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.
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 Celebration of Life for Mike Franz, postponed since September 2020,
has been planned. Please mark your calendar for Friday, July 9, 2021, at 11:00 am.
This will be held at Trinity Lutheran Church, 2600 East Fulton St. in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
There will be visitation with family at 10:00 am and a service will be held at 11:00 am,
immediately followed by lunch. There will be time during the service for reflections.
if you would like to attend.
Kimberly McKeon, IGE Co-chair
IGE has lost another great devoted worker for our cause, Mike Franz. Mike taught English and Film at the Grand Rapids Community College for 37 years, inspiring many students. He became interested in Educators for Social Responsibility and then Institute for Global Education in the mid 80’s. Because Mike was so charitably minded and had many friends, he worked for many peace and justice causes and organizations such as Move On and Senior groups. His great love was his Lutheran Church where he was a musician for many years. He took “loving our neighbor” seriously and realized that that it is necessary to strongly and loudly advocate for justice and peace and get into the streets to do it. He organized many educational programs, media and protest events in the spirit of educator he was, advocating for the values of peace and justice. He was an Executive Board member at IGE for many years and a wonderful guiding presence in our work. Thank you, Mike, we will miss you greatly!
Mike is survived by his lovely wife Mari of 40 years, his daughter Renae, son, Sean, grandchildren, Helena and Armen and brother Robert. Due to Covid, a memorial for Mike will be held in the spring and we will inform you then of the date.
Memorial Donations can be made in his name to Institute for Global Education. igegr.org
By Gerard Akkerhuis
During the 40 years at the Institute for Global Education, there have been several campaigns to educate the community and facilitate political change for the island nation of Haiti. There were initiatives to confront corporate globalization, U.S. interference in the nation’s government, so called “free trade” agreements, and the threat of war. Our answer to these global issues is to facilitate democratic and peaceful processes, negotiation, and “fair trade”.
After a review of the history of Haiti up to current events and a report of IGE’s past work regarding Haiti, there is an introduction to a new non-profit, Figi Jézi, that is now working in Grand Rapids and Haiti, administered by my cousins, Telsaint and Amanda Morisset.
History of Haiti
In the Caribbean, the island of Hispaniola is divided between the nations of the Republic of Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
“Approximately 95% of the population of Haiti is Black Creole. Within Black Haitians, 86% are Black African, 12% are Black European, and 2% are Native American. The remaining population of Haiti is primarily composed of Mulattoes, Europeans, Asians, and Arabs. Hispanic residents in Haiti are mostly Cuban and Dominican. About two-thirds of Haitian people live in rural areas.” (Demographics of Haiti, from Wikipedia)
The indigenous Taino from the Yucatan peninsula, Mexico, whose language is Arawak, began to arrive on the island around 4000 BCE. There were later migrations of indigenous people from the region now known as Venezuela. The name Haiti is from the Arawak Ay-ti, meaning “land of mountains”. refworld: World Directory of Minorities and Indigenous Peoples – Haiti also look up Taino from Wikipedia and Hispaniola from Wikipedia.
The slave trade of African people by European people began in the 1440’s, lasting until the latter half of the 1800’s, the largest forced migration in history. Almost half of peoples enslaved during the end of the 17th century were brought to the islands colonized by the French and the British. The nation of Haiti was founded by the world’s only successful slave rebellion, inspired by the French Revolution. In 1803, Napoleon’s army was defeated by Jean-Jaques Dessalines, an ex-slave, and his generals whereby independence from France came in 1804. In October of 1806, Dessalines was assassinated with the effect that Haiti was itself divided between a military state and a kingdom. In 1820, Haiti was reunited as a country and also incorporated Santo Domingo, then a Spanish colony. When attempts to revive the plantation economy by Jean-Pierre Boyer failed, the economy was replaced by coffee farms for exports and local agriculture for food. In 1825, France recognized Haitian independence. In 1844, the Dominicans declared independence. The next 63 years resulted in multiple governments in Haiti where racial issues were always present. The poor and illiterate Black majority hardly ever gained political power. After 1860, the church played an important role in preserving the elitist and racist European culture. The language of Haiti is Creole (Kreyol), based in French patois. But African customs and the Voodoo religion are still practiced by a majority of the Haitian people.
