CBD Support Tincture for Pregnant & Postpartum Folx

By Cassandra Thompson

CBD vs. THC in Cannabis

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the active component in cannabis that can support mental, emotional, and physical ailments experienced in pregnancy and postpartum.

Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the active component in cannabis that, when used in large amounts, has been connected to complications in pregnancy such as low-weight for gestational age before birth or smaller babies at birth, and neurological complications for babies post-birth.

However, consumption of CBD via infusion in foods, oils, and tinctures has been found to relieve nausea, relieve anxiety, reduce pain and inflammation, regulate mood, reduce blood sugar levels and support sleep. I have seen CBD aid folx in all of these ways in pregnancy and postpartum, without the psychoactive effects of THC that can promote paranoia, anxiety and get folx ‘high’.

CBD is often taken in 10mg doses (also known as a ‘microdose’) at first, so that the individual may determine what amount works for them, and work their way up from that dose, only if necessary for their relief. It is also best to take CBD on an empty stomach, and not close after or before taking prenatal vitamins, to feel the full effects.

Here is a recipe for a CBD tincture (liquid infusion, often done with alcohol or vinegar) that can be used to safely microdose for relief of common symptoms experienced in pregnancy and postpartum, without getting the user ‘intoxicated’ or experiencing any of the symptoms caused by large amounts of THC use.

Activating Your Cannabis

Before using cannabis flower in medicinal, edible preparations, it needs to be heated (decarboxylated) to release the CBD for effective infusion in carriers and absorption in the body. 

It has been found that negligible amounts of THC in a CBD dominant strain allow it to have a better effect on relieving the physical and mental ailments experienced in the body. A CBD dominant strain can be requested from your supplier/dispensary. This will have an average ratio of 4:1 CBD to THC within the plant, with an extremely low percentage of THC (less than 2%) and a higher percentage of CBD (above 13%).

If you have an oven, you can activate your cannabis by spreading a ½ ounce (14 grams) thinly on a parchment-lined baking sheet and baking on the middle rack for 1.5 hours at 240 degrees Fahrenheit (240F).

CBD Tincture

  • Yields 2 cups of tincture that will remain good for years if kept in the fridge.
  • 4 mL/1 tsp = 1 serving of a 10mg dose of CBD

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups A.C.V. (apple cider vinegar) – aids with digestions, nausea, heartburn and promoting healthy gut bacteria/reducing amount of group b strep developing in the body
  • ½ cup raw ginger – aids digestion, anti-nauseant and anti-inflammatory
  • 1 ½ tsp dried stinging nettles – supports healthy uterine tissue growth and release, reduces fatigue, lowers blood pressure, reduces inflammation, nutrient-rich, hemostatic, lowers blood sugar levels
  • 1 ½ tsp dried lemon balm – relieves stress and anxiety, supports sleep and supports digestion
  • 1 ½ tsp dried  oat straw – supports mood regulation and supports milk production
  • 1 ½ tsp dried chamomile – supports digestion, lowers blood sugar levels, antioxidant, supports heart health and promotes sleep
  • 2 – 500mL mason jars with caps
  • 1 – small strainer
  • cheesecloth
  • amber tincture bottle with measured dropper (optional)

Directions

  1. Combine ingredients into a mason jar and seal. 
  2. Leave on a window sill for 1 month, turning daily/frequently.
  3. After 1 month of infusing, get the other mason jar, the strainer and the cheesecloth, and place the strainer in the mouth of the clean mason, with the cheesecloth inside the strainer, and pour the infusion contents thru the cheesecloth and strainer, allowing only the infused a.c.v. to pour into the clean container. 
  4. Squeeze or ‘milk’ the cheesecloth into the clean container to get as much a.c.v. out of the herb matter as possible.
  5. This can then be kept in the clean container for dosage with a teaspoon, or some can be put into an amber tincture bottle with a measured dropper for on the go use. The remaining amount can be stored in the fridge for refilling the tincture bottle later on.
  6. Begin your dose at 1 serving, if no effect is felt after 1 hr, double your dose upon next use, more than 12 hrs after the last dosage attempt.

Cassandra is a doula and radical herbalist, owner of Seed & Cerasee, a Birth Centre Aide at the Toronto Birth Centre, a founding member of the birth work collective Ocama Collective, and is actively following her path of birth work in afro- diasporic tradition – inclusive of trans & queer IBPOC community.

