This week, Adaku Utah and J Bob Alotta speak to the urgency of centering healing in a world that doesn't care about our survival. They discuss the intellectual distance many activists feel from the prospect of healing, and challenge the racist and classist logic at play in mainstream determinations of what bodies are worthy of care. Together, they make a powerful case that care is a central component of broader liberation struggles.
Laura Flanders: All right, let's talk about healing. I have to say, when this was first proposed to me that we discuss healing, I was like, healing? That's a classic kind of white, leftist, even queer response that healing is some kind of individual solution. Isn't it?
Adaku Utah: So, it is an individual solution, and it's also collective. We know that our movements, moving towards justice does not only rely on one person, or couple of people, that it actually requires all of us. And our systems come from a long legacy of violence that has impacts on our physical, emotional and spiritual selves. From what we're seeing in gentrification, to the education system, to the high and increasing rates of depression and suicidality within our communities.
So, there's an impact. And we can't intellectualize change. Who we are is what we've been practice and what we have learned to do. And so, healing really facilitates a strategy for us to be embodied practitioners of justice and liberation, and it also acknowledges that harm has been done, and that harm, in order for us to fully live into lives that are reflective of the kind of justice that we seek, that some things have to be healed. The trauma has to be met and tended to, so that we can be a reflection of love and justice. Yeah.
Laura: What do you do at Harriet's Apothecary? And who's Harriet?
Adaku: Yeah. So, Harriet's Apothecary is a love ode to black, indigenous, and people of color, and we are following the legacy of Harriet Tubman. She is an abolitionist and healing justice warrior, and she was someone who intentionally dreamt us into the future, and collectively built something that had not existed before. Systems of care that centered the lives and bodies of our people. And so, Harriet's Apothecary follows that legacy. We're a collective of all black healers, activists, cultural organizers and ancestors who are supporting individuals and movements in healing from the impacts of oppression.
Laura: And so, what do you do? Give us some examples.
Adaku: Yeah. So, we host healing villages throughout Brooklyn and nationally and internationally. We've actually gotten to work with Astraea. And we transform spaces into healing spaces that really honor the lives of black and indigenous people of color. And we support movement building organizations in centering their healing justice framework, so that they can mesh their practice with their values.
Laura: And it means sometimes doing what you just did at the top of the show, which I deeply appreciated, which was bringing a moment of healing work into a busy, busy, movement and media space.
Adaku: Yeah, and also a moment to recognize our humanity. We're not just products, producing things, we're people.
Laura: Not so easy. Not so easy to do this work, right Bob? Talk a little bit about, A, what's happening here and why you support it, why you think it's important work to talk about.
J Bob Alotta: Something that Adaku said really, well, everything that Adaku said resonated with me, but, one thing that I want to uplift is this idea of a practice, and I think that for me, it's really important to understand healing justice as a strategic engagement, and that it's interesting that we can be comfortable with throwing around words like liberation, right? Or movement building. And then we say the word healing and we have this sort of intellectual divorce from that concept, but in fact, if we want our movements to sustain over time, if we want all of the participants in that movement to thrive, if we're actually talking about liberation, we're talking about literally, the way that we live our lives.