In the Belly of the Beast

Part II: Rising Above Conflict

Preface

On October 8, 2023, I presented a workshop called Rooted Change: Thriving through Social Unrest. I taught herbal remedies to activists to help sustain them in their liberation practices. I conceived and taught this workshop before the liberation struggles in Palestine, Congo, Sudan, Haiti, and other regions affected by colonialism gained widespread media attention. Now, 6 months later, I want to revisit these themes for the current moment. Specifically, I want to provide those of us living under the empire—in the belly of the beast—ways to maintain momentum in these ongoing freedom struggles.

I understand deeply that capitalism makes us ill-equipped for longevity. We’re exhausted and defeated. This impacts the way we show up for our wellness and the way we show up for communities in struggle. As an herbalist, I often discuss how herbs help sustain our physical and emotional well-being. I believe herbs can also help sustain our liberation struggles, and this series will explain how.

This is Part 2 of a 3-part series. You can read Part 1 here.

Rising Above Conflict

Efforts to change or unravel institutions and systems of oppression are often met with resistance. Sometimes, this resistance can be physical at the hands of the state or other factions against change. Sometimes conflict shows up in our interpersonal relationships. Although conflict is inevitable, it is often the most uncomfortable aspect of movement work. And, just like hopelessness, mismanaged conflicts often topple righteous movements. If we are serious about endurance in our liberation struggles, we need to take care our ourselves and our communities during conflict.

There are many resources on creating successful conflict resolution strategies in organizing spaces, such as this workbook, “So You’re Ready to Choose Love” by Kai Cheng Thom. However, even conflicts that are managed with the most robust systems of care and accountability take a toll on our psyche and our health. What I’m focused on here is how to protect our bodies from physical, environmental, mental, emotional, and spiritual violence. Anyone who is engaging in movement work should be proactively protecting and nourishing themselves from these effects.

Protection

The most familiar way to engage in liberation movements is through direct actions like protests and sit-ins. In these environments, we need to consider the threat of physical violence and ways to protect ourselves. Herbal preparations can be used for common injuries such as burns, cuts, bruises, and eye irritation. But, we also need to expand our idea of protection in liberation movements. Liberation work involves constantly transmuting negative energy into positive change. Longevity in this work requires us to maintain our light, positivity, and hope despite outward negative forces. This requires awareness of our energetic baselines and course-correcting when we start feeling overwhelmed, depleted, depressed, or pessimistic regarding movement work. Realignment can look like consistent energetic cleansing rituals that focus on removing negativity, helplessness, and despair.

Nourishment

One of the best ways to protect ourselves from the tolls of conflict is through nourishment. Foods and herbs that are high in minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants protect our cells and tissues from the damaging effects of oxidative stress.

While nourishing our physical bodies during conflict is important, our energetic bodies need attention, too. Systems of oppression often leave deep wounds on our sense of self, our relationships, and our communities. We can thrive by tending to our emotional wounds, prioritizing a practice of self-acceptance, and creating spaces for marginalized identities to be celebrated in the present. In our role as activists, we often encounter folks who internalize self-hatred or self-doubt that was learned from systems of oppression. Or, we had to unlearn negative stereotypes and limiting beliefs about any marginalized identity.

At some point, we must take time to heal and care for the parts of ourselves that society rejects, demonizes, or neglects. when individuals, groups, or systems do not give us or communities we care for the respect, dignity, or love we deserve, we find ways to give these things to ourselves.

Herbs for Nourishment and Protection

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