This event was really inspiring for me. Children, babies, adults, and elders joined together for hours outside the Suffolk County detention center in Boston in the forceful wind to stand in solidarity with organizations and families all over the US and beyond. President Obama has deported over 2 million people during his presidency, and he continues to deport 1,100 people every single day. These unjust policies and practices are separating families and communities. Millions of people who make this nation function are living in the shadows, forced to live in fear. Children are afraid that their dad won't be there when they come home from school because he may have been pulled over on his way home from work in a routine traffic stop that leads to him being detained. Partners are afraid that their families will be split apart if one is detained and deported. Victims, witnesses, and family members are afraid to call the police in domestic violence situations and other emergencies for fear of being arrested.
I knew about this protest many weeks before, but didn't know that allies were welcome alongside undocumented activists until just days before. My first thought: food! The second: herbal first aid kit!
With little time between work shifts, I pulled out my street medic kit to take stock. I wish I had time to make a patch that said "Remedios" (remedies in Spanish) with a green leaf. But alas, I ended up bringing my pack with a red cross and 'Street Medic' sign on it. I contacted an event organizer, to be sure that it was okay with them if I brought some first aid supplies and herbal remedies, and to see if there was going to be a planned street medic presence that I should connect with. There wasn't, but I received consent to bring my kit and offer remedies to folks, to I started gathering the bits and pieces for my kit. I was a bit nervous that folks would see the street medic sign and red cross and think I was an EMT or had other such medical training (which I don't, I'm a community herbalist with some street medic training - see Mountainsong Expedition's Village Medic Training: First Aid and Herbalism for your Community classes). It felt important, though, to bring along some remedies for people's emotional health.
Rallies can be intense. Just having a large group of people together for any reason can create a lot of energy that can be overwhelming. A large group coming together specifically to speak out and take action against injustices can bring up a lot of different emotions. Gathering in front of a detention center can be triggering for many, even for those without loved ones who have been or who currently are locked up. Hearing the personal stories of the daily wearing stress of the ever-constant threat of deportation many families face can be painful. Listening to tales of deportations tearing families apart is heartbreaking.
I wanted to bring remedies that would help create emotional support for those participating in the day's events - whether they were participating in the civil disobedience, participating in the march, or they were showing support from the sidelines. I packed up some basic first aid supplies - bandaids, gauze bandage, a cool pack, gloves (to protect myself/others in case there were open wounds or blood or other body substances present-very important to remember!), sunscreen, benadryl and ibuprofen. (Sometimes people get all sheepish when telling me that they took some Advil or antibiotics. I love herbs, but I'm not anti mainstream medicine. I'm into both/and, not either/or.)
I brought some Ginger chews to settle the stomach if someone is feeling nauseous or car-sick. I also included pouches of Yarrow leaf and flower (to chew and apply to open wound to stop bleeding), Plantain leaf (Plantago, not the banana-like fruit - to chew up and apply to skin to draw out splinters, stingers, even poison!), Goldenseal root (cultivated - not wildcrafted, as this plant is at risk - I have rarely used this, but it's helpful if someone has intense diarrhea) and Slippery Elm bark (to add to water to soothe a irritation in the throat or digestive tract). I brought a few capsules of Activated Charcoal for food poisoning or chemical exposure. Chamomile tea bags made the cut as it's such a fabulous herb - anti-spasmodic for muscle or menstrual cramps, calming to the nervous system, soothing to the digestive system, and when it's in a tea bag it can easily be moistened to apply to irritated eyes or irritated/inflamed skin.
The tinctures, elixirs, and throat spray I brought were all alcohol-based and for internal use. They're convenient for travel and demonstration-situations as they are ready to take, not requiring hot water (as opposed to tea) or other such supplies/preparation, but not everyone may feel comfortable taking them. They may be on medications that may interact negatively with herbs, they may not want any alcohol, or they may not want to ingest something given to them from a stranger. So, I wanted to create some external remedies to bring as well.
I made a relaxing, grounding spray with distilled water, homemade Rose and Lavender flower water (hydrosol, instructions here), Lavender and Chamomile essential oils, and homemade Corn and Yarrow flower essences. I wanted a mist that could be sprayed around or on people who needed to shift the energy of the event a bit, to create a bit of calm if need be. I love that Rose, Lavender, and Chamomile are all flowers that are familiar to many peoples and cultures. I added the Corn flower essence to help stay grounded, especially in an urban environment, and the Yarrow flower essences to help create an energetic shield/clear boundaries. I felt particularly good about using the Chamomile (Manzanilla) and Corn (Maiz) as I knew a lot of the people and organizations attending the rally are from Latin American countries/cultures where these are common plants that are not only used as food and remedies, but also have spiritual significance.
Chamomile and Lavender harvest
Someone asked me to take a photo of her and her friend with a sign, in front of the detention center. She gave me her camera to take the photo and told me the reason she wanted it was because her husband had been detained in this very facility. He was deported and now she is alone raising their four children. I asked if she wanted some relaxing spray and she said yes. A small gesture, but hopefully a comforting one. I also showed the kids the spray and they wanted me to mist it on them and they liked it. (Just make sure to tell folks to close their eyes before misting!)
