“A Resolution” points to the sparks that are creating a new light in the growing darkness: the revolutionary wave that spread from Tunis to New York; the Kurdish freedom struggle and the war against ISIS in Rojava; the riots and blockades sparked by the killings of Mike Brown and Eric Garner; and the retooling and remaking of life with “civilization starter kits” and “removing the dust” from indigenous knowledges and practices. “We, the people who work every day, who think we ‘don’t have time’ - we are the only ones who can do this,” said a Woodbine co-founder. “No one’s going to do this for us—no politician, no technological innovation, no international agreement. If we want a different future, we are going to have to make it, from where we are and in every place.”
The Woodbine Health Autonomy Resource Center is in Ridgewood, Queens. It is part of Woodbine, a hub for building autonomy in the wake of a dying civilization.
Our goal is to examine what health autonomy would look like and how to begin to build it for ourselves here in New York city. We are beginning by providing ways to interact with neighbors, to think of health and care as a communal process, and becoming a point of aggregation where people can come together and share resources. We currently facilitate health related skill shares, create concrete ways to navigate the overwhelming health infrastructure that exists while lessening our dependence on it, in order to build an autonomous health community.
We are beginning to experiment with providing care outside of the realm of state control. This practice may involve working outside the structure of licenses, certifications and insurance. Our intention is always to heal, and so we are finding ways to do this that protects providers and patients.
Within Woodbine, the struggle for autonomy has been broken down into categories of the most urgent material necessity, meant to focus our attention on tangible goals toward building power within our community. Health autonomy is a crucial part of this. The health resource center is run by a mix of health professionals and those with informal training in various health practices. We want to re-create a sense of agency over health through a focus on the dissemination of usable, teachable skills. We are working with peers who practice herbal medicine, massage, feldenkrais, acupuncture, meditation, yoga and other forms of so called “alternative” medicine. We are creating our own definition of wellness, one that is congruent with the realities of our time. There is also a large focus on prevention of illness, of re-fostering the idea of a healthy life, not merely the absence of disease. This is how we begin the necessary process of removing our physical and mental health from systems that would damage them further, to reclaim control over health and use it to increase our collective autonomy.
We do not reject modern methods of medicine, but recognize the need to detach its knowledge from the oppressive institutions that guard it. We are attempting to change our orientation to institutions of western medicine to one of use over dependence; a manipulation of the systems that surround us. While there are significant problems with the city’s public health infrastructure, they do provide much of the emergency and chronic care here. We realize that there needs to be support for people needing to navigate these without the fear of accruing a huge amount debt, alongside the emphasis of practices that will ultimately lessen dependence on them. The spaces dedicated to holistic medicine or alternative care are largely inaccessible to large portions of the population because they exist for those who can afford them. For these reasons, our center is meant to involve community members, help us understand the care-related skills we already have, and be an informational resource for accessing all types of health modalities. We have public open times for the community, staffed by one of our members, to assist in that process.
Our skills workshops so far have included basic first aid, wound care, acupressure and intro to traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and an intro to medicinal plants. Coming up we will have workshops on navigating existing healthcare systems, nutrition, addiction and ongoing fitness skillshares. Our goal is that participants can use the resource library to learn about things relevant to their own health, potentially explore different modalities, and either receive aid in navigating the health systems in place or find treatment within the space itself.
As we gain ground in the journey towards health autonomy, we see just how disempowered we have become when it comes to being able to give and receive the kind of care necessary. We have to fight that disconnection and build the infrastructure in order to give ourselves the space to envision a new existence. We look forward to hearing your stories, to understand your struggles and to collectively create the foundations to answer these monumental questions.
Editor's note: We are building a collaborative bid for the MacArhur Foundation's 100 Million USD with our peers in 40 + countires. You are very welcome to join us if you are doing work at the intersections of care, open knowledge and technologies, and communities. Learn more at http://openandchange.care.
The production of this article was supported by Op3n Fellowships - an ongoing program for community contributors during May - November 2016.