Heavily in debt and plagued by civil instability, Haiti was invaded by the United States in 1915, while the US planned to take control of the Caribbean to lure capitalists into the region. There was enough resistance from a nationalist movement to force the US out in 1934. However, the occupation left the mulattoes in power. Again, there were decades of political upheavals as the Black middle class and the old elites competed for political control. A succession of leaders arose and fell, notably Stenio Vincent (1930-1941), a military coup (1946), Dumarsais Estime (1946-1950), Paul Magloire (1950-1956), and Dr. Francois Duvalier “Papa Doc” (1957-1971), who was an anti-communist nationalist backed by his own terrorist militia and the US, and after his death, his son Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” (1971-1986). The son eventually became unpopular due to his elitism, forcing him into exile in 1986. After Duvaliers, there were unsuccessful military-led governments until 1990 when Jean-Bertrand Aristide, an ex-priest who promoted liberation theology and the practice of Voodoo, became the first democratically elected leader, but he was forced to flee in 1991.
“As a priest, he taught liberation theology and, as a president, he attempted to normalize Afro-Creole culture, including Vodou religion, in Haiti. President Aristide was briefly president of Haiti, until a September 1991 military coup. The coup regime collapsed in 1994 under U.S. pressure and threat of force (Operation Uphold Democracy). Aristide was then president again from 1994 to 1996 and from 2001 to 2004. However, Aristide was ousted in the 2004 coup d’état after right-wing ex-army paramilitaries invaded the country from across the Dominican border. Aristide and many others have alleged that the United States had a role in orchestrating the coup against him. Aristide was later forced into exile in the Central African Republic and South Africa. He finally returned to Haiti in 2011 after seven years in exile.” (Jean-Bertrand, Aristide from Wikipedia)
The recent political history continues to be as convoluted as before with too much information to follow here, except that the current president, Jovenel Moïse of the Haitian Tèt Kale Party, elected in 2017, is now facing political demonstration and calls for resignation due to high fuel prices
Recently, there have been significant natural events that have had a serious impact on the people of the Republic of Haiti. Since 2004, the country has been hit by a series of five very serious tropical storms and hurricanes, creating more death and destruction, increased political instability and the need for more humanitarian aid. Also, in 2010, there was a 7.0 magnitude (200 year) earthquake followed by a huge cholera outbreak leaving thousands dead, a million ill, and nearly a million homeless. The cholera came from a contaminated United Nations peacekeeping water station that infected the country’s main river, the Artibonite. (Haiti from Wikipedia, 2.3.11)
Even though there has been urban development centered on light manufacturing and assembly plants, the economy is as dependent on agriculture, with most Haitians living in the countryside. Contending with political upheaval, serious droughts and storms, human history and nature have made Haiti the poorest country in the hemisphere, where the Haitian people continue a struggle of survival. There has been a significant migration of Haitians to the US, the Dominican Republic and to the Bahamas.
Cambridge Encyclopedia of Latin America and the Caribbean, 2nd ed., Collier, Skidmore, Blakemore (eds.), Cambridge University Press, 1992, (pp. 141, 302-304, 340)
Institute for Global Education in the 1990s and 2000s
Here are several articles from our newsletter, Equity, from the 1990s and 2000s about local actions in support of the Haitian people and Fair Trade. (Come into the office for a copy!)
Figi Jézi, (“Face of Jesus” in Creole), a Grand Rapids based non-profit organization serving Haitian orphans and needy widows and their children, while promoting community growth and fellowship. was founded in 2014 by Telsaint Morisset and his wife Amanda. They relocated to Ville du Cap-Haitien, Haiti, to oversee the mission and initiate all future projects.
Telsaint is a Haitian native that left on a boat of 350 people after a military coup ousted the country’s president. He was brought by the Coast Guard to Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and, by the grace of God, was accepted as a refugee through Bethany Christian services refugee program where he was welcomed into a wonderful Christ centered foster family and later met his wife Amanda and started a beautiful family here in Michigan.
Amanda is a Registered Nurse working for a local Grand Rapids, MI (UOM) hospital that had quickly fallen for the absolute resilience of the Haitian people after the devastating earthquake in 2010. She has since made it her personal mission to serve Haiti in any way that God will allow.
Figi Jézi has several projects that will be tackled head on to fulfill the mission of improving the lives of Haitian’s affected by extreme poverty, neglect, lack of resources, and fear.
They most recently successfully raised the funds for property in the country’s Northern region of Cap Haitian to start doing community outreach projects. Recently, they received a shipping container that will become a health clinic.
