Student Letter

This was sent to current students and shared on social media in the private student group.  The obvious part left out is: Old Ways Herbal School of Plant Medicine has always stood with all marginalized people in the fight for justice and equality.  In this moment, we stand unequivocally and emphatically with the Black Lives Matter movement, the popular uprising in the streets, the families and communities of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and all others murdered at the hands of police.
I’m not writing publicly right now, just boosting Black herbalists and sharing antiracist resources.  But I thought i should check in with those of you who are current students. We don’t have time to talk about racism in herbalism and healthcare in this month’s class, but if you prefer we can move our syllabus around and do this topic next. Please let me know if you want that.
EDITED TO ADD: The more I think about this, the more it makes sense, as it is utterly the zeitgeist and it is hard to talk about things that AREN’T racism right now.  Please feel free to weigh in directly to me or publicly to your peers (and me, because I need to do some prep work if we’re changing the schedule).
POC students: if you need time or a break, the recording will be available when you’re ready. Let me know what support you need. I believe in you and send you all my love during this high stress time.
In the meantime, food for thought for white students:
Let us be clear, emphatically and repeatedly, that the legacy of American herbalism and modern knowledge of the American pharmacopeia is built on centuries of violence, genocide, slavery, land theft followed by devastation, and the •ongoing• violent theft of knowledge, labor, wealth, power, and freedom of Black and Indigenous Herbalists by white herbalists, including the eclectic physicians (who are having a White Man
Moment, where we all get to hear about all the plants they “discovered” all by themselves in the empty forests and meadows in their greatness). The common refrain—“it wasn’t us, it’s over, it was a long time ago” etc.—is inherently racist as white herbalists must recognize where our inheritance comes from, knowledge or material, in addition to our privilege of moving through the world in safety.  Herbalism in the modern world must hold those truths in our hearts and strive for justice and the elevation of Black & Brown voices. It’s ok to change your mind as you move through your life and experience the world in all its iterations; talk with your friends and try to do better, learning always and striving for wellness for us all.   I have a lot more to say on this subject, but I’ll leave it here for now, as I think it’s more important to communicate with you through this thinking-in-progress than to wait for my thoughts to be solidified perfectly in amber.
This week, let us all find BIPOC herbalists to boost, and identify antiracist actions we can take in our daily lives to grow into our best selves.  Here is an excellent list of antiracist resources by Larken Bunce (of course):
Please engage with it as much as feels fruitful, and then for an extra 15 minutes after that. You owe it to yourself. I believe in you and I see your goodness.
If you’re interested in more resources, I’m sharing things I find useful on facebook.
Please do not ask the BIPOC folks in your life for clarification or support with this topic; turn to a white friend, a racial justice or solidarity organization in your community, or another support system to have conversations to expand your understanding.  BIPOC are busy right now, especially  herbalists and especially especially those who are marginalized transectionally–happy Pride, by the way, may we be prouder this year than ever before, it’s a fitting Stonewall anniversary to be sure, and Juneteenth is on the horizon, so may it be an anniversary of liberation in truth–so make tomorrow a day where we make good happen for those around us (instead of being another piece of work someone has to do).
If you find good resources feel free to share them to the student group or the broader Facebook page. If you’re not on Facebook email them to me and I’ll post them on your behalf.

All my love (and all my absolute utter fury),


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s