definitely a part of how I function. I can maintain my creativity, but I’m not like, Oh my gosh, I got high and did something magical. I wish, though. I definitely wish.
It wasn’t until a few years ago that I really started engaging with cannabis as an industry. The cannabis industry is polarized, specifically by white men. There are so many people who just get to buy into the industry because they have money. Those people are deeply disconnected from the people who have been arrested and incarcerated for weed.
Even with Buy Weed From Women, I still don’t have enough money to afford my way through the industry. Women have to work extra hard to be able to participate and compete with men. But there is a sisterhood in the industry, and these women are giving back. Women like Gia Morón, the CEO of Women Grow, which is focused not only on just women, but women of color. They’re teaching each other, and they’re not trying to run a monopoly. They are trying to become wealthy business women. And then they are trying to teach all that they know. These are the women who have integrity, who are standing outside the gates of the industry who are like, “Yeah, we can work together, and here are our intentions.”
People are becoming very transparent, and people are asking for transparency. Buy Weed From Women is the mantra that represents this. I’m trying to build this company up in a way that shows that level of integrity, that level of charity, and that sisterhood.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. Jasmine Mans photographed by Meghan Marin at her home in Brooklyn. If you like this Conversation, please feel free to share it with friends or enemies. Subscribe to our newsletter here.