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On The Passing Of Imani Woods


Please join us to remember Imani Woods and her substantial contribution to the harm reduction field. Imani was one of the great pioneers ofimani harm reduction.

The Harm Reduction Coalition is hosting a gathering to celebrate her life on Thursday March 19th 6:30 – 8:00pm at our New York City office: 22 West 27th, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10001.

All welcome but it would be very helpful if you could RSVP at rsvp@harmreduction.org. If you have photos you’d like to share, please feel free to send them to the same address.


Imani Woods passed away this last weekend. I had a bunch of communication with Imani over the last couple of weeks. We texted, emailed, talked on the phone and I even got an old fashioned New Year’s card from her. When I heard that she had died I initially thought it was an error. Even after it was confirmed, I called her cell to check expecting her to answer but got a ‘dialed in error message’. Looking at texts and emails, she recently said “I feel like a new person” and “don’t plan on spending next Thanksgiving in a hospital room.” The most recent past had been pretty rough on her but her illnesses didn’t sound like they should have killed her. She was really optimistic about getting to work. She shared her plans about organizing around the next Harm Reduction Coalition conference having watched the Baltimore conference from afar.

To my mind she was one of the two great charismatic educators and communicators in the early days of harm reduction in the States (the other being Edith Springer). I first saw her speak at NASEC in the early 90s when she was Pat Woods a social worker from Brooklyn. 25 years later, I can still picture her speaking. It was a transformative moment. She had clarity of vision that made you see things as if there had never been any confusion about it in the first place. She blew the smoke away so you could see.

As the Executive Director of one of the great harm reduction programs SOS in Seattle, Washington, she was an inspiration to many of us. As a member of the Harm Reduction Working Group, she was a founder of the Harm Reduction Coalition. What she cared about more than anything was the African-American community. It seemed like nearly every ounce of her being, all her passion and love was geared towards improving lives in the community. Her critical lens was always from the perspective as an African- American. “Now you whitewg people I must tell you; y’all use most of the drugs. But y’all just don’t go to jail”. She never deviated in her intent, purpose or dedication. Her essays in the Harm Reduction Communication are as relevant today as when they were written: Harm Reduction in the Black Community and My Journey to Harm Reduction. She was a brilliant spokesperson who managed to take her personal experience and make it universal.

She moved back to Brooklyn a long time ago to look after her Moms. She cared for her with great devotion until Moms died. Imani survived a bone marrow transplant and loved her gardening. She fell out with everyone and everyone fell out with her. But she was a person who would call you up and say “what’s the story and let’s move on?” We did that a few years ago and had been close since then.

I spoke to her last week and we ended our conversation with “Love you Allan. Love you Imani”. Her last words to me. My last words to her.

Allan Clear

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