Wednesday, December 7, 2022

2022 Tokey Awards


It's a bittersweet year when our top Tokin' Woman was sentenced to serve nine years in a Russian penal colony, despite international outcry about her arrest for the petty crime of having a couple of vape pens in her luggage at a Moscow airport.

Brittney Griner, 32, a seven-time WNBA All-Star center for the Phoenix Mercury, won Olympic gold medals with the U.S. women’s national basketball team in 2016 and 2021. She played for the Russian team UMMC Ekaterinburg for several years, as do many WNBA stars who are not paid anything like their male counterparts in the US. 
President Biden announced on December 8 that Griner has been freed. She was exchanged for Viktor Bout, an arms dealer accused of supplying Al Qaeda, the Taliban and rebels in Rwanda. (Apparently, on the world stage, carrying a couple of vape pens is equated with arms dealing. But then, of course, the US is arguably the largest arms dealer in the world. Convicted arms smuggler Oliver North never did jail time and is a longtime Faux News host and commentator; he was briefly head of the NRA until he ousted for extortion in 2019.)
Many think Griner was taken as a political prisoner, just days before Russia invaded Ukraine in March. The announcement of her arrest came on the heels of a ruling whereby an Israeli court froze the Russian government ownership of a Jerusalem church, reportedly part of a deal struck in 2020 for the release of American-born Israeli citizen Naama Issachar, who was convicted for smuggling 10 grams of hashish through the Moscow airport. She had been sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison. 
Griner, who said she noticed an inordinate amount of customs agents at the airport the day she was arrested, never denied carrying the vape pens, only saying it was an oversight that she packed them. On the witness stand, she said that she used cannabis to deal with the pain from injuries she's suffered during her career. "The benefits from medical cannabis definitely outweigh the painkillers that they prescribe," she said. "The painkillers have really bad side effects. Medical cannabis, there are honestly no side effects that harm you." 
Very Important Pothead and top all-time NBA scorer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wrote in support of Griner (the day after we Tweeted him, asking him to). NBA champ Steph Curry gave a shout-out to Griner on her birthday at the Warriors Ring Ceremony in October.  He and Megan Rapinoe—the soccer star with a Portland-based CBD company—spoke of Griner's plight at the ESPY Awards in July, the same month that Rapinoe was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom wearing a blazer with the initials ‘BG’ and a flower embroidered onto the lapel in tribute to Griner. 

Biden called Griner "an incomparable athlete" who "endured mistreatment and a show trial in Russia with characteristic grit and incredible dignity" at the press conference. He mentioned US Marine Trevor Reed, who was brought home from Russia in April in exchange for Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot convicted in the US in a cocaine trafficking conspiracy. Not mentioned was Marc Fogel, a Pittsburgh native who was sentenced to 14 years after airport workers found half an ounce of marijuana in his luggage when he went to Russia to teach in June. Free Marc Fogel

Last year's Tokin' Woman of the Year was Sha'Carri Richardson, another black woman screwed by our international drug laws. Other Top Tokin' Women are Kamala Harris (2020), Jane Fonda (2019), Michelle Obama (2018), Kathy Bates (2017), Whoopi Goldberg (2016) and Melissa Etheridge (2015). 

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Tokin' Women and Others We Lost in 2022

Anita Pointer (12/31)

Pointer was the last surviving member of the original Pointer Sisters trio that had a string of hits starting in 1973 with the Allen Toussaint funk anthem "Yes We Can Can" featuring Anita's lead vocal. With her brother Fritz she penned the 2020 book Fairytale: The Pointer Sisters' Family Story about the sisters' roots in the Oakland, CA Black Power movement and their rise to fame. Of their early days of success, she wrote, "We were having fun, but not what I'd call getting wild. We drank, smoked cigarettes, and occasionally had a little pot." But saddled with debt and a grueling touring schedule, both younger sisters June and Ruth succumbed to hard drug addiction (cocaine and crack), and Anita also lost her only child Jada to cancer in 2003. The Sisters, who started their career singing backup vocals for acts like Grace Slick and  Betty Davis, had a number two hit in Belgium in 2005, covering the Eurythmics/Aretha Franklin song "Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves" with Belgian singer Natalia. In December 2017, Billboard ranked The Pointer Sisters as the 93rd most successful Hot 100 Artist of all-time and as the 32nd most successful Hot 100 Women Artist of all-time.

