By Heidi Maria Lopez [Herbalist and LREP Managing Director]
AUDIO VERSION HERE:
Remedios, medicine, and wellness for justice and liberation. This section is really about sharing medicine and wellness practices that can support us in our racial equity and decolonization journey so we can arrive at liberation, nourished and well. For us what that means is that wellness, outside of a context of colonization and a history of resistance, is oftentimes just fueling more of the oppression that we’re trying to get free from. Within a context of the lived histories that we have had – the FULL lived histories – not just colonization or oppression as our only history, but our full, whole dignity, past and realities taken into account that are healing that happens within that context is able to really free us and free others along with us. The remedios that we have and that get passed down, the ones that we develop and remix over time – all of that becomes really important in being able to identify, connect with, resurface if necessary, and make a new… all that’s available to us to not just fight oppression and dig out its roots within us, but really to also connect back and stay connected to our resistance, our lineages of resistance and long standing peace and joy and community and love, love, love, love, a revolutionary love. That’s what this section is about.
For the Spring/La Primavera, the plant that I’ve been with, because there’s many form of remedios, but the one that came to me when I thought of the Spring being here and new blossoms and what is the clock of the world, as Grace Lee Boggs used to say (May she rest in Peace and Power) is Dandelion. I never worked with this plant as far as I know in my family with a Spanish name. I looked it up and online it says, Diente de León is one that it’s known by, and that seems to sound familiar to some of the other folks here at LREP. So we’ll go with it. But a lot of people really know Dandelion from sight. If you see it, you might recognize it. I know that I grew up seeing it in the parks that I played in, specifically, J. Hood Wright Park in Washington Heights. I saw them pop up around this time of the year all over the grassy areas of the park. And Dandelion is such a powerful medicine because it does have a tap root, which means that it can actually really go so deep in the ground.
It’s roots that keep it there, thriving and able to regenerate itself, dig themselves up to 15 – 16 feet into the ground. And so people who sometimes try to get rid of this particular plant from an area will find that it’s not enough to just cut off the top because the buds and the parts of it that regenerate are usually so far down that just doing that, cutting it at the top doesn’t mean that it won’t keep coming back. So I really love this plant and what it can offer to us in this Spring. Again, the Spring that has come once more, and sometimes since the pandemic, I’m still surprised at the world turning. The fact that Spring is here again, offers us new opportunities to thaw out from whatever Winter we’ve had and also to have a little bit of space in between that experience of Winter and all it offers. I think about the tap root and I think about the thawing that is necessary for us to come back around that also isn’t totally new. I think that there’s a way where messaging around Spring is sprung and treating things brand new is a capitalist form of short memory, right? Making it so that if everything is so new that we can be ahistorical. As soon as we cut that history off, then we know that we can put other stories in its place or make it seem as if we are people that don’t have long history and lineages. We know that that was key in the kidnapping and enslavement of Black people and Africans, specifically from the continent, to create enslavements. So we want to be very careful about treating newness as ahistorical.
I really love that Dandelion says that we are deep rooted. We are more than just what is at the surface. And when we pop back up, when something comes back around, sometimes it does come from a long, deep rooted history that is there, even if this version of me that is coming above ground is new. So it still offers that possibility of newness that is not ahistorical – that does include something that has come before. I really love that medicine for us. I love what it can offer in terms of reflection. Who is it that I am, that is coming back around, that is still deeply rooted in my history? All my faults, all the ways that I’ve messed up, all the ways that oppression has been deep rooted within me, and that I am also saying is not the only part of me. It’s not the only thing that exists. Dandelion as a medicine is also a liver tonic. Any liver congestion folks might have when you think about the function of the liver in the body. It can be extremely cleansing for an organ that is offering cleansing to us consistently, if not constantly. So I would think about it as medicine for that as well. What is it that I’m ready to shed and let go of in order to move forward, in order to be anew, in order to also do the work that Dandelion offers, which is to tell the truth. I feel like I have 70 million conversations a day that are all about whether or not we are able to connect to and then also this being usually the harder part, especially in movement space, is sharing our truth however that might land, however that might come out. So that does not mean being brutally honest. That doesn’t mean being rude. It does mean saying that if you have a truth to share then connecting with it is important and vital. And that the Dandelion supports us in doing that. That’s what the cleansing can be about. If you are someone who believes that organs hold emotions, the liver can be associated in some cultures with holding anger. What would happen if we were actually able to cleanse from, really work with, walk with, be with our anger and see what it has to offer us? Not to stuff it down, vilify it, say “it’s no good or not welcome here”, but really be with it and say: thank you… thank you for what you’ve offered me. And with that, share our truth around it. Share our truth around what could be underneath that anger. Who is it that is needing to receive it in a way that would be healing for us, and might be healing for them? And whether that happens or not, whether it’s healing for them or not is healing for us. And to get that far to share it. So there’s that other piece that goes beyond the superficial. I say that to say that I think that there’s a lot of ways that in healing spaces the healing stops at awareness. I became aware of fill in the blank and that’s it. But where does the behavior change?
I would say that specifically around racial equity work, I think that Dandelion can be a really powerful medicine for light skinned people within Latin America and Spanish speaking Caribbean communities – especially if you are a light skinned Black person within our communities, as I am, to really speak the truth and be connected to the truth that we need to be connected to for ourselves. What are the things that have been showing themselves to be true about us? I take up a lot of space as a truth that came early to me in working with Dandelion and that was hard for me to swallow because I have a whole long list of reasons of why I should take up space and I need to take up space and taking up space is necessary, and all of that is true. Also when I am in a mixed race space, when I am in space with darker skin Black people, what are the ways that I was taking up space that were unhealthy for me and them? That really were not acknowledging the privilege that I had as a lighter skin Black person? And once I get connected to that it also helps me to cleanse and be with the anger that these systems do to pit us against each other, the ways that I was feeding into that to get to the actionable part of what I needed to let go of to change my behavior and stop taking up as much space when that was disorganizing us. I would say that there are ways that this particular medicine, this time of the year, can be really beautiful to bring us to truths that we need to surface for ourselves and that example I just gave is one way. Also, sometimes truths that we need to express to other people. The thing about Dandelion is that it is very persistent and it is not about politeness or niceness or is it to keep things at the surface. The truth that comes out is going to get to the tap root so PREPARATE. It is what it is. And i think it can be a very beautiful medicine to work with in the Spring – again the thawing season so whatever happens you have something to look forward to. I can say so much more about the season but it is nice to maybe have that to look forward to. If I was going around giving truth in the Fall my life could look very different going into a dark cold Winter having done that so this is a very good time of the year. I pray that it offers something to somebody. We are here to hear back from you all, to receive, and know what Remedios come up for you this time of the year? Are there any reactions you’re having to this particular one and have you worked with Dandelion / Diente de Leon in the past and in a way that you want to share about what it has brought to your life? I look forward to sharing more about this and thank you!