Act of Solidarity: Juneteenth special at Urbana Acupuncture
An interview with Urbana Acupuncture clinic owner Jim Lorr, and a reflection from previous POCA Board member, Qui Dorian
Introductions and Acknowledgement: Part of the Movement Building Circle’s work is sharing examples of how clinics use their resources to support folks in our communities in liberatory ways. We feel it’s important to share what is being tried, what is learned in the process, and to take the time to reflect on how to keep growing in that work.
The Juneteenth special was led by a group of white punks and volunteers, and the first interview was conducted between two white punks. Within the MBC, we are always open to suggestions for more liberatory approaches to how we are sharing examples of addressing white supremacy, especially since most of us in the circle are benefiting from that system. We hold ourselves accountable for any mistakes in the process.
~Interview with Jim~
Let’s talk about this free day you did on Juneteenth for African Americans. Why and how did you decide to do this special?
Sure! Urbana acknowledged Juneteenth* on social media for a few years before we had the idea of celebrating it with a free day for African Americans. I liked the idea of free days, and May Day (which some clinics already celebrate with a free day for everyone) started in Illinois but not very many people in my community had seemed to have heard of Juneteenth.
I took the idea to Urbana CA’s volunteer team. They wondered if there’d be any kind of pushback from the politically conservative people in our community, or if it would come off as white people trying to weirdly and awkwardly do something for Black people. In retrospect I wish we would have recorded the conversation we had so we could have a record of the process we went through. The main concern was that people might come into the clinic and act like jerks, or that we’d push regular people away trying to come off as more woke than them. None of that happened and it wound up being a non-issue. We prepared a statement and resources** for anyone who might complain about the free day being unfair to them, and (although this wasn’t intentional) didn’t create a lot of space for people to mobilize against it because it was planned so quickly.
How did you promote it?
For promotion we listed the event in free online calendars, local magazines, and newspapers. We made up some posters and did public service announcements on the non-profit radio stations. We posted to Facebook and Twitter, and sent out a newsletter to the established patients.
How many people came in for it?
The day was extra busy. Eight people got the Juneteenth special and 3 of them were new. We treated a total of 25 people that day, so about one third of the people were there for the special. New people had the choice of doing a free trial shorter treatment or a full intake treatment, and everyone chose the full intake. It seemed like most of the new people had done acupuncture before. Overall I feel like we hit the right note. We just put ourselves out there. If I’m wrong I’m ready to be corrected. We did our best. White people can celebrate Juneteenth as well.
What were the challenges?
The front desk asked people as they came in if they were here for the special today. The main challenge was the front desk person was a little new and got a bit overwhelmed with patient flow once or twice. There were probably people on the conservative side there who came in for treatment that day and just went along with the flow. Urbana is a college town with plenty of white conservative Christians and Tr*mp supporters around who come to the clinic too, but no one seemed to notice any drama coming into the clinic.
What was the feedback? Will you do it again?
All the feedback was good. In the beginning I wrote down the word reparations and then checked myself, like, this is clearly in no way near reparations, just a tiny offering. I think this will be a regular yearly thing now. The takeaways for us were to just be nice to people, check any white saviorism, and trust the community.
Our future goals are to form connections with African American groups in the community and take time to form actual relationships. I don’t want this to be just marketing to people; we want to build connections and community. And we want to be comfortable with negative feedback when that happens.
Well, it’s cool you did this.
Yeah, there’s a poster at Urbana Acupuncture that’s a Martin Luther King quote: “the time is always right to do what is right” or something like it. We were just trying to do the right thing, you know, people taking care of each other”.
~Interview with Qui~
Jessica Hanson from Southpoint CA who conducted the interview with Jim also reached out to Qui Dorian, as a Black person with African American ancestry who served on the POCA board, to bring in further perspective on the Juneteenth special and the interview with Jim.
*Qui reads interview*
We want to identify what this interview is about. It sounds like the people at Urbana CA were kind of nervous about doing this, but they went ahead and did it anyway and it turned out to be fine. I think there’s a lot of fear about doing things wrong when it comes to highlighting racial justice issues in our communities, but we have to try anyway. So this is an example of an act of solidarity. We have lots of opportunities to be in solidarity with different liberation struggles.
Acts of solidarity need to be differentiated from reparations. The conversation around reparations is a precarious one – for example what do they look like through an anti-capitalist lens? It’s important for that conversation to be led by People of Color, and it’s important not to conflate individual acts with larger structural change. For instance we see these threads popping up on social media: Reparations thread! Buy so-and-so dinner! However buying someone dinner does not equal reparations; it is an act by an individual. We can’t conflate individual acts with larger structural change.
What we’re seeing right now in South Africa*** is an attempt at structural, not individual, change. They are attempting to change this system that’s resulted in massive inequality, and it’s uncomfortable and difficult for people who’ve historically benefitted from that system. People don’t want to give up their homes for another person’s wellbeing. It scares them; they think that losing the system they benefit from could result in them being treated the way the system has treated others.
This is all part of a larger conversation, right? Have you seen Ricardo Levins Morales’ calendar? No? It has different days marked on it: Cinco de Mayo, Juneteenth, etc., along with notes on how each day relates to a larger politic of liberation. POCA uses a Liberatory framework, and we can acknowledge different liberation struggles and that’s great. Many POCA clinics have done this through different means; for example free treatments for formerly incarcerated individuals****, or fundraising to support other community organizations, or food drives for communities affected by hunger. All these things fall under the umbrella of liberation. These small acts of solidarity are important in terms of their relationship to the greater whole, but are not replacements for the work that needs to happen structurally to dismantle all forms of domination and supremacy.
* “Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19th, 1865 General Granger landed at Galveston, Texas bringing news of the Emancipation Proclamation. Though it was 2 1/2 years after the Proclamation had been made, 250,000 were still enslaved in Texas alone due to continued resistance by confederates. Today, Juneteenth is a day where all may come together to celebrate and remember the powerful work of all who contributed to ending chattel slavery in the U.S.”
**Urbana Acupuncture is offering free treatments for Black/African American people on Juneteenth both as a gesture of recognition of the systematic discrimination that has been and continues to be perpetrated against them, and as a gesture of support for their continued resilience and well being. We celebrate this important holiday as we look forward to a collective end to contemporary slavery in all forms(a*). For more information about racial disparities in Champaign County, please check out the resources below
● Racial Disparity in Champaign County https://programsnotjails.com/racial-disparity-in-champaign-county/
● Champaign-Urbana race relations, past and future https://eblackcu.net/portal/items/show/103
● How Champaign’s Segregated North End was Created 1940 – 1960 https://publici.ucimc.org/how-champaigns-segregated-north-end-was-created-194 0-1960/
● How Redlining’s racist effects lasted for decades https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/24/upshot/how-redlinings-racist-effects-lasted-f or-decades.html
(a*)The 14th amendment ended slavery except for people who are incarcerated. For more information, please see:
● The New Jim Crow (book) by Michelle Alexander
● Prison Industrial Complex for Beginners (graphic novel) by James Peterson with illustrations by Stacey Robinson and John Jennings
● 13th (movie) by Ava Duvernay
Additionally, various forms of illegal slavery still exist both in the United States and across the world. See https://www.bbc.co.uk/ethics/slavery/modern/modern_1.shtml
*** (this interview was conducted in July 2018) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land_reform_in_South_Africa#The_reform