Meet Solonje Burnett – a cannavist, people advocate, co-founder of Humble Bloom and a Plant Person we love.
Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Solonje Burnett, and I’m Co-Founder and Cannavist at Humble Bloom. I’m a first gen Caribbean American. My family is from all over the islands. Mother hails from Grenada, father is from Dominica, and other relatives are in or from the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, and Trinidad. I was born in Boston and grew up in Newton Massachusetts. Attended undergrad and grad school in the area – Wellesley College and Emerson College.
From captaining sports teams, to coaching little ones, performing music ranging from classical to jazz, diversifying and integrating nightlife, working in non-profit, pushing for progress through politics… I’ve always been a culture curator, community builder, creative and people advocate. After a decade in New York dabbling in independent music management, performance, private member club booking, special event production, fundraising, and diversity and inclusion consulting, I switched gears. Almost two years ago I jumped into the cannabis space and co-founded Humble Bloom with Danniel. It’s been incredible because I can be an activist, public speaker, therapist, listener, connector, producer, creative, entrepreneur and so much more.
What is Humble Bloom?
Humble Bloom creates immersive purpose-driven experiences rooted in education and advocacy that connect people to brands, thought leaders, themselves, and each other. The experiences range in scope from brand launches, retreats, field trips, private dinners, affinity group sessions, pop-ups and more that cross pollinate cannabis, wellness, art, entertainment and activism. We have curatorial residencies at the William Vale in Williamsburg and the Assemblage NoMad in Manhattan (book a tour + enter the code BLOOMING). These spaces have made it possible for us to provide education in environments that are conducive for listening, learning, sharing, and ultimately allyship.
We make sure that our events are accessible to all by providing comp tickets through our equity fund as well as generally low cost admission. We partner with diverse brands and media to ensure our message doesn’t stay within our immediate community. Additionally, we go outside of the cannabis echo chamber and collaborate with companies aligned with our values who can further amplify and normalize our work. Representation matters for diverse groups to feel included. We make sure our experts look like the population we aim to serve.
How did Humble Bloom get started? And more importantly, why are organizations like this so important?
Humble Bloom became an idea shortly after the startup I was in (Live Grey) came to an end. We worked to humanize the workplace. I led their D+I initiatives and executive produced the Life@Work conference series. I began doing consulting in diversity and inclusion as well as event production to make ends meet while I searched for my next dream gig. Not wanting to go back to the traditional workplace after being in such an alternative and flexible environment at Live Grey, I focused on other startup opportunities. In conversations with friends, we started a bit of R&D to create a cannabis product but quickly got to the essence of what is needed in this as well as in broader society – making space to spark real connection amongst intersectional communities through educational bonding experiences. This is important because the industry is steeped in a history of racism, segregation, classism, economic inequity, and general misinformation for grossly selfish capitalist purposes. We are breaking down emotional and intellectual barriers to reach people where they are at and help them deepen their connection to the plant.
What is your current experience with cannabis and how has it evolved or changed over time?
Currently I use cannabis in a variety of ways but my usage has evolved over the years. It began covertly. In my catholic immigrant household cannabis was a drug. The vibe was definitely no-go. Cannabis was a drug that caged Black and Brown people without reservation. That coupled with the pervasive cultural propaganda created an environment of fear. Additionally I was a tri-season captain (soccer, basketball, and outdoor track) in high school which led to recruiting and college athletics. The idea of testing positive for drug use and embarrassing my family remained in the forefront. It wasn’t until I was injured my junior year and took cannabis for pain relief did I start to understand the benefits. I went from smoking occasionally in college, to nightly with my boyfriend, and eventually as a way to deal with anxiety, interact with groups, and dissipate daily micro-aggressions on the regular.
Today my usage spans everything from daily beauty rituals with CBD face wash, serum, and oil to lessening menstrual cramps using transdermal patches. I smoke a bit in the morning before I meditate as well as to unwind alone or with friends in the evening. I adore my intimacy oils for vaginal health and happiness. Also take drops to balance in a variety of situations.
What do you want people to know about the cannabis industry?
Don’t believe the hype. Entering this industry isn’t easy and you won’t be a millionaire overnight. Unless you’ve got the privilege of access to capital. Working in cannabis is fast paced. The industry is in its infancy and isn’t federally legal. You’re in a dynamic uncertain landscape that’s constantly in flux. If you like excitement and challenges then this is the path for you. At the same time, there is opportunity to get in on the ground floor and influence the industry in real time. Together we can craft an industry that shifts and dissolves prohibitive social constructs. We can bake social equity, fairness, inclusion, responsibility, regeneration and sustainability into the industry’s core. The conversations on using taxes to repair and restore communities most devastated by the war on people of color (aka the racist war on drugs) touches everything from expungement, to reparations and reinvestment, to no string grants, education and workforce training. Through cannabis we can advocate for the world we want to see.
What has been the biggest hurdle you have ever had to face personally or professionally?
There have been so many personal and professional, emotional and physical impediments. Hard to identify just one. But I think not having a relationship with my biological father has been one of toughest because it seeps into other gendered exchanges. The power held by men is immense. As a Black woman, their control is increased exponentially. This is the year I’m dealing with both ancestral and personal trauma to grow purposefully in that area.
What does ‘taking care of you’ look like?
Taking care of me is about bringing joy into my everyday life. That could be splurging on treatments like acupuncture, a facial, or getting my hair and nails done. Cooking at home both connects me to my heritage and forces me to slow down. Disconnecting from work demands so ignoring emails, social media, and calls for a whole day. Getting out of New York and it’s intensity. Singing with the Resistance Revival Chorus brings healing community based energy. It also means getting enough sleep, making wellness like meditation a consistent daily practice, and forgiving myself.
What do you do to improve your mentality and help with stress reduction?
To reduce stress, I go for a walk, engage in physical or emotional intimacy, smoke, dance, meditate, read and remember to breathe. There are so many ways to get back into the flow and achieve homeostasis. I also remind myself to keep on blooming. In my opinion, we all must grow and evolve to stay mentally fit. I keep my brain elastic by doing and learning new things, staying involved and active in politics, and being curious.
Talk about the importance of food in relation to your health.
What you put in your body is of the utmost importance. I’m a label reader and that includes food stuffs. I try to eat whole foods and stay away from processed items. If the product has ingredients I can’t pronounce, I won’t buy it. I listen to my body and what it needs. I might go hard from time to time on my sugar, cheese and carb intake with the understanding that all things in excess aren’t good. Additionally, I care how my food gets to me. I use a sustainable grocery solution called The Wally Shop. Delivered package free to your door on bikes with reusable containers, I feel great because the products are local, organic, and zero waste.
Give us your #1 tip on personal/mental health.
I’m a giver to a fault. Even if I’m shown imbalance or opportunism I tend to push forward and lead with love which can really take a toll on your emotional, mental, and spiritual health. My advice: Stop putting energy, time and love into people who don’t reciprocate or reflect it back. You only have so much time and bandwidth. I finally understand and pay attention to that which depletes breaking unhealthy patterns. Shifting or reallocating my light to those who are deserving, those who show up and making space for new is in alignment with my inclusive values and growth mindset. These reassessments demonstrate a self love that is necessary for those who habitually put others first.