Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Anti-Racism Statement
Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Anti-Racism Statement
Published September 22, 2020
We acknowledge that Indigenous peoples and nations, including the ᎠᎳᎫᏪᏘᏱ Tsalaguwetiyi (Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation), for generations have stewarded the lands and waterways where the Chestnut School is based, in what is now known as Western North Carolina. We acknowledge that colonization is an ongoing process, and that these lands are still occupied due to broken treaties and forceful removal of many members of the Cherokee nation. We recognize that acknowledgment is made meaningful through relationships and reparations, and we seek to create relationships with Native communities. We strive to treat all beings, including the plants growing on this land, with respect and reverence.
If you are living on colonized/ occupied land, we invite you to research the history of the land and the Indigenous people who lived, or may still live, there. Some tools that helped us create this land acknowledgement are the Native Land Map and the Honor Native Land Guide.
All Are Welcome at the Chestnut School
We will always welcome people from all races, nationalities, socio-economic backgrounds, ages, abilities, sexual orientations, and gender identities, as well as cultural, political, religious, and other affiliations. ALL are welcomed with open arms at The Chestnut School.
We aim to foster an inclusive and safe educational space through open communication, humility (a willingness to listen and learn from our mistakes), and mutual respect for different beliefs and backgrounds. Sharing the same beliefs as your fellow students is not a requirement to study with the Chestnut School, but treating everyone with dignity and respect is.
The primary mission of the school is to educate about holistic healing, which includes discussing socioeconomic factors that affect health, safety, and freedom. A healer cannot truly practice holistic herbalism without understanding and addressing the stress, violence, and discrimination that Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/ Questioning people (LGBTQ+) are faced with. If a person isn’t safe–or faces discrimination that affects their access to basic necessities and optimal health care–because of their race, religion, age, ability, sexual orientation, or gender identity, then their health is affected. It’s that simple.
The discrimination that affects human rights is a universal concern–transcending political affiliation. We believe these topics are central to any productive conversation regarding holistic herbalism (which takes into account how societal influences affect health, safety, basic human rights, and well-being).
Our Commitment to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Anti-Racism
We realize that we have a long way to go within our organization and that we’ve made more than our share of BIG mistakes that have caused harm. We’re continually attempting to learn, listen, and recalibrate. Our goals are to bring more diversity to the school’s staff, contractors, instructors, student body, and bloggers, to become a more equitable and inclusive business, and to make all of our spaces more welcoming for herbalists of all backgrounds.
Our team is currently predominantly white, cis-hetero middle and upper middle-class women. The foundation of creating these changes and connections is the internal work we are doing as individuals and as an organization to eradicate racism within ourselves and the school and create the cultural changes needed to address inequities. To that end, we are seeking ongoing education from the BIPOC and LGTBQIA+ herbal communities. In 2020 our team is taking the Woke Without the Work workshop, the Whiteness at Work course, and our leadership team is taking the Diversity is an Asset course.
DEI and anti-racism initiatives are an ongoing aspect of the school’s work–in other words, everything is open for revision and the work will never be done (at least in our lifetimes!). We must not let our mistakes dissuade us from doing the work and learning. Humility, openness, listening, learning, and compassion need to be at the helm. We are not sharing about this work publicly to gain social capital, but we hope by being transparent we can offer our students and community insight into where we stand. We strive to avoid engaging in optics or tokenization, and instead aim to embody our commitment to equity.
We are actively working on implementing and expanding the DEI plan we started in 2018 with the goal of creating a more welcoming and supportive environment for current and new students. (This plan has been reviewed by other herbal school owners who are actively working on similar plans and paid audits/reviews from Indigenous and Black herbalists.) The plan includes lessons to educate students who work/will work in healthcare fields about the identities and struggles of communities/peoples they may not belong to. We are also including discussions about health care inequities due to marginalization and bias. Additionally, we’re updating the Herbal Immersion Program with lessons from teachers of color, and we are slowly building a more diverse student body.
Since 2016 we’ve been offering need-based scholarships for herbal enthusiasts (including BIPOC and LGBTQ+ folks) who face barriers due to discrimination and unbalanced social structures – parameters such as race, class, ability, sexual orientation, and gender identity are considered. Since 2016, we’ve donated $200,000 through our scholarship program and partnerships with Black-led organizations focusing on food and medicine justice.
This is an ongoing effort and we will continue to add new lessons by diverse teachers on topics like The History of Herbalism from Indigenous and Black perspectives, health disparities, herbal accessibility, Black herbal elders, and lots more. Our students have lifetime access to our courses, including all updates to the coursework, so current students will eventually have these new lessons, too.
We have a zero-tolerance policy in our student forums and on our social media pages for those who refute the presence of systemic racism or dismiss the relevance of discussions on eradicating racism, discrimination, and bigotry in healing spaces and the world at large. We monitor and moderate these spaces diligently to ensure they are as safe and respectful as possible. Our evolving definition of discrimination is based on our growth as individuals and as a business in understanding our role as it relates to systemic racism.
As reparations, we donate annually to BIPOC scholarship programs offered by BIPOC-owned herbal programs and conferences.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and actions against systemic racism in this nation, we’ve donated over $60,000 towards food insecurity relief efforts, racial and social justice, and legal defense organizations. These donations are part of our ongoing Community Giving and Partnership initiatives.
We will soon begin working with a consultant who will do an equity audit of the school’s internal and external frameworks, including hiring processes, human resources, leadership, organizational structure, support for BIPOC staff members, best practices for student forums, our scholarship program, course content and accessibility, and more. Our team engages in ongoing professional development related to diversity and equity. We will create annual public DEI reports in collaboration with consultants that will be shared here. We know this work is ongoing and ever-evolving and we are committed to it for the long haul.
For more details, please read Hello Seven’s Anti-Racist Small Business Pledge that the Chestnut School is committed to.
We invite feedback from our students and community. We want to be held accountable to our commitments and we hope that you will share your experiences, suggestions, and concerns with us. You can do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can submit feedback (anonymously if desired) by using this online form.
We thank Desiree Adaway and the Adaway Group for the education provided on creating DEI statements in their course, Diversity is an Asset.