Spying on the woman who birthed me

Black and white illustration fo apricot on a tree branch

By Ali R

i saw her again today
she was behind a fence
smoking a cigarette
in a faux leopard print
short fur coat
looking at nothing
unmoving
except to bring
her cigarette to her lips
Heavily medicated by the
approved drugs now
Effectively captured
this too-wild woman
When i was a kid,
i thought i had
killed my mother
the neatly type-written page
that came with me
upon the shady birthday transaction
said she had cervical cancer
when she was pregnant with my twin and me
Which wasn't true:
she was a drug using
street level sex worker
who got knocked up
by an undercover cop.
She carried us.
Her warmth, her movements.
Two little fruits
connected thru a tree of life
These were East Hamilton fruits
Those berry bushes that persist
at the back of an industrial yard
or that apricot tree that stands
at the edge of the strip club's paved lot
It takes some hardness to grow in that kind of space
A jaw tightened in resolve, never laxed at a breast
They felt it best
if she didn't keep her kids, those
Well meaning folks
She had all the undesirable traits.
i lived much of my adult life like a junkie anyways
Without having to push it into my own veins
It's there still.
i pick at my skin in obsessions
and live in scarcity and fear
and desire of her
who i never knew outside of her
i'm still afraid of making any big movements
afraid to kick up trouble
less catecholamine cascades and vascular tightenings
it pulled me to to Vancouver in my early 20's
took supplies from the rich hospital on the north shore
to fervently 'fix' those ten times sicker
on the streets of the DTES
while walking home from night shifts
Not at all knowing
that i was also chasing your bones
the ghosts you left in your path
and with my sisters
scattered across this country
Even my most staunch altruism is rooted within.
so when i finally saw you
decades after we were surgically excised from you 
in premature haste
bored butcher surgeons mistaking
my twin and i for your demons
when i finally saw you,
you lived in East Hamilton again.
five minutes away from me
you could have been anywhere
You still walk the streets
hurried
with giant eyes
i saw you from the outside
for the first time,
around the same time as
i started to heal from within
time being on my side like that.

 

ari r
ali r is a poet who writes about finding her powers, her childhood memories, her birth mother and the power of queer love.

Coming Home: An Interview With Tina Reynolds

by Savannah Taylor

I had the privilege of chatting with Tina for the second time for The Peak about her work with incarcerated and formerly incarcerated women in the state of New York. My intention upon interviewing her was to chat on what has led her to where she is today. Admittedly, I expected a play-by-play account of all the brilliant advocacy work she has done. However, what ensued touched on something much more beautiful and something many of us can relate to… Family and sisterhood.

Do you wanna introduce yourself and what you do?

Tina: I am the co-founder and chair of WORTH (Women On the Rise Telling Her Story), which is a volunteer organization that is led and run by currently and formerly justice-involved women. We’ve been around since 2008, and we’ve done some phenomenal things, like changing legislation and policy and bringing about laws that impact women who have experienced incarceration. Two years ago, I began working at The Child Center of NY to develop and implement A Vision for Tele-Visiting (AVTV), a program that offers the logistical, emotional, and wraparound support to assists families in maintaining meaningful relationships during a parent’s incarceration and preparing for a successful reentry into family and community life. We provide reentry support, family support along with youth activities, leadership development and tele-visits, as well as mental health support and wraparound services, such as job placement assistance and benefits counseling. The Child Center has a powerful community presence, reaching more than 26,000 children a year. It’s located in Queens, NY, which includes neighborhoods where the numbers of children impacted by parental incarceration are among the highest.   What better place to offer services to children with justice-involved mothers?

So WORTH, from what I remember from the last time we chatted, came out of your own experiences from being incarcerated, correct?

Tina: Yes! WORTH came out of the experiences that I had and many other women had from our incarceration. We came out of prison with a feeling that there was not much ready for us to become successful and remain out in the free world. So, we began by having conversations amongst ourselves to see how we could support each other and support our sisters coming home.

Did you wanna touch more on your new program that WORTH is focusing on now?

Tina: We are focused on our partnership with The Child Center to provide services through AVTV, which in turn focuses on mothers and children within New York State Facilities, for women in NYC who are housed in Bedford and Taconic correctional facilities. We also offer tele-visiting services within Rikers Island’s Rose M. Singer Center for women, where we offer services to families, youth, and mothers with children. There is this tele-visiting boom happening within the nation, and not all programs are thinking about the relationship between the child or family member and the justice-involved person. Here in New York, there are organizations like The Osborne Association, Hour Children, and The Child Center who always put the child first, and honour the relationship between the child and his or her parent.

It is important to offer supplemental services to physical visits–although it is very important for children to see, feel, and touch their parent through physical visits–in addition to offering families a safe space to heal and move forward with their lives. We have three sites in Queens and a tele-visit can basically be done every day. We facilitate visits in Bedford Hills and Taconic Correctional Facilities, as well as Rose M. Singer centre in Rikers Island 1.


1. Westchester, Bedford, Taconic and Rikers Island are all prisons located in the Tri-State Area

It’s interesting because the program originally started out with the focus on just the state facilities, but after talking with the CEO of The Child Center, Traci Donnelly, she agreed we should offer tele-visiting to women with children because there was the possibility of continuation of services if Mom was transferred up state. She also envisioned us working with youth and opening visits up to families.

Before you were with WORTH and before you started organizing, who was Tina? What was Tina up to?

