Photos: Maria Penaloza
In a world where cannabis is becoming decriminalized but is still federally illegal, those who seek safe spaces to consume publicly are at a distinct loss in nightlife-soaked New York City. Though there are underground options, they’re mostly run by men, and they aren’t completely safe environments for everyone.
Nestled on an unassuming street in Ridgewood, Queens, the Mama D’s Speakeasy is much more than a party spot for cannabis fans. With such a gap in coverage, as traditional nightlife focuses more on alcohol, many party people are seeking a deeper experience when they socialize.
The physical space of the speakeasy is just one piece of the puzzle that is the “queendom landscape.” Besides Mama D, who is the chef, hostess and woman in charge, an entire team of unique and artistic New Yorkers supports a network of projects that utilizes the secret party church. From musical performances to gallery openings and book clubs, the space provides free-spirited socialization that isn’t cannabis-focused most of the time, although it is cannabis-friendly.
Mama D told the Emerald, “The heart of the Mama D’s queendom is my place, my home, the ‘Sneaky Speakeasy.’ This originated when I moved back to NYC after a few years living elsewhere and doing other projects,” she adds. “I came back here in the beginning of 2013 with this idea of doing a salon out of my home while I cook and make drinks—but really, at the core of it, I wanted to bring together artists and art lovers.”
This space is a private residence, so Mama D receives people as guests and entertains at a higher level than general hospitality. That’s part of her reasoning for having this salon concept that blends cannabis, food and art. “I just wanna be able to do whatever the fuck I want,” she said emphatically.
As a super-blunt and to-the-point person, this exclamation is truth rather than bluster. “It’s a combination of feeling like there was no place for me in these industries, and feeling like they weren’t exactly what I wanted either, because I wanted to bring together things that are historically not all embraced equally at any given event.”
At most parties, the cannabis people are stuck outside, and only for 15-minute spurts. It creates this separation and stigma that are not the best for true collaboration. When you’re gathered at somewhere like Mama D’s, that isn’t a thing.
Cannabis doesn’t concern the team anywhere as much as other intoxicants. According to Mama D, “Weed smokers are so much better to have in your house—they don’t break as much shit.”
Their big 2019 events include a queer midsommar art party on June 24th, a film festival in August and a relaunch of their original salon parties, Second Saturday Salons in September.
Of this big return, Mama D said, “We’re resuming that party after a year break with our team, Bushwood Productions. They’re going to function as a live gallery opening for the art we’re displaying, plus a live recorded album, artist TBA!”
D said, “We’re a very smart and responsible group of people. This is my art project, but don’t be fooled—I’m a businesswoman. It’s taken so much time to cultivate my aesthetic and how I want to present to the world, and what I want to share with them.”
She continued, ”I don’t think people are treating artistic performances and the food, drink and overall vibe and hangs as equals when they’re planning a party. I just try to integrate all of it in a way that has this vision to it and allows me to use all of these different skills that I’ve acquired, viewpoints that I’ve cultivated in myself. All of this shit lets me use my training as a musician, photographer, chef, event coordinator, writer etcetera.”
The motivations are clear, and the multiple collabs happening are unique even in a city known for its uniqueness. Mama D said, “Throughout my life, I never found spaces or opportunities that truly recognized or welcomed me. So, I decided a while ago that I would make my own. We are in the first phase of building a multi-faceted company of which cannabis and cannabis justice are key parts.”
Look out for Mama D TV, a line of pantry products and the content that their team shoots at their events, bringing another layer to the culture they are creating.
We’re not going to out such a gem of an experience with a direct link, but if you’re savvy, the organization shouldn’t be too hard to find on Instagram. Instead of the dank (in a bad way) dungeon vibe of some of New York’s other parties, Mama D’s Speakeasy is a place to relax and enjoy the creative arts of a plethora of Brooklyn’s and Queens’s different crews—with the help of the favorite plant of many a creative type.