Today we’d like to introduce you to Berenice Dimas.
Berenice, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Hood Herbalism started from a simple vision of wanting to have space in the community where people of color could come together and learn how to make herbal medicine for themselves as well as their families.
Over time, the vision has expanded, and the project went from simply helping people how to make herbal medicine to space where people have an opportunity to deepen their relationship with plants as well as with their own ancestral healing traditions.
Has it been a smooth road?
Hood Herbalism has definitely not had a smooth journey. There have been lots of detours, pauses, distractions, and reflections about where to go next along the way.
When Hood Herbalism started, I did not have a clear plan for how it would sprout in the community which has been both an amazing and difficult experience. I simply knew that I wanted to host classes where people could learn how to make their own herbal medicine.
Once I realized that the community was responding well to the classes, I knew that giving it structure would be a good idea and would allow the work to grow. I did not have a background in finance, business development, or marketing at all.
Learning how to grow a business has been quite a journey for me. Over the last two years, I have taken several courses in the community, talked to many friends, read books, and met amazing resources that have helped answer very important questions.
Giving Hood Herbalism structure without losing the essence which draws people to the classes has been the most challenging part of this journey. How do you grow a community-based project into a business?
What business rout do you take and why? How do you keep the work grounded in its vision while expanding at the same time? How do you expand and allow people to get involved in ways that are nourishing the vision?
What type of visibility do you bring to your work and why? These have been questions I’ve had to engage with as Hood Herbalism has expanded.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
Hood Herbalism is a community based herbal education project for people of color based out of Lynwood, CA. It is a space where people learn useful herbal medicine making skills. Hood Herbalism also supports people in connecting with their own ancestral healing traditions related to plants, health, wellness, and herbal medicine.
Beyond the classes, Hood Herbalism is a contribution to a growing movement of decolonizing body, mind, and spirit that is centering plant knowledge and has the wellness of our communities in mind.
We are known for being a space that centers spirit, ancestral teachings, and indigenous knowledge. We feel proud that every time people come into a Hood Herbalism space, they feel connected to their ancestors, to each other, and to the plants.
One of the things we hear people mention often in closing circles is that they love being in a space with other like-minded individuals who are also interested in deepening their awareness with the natural world and their relationship with the land.
We do not necessarily see ourselves apart from other organizations, Hood Herbalism is a space that is adding a resource in the community as well as working collaboratively with other organizations to uplift our community.
Our long-term vision is to have a retreat and rest space for our community. A space that houses our community farm, herbal garden, and apothecary. A space that offers herbal education programs for children and youth and that can offer curriculum to our school districts. A space that has a center where people can receive health and wellness support.
A space where people can come rest have a space to dream out their own creative ideas and be with plants. A space where we can build an amazing learning environment and have an herbal school for people of color (which currently does not exist in the LA area).
Is our city a good place to do what you do?
LA is home for me, and that is why it felt right to start Hood Herbalism here. This land raised me, and Hood Herbalism is a way for me to give back to this land and to honor all the ancestors that have given permission for this work to be here.
Before I started the Hood Herbalism, I visited several places in the LA area and made offerings. I offered tobacco, songs, food, and flowers. I shared my intentions with the spirits of the land and guardians of this medicine. I told them what I wanted to do and why. I cried. I told them that I wanted to deepen my relationship with them and that my work would open a path for others to do the same.
I thanked them for welcoming me back and for their blessing once Hood Herbalism stated taking off. Los Angeles is a place that needs more green spaces for communities of color that are operated as well as owned by people of color. Los Angeles needs more spaces that are honoring native flora and spaces where indigenous people have access to land so that we can continue practicing our traditions.
Our city can improve in giving indigenous people and people of color more opportunities to own land. We have amazing and creative ideas. We have so many resources to share with our community. We have so many visions, and all we need is a chance. We need someone to invest in our ideas. We need capital, resources, education, and we need spaces where our ideas can flourish.
Our work has so much potential. We need the city to see us as an asset (because we already are and our work reflects that). We need the city to know that it will benefit from having our work visible in the community and that investing in us is investing in LA itself.
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