My goal for fieldwork was to put together a creative herbal (a reference text for the identification of, and uses for plants) with a focus on historical and contemporary uses of plants by people of the African diaspora, and to facilitate discussion that engages local writers, healers, artists, professionals, witches in dialogue about writing and health/self-care. The herbal that I ended up with was a collection of writing inspired by or about plant-based self-care practices.
It was particularly important to me to amplify the voices of members of these communities not only because of their marginalization in mainstream western culture, but also because of their participation in herbal self-care, which is often chosen as an alternative to western medicine, and when foraging is involved, is alternative to the mainstream economy, and intertwined with environmental activism. So queer and women-identified artists and healers of the African diaspora are at the critical intersection, not just of race, gender and sexuality, but also of western medicine, capitalism, and the environment. By collecting and organizing writing about herbal self-care by queer and women-identified artists and healers of the African diaspora, I hoped to contribute to the conversations I’ve already observed taking place among black women about the importance of self-care, to build community, and to amplify black feminist / womanist voices using the resources that were available to me.
First, I reached out with a call for submissions to writers, healers, or spiritualists who use plants in their personal or creative life. Six people answered the call, while I also commissioned a piece from one person, and asked another for permission to reprint an article I’d found on a website for witches of color. One important aspect of this project was the task of compensating the writers, which I managed with the fieldwork activity fund made available to cohort members during the semester. At the same time, I acted as editor, and compiled and edited the writings submitted.
I am currently working with Sarah McCarry of Guillotine Publishing in preparation for printing the herbal. It is projected to be finished later this year, and we will celebrate with an event where the writers who submitted can share their work together with a community of local women writers of color. At this event, there will be the opportunity to discuss healing, self-care, trauma and their intersections with writing / artistic / creative practices.