[The Decolonizing Medicine Podcast S01E01. Original release date: May 26, 2021]
Mabuhay! You are listening to the Decolonizing Medicine Podcast. We will be exploring the intersection of decolonization and healing work with Black and Brown practitioners involved in a variety of modalities. I am your host, Jamee Pineda recording from Piscataway territory otherwise known as Baltimore, Maryland. My ancestry is mostly Tagalog and some Chinoy, but I was raised here on Turtle Island. I'm also a queer non-binary trans person and a practitioner of Hilot and Chinese medicine. During each episode I will be interviewing different healing practitioners, but since this is our very first episode, I've decided to tell you a little bit more about my background and also answer some questions that I've gotten from folks in my community through social media and also some other groups that I'm a part of.
So I got into healing work I think the same way a lot of other folks have gotten into healing work and that was through work burnout, specifically non-profit work burnout. I was working in a very toxic environment that ended up making me really sick and the ways that I was able to get my health back on track and eventually leave that position and make some major changes in my life was to experience community acupuncture for the first time and this was really important to me because it was a medicine that I could financially afford at the time. I didn't have health insurance, and it was really accessible and my body was very responsive to it. And eventually that first-hand experience as a patient brought about my own career shift from doing this more administrative nonprofit work into doing healing work for my own communities.
As I was going through school, through Chinese medicine school, this eventually brought me back again towards my ancestral practices. Years after graduating from acupuncture school, I was able to crowdfund money from my community to go to the Philippines and actually study my ancestral medicine there which was a really amazing experience 1) to be held by people who were valuing this medicine as much as I was and to do it in a way that was super interdependent and community-based and then 2) to actually go there and work with my teachers one-on-one. This happened right before the pandemic hit so it was a unique experience and even rare experience knowing now what I do about the pandemic and the timing of that.
For those of you who don't know Hilot is the name of the ancestral medicine from the Philippines, but that being one of the most language diverse places in the world there are many names for different for different kinds of healing practitioners in the Philippines and different kinds of modalities within within those kinds of medicines. So in the tradition that I was trained in, we practice Hilot Binabaylan. "Binabaylan" means one who walks the path of babaylan. Babaylan is a term for one of those healers other terms that are used that are specific to different languages and regions include mombaki, also catalonan, so again, a super diverse area, there's many different ways to practice this medicine depending on who your family is, what your lineage is, and who is training you.
So now I'd love to move on to some of the questions that folks sent to me through social media and a few other networks that I'm on. I thought it'd be more fun to hear what people actually wanted to learn about than to just, you know, talk about myself forever. The first question I have is, "What inspired you to create this podcast?" Well, I think this is pretty typical of a lot of decolonizing work and a lot of anti-colonial work or activism in general, I guess. I created this podcast because this is material that I want to know about. This is material that I want to learn. I wasn't really seeing that in the particular format I wanted, that I would feel most comfortable interacting with. So, the reason I chose podcast versus other kinds of media is that, you know, we're living through a pandemic right now and people are doing a lot more things virtually. Their faces are right in the screen all the time and I needed to do something for myself and also, um, for people that I wanted to interact with that wasn't going to be so screen-based. So that's one reason I thought it was a little healthier, maybe, than adding more content that needed to be accessed through a screen the whole time. I also know that there's a lot that I don't know. So this podcast is designed around bringing other folks into this conversation and learning from them. So I know, you know, some about my own work around Chinese medicine and Hilot, but I don't know what it's like in other modalities. I want to hear other people's experiences. I want this platform to be something that uplifts a lot of different voices, not just my own.
