READ: Black Scholars and Healers Use Psychedelics to Treat Race-Based Trauma

By Sameer Rao Oct 31, 2018

The word psychedelic typically conjures images of overexposed visuals, wah-wah electric guitars and drugs like psilocybin mushrooms and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) that can make users experience life-altering visions.

Recent medical studies suggest that these criminalized substances can offer healing for people living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and other mental health conditions. Elijah C. Watson highlights the historical and contemporary ways that Black communities have engaged with psychedelics in a new article for Okayplayer



The article features interviews with people who advocate for using psychedelics to help Black people and other communities of color living with multigenerational trauma. University of Connecticut scholar Dr. Monnica Williams discusses the challenges behind her trailblazing study on methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) and its possible benefits for survivors of racial discrimination:

A therapist and researcher at the University of Connecticut, Williams is leading the first-ever MDMA study to focus on the traumatic experiences of Black, Brown and other minority groups. Assisting her is a group of therapists of color who work with communities of color. The study is one of 14 currently sponsored throughout the United States and overseas by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS).rnt

But being the first of something like this has been a challenge for Williams, her study unraveling more and more problems that are the result of the racial disparity in psychedelic research.


“It’s definitely more challenging than I thought, just because there have been so many layers of racialized stuff to get through,” Williams said. “It’s an ongoing struggle.”

Watson also speaks with Abdul Wilkins, a Boston-based health practitioner who employs psychedelics in ceremonies for people of color. He connects his practice to those of the African and Indigenous peoples who used ayahuasca and other hallucinogens in their own spiritual ceremonies:


“Indigenous cultures and Black people have a legacy with psychedelics. Iboga is presumed to have been used by Bwiti practitioners for their religious rituals for centuries,” Abdul Wilkins, an intuitive healer and supporter of psychedelics from Boston, said.


Also known as the “Beantown Ghetto Shaman,” Wilkins also facilitates psychedelic ceremonies geared toward people of color and low-income communities. He claimed the first time he helped organize a ceremony—with ayahuasca—close to 40 people participated, [with] his work as a healer, as well as a massage therapist and yoga teacher, compelling his clients to try it out. He recounted one moment where a woman, grieving the death of her mother, ended up having a spiritual conversation with her.


“It was like in Black Panther when T’Challa drinks the heart-shaped plant and he gets direct contact with his deceased father,” Wilkins said. “It’s very liberating because it not only heals them but helps them gain spiritual insight.”

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