Janelle Monae Marries Art, Food, and Tech to Imagine ‘A Beautiful Future’

True to her calling card as one chosen to liberate the oppressed, singer/actor/activist Janelle Monae is back at it again (as if she ever stopped). Her aim? To empower women and those who identify as such via art, music, mentorship, and education. In partnership with Belvedere Vodka, Monae hosted ‘A Beautiful Future’ dinner—a sensory bouquet immersing guests in music, art, dance, and tech at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art on the eve of her Lollapalooza performance.

“This collaboration is a convergence of our shared beliefs: optimism and the power of ‘the we, not me’ to bridge divides,” said Rodney Williams, president of Belvedere Vodka. It was the next level up from the Hidden Figures starlet’s Fem the Future grassroots organization and similarly-named series of brunches previously hosted in Berlin, London, and New York.

Janelle Monae

(Image courtesy of Belvedere)

“I think it’s important whenever you work with brands that they understand your vision,” says Monae, who in addition to playing an abolitionist master teacher in Harriet Tubman’s life story, was also recently announced to replace Julia Roberts as the headlining character in the psychological thriller, Homecoming. “When Belvedere heard that I wanted to highlight voices and put more opportunities in the hands of women they said, ‘How can we help?’”

Janelle Monae

(Image courtesy of Getty)

Aside from debuting a metallic collage-designed, limited edition bottle of Belvedere’s super-premium vodka—inspired by Monae—the event zeroed in on art, food, and the celebration of four individuals from Chicago whose work aligns with the theme of diversity, inclusion, self-expression, and “access to explore one’s passions freely,” explained Monae.

Janelle Monae

(Image courtesy of Belvedere)

The honorees included sexual assault activist Scheherazade Tillet, co-founder and executive director of A Long Walk Homea nonprofit that uses art and film to raise awareness and end violence against girls and women; Nikki Roberson, fundraising director and community outreach liaison for Kicks 4 the City; LaForce Baker, founder and CEO of Moon Meals; and celebrated visual artist and architect, Amanda Williams.

“She believes in positivity and elevating other’s voices and these are ideas that as a brand we can champion and get behind,” said Carlos Zepeda, VP of Belvedere Vodka US.

Baker, the founder of Moon Meals, is one of those voices. Currently, his product is sold in 188 grocers across Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa and he projects it will be available in over 1,000 stores, including Whole Foods, CVS, and Walgreens by the end of 2020.

Moon Meals, he says, builds upon Monae and Belvedere’s Beautiful Future motif in three ways: by increasing access to quality meals on the South and West sides of Chicago, where food deserts are prevalent; by generating revenue for economically depressed neighborhoods; and by hiring and servicing women of color. “Our products empower our customers, which are predominately women, by giving them the nutrition they love, on the go, and without much sacrifice.”

The dinner was served at a stunning 90-foot-long table, attended by 80-plus cultural tastemakers, social justice influencers, and key Chicago business stakeholders with rousing music from DJ Rae Chardonnay. It featured five courses by Jason Hammel, chef of Marisol, a restaurant at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.

Janelle Monae

Technology also took a center seat at the table. Running down the center for the full length of the table was an LED display monitor pumping messages of encouragement and inspiration. The first course of the five-course dinner included a plate with brightly lit headphones playing a special message from Monae’s alter ago, Cindy Mayweather, an android from the year 2719.

“Tech is a powerful tool. But I want to make sure that the bias is not there. That’s been a big concern of mine,” says Monae, who stresses that as technologies like artificial intelligence or voice and facial recognition are developed further, Silicon Valley should bring women and diverse voices to the table on the front end.

“Because when we’re not in the room and there is only one type of person in the room making these decisions, I think that it won’t be a beautiful future.”

Son of Suge Knight Aims to Become Multimillion-Dollar Real Estate Agent

Suge Jacob Knight, the son of Death Row Records co-founder, Marion “Suge” Knight is attempting to make a name for himself in the real estate industry. In the new show, Love & Listings that recently premiered on VH1, the 23-year-old is paving a new lane for himself in the real estate industry with hopes of closing on multimillion-dollar homes under the guidance of Tai Savet, a long-time real estate professional, who owns the extremely reputable firm, Agents of LA.

Although he still has a strong love for music, Knight struggles to break out of his father’s shadows by creating a stream of revenue that he feels will clean up his name and make him reputable. When asked why he chose real estate during a deleted scene he stated, “because I want the business respect of people. I need to know that people know that I can handle business on my own.”

