This track record of advocacy, activism, and care for others began for Chyno in New York, after Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012. “I slept outside for a year in an army tent on Staten Island to do disaster relief,” he says. When people asked him why he chose to do this, the answer was because his parents instilled in him a respect for others and imparted the will to serve others who could not serve themselves.
“My mom, specifically, she taught me that if you have two legs to stand on, and you have two hands to do stuff with, you should be helping someone,” Chyno says. “It kind of always struck me as a person who is Black and gay in the world and didn’t receive a lot of help.” He hopes that his actions are a model for others. “If I am able, I’m going to continually show people that you can help, and that someone will always be there to help.”
After the pandemic hit, nearly everyone in every sector needed help. Chyno joined with his local dispensary, ReLeaf Shop, to give out meals to those in need in Mount Vernon. “It didn’t matter if you were in the houses, in the nursing homes, or whether you were in the high rises, whether you went to Hopkins, whether you are where I lived, no matter who you were, we were providing meals.” After this, he partnered with the Baltimore Restaurant Relief Fund and helped feed unemployed restaurant workers and disburse grants to restaurants needing assistance.
The Chyno that you find at Mount Royal Tavern or Cindy Lou’s Fish House is no less authentic than the Chyno that recharges at home in his comfortable Mount Vernon apartment; they are simply different aspects of an emotionally rich and caring person. Throughout his home, portals and totems let him revel and help him cope. There are spots dedicated to his love for coffee and cocktails and to his affinity for Star Wars. His walls are adorned with the art of local artists, many of them gifted to him by service-industry folks. Legos are assembled and displayed throughout, museum-like. Perfectly symmetrical in his living room is his comic book collection—a clear analog to his universe-building, his exploration of fantasy and imagined worlds near and far.
His home is a place where he can be more tender, intimate, and direct than the glittery persona that visits restaurants and bars across the city. On Mondays, Pinch is closed, and Chyno devotes the day to self-care rituals. He takes off his armor, removing the color from his beard, applying a face mask, and shaving. “It’s also the day that I prune and treat my plants,” he says. “I wipe all of their leaves weekly. I talk to them, I check their water and soil. I feed them nutrients. I shift them around so that they’re getting light.”