The center of their mission is a high quality Children’s Home, equipped to take on twenty-four orphaned/abandoned children, as well as six caregivers, a family style dining area, a nurse’s station, and two large school rooms for future use all centered around an outdoor courtyard.
By hiring local widows and widowers to care for the children and do grounds work, Figi Jézi will provide devastated families the ability to provide for themselves.
Figi Jézi will provide a sanctuary for the community to gather together in worship and prayer. They desire to seek out and train Hatian children to be its future leaders.
An estimated 54% of the women and girls, and only 48% of the men and boys in Haiti have received any type of education. Figi Jézi will house, on location, schooling for the needy children and free to low-cost education for the children of its employees.
Equipping children with tools for employment is a necessary step towards long-term sustainability. They will be taught trades according to their strengths and the community needs in order to provide a living for themselves.
Business and ministry opportunities will be provided according to the trades learned for children aging out of the system. This provides opportunity to live independently, incorporates funds back into the organization, and provides needed resources for the community as well.
Along with various medical mission groups, the Center will host the Tommy Hamlin Medical Center which will provide regular check-ups for the orphans. This allows the growth of each individual child to be assessed and documented for easy tracking. Any deficiencies will be addressed and closely monitored by trained medical staff.
In attempts to reach out to the neighboring community, Figi Jézi will host various events. Events will include but are not limited to, vacation bible school, community clean-up days, movie and popcorn nights, picnics, soccer tournaments, medical clinics, and clean water distribution, etc.
The orphanage and schooling unit has been designed appropriately to incorporate an additional level in the future doubling the number of children served. Once the organization has become self-sustaining, Figi Jézi hopes for the opportunity to replicate the mission in different locations using the same model and organizational unit.
Please consider donating to this worthy cause or volunteering for service work with Figi Jézi at their site in Ville du Cap-Haitien, Haiti.
Future actions for IGE
With our ability to share information instantly around the world, the murder of George Floyd has sparked a world wide movement of Black Lives Matter. George Floyd’s murder has spoken to all of us, revealing injustice and inequity in all our institutions. Reparations has become a rallying cry for peoples still suffering from centuries of oppression, here in the U.S. and abroad. The history and present conditions of the Haitian people demand awareness and action. Since the 2000s, there have been calls for reparations from France for the enslavement, colonization, and underdevelopment of Haiti. The U.S. is also culpable due to military and economic interventions and exploitation. At IGE, we can join with the many others who need to see change in our national and foreign policies. Here is a copy of a thoughtful essay by Bill Fletcher, Jr. of the Democratic Socialists of America in the “Democratic Left”, Summer 2020. https://democraticleft.dsausa.org/issues/
Reparations: not just for descendants: System-wide legal shackles didn’t end with slavery.
There are two debates about reparations for African Americans: whether it is a legitimate demand, and who should be eligible. This latter argument has been tinged with African American nativism and, ironically, has drawn the support of some white, rightwing populists. Reparations is a legitimate domestic and international demand for compensation and repair for the damages associated with slavery, genocide, and colonialism. I would go further and argue that it is a legitimate demand in response to the horrors committed by the United States overseas since its foundation. That said, there is the specific question of reparations for African Americans. Some argue that reparations for African Americans should be reserved for those who can trace a direct line to slavery. All others who fall within the rubric of “Black America” are to be excluded. The argument for reparations for slavery is a sound one. The theft of millions in order to build capitalism needs little clarification. The challenge in the reparations debate, however, is not so much when the “clock” starts, but, rather, when does it stop. Africans were brought to the Western Hemisphere in chains in the 1500s. Though there were some Moors from Spain who came voluntarily, the overwhelming majority were brought as slaves to what we now know as Latin America. Africans who were captured and brought to North America came as both indentured servants and as slaves. As part of the instituting of social control over the laboring classes of the 13 British colonies, the British elite implemented the construction of “race” and racist oppression, which included instituting slavery-for-life for those who had African blood. Formal slavery in the United States can be said to have ended in 1865 with the defeat of the Confederacy in the U.S. Civil War. For some proponents of reparations, the story apparently ends there. The argument is that only the victims of U.S. slavery should receive compensation. There are problems with this line of thought. 1) How much blood? What proportion of one’s “blood” needs to be derived from the period of 1619: 1865? 50%? 80%? 