Em-URGE-ing Voices

Your urgent thoughts, urging action

Making Space for Healing Justice

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August 21, 2017

_DSC0410This summer, URGE activists gathered in Cleveland, Ohio for the first ever Summer Camp. Activists from AL, GA, TX, KS, & OH came together, thanks to a coordinated field and DC staff who worked their magic to create an unforgettable experience. The goal behind Summer Camp was to provide time and space for activists to broaden their analysis of reproductive justice, learn how to incorporate this analysis, and learn creative avenues to utilize back on campus and within the community. Activists were able to build on skills new and familiar such as developing leadership, facilitation, direct action, and cultural organizing.

For four days, we were joined by the incredible Harriet’s Apothecary, “a collective of Black cis women, Queer, Trans Healers, artists, health professionals, magicians, and activists” who teach radical healing justice workshops meant to center the practices of healing as a strategy to deconstruct trauma and enables communities to engage in their organizing via the healing justice framework. They shared with us workshops and healing spaces that were meant for folks who exist as Black, Indigenous, people of color. The collective was founded by Adaku Utah in 2014, inspired by Harriet Tubman’s commitment to Black healing and liberation. This community of healers dedicate their time and energy into growing the practice and notion of healing individually and collectively as we navigate through challenging oppressive systems, working towards a life that incorporates healing as an inherent practice.

The first day of summer camp we were introduced to Harriet’s Apothecary, they guided us through a grounding exercise/icebreaker. Adaku Utah lead the grounding and asked the room to position themselves in the most comfortable manner, whether that meant sitting in our chairs, standing, sitting or lying on the ground. We were asked to be conscious of our entire body and its workings, to breathe in patterns and stay aware of the breaths we were taking, to acknowledge who was in the room, and to open our senses. By the end of the grounding we were asked to share how we felt; across the room feelings varied from grateful to nervous, tired, peaceful, acknowledged, happy, and excited. Through the next couple of days we would participate in these groundings, practicing thoughtful breathing, acknowledging ourselves, singing and dancing as a collective, sharing a space open for everyone who wanted to share how they felt if they wished, opening up to our lived experiences.

Summer camp unfolded and activists from all five states and Harriet’s apothecary got real about the ways we experience oppression and the ways we neglect and deny ourselves the right to softness and vulnerability–to be seen as we are. We allowed ourselves to open up to our vulnerabilities in a space with others, some faces new, others we knew, that felt familiar, without judgement. So many of us had shared experiences, ideas, and emotions, and being witness to this was powerful and transformative. We cried side by side, seeing each other, allowing ourselves to be affirmed in each moment.

Harriet’s Apothecary completed our last day of summer camp by extending an offering of flowers, one for each person in the space. We were handed writing materials and given a prompt, “How have you changed throughout summer camp and what affirmations do you feel?” Everyone gathered around and we were asked to find someone in the room with a different flower and share with them our affirmations of ourselves if we felt comfortable. When we finished we formed a circle surrounding an empty vase and one by one we all walked towards the center delivering our flowers and affirmations in front of a full room that was witness to our existence and growth.

So where do we begin when it comes to healing justice work?

We can start with ourselves, acknowledging where we are, how we feel, how we are made to feel by systems of oppression. Allow ourselves to recognize and work through that which needs healing. Think about the moments, people, or things that have tried you, then think about what sustains you. How did those tests fail to stop you. Now envision your idea of wellness and healing as an individual, for the organizations you take part in, and your community. For myself, my wellness and healing looks like me being unapologetic about my emotions and the space I take up. I also need to get better sleep, and would like to tune into my more creative side. Like anything else this will take time and conscious practice, being intentional about our wellness. I can set bedtime reminders on my phone and set a time where I unplug digitally until the next day. To practice creativity, I can explore prompts and exercises in writing, drawing, zine making, anything that will allow me to create from my experience and imagination. Identifying where you need to heal and how you want to heal, is our first radical act of self love.


Written by Renee Rivas. Renee is an URGE student and a reproductive and immigrant justice advocated based in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. 

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