DNGR Advocating to Decriminalize Naturally Occurring Entheogens


DNGR Advocating to Decriminalize Naturally Occurring Entheogens

Press Release June 9, 2021

For Immediate Release:

Decriminalize Nature Grand Rapids (DNGR) aims to educate the Greater Grand Rapids community about the therapeutic potential, history of indigenous use, and approaches to safe and responsible use of entheogenic plants and fungi. These include psilocybin mushrooms, Iboga, mescaline-containing cacti, and ayahuasca.

Research from several reputable medical and/or scientific institutions, such as The Johns Hopkins University and the US Food & Drug Administration have demonstrated that compounds in entheogenic plants and fungi can be significantly more effective than existing therapies in treating depression, end-of-life anxiety, substance use disorders, and other ailments. Because of these health benefits, DNGR is part of a movement of cities across the country seeking to decriminalize natural plant and fungi medicines.

The education and advocacy organization has recently begun meeting with city officials to discuss a resolution decriminalizing these plants. The resolution is similar to resolutions passed in other cities (of note, Ann Arbor, MI) and hopes to pass this resolution via the approval of the Grand Rapids City Commission. Kurt Reppart, Commissioner in Ward I, is leading the effort on the City Commission.

“According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention1, Grand Rapids residents’ rate of depression is over twenty percent. At the same time, The Food and Drug Administration has granted psilocybin (found in entheogenic mushrooms) a ‘breakthrough therapy’ because of its success in treating depression. The time to explore alternative community health approaches to effectively treat depression has come,” says Chad Beyer, one of the founders of Decriminalize Nature Grand Rapids.

Grand Rapids is poised to become a leader in this movement to improve the health and well-being of its residents.

For more information, contact Chad Beyer, Co-founder of Decriminalize Nature Grand Rapids, at email hidden; JavaScript is required or visit https://www.decrimnaturegr.org/.


1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Division of Population Health. BRFSS Prevalence & Trends Data [online]. 2015. [accessed Mar 13, 2021]. URL: https://www.cdc.gov/brfss/brfssprevalence/.

The Beauty of Ramadan

By: Ajla Alisic

Ramadan is one of the most beautiful months on the calendar. It teaches us kindness, patience, and sacrifice. Muslims all over the world come together and partake in a fast. The fast consists of not consuming anything – eating or drinking – from just before the sun comes up to just after the sun goes down. The month is based on a Lunar Calendar, not the Gregorian Calendar, and thus it comes at different times for those of us who live in the United States. In 2021, Ramadan started at sundown on April 12 and ended at sundown on May 12. It takes a lot of patience to go about the day as normal as possible with no sustenance.

Ramadan is especially tough for those of us who live outside of majority Muslim countries as nothing changes in our day-to-day life. Our coworkers still have lunch, folks bring cupcakes to meetings, and we are offered treats that coworkers brought to work in celebration of something that happened. As Muslims, we must not only kindly pass on those offerings, but also in our soul not begrudge those people. They did not show us any malice and we cannot hold any against them. Ramadan teaches us to be more kind and loving people. It helps us grow and be more patient. It brings us inner peace.

Another tough thing about Ramadan in recent history is the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though Mosques are open again, they are quite different than I remember then as a child. Going to the Mosque used to be such a communal experience, especially during Ramadan. After prayer, we would always break our fast with the Iftar meal and one or two families would provide the meal. We would all eat together and it was wonderful. There was so much joy. Today, everyone has to bring their own Sajjadat (prayer rug), we must take our Abdest at home, and we have to be spaced out when praying. Taking our Abdest is cleansing our body before prayer, which is usually done in a bathing room at the Mosque. And praying spaced apart is definitely not the same as shoulder to shoulder with your fellow brothers or sisters. And Iftar is had strictly at home with your closest loved ones. I am thankful to have my family, but it is a very different experience.

