Friends and Allies - The 2015 Women and Entheogens Conference

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by Annie Oak

As 2015 draws to a close, I’ve been reflecting on some of the remarkable people in the visionary community that I had the pleasure of meeting this year. It’s becoming increasingly common for women who attend our WVC events to create their own gatherings – and then invite us to meet the healers, artists and activists that they admire. I received an invitation to participate in one such event this fall that took place in Cleveland, Ohio. Organized by Kai Wingo, the Women and Entheogens conference brought together an inspiring group of entheogenic researchers and teachers from around the U.S. It was an opportunity to meet Kai’s community from Cleveland and Detroit and visit her urban mushroom farm, Kultured Mushrooms, where she grows shiitake, lion’s mane and other fungal delicacies. Kai has also been outspoken about the therapeutic benefits of psilocybin mushrooms for both personal and cultural healing.

In addition to being a teacher and pioneering urban farmer, Kai has a gift for connecting people. Kai first contacted WVC requesting a scholarship to our 2015 Women’s Congress. Thanks to WVC donors and supporters, we were able to grant her one. When Kai invited me to speak at her gathering in September, I booked a flight to Cleveland and met people from Cleveland, Detroit and other cities. Many of the participants were teaching and practicing plant and spiritual traditions from African, Native American and contemporary urban cultures.

Presenters included, Ayana Iyi, a “seer,” event organizer and the founder of “Sistahs of the Sacred Black.” Her talk was entitled, “Sex and Psilocybin: Connecting the 3rd Eye to the Sacral Chakra.” LaToya Kent, a yogi and Kundalini teacher, talked about her work as a community healer. Sophia Buggs, owner and operator of  Healing Flower, a spiritual and herbal consultation company, and the Lady Buggs Farm in Youngstown, Ohio, spoke about reclaiming the sacred roots of farming. Sophia revitalized her community by creating a sustainable urban homestead across multiple city lots in Youngstown where she offers gardening and cooking classes.

Other businesswomen at the event included Kai’s mother, Vicki Acquah, a designer and artist who sold her jewelry at the event. Vicki has a fine eye for style. I bought several pairs of her earrings and appreciated her wisdom and her energy.

Traveling all the way from Colorado to attend the event, Onani Meg Carver gave a thoughtful presentation and was my wise, joyous roommate at our lodging in Cleveland. Onani shared insights from her apprenticeship with Grandmother Keewaydinoquay who taught her the medicinal uses of plants, songs, stories and ceremonies from her Ojibway Native American tradition. From the academic community in Indiana, archivist Stephanie Schmitz joined the conference to talk about her work with the Psychoactive Substances Research Collection at the Virginia Kelly Karnes Archives and Special Collections Research Center at Purdue University. The collection documents the history of the therapeutic use and application of psychedelic substances.

Three additional women traveled to Kai’s conference in Cleveland to contribute their knowledge. Shonagh Home, who has presented several times at WVC, talked about the cultivation of intrinsic abilities, intuition, creativity and multi-dimensional awareness. Shonagh is a honeybee activist and author of the books, ‘Ix Chel Wisdom: 7 Teachings from the Mayan Sacred Feminine,’ ‘Love and Spirit Medicine,’ and the upcoming, ‘Honeybee Wisdom: A Modern Melissae Speaks.’ Another writer who spoke at the conference, Bett Williams, is a New Mexico-based journalist and author of the novel “Girl Walking Backwards.” Bett is now working on a book about psilocybin mushrooms called “The Wild Kindness,” and hosts retreats for poets, artists and mystics near Sante Fe. Ifetayo Harvey, who had just joined the staff of MAPS before arriving in Cleveland, offered an update on research being carried out by that organization. A writer and activist, Ifetayo has spoken at the International Drug Policy Reform Conference and on NPR about her experience growing up with a parent in prison.

L-R Onani Meg Carver, Ifetayo Harvey, Kai Wingo, Baba Moudou Baqui, and Annie Oak

L-R Onani Meg Carver, Ifetayo Harvey, Kai Wingo, Baba Moudou Baqui, and Annie Oak

In addition to these accomplished women, the conference featured a number of remarkable men including Bro Omari Miles-El, the founder of Third Eye Open, A Historical and Metaphysical research Organization and R.Y.D.E. (Rolemodels for Youth Development and Enlightenment), a youth oriented motivational consulting firm. A long time student of Kemetic Antiquity and Egyptology, Bro Omari Miles-El offered insights into hidden cultural history and knowledge from the ancient world contributed by people of color. Conference participants also received sonic information from the modern era offered by Detroit-based artist Onyx who preformed his multidimensional concept called beatjazz. Onyx’s improvisational, electronically derived rhythm and jazz delivered projected visualizations, light color sequencing, robotic feedback and CAD design dimensions. And finally, Justin Petty, M. Ed. (Ser Moudou Awa Balla Baqui) aka Baba Moudou Baqui, offered his perspectives as a third generation Detroit-based metaphysician. An activist, Certified Level II Reiki healer, martial artist, urban shaman, and educator, Moudou talked about the healing taking place in his community.

After two days of celebrating the sovereignty of consciousness and right to self-knowledge, Kai and her children invited us to their urban farm for delicious shiitake mushroom and vegetable pizza. Community elder and mycologist Kilindi Iyi, head instructor of the Tamerrian Martial Art Institute, was there to stoke the fire in the earthen oven and remind us of all the healing powers of fungi.

It was a great honor to meet this community, hear the presenters speak, and spend a beautiful autumn afternoon sharing a meal at Kai Wingo’s mushroom farm. We have invited Kai to present at the 2016 Women’s Visionary Congress, June 17-19 in Petaluma, Calif. and we hope to continue offering scholarships and grants to healers, farmers, and community activists like herself who are changing the world – please click here to make a donation to our scholarship & grants funds. I encourage everyone to learn more about the members of Kai’s community and support their projects.