There is one caveat. Although Knight is working under one of the biggest agents in L.A. he has yet to secure his real estate license and it seems that a lot of that is fueled by his unresolved relationship with his father.

During the premiere episode, Knight set down with a long-time friend and fellow real estate agent, Taylor Schwartz who encouraged him to study but he was extremely distracted by the thought of his father returning to his life after a three-year hiatus. Marion “Suge” Knight was sentenced to 28 years in state prison in 2018 after a hit-and-run that left one man dead and another severely injured.

Based on the stream of previews for future episodes, it has yet to be revealed if Knight will make it as an agent but, during the season, we will watch as he attacks his new endeavor.

Love & Listings airs Monday at 10 p.m. on VH1.

 

 

 

Judge Orders Katy Perry To Pay Gospel Rapper $2.78 Million for Copyright Infringement

Katy Perry’s 2013 hit “Dark Horse” earned her a Grammy nomination and the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart for four weeks. Now, however, the chart-topping single is costing the pop star millions. A federal court jury ruled on Aug. 1 that “Dark Horse” illegally copied a 2009 Christian rap song called “Joyful Noise.” As a result, Perry, her team, and record label must pay gospel rapper Marcus “Flame” Gray more than $2.78 million, reports The New York Times.

The gospel rapper filed a $20 million lawsuit back in 2014, arguing that Perry took his song’s opening chords and electrifying beat. Attorneys for Gray said “Dark Horse” earned $41 million in revenue and that Gray should get a cut of that since the songs’ beats were identical in length, rhythm, and pitch. His lawsuit was met with multiple court challenges before it finally went to trial in Los Angeles in July, where Gray faced off against Perry’s top-notch attorneys and the music-industry heavyweights who wrote her song. Perry’s team and she, herself, testified during the trial, asserting they never heard of Gray or “Joyful Noise” and that the similarities between the two songs are “commonplace.” (Other musicologists agree.)

Nevertheless, the court found Perry, co-writer Sarah Hudson, the song’s producers, and Capitol Records liable for copyright infringement due to the single’s similarities, The Associated Press reported.

“We weren’t here seeking to punish anyone,” said Gray’s attorney, Michael A. Kahn. “Our clients came here seeking justice, and they feel they received justice from a jury of their peers.”

The jury determined that Gray is owed 22.5% of the profits from “Dark Horse,” amounting to nearly $2.8 million. Perry will have to cough up a little over $550,000, while Capitol Records is responsible for paying $1.2 million. The remaining balance will be paid by Perry’s various producers and collaborators on the song.

Following the ruling, Gray’s lawyer released a statement praising the verdict. “Our clients filed this lawsuit five years ago seeking justice and fair compensation for the unauthorized taking of their valuable creation. It has been a long and arduous path to this day, but they are quite pleased to have received the justice they sought.”

Meanwhile, Perry’s attorney, Christine Lepera, said they will vigorously fight the decision, saying, “The writers of ‘Dark Horse’ consider this a travesty of justice.”

“Dark Horse”



“Joyful Noise”



How Important Is SEO For Internet Marketing?

Have you anytime thought about an outlet that does not have signage onto it? You can be more or less sure that nobody would ever know about the existence of such an outlet even if it stocks and sells some of the best quality products and services. On the other hand, if you have an outlet that has colorful signage and hoarding and other such attractive things, a number of customers or visitors would walk into it, at least for curiosity sake. The first example is about a website that does not have the right SEO campaign supporting it. You can be reasonably sure that such websites will die a slow death because of the lack of traffic, footfalls, and visitors. Hence, there is no denying the fact that even if you are a small or medium-sized outlet in Oklahoma and surrounding areas, you can be sure that search engine optimization continues to play a big and positive role.

 Why Is SEO Important In Digital Marketing

 SEO is a time-tested and proven process whereby it is easy for information seekers to easily find a website. It makes it easy for search engines to crawl and makes it easier for them to be categorized properly. When you have thousands of companies, you need a search engine optimization tools and techniques to help find the right website located in the right place, selling the right products or services. It is therefore quite obvious that SEO continues to be an integral part of any digital marketing strategy in OKC. It is considered to be a complete and holistic approach for driving more traffic to your business using the various online platforms. To make this possible, it is important that your website ranks quite high in the search engine result page or SERP.