As a child, I remember the lovely smells of all the foods my mom cooked. I remember that she always made the best Bosnian deserts, and of course, Baklava. She would go all out for Eid; the celebration at the end of Ramadan. My sister and I would clean the whole home, top to bottom. Everything was just perfect for Eid. The whole family would be together. We would stuff our faces with my mother’s goodies. And my parents always made sure they would have some small gifts for us. Even as refugees in Germany and as immigrants in the United States, they always made sure the holiday was special for us.

These days, I still spend the days before Eid cleaning the home top to bottom. And my mom still cooks up a storm. But instead of getting spoiled, I get the privilege of spoiling my nieces and nephew. We spend the month of Ramadan talking about our culture and history at different times. We spend time giving each other henna tattoos to remind ourselves of our roots. And when Eid finally arrives, I love spending the day listening to them giggle and play. The traditions my parents instilled in my sister and me will live on past them, and hopefully past us. Family traditions are so important. Religious freedoms are important as well. Islam is a religion rooted in love, acceptance, and patience. I have hope that the world will see that again with time.

Non-Violence in The Present

Non-violence is not talked about very much at this time, but it is a crucial component of human life.  It is true that humans want to maintain themselves in groups of similar people.  It feels safer and easier.  However, the fear of apparently different others eventually leads to violence against other people, property, and institutions. We must recognize that fear and bravely practice non-violence.  We may have been socialized to accept violence. It is difficult to be non-violent, especially since it is seen as cowardice and weakness, but it is absolutely necessary in these troubled times. There are very useful books, videos, and teachers who can help us change our thinking and actions. Gene Sharp has written a great deal and so has Marshall Rosenberg. Great pacifists like Dorothy Day and others struggled to promote peaceful ways of relating to others. Non-violence requires constant practice.


Twelve-step programs promote respect for oneself and others and ways of saying your truth in kind ways, “say what you mean, but don’t say it mean.” We begin with goodwill, acceptance, and listening to others in order to achieve conflict resolution.  The structures of humanity in families, other relationships, business, and government need to always begin with the assumption of goodwill and honesty tempered with kindness. Yes, sometimes hostile behavior requires defensive action to protect ourselves and others, but hostility should never come first.


Formal education and informal socialization must stress the equality of all humans. Everyone deserves to be treated equitably. Of course, babies, sick, and infirm people need extra care and attention. We must practice the cultivation of courage and patience with ourselves and others. Differences of countries of origin, color, gender, gender preference, wealth, age, intelligence, religion in people should not determine greater or lesser status. Connection with others is a necessity for all humans. Our Institute for Global Education office has some good literature on non-violence for all ages of people.

By: Kate Villaire

Non-Violence; Martin Luther King Jr. and Ghandi



MLK Dream Speech curtesy of The Washington Post
Martin Luther King Jr.’s Speech “I have a dream” in 1963.

Many years ago, I spent some time in Tennessee. There was an organization in Memphis similar to Institue for Global Education (IGE), and I was volunteering with them. People from Grand Rapids who had been members of IGE and had moved South had founded this organization, using the IGE as a pattern. On Martin Luther King Jr’s (MLK) Birthday, in order to celebrate, the group held a well-attended event in a giant church in Memphis. Arun Ghandi, Mahatma Ghandi’s grandson, was the featured speaker. I remember talking to Arun after he spoke. I gave him the January 15th page from my page-a-day quote calendar: it quoted Ghandi about non-violence in honor of MLK’s birthday. Arun loved the calendar page and told me that Martin Luther King Jr. was the only one who had seriously implemented his grandfather’s ideas. He had used them to craft the American non-violent civil rights revolution. Arun said he was staying there in Memphis in order to research and study MLK’s papers.

More things you might not know about Martin Luther King Jr.; Martin Luther King Jr. was not born with that name. His birth name was Michael King Jr. If he later changed his name from Michael King Jr. to Martin Luther King, Jr., how could he be a Jr.? Because his father was also Michael King – Michael King Sr. The father changed his own name to Martin Luther and the son followed. So, the Jr. is correct as his name was the same as his father’s at 12 years of age, Martin Luther King Jr. jumped out of a second-story window, allegedly attempting suicide. At 15 years of age, without finishing high school, Martin Luther King Jr. started at Morehouse College in Atlanta. He graduated in 1948 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology. He then entered Crozier Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania and finished with a Doctor of Divinity degree in 1951. He received his Ph.D. in Theology from Boston University in 1955 and became Dr. King.