Tina: (laughs) well that’s a long time ago. I really did not know who I was; I knew who I wanted to be, though. I knew I wanted to help women and children. I didn’t know how I was going to do it, so I became involved in an organization and began sharing my story about my experience as an incarcerated woman. I had been home for about 12 months? I began pursuing an undergraduate degree and raising my last two children and reuniting with my other children, changing my life through the love of others and being really grateful for being out. So my primary focus was on my family because I have seven children and I’d been out of their lives for so long. In the first 5 years, my efforts were to basically reunify with my own children. To establish a relationship with them or assist them with establishing a relationship with each other. They were raised by various family members throughout the tri-state area…so they were pretty much dispersed throughout New York and New Jersey. Reunification is difficult and challenging. I had to swallow my pride, be strong, give voice to my emotions, and remain humble. My main focus was for my children to have a relationship with each other, grow and live happy lives. I am happy my family stepped in and supported them through my incarcerations.

It sounds like you had a very solid foundation of focusing on your family unit. Did that carry over to your advocacy work and WORTH?

Tina: It certainly carried over. My family experiences through my incarceration and the unification process with my children certainly intersected with my work. I often found myself speaking with sisters who had experienced the same situations and the challenges of unification with their own families and children. They were facing the challenges of the choices their family members had made who were taking care of their children in their absence. So, I always wanted to make sure I focused on those issues in regard to reproductive health but also family stability once Mom came home. Because it’s so important! Mothers tend to think about their children during their incarceration. They think and wonder about their safety and who their friends are and whether they’re faring well and things that they have missed as far as conversations–as well as, the “firsts” in any child’s life; regardless of how old they are, there are always “firsts” that happen in your child’s life that you are definitely missing if you are incarcerated and you can’t get those times back. So, I’ve always been about doing the work but also realizing that there are challenges around re-establishing relationships with those you love. And continuing to strengthen those relationships as you are out, being true to yourself and asking your children to be true to themselves and coming up with some specific guidelines of how you would engage with them and how to be with them. Since you being there physically is such a big missing in their lives during incarceration, even if you see them regularly, speak with them regularly during your incarceration, you are still not there. Each one of my children are different people and each one of them have/had different needs. While they wanted me in their lives, there were certain things that they wanted from me and I had to realize my own limitations. Not always monetarily, but emotionally, because as I was growing through my process of being home, I was also growing through my process emotionally   of being the person who I am today. I hadn’t really spent that much time learning who I was, and so I could do things but I wasn’t attached to the emotion behind the things I did.   I wanted to be attached to the emotion; those were the most difficult challenges because I had spent so much time without feelings in order to survive in a very selfish and selfless world.

How do you feel like your communication/unification process has changed since you started your advocacy work to now?

Tina: Well, basically, so much has happened in my advocacy work in relation to my children. I’ve been an editor in an anthology, Interrupted Lives: Experiences of Incarcerated Women in the United States, where I shared a story about my last daughter and reuniting when she was 20 years old. Now, some 9 years later, she is in my life and she has three children and is married. My other children have gotten married. My daughters were married first and have strong and stable relationships with their husbands. My sons are not married yet. My children and I have always communicated, and my communication is unique to each child. I speak with some more than others. However, we have always communicated. It has transformed over the years into a relationship of dignity and respect and love. My advocacy work is all my children see and know I do, they observe my commitment and dedication to others.   They are an integral part of my growth. Advocacy is an integral part of my growth, sisterhood is a big part of who I am.

Do you feel like WORTH is a place for women to come and rebuild things that have been lost or forgotten while they were incarcerated?

Tina: So even WORTH has transitioned and transformed into something different. We closed our office in Manhattan a few years back and now we’ve been working specifically on this tele-visiting. . Our mantra has always been “once you’re a member of WORTH you’re always a member of WORTH” because it’s a volunteer organization. Women were inspired and moved towards gaining employment and seeking a higher education while volunteering at WORTH. It’s always been a volunteer program and because of our movement women have gone on and done different phenomenal things for themselves in their lives. They come back and touch base and we end up being in certain spaces together. We were able to join as a group of women to the National Council for Incarcerated and Formerly Incarcerated Women and Girls and the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted Peoples Movement. It is always inspiring to meet so many women across the nation who have been impacted by incarceration and gone on to do phenomenal things. So, WORTH has grown as I have grown, and it hasn’t looked like something that I wanted in the beginning, but when things transform, it’s just like relationships with your children. You have this idea of how this relationship is going to be. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s gonna turn out like that. So, how do you adjust to the ways in which it does turn out and how can you keep moving forward knowing that that’s your position in the world and that’s the purpose you’ve been placed here for? So, through the transition of WORTH, in many ways, it’s not where we were before, but what can we look like in the future? So working within the prison now, we’re looking at it from a perspective of having leadership coming out of the facilities we are offering services in. Having the women come in and join us in this process and guide us from that place (because we’ve been home a lot longer) where they see the impacts of incarceration on themselves and their families being different within this world of social media and technology. We have to give folks that are coming out a safe space and a chance to be fully self-expressed.

How would you describe WORTH now then? Is it still a sisterhood?

Tina: It is still a sisterhood! It is always and will always be a sisterhood of women. There are so many women who have been a part of WORTH that it will never not be a sisterhood. Because of our experiences–some of us have experienced incarceration together, gone through education together or organized together. So, it will never not be a sisterhood… We are continuing the work moving forward, we’re just doing it differently. It’s sort of transformed into something else.


