One aspect of the Old Skoolie 1863 mobile community center portion will be promoting HoodHealth wherever it touches down. Since introducing the concept in 2010 it has grown to have a life of its own. Truth be told, the current models in the health movement that are working to be “hip” in order to reach the urban or People of Color demographic have their origin in the publishing of the Hood Health Handbook: A practical guide to health and wellness in the urban community, of which I am the co-editor. Since before the publishing of the book and afterwards I have been directly involved in work that addresses the health of the inner city.
This past year I was part of the mobile market program sponsored by CitySeed. It is a mobile market bringing fresh fruits and vegetables from Connecticut farms into New Haven neighborhoods along with cooking demonstrations. I managed the market during the weekends. CitySeed did this in conjunction with Common Ground High School & Urban Farm, a center for environmental learning and leadership with a working organic farm located in New Haven. I enjoyed every moment. The hoods that we went too didn’t have access to food outside of a few corner stores. This lack of access did not destroy the desire in the people to have access to fresh food. The weekly stories about the state of the neighborhood, food dishes, jokes, and check ins. When you bring food to the center of discussion you are dealing with community and the people.
The experience with CitySeed illustrated to me the proper methods to access the needs of a community. You build a partnership with the people and the community. You don’t do the “invader” method knowing “what is best for the people.” That is oftentimes the downfall of many non-profit liberal type organizations. You are there to assist the people in just discovering the resources that they already have and put them in contact with the resources that they are in need of.
The full HoodHealth potential of Old Skoolie 1863 is still being laid out by me. Everyday I think of a new thing that I could integrate into the whole make up. I do know that one of the ethics that I was taught is that you bring the message to the people that need the message. Old Skoolie 1863 is the vehicle of that message.
In Indigenous traditions medicine is either in one’s household or it is a specific “medicine house.” As my man Supreme Understanding states strongly “the Hood is Indigenous.” Old Skoolie 1863 is both the “home” (as it will be my home) and it is the traveling medicine house.
Money doesn’t grow on trees yet money is made from tree (tree pulp in the paper). It is a subtle reminder of an essential truth that many overlook. Money is a token stand in for the trade in resources or services. It is not the resource or service itself. In the quest to generate money sometimes we forget that it is about getting the resource or service. So nowadays I have a clear understanding of what I have to offer and what resource/service I am looking for. Oftentimes there is a more direct route between these two points that doesn’t even involve money.
In keeping up with the “Joneses” we have to remember that a lot of the stuff that they flaunt (clothes, tech, cars, etc) they do not purchase. They are given these item freely by companies because they give the company high visibility. The person who is working to keep up is actually the one buying these items and fueling the financial growth of the company. So while working out my master plan of funding for the Old Skoolie 1863 project I ran across an article of a man who had financed the building of his tiny house through corporate sponsorship. If he could get the building of his tiny house built through corporate sponsorship why shouldn’t this also be a possible avenue for Old Skoolie 1863?
Corporations sponsor individuals or groups because their story increases the value of the corporation’s brand. When a story increases the value of a corporation’s it is expanding its reach and visibility. So as I approach this angle I have to think what story is it that I have to tell. Why would a corporation want to fund the promotion of my story?
A few days ago I started a thread on my Facebook page asking what would people want to see in a mobile HoodHealth center. The responses were great and gave me a host of ideas. Ideas which I will definitely be incorporating into Old Skoolie 1863. I definitely envision Old Skoolie 1863 to be one part Dr making house calls, one part nutrition center, one part HoodHealth information center and another part inspiration for people to take more responsibility for their bodies.
In the 19th century into the early 20th century there were a host of traveling entities that brought mobile health to outlaying communities on the frontier. Though many have been immortalized in history as “con artists” (the medicine show, rain makers, snake oil salesmen, etc) the reality is that many of the patent medicines that they once hawked are still in use to today once their active ingredient has been isolated. In fact some of the medicines that we use today such as Anacin, Goodey’s Powder, Luden’s Throat Drops, Vick’s Vapo Rub, Milk of Magnesia, etc were all patent medicines that such traveling salesmen used to sell. Some of the “tonics” that used to be sold as healing medicines we consume now in a non-medicinal capacity. If I list them by name (the same names that they had back in the day) you may recognize them…Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper and 7-Up. Yup, sodas used to be sold as tonic medicines. In fact there were cola wars before Coke and Pepsi.
As a Black man traveling america with a skoolie full of apothecary greatness it is also about reclaiming the racial propaganda which was leveled against some patent medicines which led to our current drug war landscape. Small levels of cannabis, heroin and cocaine were present in several patent medicines. There was no problem against any of this until each of those drugs became identified with a specific ethnic group in racist propaganda. Cannabis was connected to Mexicans, Heroin to the Chinese and Cocaine to Blacks. No, I am not going to be slangin drug filled remedies yet I will be bringing a new era of bringing simple homemade remedies to the forefront. Part of reconciling the current racial health disparity is to acknowledge the wealth of healing traditions that are abundant in our communities already. Follow me on this journey.
The name is kind of quirky right?
I considered loads of other names. Some of these names I am using as other parts of the whole project such as Skoolie House Rock (for the HoodHealth/Technical elements), Skoolie High Cheerleaders (for the group of women supporters who have already stepped up named after the classic Black movie Cooley High). In the end though Old Skoolie 1863 is what stuck embodying the mission that I am setting out to do.
The Old Skoolie part of the title refers to Old School Hip Hop which focuses on four elements; djing, emceeing, break-dancing and aerosol art. It is the essence of sound, music and art from the inner city. HoodHealth uses this framework to reintroduce health in urban environments. 1863 alludes to the end of the Civil War and the beginning of Reconstruction. During this time was the founding of many of the HBCUS (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), founding of Black towns and a migration West of African-Americans. 1863 encompasses a lot of what I envision my own journey west to be.
Part of this whole journey is to in part travel the road of my fore bearers. They experienced and forged a whole new world once they threw off shackles of slavery. Yet they never went empty handed because they were vessels of creation itself. The current stress across the racial landscape mirrors a lot of what my ancestors went through as they made this journey. It mirrors it because it is an unbroken continuum. What is happening today is just the modern day manifestation of the same system.
Old Skoolie 1863 will literally be a vehicle of change in the physical sense and in the mental sense wherever it touches touches down. It has a mission. It has an agenda. It has the proper tools. It is a determined idea embodied.