(Re)imagining Systems of Care: A Ritual for Medical Consent & Protection

In this country, medical institutions, hospitals, doctor’s offices, and operating rooms have been sites of violence resulting in harm and negligible care to bodies of peoples of color—specifically, women, trans and gender non-conforming people, disabled people, and poor and working class folks. Vulnerable bodies experience violence within western medicine and the current-day medical-industrial-complex; this violence has taken the form of exclusion, manipulation, coercion, neglect, and mental and physical abuse.

This systematic domination  is the result of decades of white supremacist, misogynistic, and for-profit driven policies.

Interactions between the vulnerable and the dominant within these spaces can and do result in harm done to minds, bodies, lives, families and communities. We find ourselves continuously negotiating power dynamics when we seek medical care in systems and spaces that make us struggle to assert control. While western medicine has become the mainstream norm for medical care, it is not accessible to everyone; and with capitalism as its enormous engine, it is neither safe nor comforting.

The medical-industrial-complex is not our only option; and we believe that other forms of care and wellness should be made more available and visible.

How does one ask for help and healing from a system that we don’t trust to take care of us?

How does one remain in control of one’s body when it is in the hands of a doctor? How do we assert power when we feel at a disadvantage and not seen or heard? Given the feelings of fear, vulnerability and uncertainty that come with sickness and pain, how can we assert what we need and want to be healthy and well—and reject what we don’t want? What would autonomous systems of care for our self and collective health look like?  What does it look like to take care of one another with consent and generosity, and to advocate for one’s health and for the health of our loved ones, families, and communities? What would liberatory holistic health care look and feel like?

Melanie Griffin will read a piece about Black women’s experiences with physical and mental health, and the kinds of care they do or do not receive. Cesia Domínguez López will perform a piece on the intersections of citizenship and health access. Adrienne Walser will share a creative nonfiction piece about being in a vulnerable body that illuminates particular dynamics of power and control within the spaces and systems of western medicine.

We welcome those considering these questions and those who have experienced these dynamics to engage and interact. This event is an opportunity for conversation, solidarity and comfort through readings, performances, and dialogue. The night will conclude with a participatory ritual that encourages people to check in with their bodies and intentionally envision and project protection and somatic consent while navigating the medical industrial complex (and beyond).

Melanie Griffin is an L.A. based Black queer chronically ill artist and herbalist who is invested in collective healing and creative paths that center Black and Brown people. They are the Deputy Director of Health and Wellness at Dignity and Power Now. Through textile art, writing, and performance/ritual/magic, Melanie explores issues around home, self-care/ self affirmation, sickness, race, gender, sexuality, capitalism, liberation and our relationship to this planet. They have held workshops that examine how plants can support our experiences with oppression, facilitated loving introspective conversations about Blackness, and taught an Introduction to Plants for the Nervous System, in spaces such as WCCW, Human Resources, and with non-profit organizations. She has shown visual art and or performed in spaces like LACE, Human Resources, Sorority, and the Queer Biennial.

Cesia Domínguez López (b. La Paz, México) is a queer Zapoteca, Mexican migrant, neuroscientist, life-long learner, and eternal alien (ille)GAL. Her work unearths historical injuries stemming from the (western) Enlightenment and its resulting project of dominating WHITENESS to address intergenerational trauma. Cesia utilizes her practice to (re)imagine a world that centers the self and collective health and wellness of Black and Indigenous womxn and invites us to (re)imagine and build a world where whiteness is abolished for the whole-istic health of our communities. Cesia’s Living Altares ritual gardening work has been installed in collaboration with local prison abolition and healing justice community organizations. Her performance work has been a part of the Pacific Standard Time Live Arts festival in Los Angeles and commissioned by the Vincent Price Museum. She is one of the co-founders of Color Collective, a collaborative learning space empowering and centering people of color in the celebration and ownership of ancestral and new technologies.

Adrienne Walser is an educator, writer, and queer person; she lives with a chronic illness and has been negotiating the dynamics of control within medical spaces since childhood. After living in Tucson for twelve years, she came to Los Angeles to get a PhD in English at USC. As faculty for the Bard College MAT program in L.A. and an Instructional Specialist for the non-profit organization, Youth Policy Institute, she collaborates with educators in the city’s public schools; her work is education is based in liberatory pedagogy and social justice. She has published writing in Jacket2, Film International, Pastelegram, Art Book Review, Yes Femmes, CARLA, and Entropy, for which she is the Arts & Culture Editor. Her critical writing on art and literature focuses on movement and bodies; her current creative non-fiction project is concerned with illness, loss, intimacy and care. Adrienne appreciates participating in conversations and collaborations on issues of sickness and care-taking.

Accessibility information for this event: WCCW has a 36” wide ramp at our front entrance and a stairway with 8 steps and a rail. There are 2 gender neutral restrooms. One restroom is wheelchair accessible, with a handrail. We provide scent free soaps and encourage guests to attend our events scent free. If you require ASL interpretation, CART, interpretation for a language other than English, supervised childcare, or have any other access needs or questions, please contact info@wccw.us at least two weeks in advance. It is our practice to do everything we can to create a safe and accessible space.