Tina Reynolds
Tina Reynolds is Co-Founder and Chair of Women on the Rise Telling HerStory (WORTH). WORTH is an association of formerly and currently incarcerated women who have been empowered by their own experiences while involved in the criminal justice system and beyond.  Reynolds has received a Master in Social Work from Hunter College and is currently an adjunct professor at York, CUNY in the Behavioral Sciences Department teaching “Impact of Incarceration on Families, Communities and Children” and Human Development.

Rites of Passage

by kahsenniyo williams

She came running in the room frantic and doubtful. She said, “Mom I think I got my period.” Despite me giving her teachings on this day, this moment since she was little, I could hear the insecurities in her voice. Her words echoed in ancestral tones. “Mom, I think I got my period,” she repeated. These words began a continental movement in my life. It was like the earth cracked and shifted for us to reveal the new road, the new path and journey for us. Womanhood. It is important for me to acknowledge that her muttering these words meant a change not just for my daughter and I, but for our community, the aunties, her sisters, the grandmothers and all of the women in our lives. I certainly did not raise this child alone. Numerous wonderful, powerful and loving women worked together with me and my husband to create this little girl that was standing in front of me. This meant change for all of us.

Illustration above: Quiet girls are seeds 2 by Mia Ohki 

I had been preparing for this beautiful moment for a long time. I stayed up nights wondering to myself and the ancestors “how do I as an Indigenous mother in 2017 bring my daughter into womanhood given everything my people have lost”? I knew that we as Haudenosaunee had to have some sort of ceremony or way of doing this, prior to contact. Unfortunately, it had, for the most part been lost in the dust and avalanche of colonization. Stripped from our way of life during the residential school era. If you take a child from their home to colonize them, you remove child rearing practices. Fundamental to those practices is the ways in which we transition our young people into adulthood. The ceremony, the process. At some point the sacredness of this time was gone. The residential school era forced shame and humiliation on us as a whole. It turned this once beautiful time in development into an secretive embarrassing time. This presented huge challenges for me as a mother. It felt as if my daughter was in front of me, her arms extended with a basket in her hands, waiting for me to fill it. And I was standing in front of her empty handed, with nothing to offer her. Not only was it necessary for me to do the work of overcoming the colonial shame of my womanhood and body, but I also had to overcome the shame of not having the cultural knowledge. The reality of being a mother with no tools or knowledge given to me of how to do this thing was often at times overwhelming. I often reflected on how young people are transitioned into adulthood today and was bothered. Today the first drink, the first time having sex, the first-time smoking weed. I didn’t know much other than I didn’t want any of these as the marker for my daughter’s transition into womanhood.

I spent time exploring and seeking answers on how to do this, in a way that felt good for me, my daughter, our family and our community. I spoke to knowledge holders, grandmothers, men and women. I talked to kids and I had countless conversations with the women in my life. I even went to Akwesasne (a Mohawk territory) to learn from them.

Here are some key points I learned.

This time in a person’s life is crucial to their development. It is a time that we as caretakers of these beings (not just parents) should hold our young people the closest. Today our youth hit a certain age and we often let them go. Off to explore and develop on their own, with very little supervision or guidance. This colonial mentality goes against all logic. We must intentionally and lovingly bring our sons and daughters into adulthood. We must put intentional lessons in front of them to shape them, to give them guiding principles and values. We must give them challenges and healthy obstacles to overcome.

Just because I did not receive these teachings does not make me an inadequate mother. The shame I felt around this was not mine to carry. It is far more beneficial to do somethings instead of nothing. We need to be brave and we need to make space for our own knowledge and intuition in transitioning our young people. We need to call upon the knowledge in our circles. To hold up mothers, fathers and community. We need to collectively put these young people at the centre of community during this time in their lives.

Culture that is alive grows and changes to meet the needs of the people. This concept is necessary for the revitalization of Indigenous child rearing. It requires the openness to make mistakes and create somethings new out of the old. It requires being bold and prioritizing the children here today over our own trauma and egos. If we continue to function from a place of fear and secrecy we will lose the little that we have and ultimately our children will miss out.

Her birth into this world was my birth into motherhood. A process that is never ending. With winding roads up mountains, through valleys and flat lands.

My daughter was the first woman in my family in generations to get some sort of intentional community-based transition into womanhood. Being that this was the first time in generations and that my daughter has struggled with self-esteem we had a big celebration. There were women from all corners of the world who attended. We had a full moon ceremony in her honour. This was an inter-generational affair. We ate, sang songs, shared stories of womanhood, gave words of encouragement and wrapped her in our love. This was true healing, for all of us. All of these women who in their own ways had been robbed of a similar experience. Although we were there for her, we healed parts of ourselves. On this night she would start her berry fast. A yearlong ritual fasting. To teach her about commitment. So that she would experience the satisfaction of following through. To teach her about self-regulation and temptation. So that she could have the experience of dealing with wanting something but knowing that it’s not the best decision for her. How to say NO. To teach her to listen to her body and what she is craving. For her to know that her body belongs to her. To teach her about sacrifice. To give her the security of knowing that a community is surrounding her and keeping her accountable. To give her a sense that her decisions should be purposeful. So that she knows the moon and berries are there for her.

