Ethnobotany Update

IMG_20140930_192818I love thinking about the girasol, that as a live uncut flower growing in the earth, it moves (se gira) its face in the direction of the sun as it crosses the earth’s sky (or really the earth rotates as it goes around it).

This past semester I took two great classes – Ruth Wilson Gilmore’s Race, Space and Place and Sujatha Fernandes’ Rethinking Neoliberalism.  They were both very helpful in preparation for my work together with communities in Colombia to think about how communities create their own authocthonous/autoctonó  spaces.  I love that word authocthonous/autoctonó, that I first heard from Systema Solar’s song and video “Bienvenidos”:

Isn’t it great?  Sorry about no subtitles, for you monolinguals, Colombia lags/resists that and I think it is partly about taking Colombia as a cultural and linguistic whole, because, really, lots of things are lost in translation.  Though I also see the value of translation, on our own non-gringo terms.  Maybe every one can learn Espanish (not the colonizer one but the ones hybridized to describe lived reality in the Americas and in the Caribbean to also resist linguistic oppression and erasure), since many people I agree think the U.S. has always – since before 1492, been a multi-lingual country.

One of my research and study obsessions in understanding communities, is how communities build autonomous systems, built by themselves to protect themselves, from their cultural places and strengths and not necessarily in reacting to oppression, but building some thing new, something life-giving, an expression of who th(w)ey are.  So it is not an issue of purity for me because I value lots of things that are impure, and really, I think if you are stuck on purity you will be lonely and there won’t be much to think about, because the world is a big mixture of many things, we are all hybrids.  Except for the pure breds and we have seen how well they have faired, right?

Any way, some lovely compas together mostly from a project facilitated and worked by the Escuela Popular Norteña, and Critical Resistance, INCITE, Youth Ministries for Peace & Justice, we created the notion of Harm Free Zones in listening to communities in the South Bronx (Soundview/Bronx River REPRESENT!) and through intense community discussion throughout NYC, about how we can do without cops, solving our own problems, transforming our some times brutal and fatal relationships and not reproducing the violence they do to us.  Making them irrelevant, like it is now being proved with their work stoppage in NYC.  Proving what we have always said is the point we can figure out how to love and treat each other well without those occupying armies that pit us against each other in the first (domestic violence), second (graffiti) and third place (loud music), and provide fascist disorder (fascism has never, ever been ordered!).

So I think alot about how post-colonialism or undoing the damage of the European invasions, it is really going back to when before it got on the scene not after it, not using it as the touchstone, taking off the shackles that we never asked for/accepted in the first place.  But part of the problem is that the documentation and herstory of the times before those invasions of the Americas, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, the Islands all over is spotty, because said so-called civilizers erased what existed antes to prove themselves said so called civilizers, saviors and the repositories of all knowledge worth knowing, which turns out not to be thanks to so many decolonizing processes where we take back our connections to the land and before racial capitalism fuked every thing up. I am particularly jazzed to vibe with how our people have not always oppressed each other around gender and sexuality, but rather that it began through the imposition mostly of religion and an obsession with a particular kind of reproduction.  And “our” includes the marjority, or as the Zapatistas tell us, “Un mundo donde caben muchos mundos.”

So having the privilege to study, read, think and conversate about lots of things, even as a poor student (financially, not in brains, okay) is something I wish we all had more of, instead of having mostly to be preoccupied in surviving as wage slaves. Though, to be clear, if I may, I do love working with other students in the classes I teach as a part-time adjunct.  The interactions, certainly but not all, and def not the part-time adjunct part.

So, in thinking about space and place, feminism (through the example of Doreen Massey’s writing) has shown that they were partitioned to make it easier for the colonizing projects, driven by structures and people who didn’t think the spaces in the Global South were places in which people lived and celebrated.  A brilliant break-down, don’t you think, of all these ridiculous binaries that are deeply challenged and just about to be overthrown legacy that all kinds of oppression left us.

And the fragility, but unrealness of concrete, brutal, fatal violence perpetrated that we can fight, fight, fight, throw off too, and not believe in, none of us, any more.

In thinking of blues epistemologies and decoupling power and difference (thanks Ruth Wilson Gilmore!) and creating places of liberation!

