The National Acupuncture Detoxification (NADA) is a not-for-profit training and advocacy organization, encourages community wellness through the use of a standardized auricular acupuncture protocol for behavioral health, including addictions, mental health, and disaster & emotional trauma. This organization originated from Dr. Mutulu Shakur’s development and use of what is now known as the NADA protocol to treat heroin and methadone addiction. Thousands of healers continue to be trained through NADA to carry on this healing work in communities all over the world. Due to Dr. Shakur’s foundational role in bringing acupuncture to underserved communities in NYC, organizations such as NADA support his freedom.
The opioid crisis is a hot topic this year, and a recent article in The Atlantic mentions Dr. Shakur as one of the figures who brought acupuncture treatment into the mainstream particularly as a method of detoxification from drug use. Despite conducting an 11-question written interview, the article did not feature any of his own words, and inaccurately states the reason for his incarceration. In an effort to add to what little accurate information is publicly available about the highly influential Lincoln Detox program, we are posting his full response to the questions raised by the interviewer.
1. How did you first become involved with Lincoln Detox? Who did you know who already worked there? Why did you decide to apply for a job, and why do you think they opted to hire you?
“They just took over the Nurses’ Residence at Lincoln Hospital,” says Walter Bosque, an acupuncturist and community organizer. His salt-and-pepper eyebrows are an archive.
I sat down with Bosque at the New York City Botanical Garden cafe on a brisk fall afternoon to discuss his involvement in the radical health activism of a fabled group in the history of grassroots organizing: the Young Lords.
The Puerto Rican liberation organization–founded in Chicago in 1968 and pollinated to New York in 1969–kicked off its activism around issues like failing garbage collection services, infrastructure laced with lead paint, and lethal medical services. In ‘69 and ‘70, the Lords took direct action with the Black Panthers and other allies against derelict facilities and care deficits at Lincoln Hospital–known locally as the “Butcher Shop.” It was the only medical facility in the majority Black and Latinx South Bronx.
James Shelton and Kate Kampmann from the People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture (POCA) have created a series of images honoring 7 people whose life’s work contributed greatly to what we now term Liberation Acupuncture. These are the Ancestors of Liberation Acupuncture.
Gustavo Gutierrez was born in Lima, Peru in 1928. He is an originator and leading proponent of Liberation Theology. The phrase, “a preferential option for the poor” is attributed to him. If a practice doesn’t work for the poorest people, then it doesn’t work. This ethos is foundational to Liberation Acupuncture.
Ignacio Martín-Baró was born in Spain in 1942. He worked largely in El Salvador. A proponent of Liberation Psychology, Baró was adamant that a practice had to be useful and valuable to the popular majority. One could not import a European styled psychology for a Central American peasantry with their differing experiences of imperialism and poverty. Similarly, Liberation Acupuncture must adapt the delivery of healthcare to the
needs of the underserved American people. Baró was assassinated by the US-trained El Salvadorian Army in 1989.
Master Tung Ching Chang was born in Shandong Province, China. c. 1916. He moved to Taiwan during the Chinese revolution. His family lineage of acupuncture used a very different system than what became known as Traditional Chinese Medicine. He would have been prosecuted if he had not conformed. Tung’s acupuncture makes great use of distal points, allowing him to treat 100 people in a day and making it ideal for community acupuncture. Master Tung also stepped out of his family tradition by training many outside practitioners, including Miriam Lee.
Mutulu Shakur was born in Baltimore, in 1950. Shakur became the assistant director of the Lincoln Detox, a community organized drug detoxification clinic in an occupied building at Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx, which was founded in 1970 by the Black Panther Party, the Republic of New Afrika, and the Young Lords. After its closing Shakur went on to found the Black Acupuncture Advisory Association of North America (BAAANA) as well as the Harlem Institute of Acupuncture. He sought to utilize affordable acupuncture for oppressed, underserved communities. A member of the Black Liberation Army, Shakur has been incarcerated since 1986. There is an ongoing campaign for freedom.