 SEO Helps In Online Advertising

 There is no doubt that for any online business advertising is of paramount importance. However, the conventional brick and mortar forms of advertising in electronic and print media may not have the desired impact. Quality digital marketing efforts are those that result in increased traffic to a website. Additionally, visitors to various websites must also have reasons to spend time in it rather than just visiting and moving out. To make this possible a good SEO campaign accompanied by other digital marketing techniques is certainly vital, to say the least.

 How Does It Work On The Ground?

 At the end of the day, we have to understand that search engines are not human beings. They are software solutions that have been programmed to crawl to the contents of various web pages. Search engines are therefore fully text-driven. Additionally, they also complete a number of other activities that could help with the right search results. These include crawling storing and scanning or even indexing. They also help in measuring pertinence and recover data and information whenever needed. They also help in suggesting the next course of action.

 Finally, we need to understand that there is nothing significantly different between digital marketing and SEO in Oklahoma City. Both are designed and developed to execute the same functions and need the use of the same skills.

Contact US:

Modern Influence

Address:10 N Broadway Edmond, OK
Phone: 888-379-2604

‘We Have a Long Way to Go:’ Descendants of First Black Americans on Race Relations

HAMPTON, Va. (Reuters) – Four hundred years after the first ship carrying enslaved Africans arrived on the coast of Virginia, the descendants of one of the first black American families say race relations in the United States still have “a long way to go.”

The Tucker family, who trace their ancestry to the 1624 census of the then British colony of Virginia, has experienced every chapter of African-American history.

From captivity on ships to slavery on plantations, to the 1861-1865 U.S. Civil War waged over legal slavery, 20th century discrimination laws and lynchings, the civil rights struggle and to the Black Lives Matter movement, racial disparities course through life and politics in the United States.

black Americans

Lakeika Davis and Kelly Preston-Davis, of Durham, North Carolina, visit the 1619 exhibit at the Hampton History Museum, commemorating the 400-year anniversary of the arrival of the first Africans on the coast of Virginia, in Hampton, Virginia, U.S., July 28, 2019. Picture taken July 28, 2019. REUTERS/Michael A. McCoy

 

“The race issues have always been here,” said Vincent Tucker, the president of the William Tucker 1624 Society who believes he is nine or 10 generations removed from William Tucker, born in Virginia in 1624 after his parents were transported from present-day Angola in 1619.

“We have a long way to go,” Tucker, 57, said.

Brenda Tucker, 77, another descendant of William who serves on the family society’s board, said she supported efforts by some Democratic lawmakers to have the federal government issue reparations to black Americans who were economically affected by slavery.

 

black Americans

Shirley Petteaway, a descendent of William Tucker whose parents were brought from Angola on the first ship carrying enslaved Africans to Virginia in 1619, pays respects to a family member buried at the Tucker family cemetery in Hampton, Virginia, U.S., July 27, 2019. REUTERS/Michael A. McCoy

“Reparations, I think, would be very appropriate because we, as hard as we worked and continue to work, we were not able to establish businesses to grow other businesses in mass, and that’s what it’s going to take to grow our economic state,” she said.

Issuing reparations to all living people who are descendents of slaves or who have suffered racial discrimination has been estimated to cost trillions of dollars. The U.S. government has never approved reparations.

black Americans

A flower lays on a grave in the Tucker family cemetery in Hampton, Virginia U.S., July 27, 2019, 400 years after William Tucker’s parents were brought from Angola on the first ship carrying enslaved Africans to Virginia in 1619. REUTERS/Michael A. McCoy

Some Democratic candidates seeking the party’s nomination to run against Republican President Donald Trump in the 2020 election support reparations for African Americans who for generations were held back by legal discrimination and general prejudice.

Trump, from his days as a New York businessman, in his 2016 election campaign and as president, has been criticized for making inflammatory statements that stoke racial tensions.

In July, Trump lashed out in Twitter posts against four minority Democratic first-term congresswomen and U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings, a black longtime civil rights activist. The statements, including saying the congresswomen should “go back” to the countries they came from, were widely viewed as racially divisive, underlining the extent to which those divisions have persisted through the centuries.

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Brenda Tucker said she believed Trump fanned racial divisions through his rhetoric.

“As far as whether or not he’s fueling racism, he’s fueling it,” she told Reuters.