“Worked all the summer, worked all the fall,

Had to work Christmas in my overalls

But now she’s gone, and I don’t worry,

Because I’m sittin’ on top of the world.”  Mississippi Sheiks, 1930

“When the Chatmon brothers and their band, the Mississippi Sheiks, recorded the blues class “Sittin’ on Top of the World” in 1930, the Mississippi Delta was already in the devastating grip of the Great Depression, well before this economic downturn undermined the United States as a whole.  Although the systems of debt peonage and sharecropping would be soon transformed, hunger, evictions, and terror would haunt the region for another four decades.  We must ask how could someone trapped in this web of social destruction assume the supernatural position, the superimposition, of “sittin’ on top of the world”?  Was the author gripped by madness, or was he rooted in an intellectual tradition that inherently enabled destitute African Americans to traverse multiple scales of consciousness and space?  Many present-day social theorists continue to bemoan the lack of humility among improverished African Americans; but these scholars have yet to understand the global epistemological stance of ‘self-made and Blues rich.'” Clyde Woods in Katherine Mckittrick and Clyde Woods.  2007.  Black Geographies and the Politics of Place.

Written to the beat of Systema Solar’s Quien es el patron?”-

And “Malpatitando” too –

Vaya!  

I wrote and submitted my first grant proposal to work with communities in Colombia, ay voy!  

Remembering 2014, lessons for beyond

This past year was something, no?  So many scenes and actions that stretch back in a barely interrupted line of lynchings pre, during and post chattel slavery and the bloody racial history the U.S. has.

Once again police brutality and their targeting and murder of mostly Black people (who in their right mind would ever believe that these are accidents?) is on the U.S. national agenda through the extra judicial murders and no accountability of Michael Brown, Akai Gurley, Eric Gardner, Tamir Rice. And it is peoples of different genders who are being brutalized and killed, though our exclusionary unable-to-think-about-gender society can’t seem to recognize that.  Remember Alberta Spruill, Sherly Colon, LaTanya Haggerty, Tyisha Miller, Chila Amaya, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Aiyana Jones, Tanisha Anderson, Yvette Smith, Shantel Davis…  Not a competition, but to balance out the record of who is being targeted, and asking, really, why are we not talking about all of them?

http://gawker.com/unarmed-people-of-color-killed-by-police-1999-2014-1666672349

Continue reading

Another year of learning, study, community building, more herbal medicine making and health

Hello Peoples,

It has been a while since I have written outside of class, though I have been making herbal medicine, building community together, fighting for a better world, and juicing!  Here are a few photos, and here’s to your health today and moving forward.

Hola Mi Gente,

Hace mucho tiempo que escribo fuera de clase, pero sigo haciendo medicina natural de todos modos, construyendo comunidad juntes, luchando por un mundo mejor, y haciendo jugos.  Aca hay unas fotos, y les deseo lo mejor en salud hoy y en adelante.

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Honeysuckle vine, Jardín Morning Glory

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Supporting Palestine from NYC!

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El Muro de Cartagena de las Indias, Colombia

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Sistas represent, finally, Young Lords Way!

cositas

Rosemary oil, soon to be lip balm

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Carlos enmascarado!

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Basil from the Jardín makes fresh pesto! Rico!

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Pasta con pesto

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Mi familia, hace tiempo

Himilayan Salt Lamps Altar

Himilayan salt lamps

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Chiles, Jardín Morning Glory

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Lisa and I, community gardeners

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Diego

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What an awesome event!

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Ofelia

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Fruit salad in Texas, yeehaw!

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A lake near my sisters, see the egret?

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Mulberries?

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Girasol

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Carrot and apple juice

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Juicer, carrot and apple juice and fiber

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Another batch of Organic Arnica Orange Peel Muscle Oil

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In the midst of all the murder, genocide and sadness, we all keep on working to make the world better.

Spinning healing energies and love with heavy hearts and minds and trying to maintain by gardening, working with herbs, studying, reading, staying aware, marching on the streets, not collaborating with evil.

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¡Que viva Palestina Libre!

Ethnobotany update numero 7

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Wow, what an intense semester, reflected by the fact that it has taken me a little less than a month to be able to process and articulate it! 

I enjoyed my classes, learned lots, and struggled with a couple of unruly students.  Not that I’m trying to rule, but they were so disrespectful, and I am to a fault, respectful, that is, so I have to learn more skills in that area where there is this breakdown.  Being an abolishionist, I don’t like to turn students into the administration, but as an adjunct, I also don’t get paid all that much to put up with people’s rude behavior, not that pay = putting up with it either.  It is also about getting support, and that works some times too after I have exhausted my conflict resolution and accountability skills.  I’m just saying.  It is also so difficult to focus on all the other students who are into it, who want to learn, when one or two students wants to argue every point from an abstract fascist position, like torture is useful, because I was there. 

