Black Collective Teaches Emergency First Aid

For Ujimaa Medics, it's not just Chicago's high rate of shootings that makes first aid training a necessity — it's the long history of medical systems failing brown and black people.

Tendaji believes that the city is uniquely making it harder for residents to access medical resources

Ujimaa Medics is a black collective lifting up Chicago communities by teaching young people how to respond in emergency situations. The collective hosts workshops for people to learn to handle first aid situations ranging from asthma attacks to helping shooting victims. Ujimaa means “collective work and responsibility” in Swahili. Tendaji says it’s important that the work feels grounded in the community. In 2019, Chicago has seen over 1600 people become victims in shootings according to the Chicago Police Department.

“It really has to be people who are doing it out of a great sense of love for the people around them and for themselves. We keep it seeded and our one long history of black folks caring for themselves and caring for each other that has been outside of the Western medical industrial complex. They haven't benefited from it have largely been ignored in Western medicine in a way that wasn't trustworthy, right? That was abusive a lot of times to these communities. We are a later iteration of black folks that have been healing themselves in this country and many other countries in healing the folks around where nobody was getting doctors for poor black folks are slaves. So, they amassed a kind of incredible skill set and incredible knowledge base on how to do that really well with little means,” vouches Education Organizer Amika Tendaji.

The instructors said that it is important to be able to identify which wounds need treatment first; for example, prioritizing treatment of “bright-red blood” and head wounds over “dark-red blood” and extremity injuries. Tendaji believes that the city is uniquely making it harder for residents to access medical resources. But she says she hopes more organizations like Ujimaa Medics spread around the country. But she hopes more communities across the country see the value of organizations like Ujimaa Medics.