15%? Any determination becomes exceedingly subjective. And what does it mean to have been raised with a “Black identity”? What if someone was raised in a family that passed for white but then one realized that one was African-descendant? 2) Why 1865? Yes, slavery ended in 1865, at least formally. But racist and national oppression of African Americans did not. The Reconstruction period was followed by what W.E.B. Du Bois called the “counter-revolution of property,” with which Jim Crow segregation was associated. This was a period of intense oppression and the super-exploitation of the African American worker. Why would the “clock” time out in 1865? 3) Who is “Black America”? Even if one leaves aside post-1965 African immigration to the United States, African Americans, as a people, have multiple sources, including Cape Verdeans (who began to arrive in the 19th century); African descendants of slavery imposed by the British in North America; African Caribbean descendants who began migrating to the United States in the first decade of the 20th century; and African descendants from Latin America, who began arriving with the end of the U.S. war against Mexico (1848). If one restricts the defi of African American—and, therefore, those who can receive reparations—to those who can trace their lineage to slavery, that means that Malcolm X’s family is called into question because his mother was from Grenada. 4) Individual, or collective? All this assumes a “check” made out to individuals, rather than collective reparations. Foreclosing the idea of collective reparations means dismissing the need for the reorganization of the United States and the introduction of dramatic changes in the social, political, and economic conditions faced by people of African descent. Even if the proper calculation can be made regarding what individuals who can trace some of their lineage back to the plantation are entitled to, would receiving that check mean that white capitalist America was off the hook? Is that the vision we have been fighting for? The debate continues. And the stakes are high.
DSA member Bill Fletcher, Jr., is the executive editor of globalafricanworker.com, past president of TransAfrica Forum, and a long-time leftist trade unionist.
Here are links to two more articles about reparations:
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.
Dear IGE Friend,
The Institute for Global Education, a 501c3 not for profit all volunteer organization, which advances the causes of peace, justice, diversity and non violence in West Michigan, invites you to participate with us in two new initiatives here in our community. As an all volunteer organization, we do this work with the financial support of our friends.
We want to offer you the opportunity to partner with us in an outreach program to the homeless. We have joined with the St Mark’s Episcopal Church Saturday Breakfast program where we distribute, on a monthly basis, essential items to homeless people at the breakfast. This includes masks, hand sanitizer, hand and foot warmers, and protein bars. We have learned that there is a great need for socks for men and women and would like to add them to the bags we distribute. Donations of new socks and/or funds to purchase socks and other items are needed. Sock material should be of synthetic fabric which washes easily and dries quickly.
In partnership with AmeriCorps volunteers and the Ecosocialist Committee of the Grand Rapids Democratic Socialists of America, a special summer project, “Healthy Food for Our Neighbors ” is being launched. Volunteers will be planting and growing vegetables to be distributed through various community venues. Contributions of plants and gardening supplies, including manure, woodchips, and ground coverings, or the funds to purchase those items, are needed.
Your past support is greatly appreciated and we hope that you will consider supporting these two initiatives for those in need in our community. Donations can be made online at igegr.org.
Kim McKeon, Chairperson
Kate Shockey, Co-Chairperson
Institute for Global Education Board
You may watch the Youtube videos in advance here but be sure to come to the Zoom show!!!
Join Us On May Day! All Workers Are Essential!
Saturday, May 1, 2021 Noon Spirit of Solidarity Monument
(220 Front Avenue across from the Grand Rapids Public Museum)
On May Day we gather to remember the workers, both essential and retired, who lost their lives this past year due to the mishandling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
We also honor the Haymarket Martyrs of Chicago, who along with furniture workers in Grand Rapids, fought for the 8-hour day and a new, better world. Back in 1886, the Chicago police attacked striking workers injuring and killing dozens. The State of Illinois then hung four of eight labor leaders after a rigged trial. Out of this outrage a new world-wide labor movement was born. So today in every country, May 1st is celebrated as International Workers Day!
We want safer work conditions for all workers and to build a strong labor movement. Our demands are honest and simple:
Build Back Better with Unions! Support the AFL-CIO’s push to pass the PRO Act
Jobs or income now! Extend unemployment to 26 weeks, not 20. Make Michigan unemployment great again!
Stop racist police brutality and end police crimes. Support community control of the police.
Support the Equality Act! Fight discrimination against the LGBTQIA+
Support immigrant rights. No more kids in cages! Legalization for all!
The workers, united, will never be defeated!
Hosted by IATSE Local 26 (Stagehands), ATU Local 836 (Bus Drivers), and the Kent-Ionia Labor Council.
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