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Julia Bennett - Astraea Lesbian Foundation For Justice

Julia Bennett

New York, USA
Julia Bennett

Julia Bennett is a Board certified licensed acupuncturist trained in both Chinese and Japanese acupuncture. Her long standing passion is community health and the health concerns of women, women who have tested positive for HIV and AIDS, maternity, infant, and reproductive justice for all bodies.

Currently, Julia partners with a group of diverse revolutionary practitioners who have built an alternative community health clinic in Brooklyn, NY with the goal of making health care a safe, informed, accessible, and affordable choice.

Julia ardently believes that the health challenges of our humanity must address wellness as a birthright and continues to be in partnership with movements that are committed to bringing justice to the disparities in our health care systems. Julia stands as a committed vessel for the manifestation of this work for the greatest good and well being of all.

Q&A with Julia Bennett

You have a long history of providing critical healing support to some of the most marginalized POC in New York City. Why do you see healing work as an important part of social justice movement work? What role do healers play in movement work?

Having been and continue to be in spaces that allow me to view the sundry angles of social justice and activist movements, what I continue to witness is the high incidence of burnout. With all of the lofty visions, tremendous strides, passionate and compassionate hard work, what cannot be ignored is the impact of burnout on the physical, psycho-social and emotional body of both those on the line and the efficacy of the movements themselves. For this reason alone, healing justice is a must. Alma John reminded us of the value of “Each one teach one.” If I may add to that, that in our giving to others may we heal ourselves so that the vibrancy of our commitment to transformation and parity in the world be reflected in the presentation of our personal wellness. Strong partnerships and healthy alliances allow sustainability in any movement and healers should be arm in arm with movement work every step of the way.

How have the communities you’ve worked with and the political environment they’re working in changed over the course of your healing practice?

Many things come to mind with this question. I think about the deeper ways the politics of movements have grown but also the superficial ways in which social justice movements have appeared to have affected change. My grandmother always pops up here and I just have to tell this story, again. I grew up in Jim Crow South in the 1950’s. Long story short, I remember my grandmother’s fear every time one of her younger sons left the house, who were teenagers when I was 5 for so. I remember her admonishing them to make sure they crossed the street if they were passing a white man, make sure they did not look anyone white in the eye, and ultimately not to look or heaven forbid touch a white woman. What has changed as a result of the politics of the civil rights movement and the Black Power movement, of which I have history, is that it appears Black folks are more liberated, have more freedoms and rights, and have gained access to the American dream. What is disturbing is that I hear Black mothers in my community giving that same speech to their sons with the same terror in their voices here in 2019. I don’t question the authenticity of movements and what drives our social justice movements, but I do question how the intersection of politics, government, and privilege can challenge movements. In the early 1990’s at the height of the AIDS pandemic, I ran a support group for lesbians who were HIV+ and/or had full blown AIDS. Since that time the funding for HIV/AIDS in POC communities have not been as prominent as the virus continues to plant itself. This is political. Perhaps, things have shifted in ways I am not able to comprehend or perhaps, the more things change the more they remain the same. I trust the former will be my conclusion.

Do you see yourself as a lesbian elder, and if so, what does that mean to you? What is your vision for feminist organizing?

I am a cis woman, nearly 70 years, and identify as lesbian, a woman who loves women. As an out lesbian in the 1970’s, though the shoulders I stood on then had already dug deep roots to nurture, direct, and protect me, they were still perilous times. We had to be vigilant in our commitment to walk a dignified and just life and movement building and forming allied relationships were intensely important. What being an elder lesbian activist healer means to me is that I am charged with staying the course to eliminate as much harm, disparity, injustice, and patriarchal oppression for all people through the lens of the feminine. I believe that female energy can uplift the vibratory rate on the planet where deep healing can occur and my vision for feminist organizing is to speak to that in all I do. Educate our young, middle, and elder populations to recognize oppression, speak out and take action in their own right, agitate the systems that continue to get in the way of all human beings living powerfully in a world where we all belong, and modeling and committing to extending as much goodness as I can muster.

What does it mean to you to be nominated for the Astraea Acey Social Justice Feminist Award?

I am humbled beyond words to be nominated for the Astraea Acey Social Justice Feminist Award. Astraea has been the Goddess of female empowerment throughout my journey here in NYC as an out lesbian. I remember as a member of SalsaSoul how proud we felt when any woman of color was recognized by The Astraea Foundation. It was and is the epitome of recognition. That Astraea has chosen to hold this space for me feels surreal and I am honored. More than that, I value all the ways Astraea continues to unpack and challenge oppression and open new gateways for the varied LGBTQ movements to thrive.</ br> Thank you ALL for your tireless, devoted, and brilliant work for years, and years. You are the bar that all social justice organizations would be proud to reach. May you, Astraea and your powerful herstory continue to gain all the momentum that thrusts you and your work deeper into the wide world. Thank you.