Yeah, well that isn’t the society I want to live in and that isn’t how this class is gonna go. 

We didn’t get to important things because of the disruptions, important conversations, and I learned alot from it – more small group work, perhaps a debate or two between the students (thanks Lisa!) so it is not all on me.  Ideology and internalization of propaganda is such an insidious thing and it really really blew up when we tried to talk about it. 

So, the classes I took were great, I learned lots toward integrating my project.  Ruth Wilson Gilmore and Nikhil Singh taught Race, Prisons, War where we read really great books, among which are – Time in the Shadows  Confinement in CounterInsurgencies by Laleh Khalili where she demonstrates how liberalism can be fascistic and the limits of human rights discourse; David Olusosoga & Casper W. Erichsen’s The Kaiser’s Holocaust  Germany’s Forgotten Genocide about the roots of German concentration camps in SW Africa–>Namibia (and one cannot get the book in the U.S.!); Andrew Friedman’s Covert Capital Landscapes of Denial and the Making of U.S. Empire in the Suburbs of Northern Virginia which really breaks down how U.S. empire works, and its connections with domestic issues, communities and politics (and where Oliver North is from); Stephanie Smallwood’s Saltwater Slavery:  A Middle Passage from Africa to American Diaspora which is a thourough-going documentation of the slave trade from Africa’s Gold Coast and, through which we had great conversations how the social death school got it wrong by concentrating only on the brutal oppression and erasing all the resistance and agency by enslaved people in the fight against it; Takashi Fujitani’s Race for Empire:  Koreans as Japanese and Japanese as Americans during World War II through which I learned a great deal about race and racism and the specificities of them; and Susanna Hecht’s The Scramble for the Amazon and the “Lost Paradise” of Euclides de Cunha.  This last book is so significant for me because Hecht is one of the founders of political ecology, and in this book, she details the importance of quilombos, the non-linear and complicated construction of race in Brazil, the agency of the Amazon and nature – that is not calm and peaceful nor predictable, with good attention to gender and how humans work or not with the rest of nature, of which we are a part.  I especially appreciated the final assignment where we needed to write an extended 3-book literary review, so I picked Hecht’s, Wade Davis’ One River  Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon Rain Forest, and Judith Carney’s and Richard Nicholas Rosomoff’s In the Shadow of Slavery Africa’s Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World.  This assignment gave me the great opportunity to balance out the documentation of horrible, brutal slavery, colonization of African and other Indigenous peoples in the Americas and in the Caribbean with the resilience, and details of how they did resist, live and celebrate to this day. 

This could easily be my longest on-going post, but suffice it to summarize with three examples – from Hecht, the more egalitarian racial relationships in the quilombo called Canudos and how nature worked together to defend it; from Davis, “One Jesuit priest was rendered mute and catatonic by the Paez (Nasa) habit of laughing uncontrollably at his every attempt to convert them.” (141); and from Carney & Rosomoff, that mothers would place rice in their children’s hair so they would have sustenance when they arrived after the Middle Passage. 

I learned alot about writing too, especially from Ruthie’s “Race, Prisons, War” article, and Nikhil’s “Racial Formation in an Age of Permanent War”.  

For my Post Colonial Ecologies class with Ashley Dawson, I also learned a great deal, and thought alot about resource extraction in Africa, Nigeria, particularly, resistance in India and the connections between humans and the rest of nature in creating earth democracies (Vandana Shiva). My paper was not as successful, but I IDed lots of gaps that I need to work on.

And my third class was Participatory Democracy and Social Movements with Celina Su, where I also learned many lessons – I learned that political science is not that useful for me any more, in understanding the relationships between civil society and the state. I got to play Throw-back Tuesdays in looking at Chile and Argentina, particularly in re-reading the films “Missing” and “The Official Story”. Both these were profoundly important in helping me form a radical consciousness against fascism, and developing a guide to action to move against it. My resulting paper on Colombian civil society was good, I really worked hard on it in looking at el Paro Agrario Campesino, palenques/consejos comunitarios, reguardos, la Guardia Indígena, that work will continue to bear fruit, as I continue to look at Colombia, in the context of the still-constrained breathing room that the elections seem to be providing as the peace talks continue.

I’m happy where I am, getting ready and closer to Colombia and my work together there with communities. 

So, this summer is a bike riding, gardening, studying for my first exam one.  So, I am happy to be living and maneuvering this life, though some things like income could surely shift! 

¡Que Viva La Vida! 

