Ashel Eldridge of EFAM Talks Homelessness in Oakland and upcoming “Dope is Death” Doc Screening

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By JR Valrey, The People’s Minister of Information

Ashel Eldridge and the collective that he is a member of, known as Essential Food & Medicine, have been doing vital work with the members of our West Oakland community who live in the streets aka homeless population, since the start of the pandemic. I’m inspired by the work of EFAM, so I wanted to work with them to use the film screening to help them to recruit healers in the community to work in West Oakland, which is where their base is. Many people say that they honor and respect the Panthers, the best way to do so is to push the work, to your capacity, that they were engaged in, like what EFAM is doing. Check out the work of these community souljahs and see how you can aid and assist them, if not join them. Also come out to the showing of the “Dope is Death” film on Saturday. Check out Ashel Eldridge of EFAM, as he describes their history, work, and why the film compliments the work EFAM is doing in the West. Come to the “Dope is Death” film screening in honor of Black Panther History month, on Saturday, October 23, at 5pm at The Compound at 926 85th Ave, in East Oakland. Pill up and tap in. 

JR Valrey: Can you talk about how EFAM started? And what is its purpose?

Ashel Eldridge: Essential Food & Medicine (EFAM) started in March 2020 as a response to the Corona virus lockdowns. There was a large push to have folks stay inside, shelter in place, wash their hands, and social distance. Xochitl Moreno and myself, AshEL Eldridge (co-founders and co- Directors) quickly realized that these orders couldn’t apply to our unhoused neighbors and that they would receive less services and support than “normal” times. Additionally, the food supply chain took a major hit with restaurants closing down.  Xochitl, myself, and a handful of other volunteers immediately created an org that works to heal the roots of health for our bodies but also for community  resilience.

Inspired by the mutual aid movement, we gather and redistribute food and medicinal plant surplus from farmers markets, farms, backyards, and food banks. We turn that food into healthy juice, smoothies, and natural medicines primarily for our unhoused relatives in West Oakland.

 By the end of 2020, after hosting a large community healing event called What’s Your Medicine? Where 30 practitioners of every healing modality from acupuncture to wound care, to Aztec Dancers, to cob builders and permaculturalist provided services and entertainment with and for residents of the Wood St. Encampments in Oakland.

We took on a suggestion from the community to build a cob kitchen to curb fires and increase the possibility of making healthy cooked meals for themselves. Thar exploded into Cob on Wood (COW), which is now a mini cob village with a clinic, freestore, shower, compost toilet, a stage, and garden. We collaborated with (ABC) Artist Building Communities, (LES) Living Earth Structures, and the Wood St. Curbside Community.

JR Valrey: At an event that EFAM recently organized y’all showed the film, “Dope is Death”, which is about the Young Lords and the Black Panther Party organizing the Lincoln Detox Clinic in the Bronx New York, what is the similarity between the environment and work depicted in the film, and the environment and work that EFAM does in West Oakland?

Ashel Eldridge: There was a lot of energy and excitement around building and protecting the structures as well as much of the Wood St. Encampment from displacement from CalTrans and City agencies.  It became clear to EFAM that in order to organize more effectively and maintain the energy from “What’s Your Medicine? that inspired the builds, we have to increase our organizational capacity and programs to deal with the trauma, addictions, and and mental illness that impacts the unhoused community ability to effectively claim their own sovereignty. 

The film ‘Dope is Death’ was the perfect film, to inspire both the volunteers and residents to support the clinic team in their efforts to offer regular holistic treatments for the community. At the screening, our EFAM acupuncturist, Gladys Sanchez, offered the same NADA points mentioned in the film that Dr. Mutulu Shakur taught and offered to folks suffering from Heroin and Methadone after returning back to the Bronx after the Vietnam War. Today the war at home and its solutions look very similar. The names and chemical compositions are different, ie. meth and fentanyl, but addiction still detracts people from being on path to live their best lives. 

EFAM believes that the solutions to crippling capitalism, the ills of globalized pharmaceutical industrial corporate medicine, houselessness, and environmental degradation all begin with reverence and practice with natural foods, medicines, and ceremony from and with the Earth, and connection with ancestral spirituality. We imagine harmony and liberation.

JR Valrey: How has the homeless population that you serve in West Oakland fared, during the Covid pandemic?

Ashel Eldridge: I remember one “Covid Task force for the Homeless” call where the medical team was baffled that there weren’t higher rates of Covid amongst the Wood St. population. We suspect that it is a result of their immune systems being robust from living outside in the elements and have learned to be resilient.

JR Valrey: What are some simple drink or smoothie recipes that people can use to keep their respiratory and immune systems strong?

Ashel Eldridge: Personally, I believe a green juice with kale, spinach, celery, cucumber, lemon, apple, ginger can heal the world ;), but I know that our seamoss smoothies are filled with 99 of 106 essential minerals that are necessary for organ regeneration and immune strength. Seamoss is especially good to remove mucus from the body, clear the lymph system, and improve respiratory health.

JR Valrey: Can you speak on some of the holistic techniques and services that EFAM is offering people? 

Ashel Eldridge: We have been offering acupuncture, herbal medicine, and harm reduction aid, such as narcan designed to stop overdoses. We are now shifting gears to scale up our community of holistic practitioners and invite interested people to contact us. We will soon offer cooking classes and health education to 5 unhoused or formerly incarcerated people.

JR Valrey: What kinds of resources does EFAM need to expand its work and influence?

Ashel Eldridge: We need a grant writer, a volunteer coordinator, and individuals interested in building a movement of grassroots health for and by the people. Here is our volunteer form: 

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSewbyf76XGjtquqBURXjkPmB_HOi0A20eKOceO50IDnjBd1Qw/viewform?usp=send_form

JR Valrey: What are your thoughts around the covid vaccines, and the way that the media is pushing for everyone to get pharmaceutical vaccines over promoting holistic health?

Ashel Eldridge: As a father, I have been researching vaccines heavily for over 15 years. I love deep dives into research with obscure or controversial topics to unveil the truth. Eventually I wrote a song called Vaxxi-nation, (https://youtu.be/LYDOM9-hHCE) that was a result of my research. Eventually I was brought deep into the health freedom movement by being invited to the CDC by mothers who either themselves or their children suffered from vaccine injuries, but were being gaslit by the doctors and the industry. They were being told that they were bad mothers and that there was no link between the CDC extensive immunization schedule and the death or injury of their family member. The industry also says adverse reactions are rare but the numbers in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) tells a different story. VAERS was created after the 1986 Vaccine Act where the vaccine industry lobbied for complete indemnification after taking major financial losses from being sued by people receiving injuries and complications from pharma’s products.  

Because my aunt, Jerldine Eldridge was a Black Panther in Illinois, I was educated about health justice and the media’s role to manufacture consent within the population. Just as Nixon’s ‘war on drugs’ alloted 90+% of its budget for addictive methadone, today’s pharmaceutical industry has bought the media to promote their product as the only valid option for health while censoring or debunking traditional solutions or other treatments that have proven results.

JR Valrey: How can people keep up with the work of EFAM if they would like to volunteer or donate?

Ashel Eldridge: Folks can sign up for email updates via our website Www.essentialfam.org, donate to our GoFundMe at https://gofund.me/d3c973f8 , stay abreast of our activities at @essential fam on Instagram, and volunteer by filling out this form: 

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSewbyf76XGjtquqBURXjkPmB_HOi0A20eKOceO50IDnjBd1Qw/viewform?usp=send_form

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