It is yet to be seen the long terms effects this will have on her. But I know as the person who is teaching and guiding her that I have reference points of times she learned all of these different teachings. I keep bringing her back to those moments and have a feeling that I will throughout the next several years. This journey is just beginning. She has more process and challenges that will intentionally be put in her path before we can fully welcome her into the circle of women. But it is comforting to know that we are on our way.


Kahsenniyo Williams
Kahsenniyo Williams is a mother, poet, spoken word artist, and community organizer. She is from the mohawk nation and the wolf clan based in Six Nations.

Mia Ohki
Mia Ohki is a Metis Japanese-Canadian artist, born in Connecticut, USA, and raised in Alberta, Canada. She presently lives and works between Edmonton and Calgary, AB. Mia primarily illustrates with black pen on white paper to convey ideas surrounding the social, feminine and cultural influences in her life, however her art is mostly influenced by her background, with Japanese and Metis culture frequently appearing in the subject matter.

Dreaming mothers, mothering dreams: The Birth of The MOCHA Project

By sydanie

From time of birth, black and brown women are often raised to develop the fundamental skills needed to perform feminized labour and maintain the survival of our communities. We, just as often, become mothers before we learn to love ourselves and others in ways that are healthy, gratifying and supportive to ourselves. Balancing dreams, desires and responsibilities on little rest and support, is an unfair lesson stitched into our minds, recognized and remembered from quite some time ago. As a “natural” result of migration, and the systemic dismemberment of black and brown families, many traditions and practices specific to the different stages of young black and brown womanhood and motherhood, have frayed; become changed and lost.

I ponder sometimes, on the wisdom hidden within the silent and secretive nature of my grandmother, wishing I could sit with her thoughts and tap into her wealth of knowledge that is rightfully my own. Wondering what undying traditions died with her or remain silent in the heart of the elders in my family still living.

    Growing up, I had a really unhealthy and hurtful relationship with my mom which, surprisingly enough, set the precursor for a long line of abusive relationships, both platonic and intimate, which lead up to the one that brought the birth of my daughter. I had, up to that point, been an artist slowly moving along my journey of self discovery/awareness and/or “consciousness” in my life and work, so the birth of my daughter, which immediately follow with a deep postpartum depression, made me begin to meditate on and strategize around, my mother wounds. My relationship with my mom was the center of my universe for my entire life, yet the full impact of her abuse never showed itself until I became a mother. Between my damaged relationship with my mother and her family, along with the undying friction between my co-parent and I, I was left with minimal support in my daughters infancy. Everyday was a war on slope. Everything was hard. I don’t remember having many friends back then and if I did, I didn’t have the strength or language to articulate my needs. Throughout my different stages of postpartum depression, I took careful note and made sense of my situation as it relates to my individual experience with systematic oppression. “My lack of access to resources and support is directly connected to the family and poverty, I was born into”; this was (and currently is) the bottom line and the main thought that kept circling through my mind, only tormenting me more as I lived it everyday. My daughter and I and our need for community, created obstacles in my self development that I continue to struggle to navigate.

Early in my pregnancy, while working with some women in my community, I had pitched the concept of an community art circle for mothers of colour and the thought was met with excitement. The slow development of the program plan would eventually allow young black and brown mothers to use the creative space and mediums to help them transitioning and adjusting to motherhood. For as long as women have had to balance their careers and parental duties, there has been a fundamental need for communal support for families; it takes a village to raise a child, they say, and it is not as though this concept is foreign to me. I grew up with a village, as dysfunctional as it may have been at times. Though many of those who made up my village as a child are either no longer in my life or no longer with us, their lives, love and protection is something I value and cherish yet fear I’m failing to create for my daughter in the faint rhythms of isolation that roll into my timeline and lifestyle. Some might say its selfish, but the driving force behind my goals derive from a very deeply personal space and strength, to bear light onto the trembling of my own individual needs as a mother still young, and learning. The maintenance of our mental health, the survival of our children and the hope for generational healing, depends on the purposeful and intentional restorative rebuilding of our community that I deserve to be a part of.

As I found myself grasping for straws in a community that I still continue to adjust myself around, I understood the importance of holistic community care for black mothers and families and birthed the idea of The MOCHA Project. The Mothers Organized in Community Healing Arts Project began in 2016 as a 9 week mommy and me art program for black and brown mothers, with optional child care, food and transportation. All workshops were co facilitated by other black and brown mothers and that shifted the space in a powerful and positive way every time. When the women felt in control of their space and experience, it developed its own energy that even in the smallest groups, was still flowing, moving and active. Providing this space in my community for the first session was a challenging, yet amazing and fulfilling experience. The connections I made with the participating mothers and mothers in my community who work diligently to make safer spaces like this exist, affirmed my journey into holistic community arts and healing. It is important for the folks in our communities be allowed to heal and be healed in the spaces where they are from; black mothers, queer folks, poor folks all need to have access to spaces and alternative education, where we can be equipped with the skills to heal ourselves and each other. As The MOCHA Project enters its second year, I reflect on being initiated into motherhood and black womanhood through my desire to heal and care for, myself and my community. We are so often caught in perpetual states of need and lack, because of shame we are taught to feel for being human. We are subject to constant states of crisis, trauma and government sanctioned disease and have no safes space to be the people we become as result of the system. As our communities affirm decades worth of work and research in black and intersectional feminism, more folks are creating and maintaining the spaces for themselves, by themselves as a means of resistance and generational healing.