Trump has repeatedly denied that racial animus drove his comments, telling reporters last week, “I am the least racist person there is anywhere in the world.”

black Americans

Verrandall Tucker and Brenda Tucker, descendants of William Tucker whose parents were brought from Angola on the first ship carrying enslaved Africans to Virginia in 1619, gather at the Tucker family cemetery in Hampton, Virginia, U.S., July 27, 2019. Picture taken July 27, 2019. REUTERS/Michael A. McCoy

Tucker spoke in front of her ancestors’ graves in a cemetery in Hampton, Virginia, less than a mile from the plantation where her ancestors were enslaved.

Some Tuckers have left Hampton over the years, but many have stayed, intent on preserving the family’s oral history.

“People can look at us and say, ‘Hey, they made it,” said Vincent Tucker. “‘They’re still making it.’”

(Reporting by Angela Moore; Writing by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Scott Malone and Grant McCool)

Barack Obama Weighs in on Mass Shootings

Former President Barack Obama’s silence during the turbulence of Donald Trump’s presidency has been almost deafening. “Obama has largely stayed silent since leaving office in 2017, opting not to endorse anyone in the Democratic primary and only occasionally weighing in to criticize Trump,” reported Reuters. Now, he has taken to social media to issue a statement on the two most recent American mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio:

From Barack Obama’s official Facebook page:

Michelle and I grieve with all the families in El Paso and Dayton who endured these latest mass shootings. Even if details are still emerging, there are a few things we already know to be true.

 

First, no other nation on Earth comes close to experiencing the frequency of mass shootings that we see in the United States. No other developed nation tolerates the levels of gun violence that we do. Every time this happens, we’re told that tougher gun laws won’t stop all murders; that they won’t stop every deranged individual from getting a weapon and shooting innocent people in public places. But the evidence shows that they can stop some killings. They can save some families from heartbreak. We are not helpless here. And until all of us stand up and insist on holding public officials accountable for changing our gun laws, these tragedies will keep happening.

 

Second, while the motivations behind these shootings may not yet be fully known, there are indications that the El Paso shooting follows a dangerous trend: troubled individuals who embrace racist ideologies and see themselves obligated to act violently to preserve white supremacy. Like the followers of ISIS and other foreign terrorist organizations, these individuals may act alone, but they’ve been radicalized by white nationalist websites that proliferate on the internet. That means that both law enforcement agencies and internet platforms need to come up with better strategies to reduce the influence of these hate groups.

 

But just as important, all of us have to send a clarion call and behave with the values of tolerance and diversity that should be the hallmark of our democracy. We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments; leaders who demonize those who don’t look like us, or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life, or refer to other people as sub-human, or imply that America belongs to just one certain type of people. Such language isn’t new – it’s been at the root of most human tragedy throughout history, here in America and around the world. It is at the root of slavery and Jim Crow, the Holocaust, the genocide in Rwanda and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. It has no place in our politics and our public life. And it’s time for the overwhelming majority of Americans of goodwill, of every race and faith and political party, to say as much – clearly and unequivocally.

On Saturday, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius fatally shot 20 people and injured 26 at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Crusius has since been identified as an extreme right-wing white nationalist with a vendetta against immigrants.

Approximately 13 hours after that mass shooting, Dayton, Ohio, suffered its own active shooting incident. Connor Betts, a 24-year-old white male, killed nine people and injured 27 outside of a popular bar in Dayton.

Twitter Curates Virtual Food and Conversation Experience Between Harlem and Lagos, Nigeria

In addition to connecting millions of social media users each day, Twitter is bringing people around the world together for real-life conversations through #Tweetups, its first-ever global experiential activation series. The purpose of the live curated events is to connect people across the globe to talk about topics that matter to them in real-time through video interactions powered by Shared_Studios. The activations are taking place in 40 global cities—from Berlin to Brooklyn, Doha to Detroit, Lagos to London, LA to Tokyo—now until Aug. 4.

On Thursday, the social media giant held a Tweetup in Harlem, where a group of black Americans met, talked, and ate with a group of men and women in Lagos, Nigeria. The theme of the discussion centered on blackness and moving online activism into tangible action.

“It was very interactive,” said Jamira Burley, a social impact consultant and human rights activist based in New York, after the event. Burley says hearing stories from those in Lagos made her realized how much she shares their values and aspirations. “We’re all trying to not only take care of ourselves but also create a world which enables our families [and] future generations to be able to thrive and grow.”

