The Bronzeville Soup awards Microgrant to Haji Healing Salon

Here's the pitch Aya delivered to a full house at the Bronzeville Soup event held at The Bronzeville Incubator, Chicago Il. 12/4/16

I’m Aya-Nikole Cook. A Yogi. An Artist. An Entrepreneur and A Healing Person who understands the value and necessity of healing space. I’m also the founder of The Haji Healing Salon: An alternative wellness center focused on the southside of chicago. This is a zero-gravity chair (gestures toward chair). They cost about $50 each and provide unparalleled comfort and support for patients in community acupuncture settings. I would like to tell you a story that will illustrate why your vote should go toward advancing the Haji Healing Salon’s Community Acupuncture Clinic in Bronzeville.

In 2007, at the age of 32 I was diagnosed with Uterine Fibroid tumors. Fibroids are benign growths that impact the lives of nearly 80% of all Black-American women by the time they are 50 years old.  This news was devastating for me. Mainly because when I was 14 years old, I witnessed my mother in a hemmorragic episode (due to fibroids) that resulted in emergency surgery. From that moment, I became aware of the way the body could turn on you. I was afraid of my monthly cycle (which had just begun) and desperate to figure out how to avoid my mother’s fate. From then on, I studied natural healing methods. I read anything I could get my hands on about women’s health and healing, I became vegan and eventually began a study of Chinese herbs with a teacher. Of course this was BEFORE I was aware that what you resist persists (laugh) and another mantra I always say “what is for me will not miss me”. In the end - in spite of all I had done to avoid it, I had fibroids.

In the quest for healing that ensued, I found yoga, acupuncture and a plant-based diet to be most helpful in alleviating symptoms and helping me deal with the stress caused by the condition. I connected with a beautiful soul who introduced me to acupuncture and cared for me for the next six years. With Portia Pettitt’s skillful needling, powerful herbal formulas and lovely bedside manner, acupuncture quickly became something I looked forward to every week. Every time I got onto that table, I went directly into the receptive mode of being. It was as if the needles plugged me directly into Source energy and I would be given tremendous insights and inspiration while I lingered in a peaceful space between sleep and wakefulness.  Acupuncture felt mystical to me. I was fascinated and enthralled in every way. I told every suffering person I knew about the power of acupuncture.

For years, I successfully haulted the growth of the tumors and eased associated symptoms with lifestyle changes. In 2013, the stress of divorce and a cross-country move caused an acceleration in growth and debilitating symptoms.

I was under employed and could not afford private-practice acupuncture but I knew it would help me feel better. Luckily I was in Oakland California, where the community acupuncture movement was alive and well. In this model, one acupuncturist can do a world of good for up to ten people per hour! The clinic works on a sliding scale, which made the practice accessible to me - even on my shoestring budget, I could afford to go twice per week. This care was EVERYTHING! So was the support I received from friends and family.

Community acupuncture is a response to a lack of affordable, quality health care. It seeks to nurture and heal the disenfranchised at a fraction of the cost of private practice. Community acupuncture laughs at the notion that this ancient healing practice is only for the privileged. It breaks down social barriers and brings healing TO THE PEOPLE.

The Haji Healing Salon is my chance to offer to others the same quality of care I received throughout my own healing crisis. Last year, I had the opportunity manifest a long-held vision. I had a chance to create a vibrant space for healing and transformation, where people could come for yoga, acupuncture and education around powerful self-care practices. The pop-up wellness center was on 69th and Dorchester. I had use of the building for 30 days.  The First order of business was to offer support to other women whose lives were impacted by fibroids. The Fibroid Transformation Program successfully launched in 2015 and provided support for ten Chicago women.  Next we piloted the HHS Community Acupuncture Clinic with Portia generously donating her time every Sunday for four hours. For five weeks (the duration of the pop-up) the $10 acupuncture clinic was sold out!

The southside of Chicago is a “healing dessert”  It’s time we focus on filling the need for healing spaces that are ours!  The Haji Healing Salon arises in response to this need. Your vote will help me purchase ten, portable, zero-gravity chairs. These chairs provide comfort and ease of transport allowing us to pop-up anywhere acupuncture and healing is needed. The chairs will live in our first year home in Hyde Park and travel around the city with Portia and I when we have new spaces to pop-up in. You can help us bring healing to the people!

It is with tremendous excitement that I am finally able to announce that late in 2017 we will open doors to our permanent home, within the FORUM RETAIL SPACES at 322 E 43rd Street. Here the chairs, your vote will help buy, will live in the dedicated acupuncture room and this transformative healing practice will be accessible to hundreds of people daily.

Today I am filled with gratitude for the powerful teachers that the fibroids were for me. I actually have them to thank for my career as a yoga teacher, and for the powerful healing enterprise that is The Haji Healing Salon. Please support me in continuing the heart-felt work of providing safe, sacred space for transformation!