He started with one-day Bronx beekeeping course: Becomes Pelham Market favorite and subject of documentary ‘Keeper’

Movie chronicles Flynn’s love of bees and battle with cancer
He started with one-day Bronx beekeeping course: Becomes Pelham Market favorite and subject of documentary Keeper

Sean Malik Flynn, owner of Boogie Down Bronx Honey and Pelham Market fan favorite, may have started with a one-day course in bees, but he’s since created the growing business featured in the documentary film “Keeper.”

After 18 months of hard work and 80 hours of footage, “Keeper” made its debut on Sept. 30 at the School of Visual Arts MFA Social Documentary Film thesis showcase. Although the experience of staring in a documentary was incredibly rewarding, Flynn acknowledged that being the subject of a movie was more challenging than selling his honey.

“At first it was awkward, I didn’t know where to look,” said Flynn, 53. But eventually, the movie maker’s presence became natural in Flynn’s daily life. “How can you really be yourself when someone is filming you? Ultimately, you absolutely can be. They just disappear after a while and life goes on and they are there in the background.”

Hannah Rafkin, a film student at the School of Visual Arts tasked with creating a social documentary for her master’s thesis, choose Flynn as her subject after they met at a Polar Bear Plunge that was supporting the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Many people, including Rafkin, discovered Flynn from his crazy stunts featuring bees posted across social media.

Hannah Rafkin presents her documentary at the School of Visual Arts MFA Social Documentary Film thesis showcase.

Boogie Down Bronx Honey, a brand named for Flynn’s love of his borough and its hip-hop roots, began after he saw an ad for a 12-hour beekeeping class that caused the single-father to drag his daughter to the course that almost immediately brought their first bee first hives into their lives. His company started small with two beehives in the window of his eldest daughter’s bedroom.

“From then on we just hit the ground running,” said Flynn. “We learned as we went.” Through nine years of learning from videos, books, and trial and error, Boogie Down Bronx Honey has become a successful brand.

The documentary “Keeper” was originally meant to focus on the backbreaking effort Flynn puts into his beekeeping but took a more serious turn when he was diagnosed with cancer.

Even when he was more than halfway through his cancer treatments multiple times a week, Flynn was still working night shifts as a security guard and caring for his bees. But one day, he “hit a wall,” suddenly losing energy and weight, finding it nearly impossible to care for himself and his bees. Only through his perseverance, and the help of his daughter and family, was Flynn able to continue to manage his 16 hives across New York City as well as his health.

“I gained a whole new respect for anyone going through cancer, especially children,” said Flynn.

Two years ago, Flynn’s journey to become a vendor at farmers markets began. He was almost reluctant to begin selling honey, but his daughters told him, “‘If you’re a bee guy, you’re a honey guy.'” Flynn is glad he started doing it, though, and describes his trips to the markets as “food for the soul.”

Before discovering his passion for beekeeping, Flynn served in the Marine Corps and later owned three daycare centers while teaching children archery. “They used to call me the pied piper, or Peter Pan,” he said. “Always surrounded by kids. I always loved teaching children.”

Flynn aspired to spread his love of beekeeping throughout the Bronx after reading an article that described the borough as a “food desert.” This caused him to realize the need for fresh food as packaged and processed foods had taken over the produce aisles of Bronx supermarkets, an issue Flynn was confident his bees could help with.

Students at Girls Prep Elementary BX fascinated by Sean Malik Flynn’s observation hives.

“The Bronx has a bad reputation for everything that happened in the sixties,” Flynn said. “There is an old stigma attached to it. But the Bronx is the greenest borough. Twenty-five percent of the Bronx is green space. But every building here has a flat rooftop, so there can be a garden on every building. All it takes to increase the yield of these gardens is one beehive. One beehive pollinates three to five miles from the hive.”

Education has also become a strong component of Flynn’s business, as he hopes children will be inspired to pursue their dreams by learning new and interesting skills like beekeeping.

“By teaching children and families about beekeeping, they can learn how to uplift themselves, their families and their community. It’s the perfect fit.”

This year, Flynn has dived even deeper into education, looking to gain an educator’s permit for New York City and Westchester County as bee visits to elementary schools can help spark the imagination and inspire children to explore the world around them.

“I was tired of the dynamic where they were teaching inner city youth that basketball and microphones were their way out of poverty,” said Flynn.

His experience with cancer, as depicted in “Keeper,” has since inspired Flynn to take up a new endeavor in his beekeeping. Along with education at schools, Flynn hopes to work in partnership with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. In the next season, visiting children at cancer research centers and hospitals is one of Flynn’s biggest goals.

The incredible growth of Boogie Down Bronx Honey, and Flynn’s inspiring story depicted in “Keeper,” goes to show that just like hip hop on the streets of the Bronx, even the littlest things can have a large impact.

“Things can just start on a street corner and can spread anywhere in the world,” said Flynn. “It’s incredible.”


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    Alicia CarmonaOct 19, 2023 at 3:35 pm

    What an interesting read. Great choice of subject, very pertinent to our town, well written. Can’t wait to see the movie.