I resent Black History Month. I resent it for being the shortest month, for being the second half of the coldest time, when even us winter-lovers are ready for a change. But mostly, I resent it for being a checkbox. For allowing people and businesses the opportunity to quickly and easily say, “Look! We’re not racist!” and then go on with the status quo.
But, you know, I also secretly love it. I love it for being a quiet, dark time that invites contemplation. I love it for bringing a celebration of Blackness into the public consciousness, however briefly. For opening dialogue about the myth of race and the reality of racism, and holding space for reconciliation and healing.
We at InsideOut Wholeness believe strongly in reparations. As wannabe homesteaders, we really think 40 acres of land, reclaimed from agribusiness, and given to every family of African ascent would be a great start, especially if it came with some sort of ruminant, though preferably one that could bear young, to assist in the regeneration of the topsoil. Not to force Black families to farm, but to give people the opportunity to exist on their own terms, away from diabetes-inducing corner-store food, lead paint, toxic trash incinerators, companies with glass ceilings, and NGOs that offer “assistance” only to those willing to stay in their lane.
Along the same lines, but more palatable to most 21st-century Americans, is small business ownership. As we are discovering, this is a precarious way to support a family, but also a deeply satisfying one.
For that reason, we have always chosen to celebrate Black History Month by shouting out Black-owned businesses we work with and support. Stupid Instagram canceled our account so I can’t link you to all the fabulous businesses we’ve listed in the past, but this year we’re going to focus on Black-owned herb and healing businesses that we have relationships with. We will carry products from these businesses at our roadside stand in Berkeley Springs once it opens, but you can check out their websites now.
Produced by Nature
One of my best friends in the world has finally turned her passion for herbal healing into a business! Growing herbs in her backyard and kitchen window, Loreal has created a small line of elegant and effective salves, soaps, and tea blends. I couldn’t be happier with what I’ve gotten from her so far, and I can’t wait to watch the business flourish!
I ran out of Echinacea tincture in early December. (The plant looked so big and beautiful in my backyard, but roots take up a lot of jar space, and when I decanted the tincture I had about 30 ounces. This is why everyone needs 40 acres, or at least access to common land for growing!) It’s not hard to find dry E. purpurea root but many herbalists, myself included, feel that tincture made from E. purpurea must be made when the root is fresh—that tincturing the dried root results in an inferior product. So I started looking for dried E. angustifolia root—harder to grow but effective when tinctured from a dried state.
Some careful poking around led me to Asya’s Organics, a Black-owned farm in South Carolina. They mostly focus on veggies to share with their neighbors, making fresh, vibrantly healthful produce available to a Black community. But they also have a beautifully curated collection of herbs.
I got a pound of dried E. angustifolia root and tinctured some immediately. It’s already ready, which means Echinacea tincture is back in stock (phew) and it’s excellent. I can feel that the quality is very high, that the plants were old enough to be potent, and that the processing was done with care. If you’re looking for organically grown dried herbs you need to check out Asya’s Organics.
A Baltimore DIY/punk must-have are funky imaginative journals made by Marcia of Moongirl Paperworks. Journaling is a deeply healing practice—step one in Susun Weed’s seven medicines—and anyone dealing with a chronic condition would do well to pick up a blank book and write what comes to mind.
Made from reclaimed paper and found images, Marcia’s books are an inspiration and a place to record your inspirations. Marcia also makes delightfully witchy candles and decorative hangings. Check out the awesome!
When I ran out of Shea butter I knew there had to be a more direct route to fair-trade West African Shea butter than Mountain Rose, a large distributor of organic herbs. So there I was again using the stupid internet to find real people doing real work in the real world.
I finally settled on AwỌmi Naturals, a Black-owned African import business based in my ancestral homeland of Brooklyn, New York. Unlike Alaffia and other “social justice” import businesses, these ladies don’t build infrastructure for the families growing and processing the Shea, they just pay fair prices for it and trust the growers to spend their money as they see fit.
The Shea Butter is creamy and rich and really, really raw. I can’t wait to make a new batch of Bountiful Belly Balm (on sale now so I can make a new batch) so you can smell this sweet earth magic straight from the source.
In the meantime, check out their incredible line of healing ingredients and potions, fresh from the Motherland of all humanity, at awominaturals.com
My most recent find is Sacred Rootz, LLC, a strongly Afrocentric herbal business in South Carolina. I was looking for herbal education classes (always learning!) and found one called “What Happened to the Flu?” by Master Herbalist and Holistic Health Counselor Khet Waas Hutip. Since I’d been wondering the same thing, I was intrigued, but unfortunately, making it to S.C. for a 1 hour workshop is not in the cards right now. So I looked him up and found he has a well curated online shop .
I just got my first order in today, so I haven’t gotten to try the herbs yet, but I could smell the freshness before I opened the envelope, and the colors are bright and vibrant, which are both very good signs. He has an extensive collection of carefully sourced herbs, so head over to SacredRootz.com to see for yourself!
I feel richly blessed to be able to incorporate offerings from these incredible businesses into my healing practice. Mutual aid feels like the strongest tool we have to dismantle the master’s house, so let’s keep chipping away at hierarchy by embracing solidarity!