From counseling those in crisis to leading healing ceremonies for communities that experience trauma, trained Black healers fill a critical gap, but often do so without compensation for their skills and services.
“In 2020, I counseled 15 Black women who were contemplating suicide,” said Healing for the Healers founder Neith Sankofa. Her own story of recovery when faced with a similar decision, her education and training as a healer, and her commitment to community provided a nurturing and restorative connection to these women.
Sankofa also answered the call, alongside other healers, to help activists get to a place of peace after witnessing the fatal shooting of eight-year-old Secoriea Turner during a demonstration for Rayshard Brooks who had been killed by a police officer.
“You’re talking about a phone call saying ‘can you come at 6 p.m.? They are losing it!’” Sankofa said. “You try to get child care, you grab your tools and you go and it lasts as long as it needs to last.”
Healing for the Healers is a fundraising initiative for nine Black healers – Wyoma, Mikel Fuller, Regina Sewell, Kris Henry, Mignon Grayson, Yashi BIN, Allison Rozell, Jovhanna Tisdale and Sankofa – who are skilled in a range of practices and modalities, such as Reiki, African and indigenous Healing dance, mental and physical health modalities, and ordained ministries.
“We [often] pay for healing work for the community out of what we make from our traditional jobs,” Sankofa said.
Some of the healers are registered nurses or mental health practitioners. Sankofa, CEO and principal facilitator of Neith Sankofa Consulting, helps social justice movement builders and those they serve with self-care and healing practices.
“There is an invisible infrastructure that is holding up the health and well-being of our communities,” said Sankofa. “And those people need communal support to maintain that infrastructure.”
The fundraising effort was inspired by Wyoma, Sankofa’s 70-year-old mentor, who needed respite after three people close to her had transitioned.
“Knowing how much she gives to the community and that she was unable to take some time off – sparked me to think about this initiative. She has put 52 years of service as a healer into the community,” Sankofa said.
Other healers expressed similar concerns. That’s why the crowdfunding campaign seeks to raise six months of financial support for each healer to cover basic living expenses, advanced training, or the cost of providing healing services.
“There are many healers who have said, ‘I love this work, I have dedicated years of my life and thousands of my personal dollars to train but I cannot support myself.’ That’s a person who’d be gone,” Sankofa said. “And it may have taken them 10 years to facilitate in a way that is respectful and responsive to community.”
Sankofa’s journey to her calling is a woven tapestry of life experience and ongoing learning. She was a semi-professional dancer, a Marine, and a manager at Lockheed. Ten years ago, after two consecutive divorces, Sankofa spiraled into alcoholism, depression, and nearly took her own life. She sought recovery.
“As fate would have it, my counselor was a former Buddhist nun who exposed me to all types of healing modalities – breath work, acupuncture, massage therapy,” Sankofa said.
To maintain sobriety, Sankofa started skating with her sons on the weekends. One night a woman approached her saying, ‘your ancestors have sent me to teach you.’ Sankofa thought “okay, this is weird” but was open to her offer, which turned into a six year mentorship. During that time, Sankofa also completed a bachelor’s and master’s degree in religious studies with a focus on African healing dance.
“This is how these stories weave together. That is how I found my current teacher in African healing dance, Wyoma. I have been with her for about five years. She is the healing elder of this initiative,” Sankofa said.
In the African tradition of first fruits going to elders, Wyoma, will receive support first.
“There is a stigma that healers should only give, but we live in the real world with groceries and mortgages. Some say there are public services but there are gaps for Black people and our traditional work,” Sankofa said. “Healers are inside of the community – we know what trauma is present and we have trained to address those traumas and facilitate joy. We are asking for communal care to find some ease, cover basic needs or specific training. None plan on stopping.”
Beyond the fundraiser, Sankofa plans to connect Black leaders with Black Healers, pursue the intersection of healing and art, and continue raising awareness of the healing infrastructure.
“We have some tough times ahead of us. We’re not out of COVID-19, we’re not out of the civil unrest. We don’t need to be losing any of our support systems at a time such as this. This is our responsibility communally.
Learn more at healing-for-the-healers.squarespace.com.