As many of you know, this year has challenged our community. Social and political movements calling for justice amidst a global pandemic and climate change have weighed heavily on many of us and those we care about. These challenges have also laid the path for us to go deeper in our work as healers and teachers.
Over the course of this year, at Wild Ginger we have been asked to think more deeply about being a healing presence. Different areas of unawareness were illuminated. Although uncomfortable, and at times, painful, we believe we have an opportunity to move forward together in a spirit of healing, care, and justice.
This message is an offering to you all so you can better understand with transparency where we are, our accountability process, as well as our hopes and dreams to transform into the future. We acknowledge that these are issues that we have to face collectively within our herbal movement, and we hope by sharing our process transparently we can be part of transformation moving forward.
Over the past year we have held our first ever online herbal programs to larger groups than ever before, as well as inviting in new teachers and space holders as well as many who have worked with us for many years.
It is important to note that Wild Ginger Herbal Center is both a family business as well as a community including teachers mainly from the United States but reaching around the globe. Wild Ginger is co-owned by Molly, a white cis-woman, and her partner Javier, a Black and Latinx/e cis-man. Molly is the central organizer managing programming, communication, and logistics while also teaching, gardening and herbal medicine making, while Javier’s roles include stewarding our land and gardens, hosting groups in Costa Rica, and transportation as well as nature programs in Costa Rica. These are the intersections of how we move through this work in our learning community. (What does cis-gender mean?)
Overview Over the course of the last year, Richael Faithful has lead us along with several members of our teaching community in a collaborative process helping to identify our core values, shape community agreements as well as work towards a repair model which can help hold us when things come up. This is taken shape into our Values and Agreements Document. That document is a living document, and our first draft now on our website on our About Us Page. This document is not meant to be a set of strict guidelines, but rather to help guide us as space holders and healers, teachers and learners amidst intense political, economic, climatic, moments. Moving forward, we are asking all teachers as well as students to agree to these values and agreements before joining our collective program spaces in the future. This does not include the repair model yet, as we are hoping to do this work step by step, incrementally, in order to lay a solid foundation and build our capacity.
This work is a proactive response to last season’s 2020 online herbal program that yielded praise, as well as critical feedback, and in some cases, caused real impact and harm. Though many of us want to avoid conflict and harm and have no intention of causing it, they are also a natural and inevitable part of being in community. We have to learn to hold it, learn from it, and transform because of it. We receive the communication expressed from students in the spirit of care and community, with the hopes to help us all do better into the future.
Areas of Feedback ~ Opportunities for Growth
Wild Ginger Communication & Our Community Learning Space Structure General critiques involved Molly's lack of preparation and creating a solid container for our online learning space, particularly a large one, for holding the wide range of identities and values in our learning community. The lack of clarity on Wild Ginger's website and public reach regarding who Wild Ginger is (a family business, and a community), our offerings, and expectations folks can/can't have coming into our learning community. Folks were confused if we're an herbal space, a social justice space, a radical activist space with a specific set of politics, etc.
Ultimately we want to welcome folks from and beyond social movements. While we hold many similar values, we also want to be widely approachable. As teachers we are very diverse in our approach and practice of herbalism, our politics, and our spirituality, and we see this as a strength.
We have and will continue to re-work all of our public communication on the website, course sites, as well as a Values, Agreements and Repair model which we hope will carefully and clearly better answer these questions, as well as help set folks with expectations that are in line with our capacity and offerings.
Locating Ourselves and Our Identities One of the trust building practices that helps our student community understand who we are and how we are coming to this work is identifying and locating ourselves. This helps brings context to the work that we do, and what informs our relationships to teachings and practice. So as teachers we are committing to name and be aware of our social locations. When beginning classes we will name the identities, experiences, and histories that locate where we are when we enter a space, and bring awareness to our actions that come from what we have named, especially if they are privileged identities. I can provide support and model this skill for those new to this practice--we also have a number of teachers in the community who are very skilled as well.
Cultural Appropriation A number of students raised concerns during classes around cultural appropriation. There was a range of concerns from not providing holistic overview of traditions to folks not from a specific ancestral lineage not to teach from that lineage. Along with concerns were real impact, including emotional labor for participants who needed to provide deeper cultural/political/ecological context or respond to superficial or exotifying characterizations.
We recognize that cultural appropriation has had a continued seriously harmful impact in our herbal movement and at Wild Ginger, and we want to take much care and consideration in how we show up in our work.
This led us to do deep inquiry with a core group of teachers that are doing work and teaching in our programs from varying traditions. After that conversation, we have come up with our current location on cultural appropriation which you can find at the bottom of our Values and Agreements.
While we do not draw a hard line at teachers not from an ancestral lineage teaching from that tradition, we name different ways how cultural appropriation can/could show up in our classes and our considerations about who we feel can/cannot responsibly navigate these complexities while teaching in our classes.
Our main question guiding our consideration around teachers and cultural appropriation is: As a practitioner, does this person have enough cultural and political context to understand what they have learned, so that they are not extractive, othering or engage in other objectification, and as teachers, do they have enough context to know the impact of what they are sharing?
Ableism Concerns about ableism, or language/discrimination in favor of able-bodied people, has come up over this course as well. These concerns center on insinuating that disabled people need to be fixed. We have room to grow here and hope to provide some additional resources to do so.
A major and exciting advantage of online learning spaces is that they are accessible to folks with differing abilities and those who can’t make in-person classes for various reasons. This also means that we are holding space for folks with a wide range of needs we had either not encountered or considered before.
For example, we incorporated closed captioning as well as downloadable transcripts of our classes. We had requests sometimes for teachers to slow down and speak more clearly as we shared and provide visual aids and notes ahead of time for folks with hearing impairments or visual learners.
