We come into harm reduction work and the Harm Reduction movement from different places: our own personal experiences with drug use, our love or grief for family members and friends, our professional experiences and commitments, our exposure to injustice.
Whatever the pathway, it moves us to look through the veils of stigma and criminalization to see the full humanity and potential of people – including ourselves – that society has deemed deviant, dangerous, disposable.
Harm Reduction finds its roots and inspiration across multiple movements and strategies emerging across the United States in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s:
The Black Panther Party’s survival programs such as Free Breakfast for Children and health clinics
The Young Lords’ launch of an acupuncture program for heroin users in the South Bronx
The women’s health movement emerging from 1970s feminist activism and the fight for reproductive health
The grassroots and activist response to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s and beyond
From these threads, advocates and activists wove a vision and practice of harm reduction that has spawned a movement that continues to grow today.
We are committed to pursuing
a model of public health as social justice.
We hold ourselves accountable to combating
the forms of racism, stigma, marginalization, and criminalization that place people in harm’s way.
We cultivate a deep understanding
of the interlocking struggles against inequality and oppression as central to both health and liberation.
And we, as a movement, affirm the wisdom, dignity, and leadership
of people most directly affected by these harms as the holders of the key to transformative change.
This journey is unfolding before us.
Transformation isn’t achieved overnight. Transformational work is new to many communities, including harm reduction. For example, in mixed race settings, we’re still learning how to foster an environment of honest inquiry while simultaneously trying to minimize harm such inquiry might cause to those of us who don’t identify with the racial majority. This isn’t easy and it will take time and patience with one another.
We have work to do collectively and individually to find resolution.
Facing our own internalized oppression or race-based privilege are delicate processes that require care, thoughtfulness, perseverance, and the willingness to look at ourselves in an unflattering light.