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Nina Parks is the CEO of Mirage Medicinal, a California state-certified medicinal cannabis cooperative that delivers anywhere within San Francisco city limits. Nina is not only a businesswoman in the cannabis industry, she is also an artist, poet, community organizer and activist. Parks is also one of the co-founders of Supernova Women, a San Francisco Bay Area group joining with California NAACP to call for a creation of a system of regulation of cannabis enterprises in California that improves communities of color and makes amends for the failed war on drugs and its impact on families. Supernova’s first event ‘Shades of Green’ takes place on Tuesday, January 26 at SoleSpace at 1714 Telegraph Ave in Oakland, CA. It is sponsored by Mirage Medicinal (San Francisco) and also Magnolia Wellness (Oakland).
Nina Parks is the kind mentor that we at Ladybud Magazine admire because she strives to deliver quality cannabis to patients in need while also making the world a more aware and culturally-stimulating place. We are honored to feature her in Ladybud Magazine’s Lady Business section.
Nina, you’re in the cannabis delivery business in the Bay area. Can you tell Ladybud readers about how you came to be involved with the industry?
My brother and I were entrepreneurial together as children. We would set up a candy stand weekends and after school on 23rd and Mission Street in San Francisco. He was 8 and I was 6. It was a Sesame Street table with the Oscar the Grouch legs and we would sell a bunch of different candies we bought wholesale like Sour Belts and Now & Laters.
I was introduced to cannabis as an alternative medicine when I was very young, I had friends whose parents were war veterans and chose marijuana as a way to self medicate versus drinking or taking opiates. I also witnessed close family members benefit greatly from cannabis products from flowers to topicals both during and after their cancer treatments as well as subduing the side effects of AIDS and HIV treatments. That was the Bay in the 90’s. In our teens, my brother smoked a helluva lot of weed and I got sent off to a drug purification program and boarding school in New Mexico.
In our 20’s, my brother was a caregiver to members of our family who were fighting life-threatening colon cancer and Crohn’s disease. During that time, I was working as a case manager and community advocate for youth primarily around the problems we have with police and community accountability and sensitivity. Thank goodness my uncle’s cancers are now in remission. The sum of these experiences made a few things very clear:
- People want natural options that will enhance their quality of life and aid in alleviating physical, mental or emotional suffering.
- Marijuana is a magnificent gift from above.
- People need safe access to it.
In 2005, my brother D.$ Malcolm Mirage and I all went to Amsterdam together, before that trip I hadn’t smoked weed since I was 16 years old, but when I walked into my first coffee shop, I fell in love with cannabis culture in a whole other way. Rasta Baby was the name of the cafe and I chose my strain off of the shelf (Champagne), ordered a coconut-flavored tea and we took a seat in an atrium and rolled a joint and sipped tea. It was crazy to me that papers and crutches (filters) were on the table like salt and pepper shakers. That really flipped my perspective. I thought, what a wonderful model of business and consumer management Amsterdam had. I wanted The Bay to know such an experience, so here we are — and my brother and I are still working on building our dream establishment.
When my brother built the foundation for Mirage Medicinal a few years ago, we joined forces but then he was sent to jail at Rikers Island for a year for marijuana possession in NYC. I took over our dream of Mirage Medicinal in the Bay Area, so that our family wouldn’t be so affected by the Prison Industrial Complex, and I can’t deny Cannabis and all its terpenes bring me a lot of joy.
How many employees do you have and what are their jobs?
We keep a really tight organization and we don’t have any employees. We are a startup and there is a lot of “love currency.” Aside from our board, we have a core team made up of 6 individuals, a buyer/merchandiser, delivery, graphic designer, web developer, patient relations and outreach. If you add our squad of consultants, that would make about 12 individuals all together that are making this collective run.
What are your customer favorites? What’s hot in the Bay at the moment?
We always source based on quality and not necessarily through trend but right now our most popular strains overall is Lamb’s Bread and currently Congolese Red. Sativas and sativa hybrids are doing really well for us.
