Our journey through 2016 has come to a close and it’s been a memorable year. We are grateful to all of our WVC members and supporters for their contributions and support over the past twelve months. Our community donated their time, their expertise, and their resources to organize new projects and make the WVC tenth anniversary year epic in many ways. As we plan new gatherings for 2017, it’s satisfying to look back and take stock of work well done and the prolific creativity of visionary women and their allies.
The WVC began 2016 with our first east coast gathering in New York City from March 11th-13th. We kicked off three days of events with a party and private guided tour of the Himalayan art collection at the Rubin Museum. This was followed by a day of presentations at a WVC salon held at the Alchemist’s Kitchen, a hub of visionary community in the Lower East Side. The salon featured talks by three remarkable women, Katherine MacLean PhD, Julie Holland MD, and Allyson Grey.
A postdoctoral research fellow and faculty member at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Katherine MacLean contributed to groundbreaking studies investigating the therapeutic use of psilocybin. She discussed her current work examining the role of psychedelics in preparing for death and healing trauma related to grief. Katherine’s talk was followed by a presentation by Dr. Julie Holland, a psychiatrist, psychopharmacologist, and author who serves as a medical monitor for studies examining MDMA and cannabis in the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Julie observed that one in four women in the U.S. takes medication for a mental health condition. She argued that cannabis can be used to reduce opioid dosages, mitigate opiod overdose deaths, and provide a less toxic alternative to alcohol and tobacco.
In keeping with WVC tradition, the scientific and research discussions at the NYC event were balanced by presentations from artists. The third WVC salon speaker, artist Allyson Grey, is the co-founder of the Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (CoSM) a magnificent gallery and community center in upstate New York that houses the work of her partner Alex Grey and other visionary artists. Allyson showed images of her art and concluded her remarks by noting that her psychedelic experiences have provided insights useful to the management of her highly successful family business. The daylong WVC salon was followed by an evening visionary storytelling gathering in Brooklyn co-hosted by the WVC and Psymposia. On our final day in the city, WVC members made art of our own hosting a tea party and participatory theater performance at the statue of Alice in Wonderland and her friends in Central Park. Entitled “Alice Has Options,” the event encouraged participants to describe non-ordinary states of consciousness engendered by substances, Tai Chi, the dream state, and other experiences.
Just three months after the WVC salon in New York City, our community gathered at our home base in Northern California for the 10th annual Women’s Visionary Congress. Capping a decade of presentations by healers, researchers, activists and artists, the 2016 Congress featured a who’s who of visionary women who inspire us. The gathering included a discussion of activism around sustainable food systems. Urban homesteaders and herbalists Sophia Buggs of Lady Buggs Farm and Maya Blow of Soul Flower Farm talked about stewarding their land and teaching urban communities to grow their own food. Other activists who presented showed what it took to be pioneers in their fields. Veteran fundraiser Virginia Wright spoke about the practical work of making visionary initiatives financially sustainable. Marsha Rosenbaum, director emerirta of the San Francisco office of the Drug Policy Alliance, reflected on her 44 years of educational initiatives around youth and drugs. Ellen Komp, Deputy Director of Cal NORML, who has been an hemp/marijuana activist since 1991, discussed then-pending cannabis legislation and her new book “Tokin Women: A 4000-Year Herstory.”
The artists who presented at the Congress included visionary trailblazers such as print artist Dana Smith, photographer Marc Franklin, visual artist samsara shmee, Jesse Jarnow, author of “Heads: A Biography of Psychedelic America” and filmmaker Connie Littlefield who screened her excellent film “The Sunshine Makers.” We even had a fashion show courtesy of our friends at the Upcycled Fashion Collection.
