the philosophactivist

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Why the world needs more QPOC/POC herbalists and healers

I'm a firm believer that those who live at the intersections have a deeper and better understanding of the wants/needs of a larger number of folks. As a queer person of color interested in traditional healing, I know that I'm walking this path with few others that look like me. I've seen the classrooms and websites. I know that POC aren't clamoring to get into a “profession” where there aren't any certifications and there aren't any guarantees that you'll even break even, let alone be balling out of control.

I get it.
But, this is my path.

I was always coming up with remedies as a kid. Giving advice to family members. The little doctor that could. I went on to school to do pre-med and I became the little doctor that couldn't...or wouldn't. I just didn't understand why it had to be so grueling and was not willing to put myself through 6 more years of anxiety. When I went on to study health advocacy and was diagnosed with lupus...I began to understand why medical school wasn't for me. As “allopathic”/conventional medicine failed me, I turned to herbalism and homeopathy. I knew I needed a more holistic approach. The specialists weren't addressing the root of my problem. They were only concerned with suppressing symptoms. How does that sound right to anyone?

Through vegetarianism and trying to address symptoms for my chronic illness, I learned more about my body and maintaining balance through diet, supplements, exercise, etc. I became more and more interested in food as medicine. It seemed to me that the root of many people's illness is due to diet (not just our choices, but contaminated foods) and our environment. As I struggled to find what aggravated dis-ease in my own body, I began to see some commonalities in food allergies that I shared with other sufferers of autoimmune disorders. I experimented with raw food, gluten-free, dairy-free, low name it. I took more vitamin D and more B-12. I took multivitamins and pro-biotics. There was so much information out there and not too many people I could trust for answers. If I had known a brown or even queer herbalist at the beginning of this might have been easier.

Why a queer brown herbalist? Because studies show (and trust me, I've studied this extensively) that brown folks and queer folks do better at helping brown folks and queer folks. No, it doesn't eliminate all the discrimination and bias...but it does lessen it quite a bit.

You know, I get tired of folks talking like brown folks are new to herbalism. This knowledge was stolen from our people. Truth. Look at most of the pharmaceuticals, they use herbs as major components and add synthetic filler. (Ex: Willow bark in aspirin). Native Americans, Africans and other Indigenous folks had it on lock. Healers worked with plants and addressed you emotionally, spiritually and physically. The colonizers were the ones who decided to split mind, spirit and body. So now we've got to go to a psychiatrist, a preacher, AND a doctor.

Ahh me duele mi codo thinking about that.
In other words, it hurts to think about paying an arm and a leg for all these separate services.

The healers I know are versed in chinese medicine, medical astrology, herbalism, Ayurveda, the chakra system...all kinds of healing modalities. Not because they are interested in the next new age craze, but because they are invested in knowing as many ways as possible to heal and know that the ways overlap and intersect.

So maybe many of our People may not trust traditional medicine. We barely want to even go in to see a doctor, right? Well, while I think that herbalism and other kinds of medicine can be potentially for everyone, I understand why some people don't want to mess with it. Especially with the mistrust we have of the medical establishment due to some flagrant atrocities like sterilization, experiments like Tuskegee, etc. But, I think that may be even more reason for our community to turn to alternative healing practices.

I love that today more and more folks of color and QPOC are becoming doulas, acupuncturists, herbalists, etc. I'm optimistic that we are going to heal our community from the core. Barriers to positive physical health due to bias and discrimination need to be eradicated. In the meantime, for those of us who are called to do this healing work, let's get the education needed through programs, community skillshares, and elders. Why wait around for “anti-racist” doctors, allies, and the medical system to make changes when we can look to our own community for wellness (culturally relevant healing!).

That said... I am fundraising for a community herbalist program. I want to be a co-creator of this vision for a queer and POC community that is physically, spiritually and emotionally well. I have some ideas for how I want to use the knowledge attained from the herbalist program. I want to:

  • provide a blog detailing my journey as an herbalist
  • create a quarterly zine sharing knowledge learned, dedicated to health and food justice
  • Organize a collective of holistic healers whose focus will be to provide culturally appropriate, affordable care to people of color, the queer community, and low/no-income folks
  • Organize a holistic health event free to the public designed to provide information on different healing modalities and promoting healthy, culturally appropriate diets.

You can read more about the vision here:

I hope that you'll join me in being a co-visionary and spread the word about the need for more Q/POC holistic healers in our communities.

Maybe you've even felt called to become one. Let's create this new Reality and be Whole again, individually and as a community.


  1. I fully agree and am experiencing a similar difficulty in connecting with herbalists and holistic practitioners that are people of color. When I look online at schools and programs in these disciplines it is saturated by mainly older white women… I am not opposed to learning from these individuals but would grow and enjoy learning from someone who looks like me and connecting to a network that is also invested in my community. I see that you wrote this 2 years ago, have you had any luck in finding professionals that are POC or in your studies of this profession? In any case, I wish you luck and hope you can find support.

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  3. Hi. We are around. Namely in metro cities like NY, Oakland, DC/MD. I think we aren't prone to going to the big herb conferences. I'd like to see an all POC wellness gathering and Harriet's Apothecary is the closest I've seen to doing actual skillshares and healing work in the community in the ways I've imagined. I know there have been a few other events nationally years ago but it is time for some more national network between us POC and I'd like to exchange info and build with more black healers (across the diaspora) in the future. I'm trying to think of ways to make this happen. Until then, I'm still writing Queering Herbalism and the Herbal Freedom Schools and working on some skillshares and webinars....