sydanie
sydanie is rapper, mother, writer, event planner and host, art facilitator and founder of The MOCHA Project; a 6 week peer art therapy group for black and brown mothers to use the art as a means of self expression and to initiate self healing. This past summer Sydanie released her most recent EP Stillwater, and currently working on her next project titled “999”, due for a spring release. Instagram, Twitter, Soundcloud: @sydanieee

Words of Wisdom from the Grandmothers in Three Movements: Past, Present and Future

watercolour of cotton flower

by Karen L. Culpepper 

(With a Lyrical Soundtrack from Jill Scott)

Content note: This Article discusses sexual violence and abortion 

Past: Once upon a time…

To the indigenous grandmothers of African descent that survived the middle passage, to the Black women and girls who endured the horrors of slavery in the US and to the grandmothers of the Jim Crow era, like Recy Taylor, who did not receive reproductive rights or justice, we welcome your presence. You endured the burden of physical cruelty, mental torture and psychic attacks, a resonance that is coded, and sometimes expressed, in the present day by way of intergenerational transmission of trauma. May you continue to share your stories from the other realm, so that we may continue to acknowledge your experience in this realm

“Tell me how you feel if I was, if I was gone.

Tell me how you feel.

What if I was gone forever?”

How It Make You Feel

– Jill Scott

“I believe if slavery would lasted much longer the negro race would have depopulated because all the negro womens they had become wise to this here cotton root. They would chew that and they would not give birth to a baby. All of their Masters sho‘ did have to watch them, but sometimes they would slip out at night and get them a lot of cotton roots and bury them under their quarters. If they could just get enough that root to get one flower that was enough to do what they wanted it to do” ~Dave Byrd of Texas, an ex-slave, recounts his experience of cotton root bark, Federal Writers‘ Project of the Works Progress Administration (WPA)

Baby I am not sure I can put into words the horrors of slavery. It was brutal and inhumane. The slave owners were primitive savages. What kept me in the midst of it all, you ask? Two things: the wisdom of the ancestors and love.

Don’t ever forget: you are the descendant of brilliant African people enslaved in the United States. Those white folks did not know a thing about the crops we cultivated in South Carolina. We were brought from Africa specifically for our knowledge of agriculture, but folks don’t usually claim that as fact. We created fertile ground for crops like tobacco, indigo, rice and cotton. While we worked the land, we planted seeds of hope, strength and possibility and watered those seeds with our blood, sweat and tears.

I give praises to the ancestors because ironically we were the growers of the very plant spirit medicine that allowed us to have sovereignty over our bodies. I was told stories as a young child about how Mandingo woman had established a deep relationship with cotton root bark to regulate reproductive outcomes such as preventing and terminating pregnancy.   Honestly, we would have had cotton in the United States whether they liked it or not because my Mama told me a story of how some of the women tucked all kinds of seeds in their hair before they were stolen from the Motherland. Who would have thought that the plant we worked with year ‘round would enable our bodies to be the site of resistance?

As a young enslaved woman, I found myself at the intersection of providing physical labor and the expectation to reproduce, literally create more property. My Mama tried to protect me as best she could. One day while Mama was off completing a task, the Master’s wife, Miss Betty, encouraged her son to rape me, which he did. I was so ashamed. I jumped up, fixed my clothes and went back to watching the youngers. I didn’t have the courage to tell Mama. The next morning when I went to the big house, Miss Betty forced me to drink a concoction of black haw (Viburnum prunifolium) to ensure the arrival of her grandchild because Mama knew all about plants from catching babies with Big Mama.

About a month and a half later, Mama witnessed the concoction routine as she prepared breakfast. She pulled me aside and without saying a word, I burst into tears and hung my head in shame. Mama knew my truth. Although she was devastated, she just held me close and kissed me on my forehead. Little did Miss Betty know, cotton root bark is a force to be reckoned with and I had seen it in action many nights when Mama would help other women terminate a legacy of suffering. She gave me a decoction of cotton root bark and cotton seeds that night and within a few hours, I delivered a huge formed clot. Mama laid hands on my womb space and gave me another tea to tone down the bleeding because we had to be up in a few hours. She was off to the river to perform a ritual and release my baby back to the Earth. Mama held me all night.

From that day forward, Mama taught me everything she knew about plant spirit medicine and had me chew on cotton root bark every day moving forward. We were emancipated a few years later. I stopped chewing on that root bark once I met my beloved. I never knew choosing to love someone could be such a beautiful act of resistance. He held my hand and treated me so gently. I had never had that before that moment. I never wanted to have a baby before meeting him. His love kept me here and he gave me something so sacred to love: your great, great grandmother.

