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I Tried Acupuncture For The First Time & This Happened

A lack of knowledge of how to listen to our bodies is how untreated grief can lead to depression.

I Tried It

I was taught you only ever went to the doctor when something was wrong.

When I was growing up frequent doctors and dentist visits meant time off work my mother didn't have the luxury of taking. As an adult, my annual trip to the doctor's office is only for a routine pap smear, which means my doctor's visits, can vary from one to none. This might frighten some, but I'm more worried for my health when visiting a doctor, considering the statistics. Studies repeatedly show the lasting distrust between black Americans and their health care physicians.

There's a disconnect because Black people are more inclined to trust people that look like them, that have the same values as them, and are invested in their wellbeing as members of the larger community. When we are not well, we cannot be our best selves to support our families and cannot serve our communities to our greatest potential.

Building community begins with us.

So, I take more responsibility for my health and well-being, and to see other black women trailblazing in health and wellness is empowering, and continues to be a source of reassurance and comfort in knowing we're moving towards taking back our power to heal ourselves and our communities. That also means when I'm spending my coin on alternative treatments that I'm looking to spend black, being intentional about where my business goes and how it continues to help the people that look like me.

I met with Portia Wilson, founder of Deeper Genius Acupuncture & Healing Arts, an acupuncture practice rooted in the wisdom of the Traditional Chinese Medical system (TCM), for my first-ever acupuncture treatment and to talk black women in wellness and preventative health in our communities.

"It is such an exciting time!" Portia echoes. "Wellness spaces are evolving to be more inclusive and culturally competent. I'm so inspired by all of the black women out here in the health industry pushing the culture."

She mentions Chicago based yoga teacher and wellness guru Lauren Ash of Black Girl in Om, renowned vegan chefs Lauren Von Der Pool, Babette Davis, and Lynette Astaire, and veteran acupuncturist and community leader Jewel Thais-Williams of the LA-based Village Health Foundation as being a few of her inspirations—all of whose works consider the overall holistic health of the individuals they service.

While not completely negating the fact that "western medicine absolutely has its uses," Portia stresses the need for spaces that contribute to growth "in the areas of preventative care, patient empowerment, and nutrition."

"I think those three things are the key to overhauling our healthcare system as we know it."

Leaning on the teachings of many of these women, taking responsibility for my mental, physical, and emotional health has meant practicing yoga, eliminating meat and dairy from my diet almost completely, drinking more water, studying plant medicine and exploring more holistic health offerings like acupuncture.

Acupuncture at the superficial level is simply the insertion of very thin needles through your skin at strategic points on your body that helps reduce stress and pain, and circulate blood flow. But a deeper look into the ancient Chinese tradition reveals it's more than that. Portia describes it as a "treatment" that penetrates beyond the physical to "assess the whole person in mind, body, and spirit."

Many would be surprised to learn that an acupuncture intake exam is just as, if not more, intensive than a first-time doctor's visit. "During the usual 20-minute intake, we discuss everything from daily food intake, cravings, color of menstrual blood, digestive experiences, quality of sleep, stress levels, if you have vivid dreams. We go really in-depth to get a thorough understanding of what's happening with the whole person," she explains.

For example, using pulse and tongue diagnosis, Wilson is better able to understand what's happening internally. Portia considers what relationships suggest where a person's particular imbalances reside to tailor her patient's treatments whether it be as common as PMS or distinct to the individual with chronic migraines or eczema.

I'll admit, I would not have been as open about describing my stool, eating habits, or sex life with any other physician. While she read my pulse, we casually discussed how she got into Traditional Chinese Medicine and laughed about our similar experiences studying biology at Howard University.

From reading my pulse, she was able to tell me that my period was on its way and where there may be places that I'm carrying grief, among other things. I wasn't at all expecting that. I was there to learn about what was going on in my body and to learn there may be some subtle grief I hadn't processed, that I might be carrying it with me definitely helped me to dive deeper into my own self-awareness.

A lack of knowledge of how to eat, how to process stress, how to listen to our bodies is how untreated grief can lead to depression.

"Black women have some of the highest rates of depression and untreated depression in the U.S." Portia said, "People feel better after their sessions, they sleep better, and they report lower levels of anxiety and irritability after treatment. With consistent treatment, these effects are longer lasting. Regular acupuncture optimizes our innate healing abilities by improving our ability to handle stress."

"Black women have some of the highest rates of depression and untreated depression in the U.S."

Where I might've been embarrassed to go as far as talk to a therapist about battling negative thoughts and feelings, I felt comfortable sorting through those thoughts and feelings with my acupuncturist.

Acupuncture should be seen as a "wellness tool for black women seeking complementary treatments for depression and anxiety," Portia suggests.

Another wellness tool that Portia keeps in her arsenal is fire cupping. Portia describes it as "a form of bodywork and detox all wrapped in one." Using a flames to create a vacuum inside of a glass cup, Portia quickly placed on the cups on every inch of my back. "The suction from the cup reaches about four inches deep into the body—lifting the underlying tissues to release tension, increase fresh blood flow, and relax the nervous system."

It left big red circles resembling different phases of the moon on my back. "Those dark marks that are left behind are areas where the body was storing tension. The darker the mark the more of a release of "stuck" energy from the underlying tissue," she assures.

I spent the following week explaining the dark marks to others and how it made my shoulders and back less tense, how I had the best sleep I'd had in a long time, felt an improvement in my mood, and experienced a lighter, easier period afterwards.

I have another appointment scheduled for next week.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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