The lyrics Anita sang should inspire us all as we enter 2023:

Now's the time for all good menTo get together with one anotherWe got to iron out our problemsAnd iron out our quarrelsAnd try to live as brothers
And try to find peace withinWithout stepping on one anotherAnd do respect the women of the worldRemember, you all had mothers
We got to make this land a better landThan the world in which we liveAnd we got to help each man be a better manWith the kindness that we give
I know we can make itI know darn well, we can work it outOh, yes, we can, I know we can, canYes, we can, can, why can't we?If we wanna, yes, we can, can 

Barbara Walters (12/30)

A chapter in the new book, The Activist's Media Handbook by David Fenton is titled, "How Barbara Walters Saved Abbie [Hoffman] From a Long Prison Term" and describes how in 1980, Fenton was able to arrange an exclusive interview with Walters and the infamous Yippie! activist Hoffman, then underground after being arrested for selling three pounds of cocaine to undercover agents. Fenton convinced Walters to get into a plane without knowing where she was going, lest the FBI would be alerted, and describes how she interviewed Hoffman "like a Jewish mother meets her long-lost Jewish son" for a full hour, which aired on ABC's 20/20 (pictured.)  "As a result, a week later when [Hoffman] turned himself into the Manhattan district attorney, he served only fifty-four days in jail," writes Fenton. That's the kind of clout Walters had. Yes, she blazed many trials, broke many barriers, and started The View to give women a voice, but this—and the time she got Bing Crosby to say that he was for marijuana legalization, and asked President Obama about the topic after Colorado and Washington legalized in 2012—are my favorite stories about her.

Ian Tyson (12/29)

Canadian folk music legend Tyson was, according to Suze Rotolo, the one who turned Bob Dylan onto marijuana. In her memoir A Freewheelin' Time, Rotolo writes, "I swear it was Ian Tyson who offered up the first taste of marijuana when Bob brought him to the flat one afternoon. Ian had a friend back home who had introduced him to their stuff you could smoke that would get you high. Bob didn't think I should try it until he had tested it, but later on I did." Writing about sitting around with Tyson and his partner Sylvia listening to records, Rotolo wrote, "We reveled in the joy of discovering something we had never heard before. And this wasn't just for music; it was about books and movies, too. We were a young and curious lot." Tyson wrote "Four Strong Winds" the day after he heard Dylan introduce his new song "Blowin' In the Wind" in 1962.   

Vivienne Westwood (12/29)

“I don’t think punk would have happened without Vivienne," said Tokin' Woman Chrissie Hynde, who before forming the Pretenders, was an assistant at Westwood's London shop. “I was about 36 when punk happened and I was upset about what was going on in the world,” the influential fashion designer and activist told Harper’s Bazaar in 2013. “It was the hippies who taught my generation about politics, and that’s what I cared about — the world being so corrupt and mismanaged, people suffering, wars, all these terrible things.” Westwood wardrobed The Sex Pistols and Boy George, and created Oscar gowns for Kate Winslet in 2006 and Zendaya in 2015, for a look (pictured right) that prompted Giuliana Rancic to comment, “She looks like she smells like patchouli oil and weed.” 

The grandson of Bob Marley was a recording artist and DJ who was aiming "to do something new with my roots," as he once told Rolling Stone. He began performing onstage at age 4 with Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers — his father Stephen, his uncle Ziggy, and his aunts Cedella and Sharon — during that group’s concert finales. He moved to Florida at age 11, where he studied studio engineering and observed his father and uncle Damian Marley working in Stephen’s Lion’s Den studio before starting to make his own music. He died at the age of 31, reportedly of an asthma attack.    

Franco Harris (12/20)

When he made the Immaculate Reception, his Italian mother was reportedly praying the Rosary and listening to Ave Maria. Harris died three days before the 50th anniversary of his most famous play, to commemorate which there is a statue in the Pittsburgh airport (pictured). Harris told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2017, "I feel in any state that has approved medical marijuana (as 28 states hosting 20 of the NFL’s 32 teams have), the league should remove medical marijuana from being a banned substance....I will tell you this, if it ever comes to a point where I do need pain management, I’d feel very lucky and happy now that we have medicinal marijuana in Pennsylvania.”