While acupuncture dates back some 2,500 years ago and is considered a traditional Chinese medicine, the popularization of acupuncture in America can be attributed to some well-known Black activists in American history. It was the pivotal influence of Lincoln Detox, a free clinic started by Dr. Mutulu Shakur (step-father to rapper Tupac Shakur) in the 1970s, in response to a community with countless people facing debilitating conditions.

Here’s an excerpt recalling the history of this truly amazing story:

In 1970, Shakur began working with the Lincoln Detox program, which offered drug rehabilitation to heroin addiction using acupuncture—instead of the FDA-approved drug methadone. [Eventually he became the program’s assistant director and remained associated with the program until 1978. He became certified and licensed to practice acupuncture in the State of California in 1979. and went on to help found and direct the Black Acupuncture Advisory Association of North America (BAAANA) and the Harlem Institute of Acupuncture.

Also in the late 1970s, Dr. Shakur traveled with Dr. Mario Wexu, Director of Education at the International Association of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture in Montreal to the People’s Republic of China, where he observed and studied acupuncture applied as the primary form of medical care.

He didn’t just treat addicts. He made regular, quality, low-cost health care available to everyone in his neighborhood. The people of color in Harlem, like in most major cities then and now, were victims of all manner of home soil terror attacks. Food deserts leading to poor nutrition, lack of adequate health care, as well as the drugs being pumped into the communities, red lining, and the reality of PTSD and PTSS from the everyday stress of living in such subhuman circumstances were exacting a heavy price out of the community. Acupuncture was used as a low-cost effective solution that was provided for POC.

Many people have no idea the impacts this medicine has had on Black History history let alone on the body.


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