Our role as herbalists, healers, + magick-makers within #BlackLivesMatter
When the tragedies are so big and so relentless is can be difficult to recognize anything that we have to offer may be of worth or in any way effective at chipping away at the violent culture that we survive in. For me, I begin to focus in on inter-personal relationships. I help friends and family who are struggling to either understand or cope with what is happening. I invite folks who are ignorant of their privilege to sit with me and discuss what it is that they have access to that others don't. I've been having conversations like these in the world of herbalism, magick, and tarot for a long time and will continue to do so because we need to have way more of them than we do.
So, my fellow herbalists, magick-makers, and healers, what is our role for serving our communities during #BlackLivesMatter?
First, this blog post is primarily geared towards non-Black folk. For my Black kindred, my deepest desire for you is to be held and supported in the exact ways you need to be and for your liberation to be swift, your amazingness to be unquestioned, and your humyn-ness to be recognized fully, completely, and with great joy. May we be better so that you can live freer.
Every one of us has a unique way of serving our communities, but here are my suggestions for being useful members of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.
Educate yourself on what #BlackLivesMatter is and why it is so necessary.
Spend some time on the #BlackLivesMatter website and read up. Talk to fellow organizers who have offered to educate others as part of their service. But really, if you're reading this blog you obviously have access to the internet and should be doing some research on your own. From the #BlackLivesMatter website:
Black Lives Matter is a chapter-based national organization working for the validity of Black life. We are working to (re)build the Black liberation movement.
This is Not a Moment, but a Movement.
#BlackLivesMatter was created in 2012 after Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted for his crime, and dead 17-year old Trayvon was posthumously placed on trial for his own murder. Rooted in the experiences of Black people in this country who actively resist our dehumanization, #BlackLivesMatter is a call to action and a response to the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society. Black Lives Matter is a unique contribution that goes beyond extrajudicial killings of Black people by police and vigilantes.
Really, though, you need to be learning more about what the #BlackLivesMatter movement is all about and should be examining the complexity of privilege, oppression, and identity in our personal lives and our healing and magickal communities. Such a discussion is beyond the scope of this post, but I will be writing more about inclusivity and privilege in herbal and magickal communities in the months ahead. But don't wait for me to write about it - start doing your own research. You will be a better herbalist, healer, and/or magick-maker for it.
It's not enough to send love and prayers.
I am someone who knows the profound power of loving deeply, praying hard, and working magick for change. And yet, I feel like there is an easy out for lots of herbalists, magick-makers, and healers to simply post on their various social media feeds that they are "sending love" or "praying for peace" which weakens the power that can be manifest by those two actions. Enough with the lip service.
Here's the deal. Love does not need to be sent somewhere right now. It needs to be embodied and lived. Imagine what you would do for any member of your family or your closest friends or your romantic partner that you deeply love if you knew that their life was at risk, in large part because of your disinterest and inaction. You would do more than "send love" via a comment on someone's instagram feed.
If you're praying for peace, be that prayer embodied. Peace is not going to happen without justice. Justice is not going to happen if folks beyond the Black community don't demand it relentlessly and tirelessly.
You know those moments in your practice when you're sitting with a client or maybe in a ritual circle and there is that second when suddenly you see one another with such clarity it breaks your heart open? That is a deeply humyn experience of love. Being seen as humyn is an experience that systemic racism in our country largely denies Black folk on an epic scale, both interpersonally and institutionally. It is because large portions of the non-Black population keep loving one another and sending prayers in the abstract. Be love and be a prayer (or spell or charm) in action with tenacity and courage. It is a tepid love that sits idly by while their beloveds are dying in the street. Connect with your love that keeps you longing with desire for change and actions to match such yearning.
Do what you can by playing to your strengths.
It can be completely overwhelming to be faced with the task of throwing off hundreds of years of institutionalized racism within the United States. Getting overwhelmed by the enormity of the task can lead many folks to inaction. So, learn to play to your strengths.
I am someone who makes remedies. I enjoy doing it, I am able to do it quickly and effectively, and it doesn't take a great emotional or physical toll to accomplish. As a remedy-maker, I often supply remedies to different movements and organizations as part of my contribution to social change. I am also someone who enjoys teaching and holding space. So I can also offer classes on taking care of yourself during times of tragedy and hold space for folks to feel their grief (something which I will be doing in Sacramento in the very near future).
One of my other strengths is having patience for and a desire to have difficult conversations about the various -isms of our world, including anti-Black racism. I spend a lot of my time having one-on-one or small group conversations with friends, family, and acquaintances about #BlackLivesMatter and being queer during the time of mass shootings at queer clubs. I have less patience for these conversations online, so I largely don't. I am, however, often a person who will offer to help someone muddle through and wrestle with their privilege while sitting in a cafe. I am able to do this because I know my boundaries and I also spend a lot of time learning about the vast interconnectedness of privilege, oppression, and identity. I realize that I will never stop learning and have patience for those who are struggling to figure it all out. But, I also have a strict no-BS policy which does not tolerate unkindness and willful ignorance - which is me living my self-love while continuing to learn how to best love others.
If you are called to or able to, show up to the protests happening in the streets, but also remember that there are a variety of ways that you can be of service to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. If you're an amazing web designer, volunteer to build a website for your local activist organization. If you're a fantastic cook, make food for folks who have been marching in the street. If you're trained in first aid, volunteer as a street medic. Good with kids? Babysit so others can have two hands free to do the work they need to do to agitate for change. Volunteer sliding-scale or free services of whatever it is that you regularly offer. If you have a significant social media presence, keep talking about #BlackLivesMatter in your feed. Play to your strengths and you'll feel not only effective, but hopefully prevent burnout in the long run.
Show up and do the work.
Herbalists, healers, and magick-makers show-up when folks are in pain. It is the work that we are called to do. #BlackLivesMatter is a bright beacon in the sky that Black folks are in unimaginable pain. If you're not showing up, you're not doing healing work. You might be playing around with plants, but you're not working to heal. You might be lighting a few candles, but you're not working to heal. The work of #BlackLivesMatter is going to look different for each of us, but if you're doing the work you're doing it. If you're not, you're not - it's that simple. Show up and do the work.
We have so much to offer as herbalists, healers, and magick-makers to the revolution happening right now. We have much to offer and our work is needed.
- Walking through fire, a gathering of survival strategies by community and allies by Asali Earthwork
- Coming Back To Life: Healing Through Crisis With Ritual + Action by Bri the Hoodwitch