By naomi doe moody 

my name is naomi and i am half asleep

my brown limbs fall in a gangly tangle of exhaustion on the couch that i am too long to rest on comfortably and as i begin to relax, my vagus nerve sounds the alarm to my limbic system: danger! it cries and i jerk awake

memories old and new of being woken in the night for the sake of being harmed are a common reality for those of us who have lived through or are born from violent acts of colonization

you’re growing like a weed my mother tells me every summer when her white hands pull the dusty box of clothes labeled naomi from the attic and tries to make them fit

they never do

she glares at me through the bluest eyes and i see myself through her distorted lens; i am a weed, to be pulled from her garden and discarded 

what must i have done to deserve this? i ask myself and look down the length of my little brown body to find my answer

my name is naomi and i have dark skin and dark hair and dark eyes and i speak English as my first language and i know no other well enough to claim a second

i was born in an academic town in a northeastern corner of turtle island right by the sea but i am forever being told to go back to where i come from

having now reached the peak of maturation and searching for a “from” to go back “to”, i have

ventured further inland to less populated parts of this corner we now call New England to plant seedlings and put down roots

and perhaps it was here that i unwittingly became the carrier of a likewise mature deer tick that transferred to me through violent means a bacteria named borrelia and their sibling with a much lovelier name, babesia 

and perhaps because i’ve become accustomed to wearing too short shorts and making do with what i’ve  got i went into the woods vulnerable and unprotected and once again the colonization of my brown body is my own fault 

because people always ask: weren’t you wearing pants? 

the lyme lays waste to my body

like the inhabitants of a man camp the spirochetes drill holes through the vital parts of my being and rob me of what sustains me

the babesia attacks and destroys my red blood cells, leaving me gasping for air and oxygen though my breath is steady and strong

there are days i am so sick i am sure i will die and days i am ready to let it happen 

in the course of my treatment i have been prescribed a number of herbs, some that i have abandoned and some that have become close and trusted friends

there is one whose scientific name revealed nothing to me about who they are or where they came from but they have become requisite to my existence

the kinship i experience with them i attributed entirely to necessity:

they are the THING that WORKS on my DISEASE 

very western 

very modern

very science 

when i work with this medicine i am able to breathe i am able to rest i am able to sleep through the night and the hope is that i am able to heal, though intuitively it feels like there is something missing from our dialogue

a quick google search tells me the story of their origin, the reality of our bond and, most likely, the mystery of the missing link: unsurprisingly this plant was stolen, exploited, colonized

Nibima, as they are called in Twi, is a weedy vine Indigenous to West Africa and championed by what the western herbal community refuses to call Traditional African Medicine

Nibima has been an ally of Indigenous peoples of so called Ghana and surrounding nations for centuries

a true herbal remedy, infusions and decoctions of the root have been used to treat many cases of illness and disease by traditional medicine people, including malaria, a leading cause of death in small children and pregnant people in West Africa

but because of this, their strongest constituents are stripped from them, concentrated into forms palatable by white bodies and given a new name (very western, very modern, very science):

cryptolepis sanguinolenta

and suddenly they are dropped from English speaking tongues, trapped in brown bottles with white labels adorned by this cumbersome lie of a name, exchanged by white hands, nibima’s origins and history thoroughly erased 

(it’s worth noting that though lyme aka borrelia is a disease of whiteness named after a town in so called Connecticut where it was first discovered-or let loose-babesia is malaria’s cousin)

(it’s worth noting that as human intervention disturbs and disrupts the natural habitats of other beings like microbes and pathogens, we become more visibly a viable host and more likely to carry these beings with us as we invade and colonize our way across the globe) 

(it’s worth noting that weeds and weedy plants are among the most effective remedies for fighting these pathogens and that many of the plants we call invasive are often introduced to a new environment without consent)

and so we all come together in this confluence of colonization

with names from tongues that ancestrally are not our own

naomi

babesia

cryptolepis

scrutinized out of context through the Eurocentric experience, stuck in an unending cycle of appropriation and pathology which perpetuates a lack of health beyond just being sick with a disease that is difficult to treat

the only way forward, the only way to heal, is depopulation of my cells…quite literally decolonization 

there is a belief that those of us with impaired immunity are especially vulnerable to tick borne illness and my immune system has been run ragged by a fight or flight response that just won’t quit

it’s been stuck in the on position since 1492 and been in overdrive since 1619

to decolonize my body of pathogens i’ve had to decolonize my connection to plant medicines which in turn has led to a decolonization of my spirit; i’ve learned to not only look down upon my length with love but to turn that love inwards as well

i’ve had to debunk the myth of the missing link within myself; parts of me were never gone just hidden, connections not broken but obscured

histories not erased but painted over only to be chipped away again to reveal the beauty beneath

to free the truth and my ability my right to speak it to power:

i release the lies and labels others have thrust upon me in their fear, their ignorance, their hatred

i release the false names i have been given to sanitize my truth out of existence

i release the false ideals projected on to me until i bend and break myself into a more acceptable shape and size 

i reclaim my rightful place to take up space and grow and thrive, like a weed, like a persistent medicine plant, beautiful and vital and welcomed as i am: whole

my name is still naomi for now but i am wide awake and i am healing from colonially imposed self-hatred as much as i am healing from illness and dis-ease

nibima my sibling remains with me and reminds me that like them, my true name is out there and i will recognize it when i hear it


naomi (they/she) is a Black multiracial community organizer learning and sharing how to navigate and heal trauma by allying with plants. They live on Abenaki ancestral land and spend most days in the woods or gardens homeschooling their 7 year old, lil j. Connect at @radiclenaomi on IG and at susuheals.com

 

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