And what’s hot in The Bay? Mirage Medicinal delivery service — but really, right now, we get a lot of calls asking when Yoda Grows is sending another batch of his Pink Champagne.
You were a case manager prior to going into the cannabis industry; how did you get into that and why did you decide to move on from that job?
As a youth, I never just went with the school flow. I asked a lot of questions, and I was rebellious but not a bad person. A small handful of adults saw me for who I really am and helped give me real life skills to navigate a social construct that wasn’t designed for me. At 16, I made a conscious decision to be the kind of adult that didn’t judge harshly and that would help provide skills for young brown, black and urban born youth to navigate a system and community riddled with oppression and violence towards them, and empower them to change it.
I got into case management when I was facilitating a girl’s group called G.T.H.I.N.G (Girls, Thinking, Healing & Innovating New Growth) & social justice-based after school program called Movements in the Excelsior, one of the last working class communities in San Francisco. The need for young people to have a non-judgmental ear as they meet the world as well as someone who believes in their integrity and is invested in helping them develop character is something any adult should be to the next generation. Resilience and compassion and creativity should be cultivated not oppressed. After 5 years of begging for grants and working on changing public policy of how police and the community need to evolve for the health and safety of our people, I got burned out. I felt like there had to be a better way to get money to be able to fund my life purpose.
You are a woman of many talents! You create and perform poetry, engage in community organizing, photography, and modeling on top of running a business in a pretty competitive market — how do you manage it all?
Manage it all? I don’t know if I manage it all. I try to carry myself with as much grace as possible, but from time to time I have my mini melt downs — mostly when I don’t get enough sleep or am about to get my period.
I create because my soul needs it, the modeling has the same purpose that Frida Kahlo painted pictures of herself. My friend, Bousa, and I have our own creative project called “Invisible Hands” and it focuses on true life application of art therapy and we are part of a collective called Diosa Tribe. Together we support each other’s creative visions and empower each other to fulfill our personal legends, which I need. This industry is not only financially cutthroat it’s also white, male-dominated, and I need every ounce of love and support and creativity to keep building our Mirage Medicinal dream.
San Francisco is your home — how has the city changed in the last 15 years in good ways and in not such desirable ways?
GENTRIFICATION. Let’s talk about it. It’s upsetting that the city has no regard for anything but money. It’s very unfortunate that power structures of urban epicenters are based on greed and curating $1 million condos and $4,000 a month rent on studio apartments instead of knowing the history of oppression of its communities and creating infrastructure that will allow its people to live and thrive. Instead of investing time and financial resources into building a world-class Educational program for the new generations of San Franciscans, the city has been more concerned with giving large tech companies tax breaks and moving them downtown. Sometimes I fear that it will become like “District 1” in Hunger Games — overindulgent and oblivious. I worry about the heart and soul of my city. Most of my community is made up of educators, artists, small business owners, chefs and growers; individuals that really help lay foundation of culture.
In 2015, San Francisco decided to fund $35 million dollars to add more police to specifically the Bayview and Visitation Valley to protect “the new communities.” The Bayview and Visitation valley are primarily poor, black/brown and Pacific Islander communities. Many individuals have fought to heal and grow these communities, they have already been building. Now these people who have been historically oppressed are once again being overlooked and run out in order to build “upward.” The community called for investment in accountability for officer misconduct before hiring new officers as we are not opposed to public safety, but we are opposed to funding injustice.
At the end of 2015, a miracle occurred, after a consistent turn out of community activism against an unjust police interactions and investment in the Prison Industrial Complex, as well as very loud public calls for justice for Police involved shootings of Alex Nieto, Amilcar Lopez and most recently Mario Woods. San Francisco board of supervisors announced that they would not be approving the build out of a stand alone jail in which $215 million dollars was being allocated. Instead, they will be researching more investment in diversion programs that seem to have helped to reduce our youth jail population.
So, how has San Francisco changed for the good? I have the opportunity to create Mirage Medicinal. Let’s just pray that I have what it takes to make my family’s dream successful. Longevity is the name of the game and it’s a tough game; it’s about survival and being the individual to help create the loving and peaceful communities we wish to see.
