LGBT Elders, Disability, and Community Care: Support Queer Brown Activist, Aurora Levins Morales

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Guest post from Sabina Ibarrola, Edited by Spectra.

I don’t remember why exactly I first sought out Aurora Levins MoralesRemedios in my college library, just that I did. I checked out the book and took it home, began reading on the subway ride back to Brooklyn.

Reading her words felt like getting away with something. Like, do other people know about this? Historian as curandera, whaaaat? Bibliography as botánica? Stories of resistance punctuated by poem-prescriptions for herbs to help us bear it all – bitters, calendula, ginger. I was dog-earing every other page and underlining important passages to copy into my journal at home. (Yes, in the library book. Oops. I later bought my own copy.)

Aurora’s words were powerful tonic. They really were remedios: grounding, healing. To embody the fundamental contradiction of being Latina, of being mixed race and queer to boot, can leave a girl feeling rather unmoored. But in Remedios I found earth beneath my feet, and roots beneath that – deep roots I discovered because of this brilliant curandera-author-revolutionary, who got it.

The only way to bear the overwhelming pain of oppression is by telling, in all its detail, in the presence of witnesses and in a context of resistance, how unbearable it is.

Aurora Levins Morales is a beloved healer, writer, historian, activist, creator, and elder. She is the author of Remedios: Stories of Earth and Iron from the Histories of Puertorriqueñas, Medicine Stories, and others.

She was one of the original contributors to This Bridge Called My Back, a groundbreaking anthology of feminist works written by women of color, and her writing explores themes of multiple identity, the immigrant experience, Jewish radicalism, Puerto Rican history, and the importance of collective memory and art in resisting oppression and creating change.

Aurora’s work has been vital in documenting our histories and imagining our futures. For her contribution to LGBT history as a woman of color, she deserves celebration, and comfort. But, right now, she is struggling with disability, medical abuse (a term she’s used to describe recent circumstances), and being a broke, genius, queer brown elder in a world that pushes disabled and chronically ill people to the margins.

In her own words, as of October 13th:

Dear community–i am entering my 5th week of severe low back pain and pelvic injury, and have been unable to leave my bed at all since Sept 27, which means I’m back to diapers for the fist time since 1956. I am slowly healing, with the help of a chiropractor who makes house calls, but need many hours of care a day. In the past few weeks I have used up my health care reserve fund, and have gone from paying for 20 hours a week of attendant care to 14 hours a day, plus $750 in uncovered direct health care costs a week. I may eventually be able to recover some of that, but I have to shell it out now. Every week I get emails thanking me for the impact of my writing on people’s lives, people who don’t know my body is literally coming apart at the pelvis, or that I struggle with chronic illness and poverty every day. I would love to finish my novel, and write my new book about putting our bodies at the center of our liberation work, but to do that, I need you, my community, to help me keep body, mind and spirit together.

Even our most brilliant healers are of course not invincible, especially when faced with body- and soul-killing oppression, and navigating a medical industrial complex that doesn’t give a shit about cash-poor brown disabled queers.

Photo Credit: Linda Haas

A provocative article was recently published on Organizing Upgrade, titled “An End to Self Care”. Since then, there’s been a lot of internet discussion around the topic of self-care versus community care, including beautiful, potent necessary words from individual activists such as Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-SamarasinhaAdrienne Maree Brown, and others.

But this is not a zero sum game. We desperately need both self-care and community care. I believe in a movement that actively works against ageism and ableism, that creates spaces for both younger and older generations, and people with disabilities, that prioritizes our interconnected survival and sustainability, especially when it comes to caring for our elders.

Because Aurora’s work has meant so much to me in my own journey as a queer, mixed-race Latina artist and aspiring healer, I created a ChipIn page to help raise funds for her healthcare costs.

The goal is to raise $8300 by November 30th. (Note: $8300 is the estimated cost to cover just ONE MONTH of attendant care and uncovered direct health care. It would be amazing to see if we can raise way more than that.

Please, give what you can to support one of our elders and visionary revolutionaries in need. Here are a few ways you can do that:

Forward Aurora’s call (link: http://www.auroralevinsmorales.com/donate.html) widely, to everyone who cares about honoring our living heroes, and about community care, sustainability in activism, class, and healing; to folks, like myself, who love and need Aurora’s work, and to the ones who would if they knew it existed.

We need more money and awareness than anything else, currently, but if you can’t give in any of the above ways, do send Aurora prayers and well-wishing, so she remembers there is a community that cares for her well-being. Find her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/auroralevinsmorales.writer.

Thank you all for reading, and in advance for your support.

About the Author

Sabina IbarrolaSabina is a queer mxd-race Latina - a dancer, bruja, and burlesque artist on the path towards becoming a writer and healer, too. She lives in Brooklyn among many cats and resilient femmes.View all posts by Sabina Ibarrola →