Present: 45: A menace to society

“I wonder if I gave you diamonds out of my own womb, would you feel the love in that or ask why the moon? If I gave you sanity for the whole of humanity, had all the solutions for the pain and pollution. No matter where I live, despite the things I give, you’ll always be this way.”

Hate on Me – Jill Scott

“A BOLD vision for reproductive justice means trusting Black women to determine our future.”

– Monica Simpson, SisterSong

Matter is neither created, nor destroyed. Same script, different cast, new day. Has much changed in the realm of reproductive freedom and sovereignty when it comes to the bodies of Black women and girls? The same wicked frequency of white supremacy and privilege is alive and well today. The only thing that has changed about plantation life is that the “Last Plantation” is in the center of Washington, DC.   White men are STILL making critical decisions about women’s bodies through the creation of legislature and by eliminating funding to programs that directly impact their ability to make safe, critical choices about their own bodies.

Can Black folks and other folks of colour in the United States truly ever feel whole and complete under the suffocating frequencies of capitalism and corruption? To be Black in America is to exist in the presence of racial and economic injustice and emotional, mental and spiritual harm. Is it possible to show up in our unique totality on a land that never considered our ancestors equal, whole, complete human beings? These are the days of truth, you know. One lesson we’ve learned from 2016 is however folks are show up these days–believe them.

Donald Trump, also known as 45 by those in resistance, is a chief teacher of this lesson. We cannot believe his word, but we can believe his intent. He is a threat to the very fabric of the United States and he is a threat to humanity, particularly in terms of Black women’s reproductive justice. Based on an article in the Huffington Post, over the course of one year, Donald Trump has restricted $8.8 billion in US foreign aid funding for international health programs that provide or even mention abortion. For young women and girls in Kenya, this means no access to condoms, no access to safe abortions (unsafe abortions are a leading cause of death), no access to family planning, no access to cancer screening and no access to antiretroviral medication in a country with a very high HIV population. The impact is swift and evident with young women in Kenya returning to clinic sites pregnant, some even suicidal and many resorting to unsafe abortions.

Here in the US, the impact of stress on Black women’s health is the root of many health negative phenomena. According to a recent piece from National Public Radio (NPR), Black mothers in the US die at three to four times the rate of white mothers, one of the widest of all racial disparities in women’s health. And according to recent data, in some areas, like New York City, Black mothers are 12 times more likely to die than white mothers.

Unfortunately this phenomena was embodied and expressed through the loss of activist, Erica Garner. Erica lost her father, Eric Garner, who suffered from asthma, to senseless police brutality after a New York Police Department Officer used an unauthorized chokehold. Erica had give birth to her son three months prior to her death and had suffered from the effects of an enlarged heart. According to the New York Times, “an asthma episode precipitated a major heart attack.”

What was the “seed” that caused Erica’s death? Most likely a combination of racism, stress, grief, and compassion fatigue. Compassion fatigue is a phenomenon that I have observed consistently in activist spaces where folks align themselves with the suffering of others. It often shows up as literal fatigue and can express as apathy, depression, anxiety and contributes to the erosion of vitality in activists. As a member of the Oxalis Collective here in Washington DC, we thrive to create and curate healing spaces for activists. We have worked with a reproductive justice organization to educate and introduce healing justice as a framework. This framework provides a container of principles that encourages healthy, whole activist communities and sustainable movement spaces.

Future: Possibility (For the sake of the youngers)

“When I wake up, everything I went through will be beautiful.” When I Wake Up – Jill Scott

“I am rooted in radical organizing traditions that always call on spirit and ancestors to allow us to root our political work in a much larger frame of how are we transforming on a cellular level what oppression has done to us, individually and collectively. And how will we not just survive but heal and be well and create new ideas or renew?” – Cara Page

Wise grandmothers, our elevated ancestors. We give thanks for your presence. We give thanks for the container you have created for us all. Thank you for keeping your torch lit in dark times. Thank you for showing us the way and passing along your wise teachings.

I am dreaming of a world that affirms all lives.

A world where folks can all love who we choose.

A world where we acknowledge our wretched past history and through community ritual, atone for our destructive past aggressions.

A world where folks acknowledge their privilege and leverage that knowingness to work towards justice, conscious allyship and the radical distribution of resources.

A world where the bodies of people of colour are not a canvas for harm and trauma.

A world in which access to information and economic power is not granted to the few.

A world where we cultivate a connection with all living beings, plants and creatures.

A world that encourages community and economic empowerment through entrepreneurship that is rooted in models that are sustainable.

A world where we our foods sources are fully disclosed and consist of healthy, ethically grown sources and accessible food markets.

A world that weaves in healing justice as a foundational tool to bring light and healing to our experiences, triggers and traumas in this realm and generations forward and back.

A world where we are safe in a space of our design called home.

Grandmothers, we need your guidance and protection now more than ever. May we channel your firmness and unwavering will to live. We know in our hearts that you did not survive for us not to live our best lives. May our dreams be big enough to hold us all.


Karen Culpepper
Karen L. Culpepper is a clinical herbalist in the Washington DC area. Karen’s unique herbalist contribution centers on the ways in which plant medicine can support deep healing. Her particular focus areas are intergenerational trauma and its impact on physiology and vitality. She can be reached at embracingrhythm27@gmail.com.

