27 July 2015
Being a Black Herbalist
Black Community Herbology
I am a black herbalist, and as such, I am required to do healing work constantly connected to the past, relevant to the communities I’m accountable to, and in service of the future I want to help co-create.
Once I’m out of bed in the morning, I look for the things I need to honor my ancestor warrior healers: singing bowl, nag champa incense, prayed over stones, orisha candles and lemon water. I call out the names of the African, Indigenous, and white blood and spiritual grandmothers whose shoulders I stand on. These are the women who birthed babies at home, cooked only food they grew or raised, knew which weeds to eat and when, and sat with the dying as they transitioned.
My herbalist praxis, as defined by Paulo Freire, is reflection and action directed at the thing that I wish to transform. I fight against the same conditions that the people who come to see me are struggling with; stress and anxiety which can lead to hormonal imbalances that cause sleep disturbances which impair your immune system and render you vulnerable to depression. These disorders are also connected to the fact that we live in a society founded on racism, patriarchy, misogyny, and capitalism.
The guiding principles of my practice are intersectionality and holistic health. My intake forms and session questions take into account that a client’s psychological health, financial flexibility, support system, positive self-identity all impact how their bio systems work. The healing plans that I offer are action plans that help folks transform from sick to well, scattered to whole, and from isolation to connection.
Being an openly queer, women of color, engaged on social media, writing for web and print publications, and calling myself a black Community Herbalist, helps dispel the myth that people like me don’t exist. We have always existed. My visibility brings to center the black/brown bodied “women’s work” which has been historically and currently marginalized or invisibilized.
My job is to get folks access to herbal remedies by any means necessary. This means I see clients in their homes, at coffee shops, on the back porch of their mama’s house, during the baby’s nap time, via skype or Google Hangout, and in a beautiful Wellness Center. It also means that I offer workshops using popular education fundamentals. This style of teaching acknowledges that we all start from a place of collective expertise and invites participants to be co-facilitators in their learning process. My commitment to sliding scale fees and barter exchanges allows folks with a wide variety of access to resources to utilize my services. I remind all of my clients that self and community care through a connection with our herbal allies is a toolkit that is available 24 hours a day and that using those tools is revolutionary.
Kifu Faruq is on staff at Southeast Wise Women with the Programming Team and Unity Village leadership. Kifu began her training in herbalism and food as medicine from her mother at 8 years old. She uses that training combined with a science degree and 15 years of clinical research experience to follow in the tradition of her mother and grandmother as a Community Herbalist. She offers workshops and private consultations in North Carolina's Piedmont region. Kifu is also a urban farmer and educator with a focus on Food and Environmental Justice. Her life's focus is reconnecting people back to earth based practices for self-care and self-empowerment. Kifu is is also a trained facilitator in dismantling organizational, interpersonal, and internalized racism and oppression. She applies this training to her work as an herbalist to create safe learning spaces which encourage folks to honor and value one another across lines of difference.