How many times did MLK Jr. go to jail? 29. This sounds like a lot especially for a scholar and preacher and purveyor of non-violence. But remember, the police and the government wanted to punish him for his activities. For example, one time he was jailed for driving 30 mph in a 25-mph zone. How many times did people attempt to take MLK Jr.’s life? Twice, that we know of. What close relative of MLK Jr.’s did an assassin kill? His mother. How many African Americans have a declared federal holiday on the day of their birth? One. How many other Americans have a declared federal holiday on the day of their birth? Two – both were Presidents.

By: Diane Baum

Review: Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party

SPECIAL VIEWING OF JUDAS & THE BLACK MESSIAH at the IGE Office on Sunday February 28, 2021 at 2:00 p.m.  Limited space available (around 10 seats).  First come first served.  Email email hidden; JavaScript is required for a reservation or for an alternative date this week to see the movie in the office. 
There will be a Zoom discussion after the movie at 4:30 p.m. open to the public.
Topic: Judas & the Black Messiah Movie Discussion
Time: Sunday, Feb 28, 2021 at  4:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
To join Zoom Meeting please contact email hidden; JavaScript is required for more info.
On Friday, February 12, 2021, the film “Judas and the Black Messiah” directed and produced by Shaka King, was released to theaters. It will also have a month run on HBO Max. The film is a drama based on real-life events — a fascinating look at Fred Hampton and the Black Panther Party.

This political movement was born during the turbulent civil rights era of the 1960’s. Its goal was to defend communities of color from police brutality and oppression. It was also a social movement that offered many free services to struggling neighborhoods. Under the leadership of Huey P. Newton, the Panthers created “Survival Programs,” helping people with basic needs like comprehensive medical and educational assistance, and “Free Breakfast for Children.”Here is the Black Panthers’ Ten-Point Program from 1967.

  1. We want freedom. We want power to determine the destiny of our Black Community.
  2. We want full employment for our people.
  3. We want an end to the robbery by the Capitalists of our Black Community.
  4. We want decent housing fit for shelter of human beings.
  5. We want education for our people that exposes the true nature of this decadent American society. We want education that teaches us our true history and our role in the present day society.
  6. We want all Black men to be exempt from military service.
  7. We want an immediate end to POLICE BRUTALITY and MURDER of Black people.
  8. We want freedom for all Black men held in federal, state, county and city prisons and jails.
  9. We want all Black people, when brought to trial, to be tried in court by a jury of their peer group or people from their Black Communities, as defined by the Constitution of the United States.
  10. We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace.

How compelling that this radical agenda speaks to us today in 2021!

In 1969, Fred Hampton of the Black Panthers, William “Preacherman” Fesperman of the Young Patriots and our own Jose “Cha Cha” Jimenez of the Young Lords founded the first Rainbow Coalition in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. In place of the usual brawling street-gang activity, the Coalition relied on nonviolent community organization. It began an effective campaign against police brutality, poverty, corruption and gentrification in low-income neighborhoods of Chicago.

In 1967, the FBI with its COINTELPRO, initiated a campaign to disrupt the Panthers’ successful social programs and destroy the Black Panthers entirely. J. Edgar Hoover believed the Panthers to be the greatest threat to the internal security of the United States. Most historians consider the death of Fred Hampton a political assassination by our government. The current film, “Judas and the Black Messiah” explores the Black Panthers, the final days of Fred Hampton, and the events that led to his death.


Written By: Gerard Akkerhuis | Edited By: Diane Baum

Resources: Judas and the Black Messiah Wiki | Black Panther Party Wiki | Rainbow Coalition – Fred Hampton Wiki