“We need as many community healing celebrations as possible. When you are dealing with generational pain, we are not at a place where it can be too much. All the healers need to stand up.” -Elisha Hall
Elisha Hall is a local activist in Chicago, who was working on an Masters of Arts degree in Healing and Spirituality, focused on traditional healing. Even though many healing traditions originate from his ethnic group and other communities of color, none of the local healers looked liked him. And so two years ago, Healers of Color was born out the efforts of Elisha, Stacy Erenberg, Shannon Harris and several other local organizers.
Healers of Color, at its core, is a monthly meeting group, potluck, skillshare and healing service exchange. Their mission is to nurture other healers of color, get the care they need themselves, cultivate new young healers of color and heal the community. A common issue not being addressed was that the healers really needed support themselves – they weren't getting recognized or financially supported by their work and needed emotional support from peers. In order to build their core group and take care of the healers so they could take care of others, they went a whole year before providing any services to the community as a group.
Practitioner providing healing services at Community Healing Celebration
Out of these monthly meetings, the group decided to hosted a healing retreat last year to figure out their next steps together. They worked the whole summer to plan for the retreat on 40 acres in Pennbrook. Offered on sliding scale, the retreat provided skillshares around different healing modalities, drumming, dancing, energy work, sound healing, healing pyramid and discussions for newcomers on the value of healing in the movement self-care – activities that went well into the night and morning hours. From the retreat, came the conception of a Community Healing Celebration, an Elder's Foot Care Clinic at an Indiana senior home, and the Healing Bonanza (the predecessor to the Community Healing Celebration).
Pyramid healing session
For the Community Healing Celebration, they got a lot of things from the community and they budgeted $850 for refreshments, tent, event insurance, donate tables, chairs – partially funded by the funds brought in from the retreat and from a crowdfunding campaign. Their regular healer gatherings helped build their volunteers base. The event was organized by the “tribe” meeting every week for months leading up to the event. One person did service sign-ups, one scheduling, a children's corner, many helped with set-up, and of course the were many healers.
Face painting at the kids corner
“This event gives us healers a chance to share our gifts with others and allows us to get some healing that is needed for our communities. Here in Chicago we are flooded with the media speaking about crime and the city's violence. We are trying to promote positivity and bring good energy in our lives and community by doing this event.” -Organizer Lotus Love Snemah Tchass
Over 100 people showed up to this free event, which included all kinds of workshops (Kemetic Yoga, Zumba, Qi Gong, African Drumming & Dancing, Group Meditation, Group Reiki & Audio Pharmacology, African Martial Arts, Sexual Health Panel), healing services (blood pressure screenings, massage therapy, holistic health care, sound therapy, psychic readings, doula & midwives corner, ear seeding, herbalism, natural body products), a swap station and kids corner.
African dance at Community Healing Celebration
Participants praised the experience:
"Today was beautiful to experience. Thanks everyone in attendance. My vibrational energy is high!" -Jeneba Koroma
Thank you all for hosting such a wonderful event. Fun and healing for the entire family!" -Dominique Covington
"This was a wonderful, beautiful, life-enhancing experience" -Anonymous Attendee
Since the inception, Healers of Color wanted to “raise their vibrations high enough to change their community.” The first step was to just raise their own vibrations. “Some people wanted to start a nonprofit, get funding, have an office and jump into the nonprofit industrial complex, but that wasn't the vibration we were aiming for,” explains Elisha. Shannon Harris was integral in starting Monday meditations syched with the cycles of the moon. The intention was to send healing energy into Chicago.
I asked about how the project relates to activism in Chicago and if the healers tend to be activists. Elisha replied, “Healing IS activism to most of the healers. Often we don't understand the value of something vibrating at a different level in a community. We don't necessarily see the immediate effects, but that doesn't mean it doesn't make a difference. We are very mindful about getting out on the block and doing healing work.”
Healing foods at Community Healing Celebration
When Elisha first got out of college in 2007, he jumped head first into youth organizing with the Southwest Organizing Project. He questioned the focus on developing leaders, but not holistic beings. “We want you to come to the march, but we don't care about you when you go home. What's the value of the organizing if we can't deal with the whole person?”
Reiki on child at Community Healing Celebration
Other programs coming out the Healers of Color are the Rooted Initiative, Elder Foot Care Clinics, Monthly Healing Shares and the Healing Arts Tour. The Rooted Initiative helps root people with holistic knowledge & services as they transition into healthier lifestyles. The Healing Arts Tour is envisioned as many community healing celebrations supported by each neighborhood, with community members learning about various healing arts and having a transformative healing experience.
The next step is to engage with community members after the events for long-term care, support and love. They will need donors and donations of space to help cover the costs. To support the healers in this work, they plan subsidize the the sliding scale services with outside funds and to share admin work so each healer has more time to focus on providing healing.
Zumba class at Community Healing Celebration
I'll end with some wise words from the Dalai Lama – “The plain fact is that the planet does not need more successful people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every kind. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these qualities have little to do with success as we have defined it.” Love to all the healers out there and the healer in all of us!
Top photo: organizer Elisha Hall participates in Qi Gong at Community Healing Celebration
All photo credits: Kayla Long