Albuquerque resident Ciel Melody works tirelessly to advocate for marginalized communities in the city and is building up a new local street medic coalition where they’ll train other community members in street medicine.
Originally from North Carolina, Melody first became interested in activism in 2015, around when they were hospitalized for a chronic illness and also came out as transgender.
“Ever since I came out, really … I’ve been interested in trying to make a difference in my community … I’ve been sick and tired of sitting around my whole life and watching things happen and saying I’m gonna do something. I want to actually do something,” Melody said.
Melody received their street medic training in 2017. Last year, they decided to move to Albuquerque because they felt it was a place that needed more community involvement to make a change, such as in aiding unhoused communities.
Melody volunteers multiple times a week to demonstrate alone for LGBTQ+ issues and Black Lives Matter or to provide harm reduction and medic services at unhoused encampments. They also occasionally volunteer as a clinic defender at local abortion providers.
“(Being a street medic is) not just going to protests and providing medical gear; that’s like 10% of what it is. The other 90% is going out in the community, checking in on the homeless, seeing if they're okay, … cleaning up the community, picking up trash, picking up syringes,” Melody said.
Now, Melody is working to form their own coalition called the Lost Millenium Street Medic Coalition after having negative experiences in existing coalitions in the Albuquerque area. They recently begun seeking out more members for training.
Melody’s coalition training teaches community members not only the basics of street medicine but also how to be a good activist. They said they felt especially called to do this because services for training activists often lull during times when there isn’t widespread protesting.
“I hope to get people from out of state, even, that want that training, because I know when there’s not George Floyd level(s) of protests happening, there isn’t that training normally available. I haven’t really seen it anywhere in New Mexico, let alone the country,” Melody said.
Kimberly Peters first met Melody at Comic-Con. The two share a passion for activism, and Peters said Melody makes them want to get more involved in advocating against homophobia in their hometown of Belen. They are the first and only member of Melody’s coalition so far.
“It’s definitely been on my mind a lot more lately just because of their presence and just, they’re just always out in the community and doing stuff and that’s really inspiring,” Peters said.
Currently, the coalition hopes to provide resources to prevent hypothermia in unhoused populations as well as distribute donated COVID-19 rapid tests.
In the summer months, Melody said needle pickup is a big part of their work. Peters applauds Melody’s commitment to the less glamorous aspects of the work of a street medic.
“It’s a dirty job and (they) have filled so many buckets,” Peters said.
Peters’ own activism is focused primarily on litter cleanup and street art, but they look to Melody as inspirational in their readiness to get involved in the community and provide direct action.
Melody said direct street medic work is not the only valid form of community activism.
“You do not have to be out in the streets … to be an activist,” Melody said. “We have to keep in mind that not everybody can be out on the streets and that doesn’t mean you’re not an activist.”
Melody and Peters also share a passion for mental health. Both of them struggle with PTSD, which Melody said is quite common in activist circles. Melody said self-care is an important part of the life of an activist.
Their street protesting is generally positively received, according to Melody, although they do get the occasional “hamburger thrower.” They also said homophobic harassment has been quite prevalent in their life.
“(Melody is) generally just harassed a lot, and I don’t think that’s fair at all. I feel like they just get judged before people get to know them, which is something I’ve very much experienced,” Peters said.
Melody and Peters, however, are hopeful for the coalition given the positive reception that Melody’s protesting has received specifically from local college students. They hope that the Lost Millenium coalition can provide a safe space for people of similar ideals to come together, regardless of background.
“I want to make it absolutely clear to every coalition that there is space for everyone in the activism community. You do not have to be part of a coalition to make a change, and that’s something a lot of people think,” Melody said.
Zara Roy is the news editor at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @zarazzledazzle