It is important that we are mindful of our language and aren’t assumptive or making wide sweeping statements assuming everyone can/does something. For example, “every day take a walk around a garden.” Also, we want to be more mindful about using language that can alienate folks like “crazy, insane, blindspots . . .”
Beyond this though, we have work to do about how we welcome and affirm our neuro-divergent community members, folks navigating mental illness, people with physical disabilities and other disabilities (visible or not).
Gender Identities We affirm every person's self determination around their gender identity and we have to be a space that is life affirming for all folks on the gender spectrum.
We do realize, as herbalists exploring healing that gender, sex, and specific body parts or systems are going to come up. During an online class, harm was expressed when gender was presented as a man/woman binary, students were misgendered, and statements universalizing truths for certain genders were part of the teaching.
We know this is not the first time this harm has occurred at Wild Ginger. We acknowledge that the gender binary and norms connected to the binary are the dominant assumptions that many of us were raised with and lived with for a long time. And, many members of our community identify outside the dominant binary or are part of Indigenous nations/people who never had binaries. At this moment we have to do more to bring our shared understandings in alignment with our values.
At the core, we are a space that is life affirming and life giving. We respect the self-determination of folks to identify their gender and receive teaching and care that affirms their identities, realities, and bodies.
We have and will continue to share further resources in understanding gender, the gender spectrum, and serving our gender expansive and LGBTQIA+ herbal community with our teaching community.
How We’ve Responded
Process and Repair around Harm Several folks raised concerns about feeling shut down by either space holders or fellow students when they raised concerns or named harm. Additionally other students have raised issue with having to listen when students stop class to address concerns, and that they want to be able to concentrate on the content of the class.
We want to name here that we do value harm being named and addressed--with boundaries. Understanding harm gives us the opportunity to learn, grow, and operate within our values. Our new Values, Agreement and Repair Model is designed to help us navigate these tensions when they arise, and skillfully navigate disagreements, conflict, and harm when they come up.
We also value the skills and knowledge that are being transferred in our classes and recognize that many students are coming for skills to add to their personal and professional toolkits and are working to best balance when issues surface. In the spirit of building skills, we have sent and continue to send out We Will Not Cancel Us by adrienne marie brown to our core teachers in our herbal and birthkeeper programs which explores this deeply. We hope this resource will be helpful in deepening our understanding.
Our Accountability Process Over the last several months, Richael and Molly have been working together to strategize navigating as conflict and harm have come up, but also to create structures to better hold our community into the future.
We have had direct conversations with teachers, we have had direct communication with students who have reached out with concerns, we have had live student feedback session, as well as a written feedback form that is currently live.
We have communicated directly with teachers who concerns were raised about and continue navigate those situations, and in general tried to be responsive to needs we can and should responsibly hold, and also held lines and boundaries that felt important to define.
We have created a Community Values, Agreements, and Repair Model which can help guide our collective time together and will be given to all students and teachers to agree to before classes begin, and this model will be rolled out in increments as we feel our capacity grows to both understand and to hold them.
We created our Community Values and Agreements Model, which will further evolve to include a guide on our Harm & Repair Model as that comes together. This includes our current location on cultural appropriation so folks can understand our process and questions and those who draw a line not in alignment with our own know what to expect.
I, Molly, want to be very clear that the major work and heavy lifting of this process has been so carefully and skillfully held and moved forward by Richael, and preceded by lineages of Black, Indigenous and people of color, Queer and Trans folks, who have been doing this work for many many years. Huge gratitude to you Richael, and I am thankful to each of you as well, and the collaborative nature of our work together.
Moving Forward We believe these issues are not going away nor do they exist in a vacuum here in our classes. In fact, calls will only increase for justice within our communities, and we believe that part of our work as herbalist and healers is responsibly hold and learn to navigate the deep roots of illness, whether personal or societal. We are not going to have all the answers, sometimes our reflections will lead to more questions to consider.
Our vision moving forward is to do this work of building our knowledge and capacity about these issues and beyond. Alongside the herbal and healing knowledge we offer, will be the work of embodying a life-affirming community and will be done with both our teachers as well as our students (though in different offerings.) Richael has offered to continue on in helping us build infrastructure as well as do work to help create a healthier “ecosystem” in order to move forward. Our work will always be evolving, and what better way than to do this work in trusted community, together,. Hopefully this work can help strengthen our work not only at Wild Ginger but out in community, and ripple from there.
For Wild Ginger Teachers, this means moving forward this means that teaching at Wild Ginger will now involve not only showing up to teach specific classes on the schedule, but showing up to our teaching community spaces for shared learning and skill building. We are building this into our budget to pay teachers for attending these spaces because it is essential and valuable. We do this work so we can have a collective, life - affirming presence.
Working together we will learn how to navigate and hold each other, and hopefully cause less conflict and harm on our end. We truly see our wide range of identities and difference as a strength and an asset, and coming together to center around some clear collective values and learning to affirm our wide ranging community as far as race, gender, ability and beyond will only help strengthen our work. We cannot do this work and do it well without continuing to reflect, learn, receive, and transform.
We hope, moving forward this will be a participatory process. Please know you are always welcome to reach out to us via email at email@example.com
Deep gratitude to each of you for generative feedback, for continuing to show up, for all of your continued dedication and offerings, for your deep community rooted work and ties, and so thankful to continue to build with you each into the future.
In Gratitude, Molly Meehan Brown
Contact Us at WildGingerHerbalCenter@gmail.com Copyright 2022 Wild Ginger Herbal Center
l This website and all Wild Ginger Herbal Center Programs and Classes live or recorded are for entertainment purposes only. We do not provide medical advice. h The information provided is not intended to diagnose, treat, prescribe or cure any disease or medical condition. 1 Please consult with your qualified health care professional for medical advice. l