 

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Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)-will the western scientists ever get it?

ginger-rootThe problem is the dominant ideology from the West, a.k.a the U.S. medical establishment: enlightenment-tinged white supremacist capitalism. I started thinking about this as I read Alan Yu’s blog on NPR http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/01/18/261055778/western-scientists-look-to-chinese-medicine-for-fresh-leads, which is an interesting article, mostly for what it exposes about the U.S. medical establishment. U.S. scientists have to get drugs approved through this incredibly bureaucractic process, which I’m sure has as one of it’s (not-so-unstated) goals to ensure that a drug is profitable and will not cause malpractice lawsuits. This is partly or more than, the reason for the American Medical Association’s war on herbalism which Barbara Griggs documents so well in Green Pharmacy The History and Evolution of Western Herbal Medicine.

This NPR article exposes to me that that thinking has to change. Another example is the controversy about ma huang and its extract, ephedra. Do you remember that controversy a few years ago? Because Western medicine makes a fetish out of chemistry, viola, ephedra was born. The problem is that ephedra is an extract from the whole herb called ma huang, which has been used for thousands of years by the Chinese, and the herb (which of course cannot be patented like an extract can, because humans don’t make herbs, at least not until GMO herbs which ludicrously Monsanto might one day try) has components, also called chemicals/minerals in Western parlance, which balance its effects out. In effect, ma huang has been used to regulate both high and low blood pressure, but alas, ephedra since it is an extract, cannot. Therefore, some folks got sick from taking ephedra. Western medicine (and green capitalists who have set up shop as so-called herbalists), whose original and some present-day practitioners were the original quacks in the war against thousands of years of herbalism, do not understand the difference between extracting a chemical and the whole herb. So, the resulting FDA ruling, is that herbs are dangerous, when it was actually the extraction process, and the lack of respect for the power of the whole herb to heal, that is the problema.

The white supremacist part, as exposed by the NPR article, on my reading, is the arrogance of U.S. scientists and the drug approval process to discard thousands of years of use of TCM with a simple “not rigorous enough” rejection letter. Which reminds me of another example, when doctors trained in other countries, particularly in and of the global south, migrate to escape often made-in-the U.S.A exported horrors to make a living and have to go through years of what is relatively speaking, sub-standard training and education in the U.S. to be certified to practice medicine here.

The U.S. drug approval system seems ridiculous when thinking about Tradtional Chinese Medicine, which has been around for thousands and thousands of years. Not that thousands and thousands of years of use alone are enough to justify its efficacy, apparently, nor do I make a fetish out of TCM. Read the article and tell me that we don’t have a ridiculous medical system based on enlightenment-biased scientific “knowledge”. And the U.S. standards “for what is safe” are so high and mighty (and which TCM apparently falls short of according to those Western scientists quoted there). That seems curious to me, given the thousands of deaths caused by that very advanced U.S. medical system, and the daily horror stories of it. This harm induced by doctors or other medical professionals is known as “iatrogenic” (which I first learned about in reading Ivan Illich), and according to Wikipedia (referencing a Journal of American Medicine article) in the U.S., 225,000 people a year die this way (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iatrogenesis).

I am not saying that “natural” is always better than the chemical, both have their use according to the challenge or issue faced. What is “natural” any way? I’m reading this very interesting book edited by William Cronon (Uncommon Ground Rethinking the Human Place in Nature), where he, in the introduction, and Candace Slater in her chapter called “Reinventing Eden: Western Culture as a Recovery Narrative” critique how we are always trying to treat nature as trying to get back to the Garden of Eden, when nature has never been that way. So, it would be useful, for us to do away with that safety-value obsession and be more realistic environmentalists, grounded in our lived lives in order to quit destroying nature and ourselves, because of course, we are part of nature, que no? And work for environmental justice in our nature which we embody and surrounds/is us, and not just in some far away national parks (which also are stolen Indian land, de todos modos).

Returning to the NPR article, my larger point is that Western medicine, while it is certainly useful in dealing with crises, is not the only useful system people have come up with. I have read in various sources that 80% of the world relies on herbs to take care of their health, and that yes, preventive care is useful. I am not setting up a dichotomy that Western medicine is bad, and that herbal medicine is good, by any means, but that why, if the former is so useful in every instance does it have to work to denigrate and destroy all other forms of life-sustaining knowledge about how to care for oneself?

And do you know about recetas caseras/home recipies? I love learning together with folks about them! I’m doing a workshop with my dear friend Lisa with mothers at her son’s school in da Boogie Down Bronx this week!