Balancing, as always, art with science, the 2016 Women’s Congress featured researchers and healers on the leading edge of inquiry and practice. Alchemical healer Nicki Scully, Moon Dancer Katherine Silva, behavioral therapist Wendy Ludlow, body worker Raz Ma, mindfulness teacher Flora McCloud, and cannabis educator Sara Payan offered their visions of health and wholeness. Shannon Clare Petitt, who leads staff development for the Multi Disciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), provided our annual update on MAPS research projects. Dr. Dana Blu Cohen, who works with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy researchers at MAPS, discussed feminist approaches to psychedelic assisted psychotherapy. Spanish psychologist Ana Elda Maqueda shared her investigations into salvia divinorum and ayahausca. Those present at the 10th annual Congress also received direct care and blessings from yoga teacher Yoga Ma and Eda Zavala Lopez, a spiritual leader in her tribal community in the Amazon. Botanist Jane Straight brought a living altar of power plants from her garden to remind us that we are indeed people of the plants.
Just as we were dusting ourselves off from the Women’s Congress, the WVC directed its focus to the online world and launched a new initiative to help our members and other organizations support digital privacy. Keenly aware of the sometimes controversial nature of the discussions at our events, the WVC has taken steps to prevent visitors to our sites from being tracked or surveilled through member lists, our website, or our social media outreach. We assembled a list of suggestions based on steps we have taken to modify our use of MailChimp, Paypal, and Google services. Written by WVC board member Anne Tara Szostek, this initiative provided suggestions for concrete action and a list of resources including Privacy Badger, a browser plug-in from the Electronic Frontier Foundation that blocks spyware and invisible trackers. The WVC believes in proactively supporting the safety and security of our members and anyone who wishes to access our digital resources.
After releasing our privacy recommendations, the WVC launched a second public outreach campaign in July focused on risk reduction skills. Observing the increasing rate of opiod overdose, the WVC took action to address this widespread public health emergency. In the interest of preventing future deaths, the WVC decided to provide often difficult-to-acquire information about how to prevent overdose. The WVC partnered with the San Francisco Psychedelic Society to organize a free workshop at the Internet Archive to teach critical risk reduction skills. At the start of the workshop, WVC board member Mariavittoria Mangini PhD, FNP reviewed past risk reduction initiatives. She was joined by Internet Archive Administrative Coordinator Michelle Krasowski who read remarks by librarian Andrea Mitchell, a member of the Substance Abuse Librarians and Information Specialists (SALIS) who have developed a collection of digital resources at the Internet Archive for ongoing risk reduction education.
The second part of the WVC risk reduction workshop featured Dr. Gantt Galloway, Executive Director of the New Leaf Treatment Center who provided training in the use of Naloxone or Narcan which blocks the effects of opiods, especially in cases of overdose. Dr. Galloway trained participants how to use Naloxone and gave us kits that we could use to reverse a potentially fatal overdose. The risk reduction workshop closed with a presentation by Earth and Fire Erowid, founders of the Erowid archive, one of the world’s most comprehensive digital libraries documenting interactions with psychoactive materials. Using water and baking powder as demonstration tools, the Erowids demonstrated how to prevent overdose by accurately measuring liquids and powders, demonstrating the proper use of a milligram scale and showing techniques to improve the accuracy of measurement. The Erowids also showed how to use commercially available reagent testing kits to test of the presence of psychoactive substances and potentially deadly adulterants. The WVC held a second similar risk reduction workshop a week after this initial event. Both workshops were presented at no cost for maximal accessibility.
As 2016 drew to a close, the WVC ended a busy year with its first workshop focused on traditional food skills and celebrating our connection to the Earth and her bounty. We began this adventure on November 6th with a free tour of City Slicker Farms in Oakland, CA. We learned how this project launched an urban farm park that provides fresh produce to neighborhood residents and others. Our visit included a presentation by Imperfect Produce which provides affordable fruits and vegetables to consumers by sourcing cosmetically imperfect food. Both groups are central to the evolving revolution of food systems and addressing the large quantities of California-grown produce that is discarded. The workshop day concluded with a cooking and canning class led by visionary chef Emma Sanchez. Using fruit and vegetables from Imperfect Produce, we learned how to can as our thrifty grandmothers did making applesauce, pickled vegetables and canned squash. We concluded the work with a delicious feast and gave thanks for another year of visionary gatherings and the community that creates them.