Harm Reduction

Overdose Awareness Day

It’s rare that war is the answer to any problem.
So many innocent casualties.
So much misplaced blame.
Hidden profits.
Secondary trauma.
Communities that will never recover.
And so often,
a less than altruistic agenda
veiled only by rhetoric and power.

So too, it goes, with the war on drugs.
They say overdose is the leading cause
of accidental death for those under 50,
but pull back the curtain,
and you’ll see it’s really this racist, classist war.
Decades of stigma and shame,
of locking up more black men than were enslaved in 1850,
of punishing instead of providing access to
safety, support, and treatment when desired.
The war on drugs is evil.
It only stimulates more violence
while placing blame on its victims
and those who love them.

Our faith calls us to be conscientious objectors,
protestors and providers.

So much, so many, have already been lost.
But love can save lives.

Harm reduction is a practice of love.
Combatting the war on drugs is a practice of love.
Fighting stigma is a practice of love.
Creating communities that watch out for each other
is a practice of love.
Distributing naloxone is a practice of love.

On this International Overdose Awareness day,
we remember those we have lost.
We grieve.
We celebrate those who have survived.
We give thanks for everyone still with us.
We listen for the wisdom of those who lead from experience,
turning away from judgment and shame,
choosing public health over war,
because destruction will always ever only lead to more destruction.

Learn more about how the war on drugs, grounded in white supremacy, contributes to overdose at https://osf.to/32kXrwS

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Blessing given by Rev. M Barclay at Iowa Harm Reduction 

Iowa Harm Reduction Coalition
International Overdose Awareness Day
August 31, 2019

Good afternoon,

My name is Rev. M Barclay, my pronouns are they/them.

I am the director of an organization called enfleshed, where we believe that all that is Sacred manifests through our flesh - all of our flesh - our bodies, the body of the earth, and in the ways we show up together. To fight for each other’s flourishing. To resist all forms of evil and injustice. To love one another well - which includes grieving together, supporting one another wherever life takes us, providing access to risk reduction, community, medical care, and policies that build a culture of health, and equity, and equality for everyone.

That’s how we love each other. That’s how we survive.

There is so much of that kind of love present here today.

This gathering is a Sacred gathering.

We have heard Sacred truths.

We have held grief that is intimate and personal and also echoes across generations and populations.

We have remembered. Beloveds. Their stories. Their struggles. Their love. Their loss.

And in these ways we’ve been invited to be present - to all of it - to all of ourselves and our own stories - to whatever this day brings up for each of us, to the joy and challenges of being alive, to the dreams we share for our collective futures, and to the grief of futures taken from others.

Thank you to all who have shared in vulnerability and power today by sharing your stories with us. Thank you, to all who engage in the sacred labors of harm reduction in its many forms.
Thank you, for being here. For not giving up on you, on us, on what we can do together.

If you have been told or treated as if your life is not valuable,
That you do not deserve to thrive - or even survive,
that your presence is not desired in the community,
or that you should feel shame because you use or once used,

Let this gathering be a reminder that those messages are lies.

If you have lost a loved one to opiod overdose and have been subject to the judgment of others, to blame against you or your beloved,
or to having your grief compounded by social stigma,

Let this gathering be a reminder that those messages are lies. 


Your beloveds are held in the eternal arms of love,
The same love that delighted in their creation,
The same love that embraced them in their complexity.
The same love that grieved the ways the world failed them.

No shame, no stigma, no ignorance or unjust policies can separate them from the eternal embrace of love that holds us all together.

If you have been convinced that there’s nothing that can be done, that we have no power to change the policies and culture that do our communities harm, or that loving one another well, showing up for each other, and telling the truths that are vulnerable and brave are not worth their sweat...

Let this gathering be a reminder that those messages are lies.

This work has saved lives. You have saved each others lives. There are so many lives yet that will benefit from this work - of your hands, and your labor, and your effort. You who watch over your friends, you who provide naloxone, you who educate and advocate, you who fight for the rights of your own communities - you are embodied hope. And today we remember that truth.

...

I’m a minister in the Christian tradition,
a tradition the claims that collective efforts of love and justice
Can lead to great reversals of power and stigma.

Those who are powerful and oppressive will be brought low
While those who suffer will one day rise and thrive without fear

In my tradition, we recognize that so often…

The arrogant are those who know the least.

The ones who condemn are often the ones in need of transformation.

And those who think they have the power to decide who does and does not deserve love and compassion, are the ones who are most distant from both.

Meanwhile, the ones who are outcast. The ones who bear the weights of injustice, oppression, stigma and shame. The ones whose radical politics aren’t tolerated - among those folks - my tradition says, God is most near.

All the lies of systems and stigmas that destroy lives are revealed as false and those who suffer at the hands of those lies are revealed as bearers of truth. When we work together for a more just society, this becomes so.

In 1971,president Richard Nixon named drug use as “public enemy number one.”

But any brief and honest look into the history of the criminalization of drug use reveals a different story with a different enemy.

There is no greater enemy to the health and wellness of our communities, the flourishing of our collective lives, the potential to support each other through whatever challenges life brings us, than white supremacy and the culture and criminal legal system it created.

Since the 1870s, anti-drug use laws have been targeting communities of color, leading to the launch of the war on drugs, skyrocketing incarceration rates of black men beyond the number of those enslaved in 1850, and taking with it casualties of all races and classes. Our friends and family and community members.

Those in power have been working for ages to harden the hearts of the masses against those who use - painting pictures solely of violence, crime, and destruction of life…

They point their fingers and make their profit…when all along, they are the ones doing the violence, creating crime, and destroying lives.

Forcing people into unsafe and isolating situations, creating communities of poverty, encouraging judgment and shame and stigma, criminalizing and punishing instead of supporting and providing access to what is needed for survival and flourishing.

May this day be our reminder that through the work of harm reduction, of advocating for just policies and an end to stigma against people who use drugs and those who love them, of supporting one another in struggles and celebrations, we can bring about the great reversal.

Turning the tables, countering the lies of those in power, and revealing what’s true:
That the war on drugs is a lie.
That criminalization of drugs is a system of violence.
That people who use drugs deserve safety, community, support, compassion, and most of all survival.
And that it doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to keep losing lives to overdose.

Living and proclaiming and enacting these truths is how we love each other.

And in doing so, we honor those we have lost.
....
In closing, I offer a short poem of gratitude by Adrienne Marree Brown for you who are survivors. Of overdose. Of loss. Of stigma. Of white supremacy. Of classism.


And for you who are laboring for change. And taking care of each other. And continuing live and to love despite your grief. And dreaming of a world where everyone is able to flourish.


"you are a miracle walking
i greet you with wonder
in a world which seeks to own
your joy and your imagination
you have chosen to be free,
every day, as a practice.
i can never know
the struggles you went through to get here,
but i know you have swum upstream
and at times it has been lonely
i want you to know
i honor the choices you made in solitude
and i honor the work you have done to belong
i honor your commitment to that which is larger than yourself
and your journey
to love the particular container of life
that is you
you are enough
your work is enough
you are needed
your work is sacred
you are here
and i am grateful"


Thanks be for the courage and love and compassion in each of you and may blessings of honest joy meet you in the midst of this Sacred labor we share.