We are heartsick that Black people in America continue to be killed with impunity. From George Floyd, to Breonna Taylor, to Ahmaud Arbery, to the many other victims of brutality and indifference, it is abundantly clear that the institutions of this country are in need of deep, systemic reform. These reforms are devastatingly overdue.
The COVID-19 pandemic’s disproportionate impact on Black communities is yet another recent example of how our social, political, and economic systems combine to institutionalize and perpetuate harm against Black people. At every juncture — from who gets sick, to which diseases pharmaceutical companies invest in, to who can afford medication — Black communities are disproportionately affected. As an organization dedicated to making our health and economic systems more just and equitable, dismantling structural racism is not tangential to our work; it is mission critical.
That’s why, even though we are a small nonprofit organization with limited resources, I-MAK made the decision this week to send $5,000 to Ihotu Jennifer Ali, MPH, a Minneapolis-based public health and health justice advocate co-creating mutual aid systems for healthier and more connected communities. She brings experience in both western and African indigenous medicine and an approach to healing that is regenerative rather than extractive, and grounded in principles of both truth and reconciliation and transformative justice.
We believe meaningful change across systems in America today depends on healing justice practitioners and organizers like Ihotu who are expanding our country’s healing work to be collective rather than individual, and integrating rest, retreat, and radical self-care in honor of Ancestor Audre Lorde. Ihotu is a co-founder of, and will continue collaborating with, the Minnesota Healing Justice Network as well as other Black-led organizing circles in Minneapolis. She will also partner with I-MAK to receive mentorship, connection to others within our network, and strategic communications support. We look forward to sharing more about Ihotu and her work in the weeks to come.
We are intentionally supporting an individual and not an institution, because we know firsthand what is possible when new visions are birthed in the midst of crisis. At the peak of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, when millions of people were dying, my co-founder Tahir Amin and I conceived of I-MAK on the back of a napkin, where the idea would have remained had it not been for a few people who put their faith in a couple of young activists of color—and then backed that belief up with concrete support.
This moment demands that we witness, and deeply listen to, Black women, femmes, and healers who are radically reimagining our underlying systems and the ways we respect humanity, body, and life. As Ihotu said recently, “Whenever possible, choose love”.