The second question that I have is, "What do you mean when you use the word 'decolonization'?" Decolonization, I think, can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. The way that I relate to it is understanding the effects of colonization in this context, specifically on medicine. So what happened to traditional and ancestral medicines after colonization happened, and or after colonization happened? That's, I guess that's a really watered-down way of saying it, but after there were invasions and violence and systemic oppression. So what happened to our medicine and how can we reclaim that within our modern context? So the way that I relate to decolonization is not about going to our ancient practices and replicating them as purely as possible. I don't think that that is - one, I don't think that's possible and two, it's not about that kind of purity, or authenticity, or correctness. It's about taking those ancestral practices into our modern context and using them and trying to take colonial control out of them and that happens on many different levels. I mean that happens with our minds first of all. How has colonization affected how we think about things? How we relate to ourselves and others and our medicine? It also impacts who gets to access medicine, who gets to learn it, who gets to receive it, who gets to keep that knowledge. It also impacts how we live in our bodies, who gets to be well. It impacts which kinds of medicine we are valuing over other kinds of medicine. So for example, there's lots of BIPOC who would love to do traditional medicines more than allopathic medicines, and I've heard this a lot, but they can't afford it. They can only afford whatever doctor visits or prescriptions they can get through Medicaid. So medicine that exists within a context of Capitalism, that's something to explore with decolonization as well. f
I'm coming up on my third question here, "What do you find most hopeful about this work? What is it that gets you out of bed in the morning?" I am really hopeful about this work and excited about this work because there is so much work happening right now around decolonization. There are so many practitioners out there who are reclaiming ancestral medicine. I don't know if it's just me, but it seems like just watching what people were putting out on social media during the pandemic, I saw a lot of people really reaching back to their roots trying to understand what their ancestors did during times of crisis, trying to get in touch with their spirituality. We couldn't go out so we went in, right? So I think that we're at a pivotal moment where we can really shift things around medicine and our access to it and how we relate to it. Also, I mean I gotta say being in a modern age where we have all of this digital connectivity means I have much more access to people doing this kind of work all over the place. We might be physically isolating from each other, but virtually we're more connected than ever and I find that really inspiring.
And my fourth question here is, "What does it mean to you and your practice and what will be coming out of this podcast?" For me and my practice this is an opportunity to learn and deepen my understanding around decolonizing work by talking to other people, building relationships, and hearing their stories. I hope that people who are listening to this podcast will find similar things from it. I hope that they'll be able to connect to their own ancestral practices and understand what they've inherited from their ancestors. I mean this for all folks, BIPOC or not, because we all inherit something, right? Like, some of us inherit privilege. Some of us inherit generational trauma. Some of us will inherit knowledge. There is so much there that our ancestors have to tell us and teach us that I think will change how we relate to each other and help us build something better. I hope that this podcast is really going to function as a way for all of us BIPOC to uplift each other in our work. Another reason why I decided to do a podcast is, you know, as much as Instagram and Facebook and all these different kinds of social media can be really helpful, it's hard to stay relevant on it. You're constantly having to post and it takes a lot of energy to do that and it's very visual-oriented and it doesn't give a lot of room for deeper conversation, for longer, more expansive content. So this is a different kind of platform where I can do that. I can have a deeper conversation with someone that's not just a meme or not just a really fancy photo. I love memes and fancy photos, but let's get a little bit deeper than that. In addition to the conversations that me and the guests are going to be having with each other, I also would like to highlight an organization or an individual doing work within the BIPOC community to uplift them. So I want to - I'm hoping that this platform will also help to redistribute some resources to folks who might not be getting as much visibility as they need because you know really like how can I not be engaging in mutual aid here. I might be the one hosting this podcast, but this is about community. This is about interdependence, not about that colonial capitalist white supremacist idea of us existing as individuals and elevating ourselves as individuals within our work. That is not actually what's happening. It's not realistic. It's not culturally relevant for me and that's just not my values.
So the second to last question I have is "How do you feel about people using the term 'witch doctor'?" You know, I don't know that I necessarily have a feeling about that because it's not a term that I use for myself. I think that witch doctor is a very culturally specific term and I don't think that people outside of that culture really should be using it much like "shaman". Okay, I know that "shaman" is a term that's thrown around a lot and it does have a very specific cultural origin in Siberia. So I think that it is good to be careful about language and how we're using it and who it comes from and to not claim something that isn't ours. Yeah, neutral feelings about witch doctor, but it's also not my term.
The last question that I have is, "Do you have any resources you can recommend for white practitioners who wish to offer reparations in their clinical practice?" So this is actually a question I have encountered in various forms multiple times, especially in the last year. What I have to say about that is maybe a little bit uncomfortable and it's that I'm not gonna actually. I don't actually feel like listing specific resources and here's why. I am bombarded with resources and content on the daily through social media, through word-of-mouth,
through different forms of other media content like podcasts and newsletters and all kinds of stuff, so I don't actually think that there's a shortage of resources around how to offer reparations. There's no voiceless people here. People are very loud and clear about what their communities need. I'm going to turn that question around and actually say what is going on with how you consume information where you can't, for some reason, you're not receiving that information. I hope that makes sense. I'm not trying to be flippant about it, but what is going on that those BIPOC voices are not being centered because I can't even keep up with the amount of literature that I would like to read and the amount of things that I would like to know. There's just so much content out there.
