Queer Activists Are Using Magic As Resistance
“I want our presence, our voices, and our herbal gifts to be a reassurance for protestors that the Ancestors are watching, our Spirit Guides are with us, and we can win our collective liberation.”
Queer Magic for the Resistance (QM4R) is a collective and political affinity group based in Oakland, California. Since its inception in early 2017, QM4R has trained and mobilized street medics, energy healers, and artists to show up for local demonstrations against fascism and police violence. Among its many goals is the reclaiming of magic and healing (both physical and spiritual) as central tools in the fight against systemic oppression. I spoke with Vanessa, a white genderqueer person and founder of QM4R, and Iman, a Black queer femme who has worked closely with QM4R since its inception, about how they envision the role of magic and healing in militant resistance movements.
WYV: What inspired you to create Queer Magic for the Resistance? Under what conditions did it come about, and what role did you envision it playing within other types of resistance work?
Vanessa: Queer Magic for the Resistance began as an offshoot of another project I had been engaged in, called the Queer EcoJustice Project, which connects with queer folks in rural areas, including those creating community in queer autonomous land projects, as well as those living on the front lines of environmental harm; queer folks who have been displaced from land-based livelihoods due to homophobia and other intersecting violences, including homeless and incarcerated queer youth; and queer folks who work within environmental, climate, or food justice organizations, and those whose work builds a queer ecological future.
Queer Magic for the Resistance began in early 2017 out of a pressing need we saw for a contingent of queer medics, artists, and healers who could, for example, provide supplies for and treat stab wounds during street demonstrations; hold space for emotional first aid during confrontations with police; and weave and paint and sing and dance a powerful healing resistance.
WYV: Why queer, and why magic? How do you envision those two things together? What is the importance of reclaiming magic in activist spaces?
Iman: My whole life is queer. I am a bisexual Black woman working in the sciences who was raised by a bisexual Black woman single parent in the ’80s. The way I occupy spaces which have historically excluded people of my identities is a queer act of resistance, and almost every person that surrounds me in loving community is likewise queer-identified, gender-fluid, or a vocal LGBTQIA+ ally. Furthermore, my whole world is magical. Everyday I experience little miracles, and I am grateful for the blessings bestowed unto me by my Ancestors and Spirit Guides.
My magical practice is based in African Diasporic voodoo, herbology, and root-work. I came to these rituals by studying Black slave rebellions, and unearthing the ways in which enslaved folx used hexes and curses to thwart their masters. In particular, the discovery that the first “witch” to burned during the Salem Witch Trials was a Black slave woman named Tituba, cemented for me that this magic I have inherited from Black insurgent revolutionaries.
To me magic IS resistance. I turned to these traditions most open-heartedly in the midst of Black Lives Matter protests circa 2014, when I started to feel hopeless and emotionally drained after regular violent confrontations with the police at demonstrations. By wielding these protective amulets, reciting these incantations, calling upon the Orishas, and working intimately with the plants, stones, roots, and bones of my environment, I began to feel more empowered. Quickly my focus in the Craft moved away from damning hexes against white supremacy, to community care work and deep psycho-social-spiritual healing for Black and Brown people in the struggle. As a queer Black woman scientist activist; Queer Magic for the Resistance is what I’m always giving.
WYV: Can you give me some highlights or brief recaps of some of the actions you’ve participated in so far?
Iman: I have not attended every QM4R demonstration, but thus far I’ve provided grounding herbal tea, tinctures, and patches at the #MiloAtCal demonstration that sought to prevent a bigoted troll from gaining a platform on my campus and provoking xenophobic violence. I’ve provided first aid and emotional emergency response at the #DefendTheBay Antifa vs. alt-right rally in Berkeley. On May Day I helped highlight the ways that Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf is a hypocrite with local policies that mimic many of Donal Trump’s national policies, budget proposals, and agenda #MayorTrump. I sat in a meditation circle at the Alameda County Court to hold space and intention, and manifest sanctuary for all those that Sheriff Ahern and ICE threaten with anti-immigrant policies #NoBanNoWallNoRaids. I worked with the #StopUrbanShield Coalition to create ‘Herbal Shields’ as a skill-share and activity during two Berkeley city council meetings, bringing materials for smudge sticks and ground herbal teas.
WYV: What directions do you see the organization moving toward and growing into in the near future? What’s next for Queer Magic?
Vanessa and Iman: I definitely want to see us get more trained up as street medics and emotional care providers at violent demonstrations. I want us to be more visible in the way we hold space for magic and dreaming at political demonstrations. I want our presence, our voices, and our herbal gifts to be a reassurance for protestors that the Ancestors are watching, our Spirit Guides are with us, and we can win our collective liberation.
In the future I would like us to work more collaboratively with other crews and affinity groups to provide psycho-social-spiritual care pre/during/post-actions by guiding folx in song, prayer, and rituals. For a minute I even had a dream of a mobile QM4R Decompression Zone- a decked out van with live plants, healing crystals, incense, candles, and beautiful rugs and pillows that we could park at demonstrations to let folx chill, meditate, and recharge before going back into the hectic (and necessary) action.
It’s also really importance for our members to continue to do the internal healing work necessary for QM4R to keep show up resilient and healthy; so regular full moon and new moon gatherings are both a continued and next step.
Featured Image: Nobuyuki Kondo, Creative Commons
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