Founder of Harriet’s Apothecary, Adaku Utah

Not many people know of Harriet Tubman’s role as a nurse and a herbalist. However, more and more people are discovering Harriet’s Apothecary, a Crown Heights-based community of intergenerational healers and herbalists of color, named after the American abolitionist.

Harriet’s Apothecary offers services through its community of queer activists, artists, health professionals, magicians and women healers and promotes what founder Adaku Utah, 32, calls healing “justice work.” These services range from essential oil therapy, to arts-based herbalism to Reiki, where energy is channeled into a person through the act of touching.

Given it is the summer, and in light of the recent violence that has plagued the country, Utah expects a large turnout for this weekend’s healing village event, taking place at MINKA brooklyn, located at 1120 Washington Avenue near Prospect Park. “I think a lot of folks come [to the healing village] because they see reflections of themselves, not only in our healing team but also in the community that comes,” Utah said.

The healers of Harriet’s Apothecary; Photo: Courtesy Harriet’s Apothecary

Utah feels that people of color have “often been marginalized at the intersections of health and healing.”

“We live in a world where the mainstream system of care in the medical industrial complex is very white, ablest, and hetero-normative,” she said. “It doesn’t take into consideration how oppression really impacts growth, physical and emotional and spiritual lives.”

“We do,” she added, noting Harriet’s Apothecary’s inclusivity and flexible pricing.

However, Utah’s criticism of the medical system doesn’t mean she is against mainstream doctors: “There’s room for both to exist,” she said. “I think it is important to find doctors that really are great listeners and have a critical analysis of the ways in which systems of oppression impact black people and offer healthcare that’s really accessible.”

Photo: Photo: Courtesy Harriet’s Apothecary

Until that becomes commonplace, Utah thinks that natural healing practices passed down through generations of herbalists will continue to survive.

“I feel like there’s always been a need to connect with something that really honors your body’s resilience.

“I think folks are becoming more and more open to being more intimate with themselves and building better relationships with systems of care that don’t cause further damage to their body.”

Harriet’s Apothecary Healing Village: Summer Edition 2016 will take place from Saturday, July 16 until Sunday, July 17 at MINKA brooklyn. In addition to the healing services offered by Harriet’s Apothecary, books from The Free Black Women’s Library will be available. 

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Shiloh Frederick

Shiloh Frederick reports for BK Reader. She is a recent graduate of Mount Holyoke College, where she earned an undergraduate degree in history, with a minor in journalism. Shiloh is now dedicating her...

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