My suggestion is to maybe, you know, reorient or re-center whose media you're consuming. What would it look like if for a month you only consumed podcasts, audio, movies on Netflix, like all kinds of media, what if you only consumed media that was made by BIPOC about BIPOC, right? It's not just you can read a book or a scholarly article and all of a sudden you understand all these things. You have to do a pretty big cultural shift. You have to re-center all of those voices. I don't really understand why people aren't receiving that information because it's definitely out there. I think that also offering reparations involves giving up power, giving up resources, and really examining what kind of privilege someone has and how they're taking up space.
So, I'm in the acupuncture and Chinese medicine world in the U.S. and there's a lot of white folks who had zero response to the folks who were murdered in Atlanta, Georgia recently. Our professional organization, it still has oriental medicine in the name. There wasn't any response from the professional organizations as well and it's not that hard, right? It's redistributing resources, uplifting folks that need it. It's not as complicated, like, if you're benefiting from someone else's culture, one should you be doing that? I mean, some places, some cultures have an open system, but either way negotiate consent with that regularly because consent should be something that is ongoing. And two, if you are a guest in that culture and you are benefiting from it, make sure you're doing regular reciprocity around that benefit. Donate money, donate resources like time, relationships.
If you're, if you're in, I'm just using my profession as an example because I know it better, why aren't there more scholarships for BIPOC? Why aren't there really any scholarships to go to acupuncture school? It kind of boggles my mind. Like, what about folks that have been incarcerated for a really long time under false charges? I'm talking specifically about Dr. Mutulu Shakur who was instrumental in putting the NADA protocol together to help treat addiction in the Bronx. That NADA protocol gets used everywhere in the U.S., but are we also working to get him free as a profession? Probably not as hard as we could. So there is just, there are so many ways to do reparations it's more of an issue of just pick one that you can do that's accessible to you. Tap into your local community. See what's happening there and what they need. Support people who are already doing that work especially if they're BIPOC. A lot of us are doing this work for free and it kind of sucks, but go out and support them, hit up their Patreons, do whatever.
And I also want to point out that I don't want our suffering as Black and Brown people to be the main focus of everything, right? Like, we are a lot more than our suffering. We also have a multiplicity of experiences that includes joy. So you can, you know, do reparations by contributing to someone's joy, making sure they have luxury, making sure they have those things that make life really worth living and enjoyable. So act on all of this, right? Don't start another white person book club, please. A lot of people are posting their CashApps on social media or their Venmo or whatever. If you have the means, please contribute to those, you know? I know in the QTBIPOC community, we are definitely, like constantly, having to crowdfund a lot of basic needs. Support that and go above and beyond that. We also have needs that are not necessarily basic that we would also like to have met. I know I went off on a little bit of a tangent there, but I hope you feel me on that because I think that that's an important thing to bring up just because I keep encountering that question over and over. Thank you so much everyone who contributed to the questions and everyone who is listening here today.
Let's move on to our community shout outs. In every episode we'll be highlighting individuals or groups to redistribute some abundance to. For this episode I'd like to highlight No Justice No Pride. I've donated to them in the past and will continue to support their work. Here's a little about them from their website: No Justice No Pride, otherwise known as NJNP, is a collective of organizers and activists from across the District of Columbia. We exist to fight for trans justice and to end the LGBT "equality", equality is in quotes, LGBT "equality" movement's complicity with systems of oppression that further marginalize trans and queer individuals. Check out NJNP at www.nojusticenopride.org and send them some love. Maraming salamat for listening to the Decolonizing Medicine Podcast if you want to support this work via Patreon or apply to be a guest on the show go to linktr.ee/jameepinedahealingarts. We'll also link to this in the show notes. Music is by Amber Ojeda, Hed Kandi, and Rocky Marciano. Big thanks to Laurenellen McCann, my sweetie and fabulous audio engineer, and to all our listeners and supporters out there. Ingat!