With children in mind, I wanted to bring something to keep the long drive interesting and that would be fun if the kids needed a bit of play-time at the rally. Legos would be a nightmare, my board games were too big. So I made some aromatherapy bubbles by adding a few drops of pure Sweet Orange essential oil and Yarrow flower essence to the bubble container, and put a rainbow sticker on it for fun. They were a pretty big hit. (Just try to guide young kids from inadvertently blowing bubble-soap into their siblings eyes when blowing really hard.) I brought an extra bottle of bubbles in case I wanted to send it home with a kid (or grownup!) who was having a hard time and needed some cheering up. The kids I went with also brought some little matchbox cars which they shared with other kids there. It was very sweet.
Which reminds me - snacks and water!!! When I was caring for the kids on the sidelines at the beginning of the rally, I noticed a little girl in a stroller that looked upset. She started to cry. Her mom was near, but caring for her little brother and so my 3 and 5 year old friends and I helped cheer her up. We stood near her in a line to shield her from the wind, in case she was crying because she was cold. A passing protester gave us a bag of chips (it was unopened, so I felt okay sharing it with the kids, otherwise I would've checked in with the parents) and the kids all opened their mouths to be fed! I wasn't sure if they wanted to keep their fingers warm in their coat pockets on this wicked windy day, or if they were feeling like baby birds. I was happy to feed the bird-baby-protesters. My friend then shared her gorp (good old raisin and peanuts - with m&m's) with them. Then the 5 year old started driving his little car on top of the head of the little girl in the stroller. She had stopped crying and they where having a good time.
After that, I found someone to watch the kids so I could get closer to the civil disobedience and document it. After I captured the scene with some photos, my friend who was participating in the action motioned to me for water. Of course! They're out in the elements, singing and chanting and shouting, surrounded by armed law enforcement officers. And if they're taken into custody, who knows if they'll have any access to food or water. They definitely needed some water. Luckily I had in my pack a sports bottle that folks could squeeze water into their mouth with, without spreading germies. It got passed around. Then my friend shared the rest of her gorp. Note to self: always bring more water and snacks - for kids, protesters, folks who may get low blood sugar, anyone really! (I did bring plenty of food and fluids for myself, knowing that I cannot be a calm, supporting presence for others if I'm hungry and ungrounded. Next time I'll bring more easy-to-share snacks.)
After those participating in the civil disobedience were arrested, we marched to the back side of the detention center to let those detained out of view of the demonstration know that we were there, and that they are not forgotten. We stood on a bridge beside traffic and held signs, sang, and chanted. Community members locked up on the inside gathered at the windows and held up signs. We also held signs to the road behind us so that those passing by knew why we were there. We received many waves, honks, and smiles from drivers and passengers. As we left the bridge, I realized my throat was sore from hours of singing and chanting. We had raised our voices strong and loud. I pulled out my Speak Truth! Throat Spray and the soothing herb and honey blend was just what my raspy throat needed. I brought the remedy to those with bullhorns (as well as others), imagining that their throats may have been even more sore than mine. Many accepted and appreciated the remedy.
Someone needed a bandaid. Someone else needed some herbal first aid salve for skin irritation. No major medical situations. Still, bringing that herbal first aid kit and checking in with folks that looked stressed or cold or thirsty, helped contribute to a culture of self-care and community-care.
And as we march by the detention center, Dandelion stays rooted
beside us, embodying persistence and resistance, sending forth its
seeds across borders and prison walls.
When I got home that night, like many others, I called both the women's and men's jail to call for the release of our friends who'd been arrested for participating in the civil disobedience. I was glad to hear, just before I crawled into bed exhausted from the day, that they had all just been released and in were in good spirits. The next morning I heard from a friend who the arresting officers had put in too-tight zip tie police cuffs.
Aye! Why hadn't I thought of that?! Whether folks resisted arrest or not, this is a common occurrence. I wish I had left my Arnica drops with someone who was greeting the activists upon their release from jail! I made the drops by infusing the fresh flowers from my garden in brandy and then homeopathically diluting it, to be used both internally and externally. Be sure not to take Arnica tea/tincture internally at full strength! Just one drop straight or in water is plenty. Or you can buy homeopathic Arnica at a Coop or natural food store - usually in little blue tubes. Get 5 Arnica tablets into the cap and, without touching them, place them under your tongue to dissolve. Wait a few minutes before drinking water or eating. Arnica drops can also be massaged into bruises, strained muscles or ligaments, and injured/inflamed hands or feet (just not on open wounds). Arnica is also available as cream, gel, or salve/ointment. I wanted to give my friend fresh St.Johnswort oil in case the too-tight zip ties had caused any damage to the nerves when they cut off circulation. St. Johnswort is great for nerve damage (sciatica, post-surgery), and would also help with inflammation. It can be used both externally, and internally in homeopathic form under its botanical name, Hypericum perforatum. Calming/grounding/protective spray and Heart Elixir would be great emotional after-care. I hadn't thought before of making an herbal first aid kit/care package to be there when people were released to help heal the physical and emotional trauma that is common during arrest and while locked up. I love the idea and look forward to putting such a kit together for next time.
What would you pack in your herbal first aid kit? Your just-released-from-jail after-care kit? Please share suggestions in the comments below or by emailing dandelionessherbals (at) yahoo (dot) com
-(Im)migration and Lip Balms for Social Justice?!
-Love & Migration: Migration is Beautiful & Natural. So is Solidarity.
-Heart Elixir: to open, heal, and protect the heart
-In Case of (emotional) Emergency: self-care form to fill out
-National Day Laborer Organizing Network's music videos on their Arts & Culture page