Burley added that she loved the Senegalese lunch that was served, which included Jollof and fried rice, pepper soup, salad, grilled chicken, and fish. “I need to step my game up and eat more African food because it was so good, so tasteful,” she said. “It reminded me [of] how important it is for folks to come together around food and have honest and real conversations.”

God-is Rivera, the global director of Culture and Community at Twitter and curator of the local Harlem Tweetup, said the goal of the event was to personify the best part of Twitter: bringing people from all walks of life together.

“In the spirit of fostering meaningful, healthy conversations across distance and difference, we partnered with Shared Studios to evolve Tweetups into an activation people around the globe can participate in,” she told BLACK ENTERPRISE in a statement. “By creating these immersive spaces, we hope to strengthen global dialogue both on and off Twitter and to continue to pass the mic to people who we otherwise might never encounter.”

She added, “There’s something incredibly powerful about connecting with people over shared meals, shared interests, shared experiences and discussing what’s happening in their lives and their worlds.”

Barack Obama, Silent in Democratic Nominating Contest, Omnipresent in Debate

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Former President Barack Obama was not on the Democratic presidential candidate debate stage on Wednesday night, but he was omnipresent as 2020 hopefuls struggled with attacking the legacy of their party’s most popular member.

Coming under heavy attack from more liberal, lower-polling candidates, front-runner Joe Biden frequently invoked Obama in his defense, the first black president, for whom he served as No. 2 for eight years.

Obama enjoys vast popularity not just in his party, but among all Americans, including African Americans whose backing is crucial to win the Democratic nomination to take on Republican President Donald Trump in the November 2020 election. A June poll by the think tank Pew found Obama is now considered the best president in the past 100 years.

“We’ve now had about 105 straight months of positive job growth, the longest streak in American history,” said Democratic candidate Julian Castro, who was federal housing chief in the Obama administration. “Over 80 months of that was due to President Barack Obama. Thank you, Barack Obama.”

That left some of Biden’s rivals in the Democratic primary contest struggling to find a way to criticize the former vice president and his pledge to continue and enhance Obama’s legacy, while also avoiding disparaging the former president.

Obama has largely stayed silent since leaving office in 2017, opting not to endorse anyone in the Democratic primary and only occasionally weighing in to criticize Trump.

“Everybody is talking about how terrible I am on these issues,” Biden said, referring to his record on race.

“Barack Obama knew exactly who I was. He had 10 lawyers do a background check on everything about me on civil rights and civil liberties, and he chose me, and he said it was the best decision he made. I’ll take his judgment.”

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The crowded field of about two dozen Democrats running for the nomination to challenge Trump are struggling to determine how far left their party should move, a debate that has largely centered around the future of the U.S. healthcare system.

Obama’s namesake healthcare law – Obamacare – has come under increased criticism from Democrats, including leading progressives Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, senators who are pushing for a single-payer healthcare system that would all but eliminate private insurance.

Biden delivered a complete endorsement of Obamacare — essentially calling for the addition of a public option that Obama backed when the Affordable Care Act was passed but was removed in order to generate enough support to get it approved.

“Obamacare is working,” Biden said. “The way to build this and get to it immediately is to build on Obamacare.”

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, who is in the top tier of candidates, took a swipe at the law, saying it is not stopping insurance companies from profiting.

“Senator Biden, your plan will keep and allow insurance companies to remain with status quo, doing business as usual, and that’s going to be about jacking up co-pays, jacking up deductibles,” Harris said.

At times Biden did try to distance himself from Obama. He said he advised Obama not to implement a troop surge in Iraq.

But when pressed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on the Obama administration’s large number of deportations of undocumented immigrants, Biden refused to say how he advised the president at the time.

“I was vice president, I kept my recommendations to the president in private, unlike you, who I would expect you would say whatever was said,” Biden shot back.

Even Trump invoked the name of the former president. He wrote on Twitter during the debate that “cages for kids were built by the Obama Administration” and arguing “he had the policy of child separation,” an issue that has been a lightning rod for the current president’s administration.

U.S. Senator Cory Booker criticized Biden for his sponsorship of the 1994 crime bill, which has been blamed for leading to mass incarceration of black people.

Biden again pointed to his work in the Obama administration.

“The president of the United States, Barack Obama, went out of his way to try to change the system and he got pushed back significantly,” Biden said.

Booker was frustrated by the answer.

“First of all, Mr. Vice President, you can’t have it both ways,” Booker said. “You invoke President Obama more than anybody in this campaign.  You can’t do it when it’s convenient and then dodge it when it’s not.”