I know things are changing – valuing prevention, nutrition, medical marijuana, herbs are being grudgingly accepted by Western medicine, but it seems that the arrogant attitudes by some Western scientists, as they are codified largely still in our knowledge, acceptance and practices by our institutions (and seep into our heads, especially when we are facing health challenges), have a long way to go to change. En el mundo caben muchos mundos.

As I think of friends who are dealing with cancer, as we all fight to go beyond fear to heal/care for ourselves and our world.

¡Ache!

Even more Plantain Lavender Salve/Aun hay más pomada de llantén con lavanda

ImageI just went through the great experience of making some more salve, in sweet almond oil. The preparation with sage is so important, to clear out the containers and to smoke the whole process!  Plantain is such a great herb, what more can I say about it?  It so great for the skin, if you have rashes or other skin eruptions, bites or venom you need to draw out.  It is an herb that lives pretty much wherever there is grass, in parks, along roads, on lawns.  Like most herbs, it is considered a weed, since it pops up in unplanned ways in perfectly manicured lawns.  It is striking – broad or more narrow leafed with symmetrical lines the length of it, it has a stalk with flowers on it that don’t look all that flowery.  

Acabo de tener la experiencia chevere de hacer otra pomada, esta vez en aceite de almendra dulce. La preparación con salvia es bien importante, para limpiar los frascos y humar a todo la experiencia!  Llaten esa si es una hierba buenísima, que más les cuento sobre ella?  Es buenísima para la piel, si tienes problemas de la piel, roces, infecciones, piques o veneno en ella que tienes que sacar.  Es una hierba que vive en toda parte donde hay pasto, en parques, al lado de las vias, en los prados de pasto.

See my drawing of it above.   I have a good book on drawing herbs, which is a long herbalist tradition for plant identification, but it is also a great way to get to know their features and to design them.  I was going to say, replicate, but it is not so much so since paper is one dimensional, but to give an idea of their signification, and to be able to distinguish them.  

Vea mi dibujo de ella ahi arriba. Tengo un libro bueno que trata con el dibujo de las hierbas, algo que tienen una tradición larga en herbología para identificar a las plantas, y además es un modo buenísimo para conocerlas y dibujarlas. Hiba a decir que reproducirlas, pero asi no es, dado que el papel es de una dimensión, pero mejor para dar una idea de su significado, y para distinguirlas.

I’m always amazed at the alchemy which happens, every time!, when I make herbal medicine, at the point where I add in the grated beeswax or really as it transforms while I serve the role of partera, because I don’t really do the hard work.  

And I also appreciate the power of ginger to clear up pesky coughs and colds, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) sure is great!  

Siempre me asombro con la alquimia que ocurre, siempre!, cuando hago medicina de hierbas, al momento cuando le agrego la cera de abejas, o de verdad, cuando se transforma mientras yo juego el papel de partera, porque realmente yo no hago el trabajo difícil.

Y además aprecio el poder del jenjibre, para quitar la toz y la gripa que dura, Medicina Tradicional China si que es buena!

Oh, and a big bag of rice really works well with which to immerse your keyboard that you accidently spilled a glass of water on, as you are finishing your last paper for the semester, and your reach for your headphones to listen to and get at that so appropriate musical reference, not realizing that the cord is wrapped around the glass, uh oh .  Immerse the keyboard completely in the rice, for about 24 or more hours, and you will have a brand spanking new working keyboard.  The power of food!  And then compost the rice!

O, y una bolsa grande de arroz es muy eficaz para meter tu teclado al cual por ser burro le deramaste un vacito de ago, al punto que acababas tu ultimo trabajo del semestre, cuando alcanzas a tus audifonos para escuchar esa canción clave como ejemplo, sin darte cuenta que la cuerda esta agarada del vaso, uups. Meta al teclado completamente en el arroz, por 24 horas o más, y saldra un teclado nuevo y cheverísimo. El poder de la comida! Y después puedes usar el arroz como abono!

 

Improvised Baño Maria, sounds much better than double boiler, que no?  

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Coffee filters work well as strainers!ImageImage

 

I finally added the labels to the remnants of the last batch!/Por fin le puse la etiqueta a la ultima! Image

 

 

The moment when liquid become solid.  

 Coolness, literally!/El momento que cuajo

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Um, smells smoky, because of the sage!

Um, smells smoky, because of the sage!


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Here is the video and song that I temporarily sacrificed my keyboard for, isn’t it great/Este es el video y la canción por cual sacrifique my teclada, chevere vivir una vida autochtona/living an authocthonous life!
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