The Way We Speak: Conversations on Reproductive Justice

A mother and daughter talk, ceremony, cultural resurgence, and finding their voices.

 By Danielle Boissoneau & Chyler Sewell

Illustration above by Eli WiPe

What is it anyway, this reproductive justice?

Can these words describe the actions of our day to day life if we don’t know what they mean? What about the places in which we fight to survive with our babies in our arms while excavators dig into our mother, the earth?

Reproductive justice is something that I’ve always found difficult to define. And because of that, I imagine that it’s something that doesn’t really have an ultimate definition. Maybe justice is found in the lived experience.

What about when we decide what our experiences will be, do you think we can do that?

I’ve always been told that I could do anything. That same idea applies to anyone in the world; and if that thing that they want to do is be able to live their definition of reproductive justice, then they can do it.

How?

I don’t know . . .

The way I look at it, I see my kids as my gifts. Reproductive justice is when I can make sure that my gifts are cared for and loved and supported. It’s when my kids can learn the language and be able to define their own roles in ceremony because they know how to communicate with spirit. I think it also has to do with the land and the water, because if we aren’t protecting these life forces, what reproduction is going to happen? Really?

I’ve been taught that the land and the water are necessary for survival. This concept has followed me from school, to home, to ceremony and back again. Without reproductive justice, would the water in our lakes and oceans and rivers still flow and would grass and plants and trees still grow from the ground?

Nope.

But I think that we’re alive during really sacred times. I think that we’re the ones who can create change because we’re here, now. So when I bring you to ceremony and you learn how to sing songs in our language, even if it’s awkward and weird, you’re still hearing it and processing – i think that’s reproductive justice.

It’s when we reproduce our knowledge, maybe it’s when we have to fight to be able to recreate our knowledge, too.

In school, I often find myself feeling like having this sacred knowledge is a burden, when it really shouldn’t be. I know that I’m different and that the way that I experience things isn’t the same as everyone else, and that fact scares me.

The idea of being able to reclaim space and be able to pass down the stories I’ve been told and the teachings that I’ve learned is exhilarating!

Do you feel like the world can be a place that you create?

Honestly, the idea of creating this world anew is scary too. And I know that I wouldn’t be able to do it alone. That type of life-altering change is for communities to decide upon and make for themselves, and where life long relationships are born.

Totally! I guess what makes it hard is that so many of us have been disconnected through residential schools, the reserve system and the removal of our ancestral food sources. Everyone’s on different pages now.

Recognizing the fact that we’re on different pages is a good place to start, though, right? Because then we can begin to help each other remember the ways that we’ve lost.

Yea! And that’s reproductive justice too! Like when I did my Berry Fast when I was 33 years old … it’s a different page than Anishnaabek who grow up in ceremony. It took me a long time to find my page.

But then there are those who aren’t confident in the pages that they inhabit. Because of the systematic removal of our ceremonies and the idea that they aren’t ‘normal’, I know that I’m not often very comfortable occupying the page that I’m on. I feel like people look to me for guidance because I’ve lived most of my life practicing ceremony. And I try to give that guidance, but I’m also still looking for guidance myself . . .

That’s something eh. So wise and so young. What contradictions we carry as survivors of genocide. I’ve become totally comfortable with occupying pages. I’m kind of like – this is who I am and even if you don’t like it, the only thing that will make me do is shine brighter. Maybe my part in reproductive justice is making space for my babies to shine too.

Mothers are awesome in that way. The way I understand it is that they work hard to be the best that they can be, in order to pave a path for their children. This type of work is something that I deeply admire, and hope that I can someday do too.

So maybe there lives the reproductive justice – in the spaces between darkness and light, where birth and rebirth happens over and over again. Maybe it’s the places when we sit in ceremony or by the water or on the frontlines to tarsands expansion projects. It’s where we remind the next generation that they are here for a reason and maybe that reason is to turn this world upside down so that our people can live right side up once again.

As beautifully contradicting as ever . . . I think that the justice is not only in reminding the next generation, but also raising them in those ways – to believe in themselves, to know themselves, to know where they’ve been and to be confident in who they are. I know that I’ve personally struggled with this concept, but I’m doing better in finding my voice.

We’re in this together.


Danielle Boissoneau
Danielle Boissoneau is Anishnaabe kwe from Garden River, Ontario. She currently resides in Hamilton, Ontario where she enjoys smashing hetero-normative patriarchy while decolonizing her heart, mind, body and soul. Danielle is a walking contradiction.

Chyler Sewell
Chyler Sewell is an Anishinaabe-kwe writer from the Great Lakes. She is an aspiring writer who enjoys spending her free time creating fantastical worlds, while also learning and experiencing things that will help her guide her four younger siblings later on in their lives.

Eli WiPe
Eli is queer artist residing in Toronto. They are an aspiring illustrator and writer. You can contact them at piscesprincx@gmail.com. Check out their bigcartel: piscesprincx, or their instagram, twitter and tumblr by the same names