(Reporting by Ginger Gibson, editing by Soyoung Kim and Jonathan Oatis)

Trump condemns slavery in Jamestown speech amid controversy over prior incendiary remarks

JAMESTOWN, Va. (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump, under fire in Washington for verbal attacks on racial minority lawmakers, condemned American slavery on Tuesday at the 400th anniversary of the first legislative assembly in Virginia and was briefly interrupted by a protesting state legislator.

Trump gave a scripted speech at the site of the first legislative assembly in Jamestown, Virginia, after touring the Jamestownchurch and a mock 1619 village.

In his remarks, he honored the first people to form a government in what would become the United States but also recognized their importation of slaves in 1619 in the same region.

“It was the beginning of a barbaric trade of human lives,” he said. “Today in honor, we remember every sacred soul who suffered the horrors of slavery and the anguish of bondage.”

Trump‘s comments, in which he also honored African Americans’ contributions to U.S. history and quoted civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Junior, followed two weeks of incendiary remarks about four Democratic women of color in the U.S. House of Representatives and an African-American lawmaker, Elijah Cummings, all of whom have been sharp critics of the president.

Trump has blasted Cummings for not doing more to improve the plight of Baltimore, a largely black city, which he said is rodent-infested. Trump has faced accusations of racism and bigotry for the remarks.

A protester interrupts U.S. President Donald Trump as he speaks at an event celebrating the 400th anniversary of the first meeting (July 30, 1619) of the Virginia state legislature in Historic Jamestowne in Williamsburg, Virginia (REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

Virginia’s black state legislators had said they would boycott Trump‘s appearance after his harsh comments about the minority members of Congress. A statement from the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus said it was “impossible to ignore the emblem of hate and disdain that the president represents” while he continues to “promulgate policies that harm marginalized communities and use racist and xenophobic rhetoric.”

Trump‘s address in Jamestown was interrupted briefly by Democratic Virginia Delegate Ibraheem Samirah, who shouted and held up a sign that said: “Go back to your corrupted home. Deport hate. Reunite my family and all those shattered by systemic discrimination.”

Samirah, a Palestinian American dentist, later said in a Twitter post that he had disrupted Trump‘s speech at Jamestown “because nobody’s racism and bigotry should be excused for the sake of being polite.”

“The man is unfit for office and unfit to partake in a celebration of democracy, representation and our nation’s history of immigrants,” Samirah said.

The Virginia Republican Party later released a statement accusing Samirah of being anti-Semitic.

 

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Bill Trott)

New York state decriminalizes pot, stops short of Cuomo’s legalization call

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York state on Monday decriminalized recreational marijuana use, meaning possession of small amounts of the drug will be punished with fines rather than jail time, a step short of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s goal of legalizing pot.

Cuomo said the measure would also allow a mechanism for clearing the records of people who had been criminally convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana.

Eleven U.S. states plus the District of Columbia have fully legalized recreational marijuana use since Colorado first did so in 2014, according to the Marijuana Policy Project lobbying group. Another 15 states including New York have decriminalized it.

“By providing individuals who have suffered the consequences of an unfair marijuana conviction with a path to have their records expunged and by reducing draconian penalties, we are taking a critical step forward in addressing a broken and discriminatory criminal justice process,” said Cuomo.

Over 360,000 people were arrested for possession of marijuana in the state of New York from 2008 to 2017, according to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The Democratic governor said in December that legalizing recreational marijuana use was one of his top legislative priorities for 2019, a reverse from his position on the issue during his previous two terms. He argued that revenue from taxing the drug could help address a number of needs, including New York City’s troubled subway system, which is desperately in need of major repairs and upgrades. A state report at the time estimated the legal market for marijuana at between $1.7 billion and $3.5 billion annually.

New York lawmakers’ efforts to legalize marijuana collapsed in June amid disagreement among Democrats on how to regulate the industry, prompting the introduction of the decriminalization bill.

The failure to legalize marijuana fully highlights a split among New York Democrats, who control both of the state‘s legislative chambers after capturing the state senate in November’s elections.

Marijuana remains illegal under federal law. During the administration of former President Barack Obama, the U.S. government largely permitted states to determine how to handle the issue on their own, but the Justice Department under President Donald Trump has allowed prosecutors to enforce federal law even in states where marijuana is legal.

(Reporting by Matthew Lavietes; Editing by Scott Malone, David Gregorio, and Dan Grebler)