Recently released, “Meet the Regulars: People of Brooklyn and the Places They Love” is Joshua D. Fischer’s debut book, and the first to come from Bedford + Bowery. Here’s a new installment of the series.
Right now, Dru Barnes might be better known for what happened to him than for what he’s given to the world. In 2013, the Grammy-nominated musician (formerly of reggae duo JOGYO) was attacked by a stranger wielding a hammer. Walking home to Fort Greene from a long-night hang in Bed-Stuy, Dru took a wrong turn. He was followed, assaulted on the streets of Brooklyn, and caught the claw end of a hammer to his eye – which caused him to lose that eye. What was even more surprising to me was to learn that Dru forgave his attacker (who was caught later).
Things made better sense to me when I talked with the Jamaican-born artist about being a regular at the elegantly curated and worldly vintage clothing and objects shop People of 2morrow in Greenpoint. You see, Dru is a very spiritual dude. You can hear it in his music, like on his NSFW video for the single “YOU” from his recent solo debut Silent Light. You can see it in his style, which favors “things that are aligned with nature,” he says, including items found at People of 2morrow. You can also understand it from the mystical musings the 37-year-old makes as we discussed the dream catchers and décor at the store and his affinity for the healing properties of the hallucinogenic tea ayahuasca.
After the attack, Dru says, “I was in my hospital bed, and I said to the record label, ‘I gotta make this album.’ I had to tell people about this.” With this new music, maybe now Dru will be known for everything he learned about humanity, forgiveness, and moving on from today and into tomorrow.
Certain objects that I want to have, People of 2morrow is where I go to get them. And I can’t go anywhere else. I’m not in any store that much. I’m online mostly.
It’s one of the few places in the city that provides palo santo [a.k.a. Holy Wood]. My friend Tamika Rivera creates cuyo [woven South American necklaces]. When I was recuperating [from the attack], she made this necklace for me. It’s on my album cover. I wore it for a long time. She sells her things at People of 2morrow.
I like that they use clothing that’s recycled. There’s a lot of integrity to their approach to current marketing and business. That’s where I come from. To build that intersection between commerce and having these ideals and putting it out there.
I’ve been dubbed “New Age” and things like that. It’s not so much about god or religion. It’s about understanding spiritual sciences. Understanding sacred geometry. Understanding integrity in our everyday life. How we align with that aligns with how we end up being on the planet, how much harmony we’re able to bring into our lives on a daily basis.
To speak my truth is my purpose. It’s very common sense for me. I remember distinctly people telling me that I was too much. Not everybody wants to go there. I was totally made fun of for talking and thinking too much. I’m not into shallow conversations.
I use ayahuasca medicine a lot. In those circles, I’m like, “Wouldn’t this be amazing to take into the ‘hood or jails where people are mentally oppressed?” Because that’s really what it is: a mental trap. It’s not outside of you: the trap is internal. Often times, those circles with deeply spiritual traditions are for the elite or the bourgeoisie.
My last ayahuasca ceremony was in Greenpoint, down the street from here. I’m like, “Wow. I’m the only black guy again.” And there’s so much good I’m getting from it. It’s not because black people aren’t open to it. The language isn’t being brought to them.
It’s very easy to forgive somebody that you don’t know. Because you have no investment there. [My attacker] seemed to be somebody who had problems, obviously. A large part of it, too, goes back to race. I remember going into the precinct because they wanted to have me pick out this guy. What I saw was other black men lined up in a row. And I’m a black man. And I’m thinking, “Look at this cycle. I’m supposed to put another black man in jail?” It was so clear to me how we’re all in it. And I needed to tap out. Forgiveness was the only way to do that for me.
I’m not against the jail system. If you need to serve time, serve time. But I also understand it’s systemic. It’s something bigger than me, and us, and this. I’m not saying my forgiving him meant I don’t want him to serve time or go to jail. But I hope that we can get to a place where we can shift from the cause, the root of it. Jailing is the effect. It’s not dealing with the cause.
I was able to witness my own funeral. I got to see the human heart. The pendulum swung one way [with the attack] and then the other way. The moment happened. And after that, pure love poured in. It was a really powerful near-death experience. This is why I do ayahuasca now. To understand that vibration of love.
People of 2morrow have very special things you can’t find in a big city. They’re tapped in. At least for me. They’re integral to me and what I want.