As an activist, you’ve been involved with the Community Policing General Order — for those who don’t know what that is, can you explain it and why it is so important?
San Francisco’s Community Policing General Order (DGO.1.08) is an addition the the rest of SFPD’s Department General Orders that are there in order to help guide police conduct and for the community to know how to hold law enforcement accountable when the community feels there is misconduct.
It is an important general order because if it is implemented it will change the way that the police are structured and would completely alter the standard of education, training and interaction. Implementation of policy is a slow process, there are even some new police commissioners that were unaware of it’s existence, so I can only imagine how many other people are oblivious that it’s something we’re working toward. In order for community policing to work, there needs to be a foundation of mutual respect and understanding. We are far away from that. In my time at Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center I dedicated myself to creating collaborative youth summits engaging police, youth and policy makers in dialogue and activities to try to stimulate growth and respect.
On March 21, 2014, Alex Nieto, 28 years old, was killed when he was struck by 15 bullets of the total 59 shots fired by four San Francisco Police Department officers. One of those officers used to harass you and your co-workers when you were employed by Excelsior Community Center. What is the progress on that case and how do you feel about all the police violence being reported these days?
It’s actually quite amazing the dedication of the Justice and Amor for Alex Nieto Movement was relentless in their push for justice. This March, we will see a civil suit being tried against the City of San Francisco for the death of Alex Nieto. It’s really historic.
Officer Nathan Chu was an officer named as a participant in Alex Nieto’s killing, what his role was, was never disclosed. My experiences with Nathan Chu and his previous partner “Officer Tom” is what led to the push from David Campos and Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center to create The Community Policing General Order which was already in place 3 years before the shooting of Alex Nieto. The youth at our center would be targeted, stopped, searched, cited for littering, jaywalking, all things that we could have solved collectively within our community spaces had there been a culture of community accountability to restore justice. Instead, the young people were slapped with fines that they could not pay which made them a greater target for police interactions.
A week after Eric Gardner was killed on Staten Island, I went to visit my friend Natalia Linares, a Staten Island native who organizes cultural events on the Island and in NYC. She walked by Eric that morning before he died. I asked her to take me there so that I could continue a photo project that I was doing called “Taking a Stand.” The stories were heartbreaking and the people were definitely growing more and more empowered to stand up for their community.
Police violence is growing in the number of reports, too bad the stories of accountability are not.
Can you tell us about yet another community project with which you are involved — CIPHER (Center for Innovative Practices through Hip Hop Education and Research ) Learning Community at Skyline College?
My dear friend Nate Nevado had a dream and a drive to create a college program that used Hip Hop Pedagogy to educate and empower youth to learn every subject as well as gain life experience and cultivate a resilient community. https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=43&v=BTzKHUe1Zzc
I’m only one of their many guest speakers and my workshop is called UnTrapped, we do activities and participate in discussions on how to unlock our full potential and free ourselves from mental emotional prisons in which we find ourselves.
Can you share a short poem with us?
Born with purpose
lost in a whirlwind
it’s not a game
but we pretend it is
to ease the pain of
our brothers and sisters being locked up
knowing when they come home they will never be the same
the system thrives off of this shit
And I… I will not allow it
our system is broken
but our spirit is intact
Weed is a She and she knows
she ain’t wack
Weed is she and she will keep
cultivating wisdom, healing pain, flowering in the darkness… oooooh girl that’s game.
Who are your sheroes and what are some great events and businesses that you frequent in San Francisco that move your soul?
Grace Lee Boggs (Detroit Activist); Frida Kahlo; Diane Fornbacher (kick ass activist, survivor of violence, mother, creator of Ladybud Magazine platform that combats the bullshit fed in mass media).
There are many more but these are the ones that organically came to mind. As far as San Francisco events that move my soul, it’s more Bay Area events that move my soul. I frequent concerts at the New Parish in Oakland, Brick and Mortar or the Independent in San Francisco.
Everywhere else is top-secret… I’d like to keep some spaces sacred and a free from the dangers of gentrification as long as possible.