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Africana Studies’ Mandy Enjoys April Homecoming to Senegal

Published: August 17, 2009

Africana Studies’ Lionel Mandy enjoyed a homecoming in April by sojourning with an organization of traditional healers when he returned to the West African nation of Senegal, where he lived and taught in the 1980s.

Mandy, who joined the university in 1999, not only earned his MBA and J.D. from UCLA and his Psy.D. in clinical psychology from Pepperdine University, but he also is a trained traditional healer. He brought his Western and traditional medical experience to bear on an article he published about his journey in a recent issue of the Association of Thought Field Therapy UPdate.

During the Senegal visit he presented a paper titled “Vusumazulu Credo Mutwa and the Dilemma of Azania: Solution or Surrender?” at the 15th annual conference of the International Society for African Philosophy and Studies (ISAPS), held at the Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar. While there, in his role as secretary to the board of directors of the ISAPS, he contacted the Dakar-based PROMETRA International, an organization dedicated to the promotion and protection of traditional medicine. He wound up traveling with PROMETRA founder Dr. Erick Gbodossou to the Center for Experimental Traditional Medicine or CEMETRA, a medical research and treatment complex staffed by 50 traditional healers.

“CEMETRA emphasizes that 85 percent of the sub-Saharan population receive their health care and health education from traditional healers,” said Mandy. Established in Fatick in central Senegal in 1989, CEMETRA offers a certified lab with a technician, consultation and treatment units that have received more than 30,000 patient visits in 10 years. The center emphasizes the participation of both Western and traditional practitioners and serves as a training site for scholars, researchers, students and traditional healer apprentices.

“When I met these traditional healers at their monthly meeting, they welcomed me,” he recalled. “They were receptive to my interest and answered my questions. I was even invited back. I remember one healer who told me `I can learn from you and you can learn from me.’ I feel that represents the essence of my research.”

The check-in to the facility would be familiar to any 21st century urbanite. Clients in need of medical attention visit CEMETRA where they answer questions about symptoms and treatment. “If an issue would benefit from blood work, then blood work is performed by a trained technician,” he explained. “After that’s done (or if it’s not needed), the client is directed to the healer with the best success rate in dealing with whatever is the health issue. The client then begins a regimen of healing using local herbs, prayer and other traditional forms of healing. We don’t always need a pill. After a time, clients return to report whether they feel better or not. If the issue is not resolved, the patient is directed another traditional healer at CEMETRA, or to a Western-style clinic. It’s a system we could use in Long Beach. Something like this could work anywhere in the world.”

Mandy feels Western medicine and psychology have become too expensive for the majority of those who need their services.

“The cost of American medical care is in the billions of dollars,” he said. “Many millions more are spent on alternative medicine. Americans buy vitamins and herbs over the Internet. We visit osteopaths and chiropractors. What needs to happen is the recognition that all are forms of healing. Instead of becoming adversaries, these various forms of care must become collaborators in the best interest of those who need healing.”

Dakar and Paris
Photo courtesy of Lionel Mandy
Africana Studies’ Lionel Mandy (r) with Dr. Erick Gbodossou, the creator and President of PROMETRA on the grounds of CEMETRA, in Fatick, Senegal.

Mandy believes Western medicine and traditional African healing have much in common.

“They both come from an immense desire and drive to help,” he said. “Without that, you’re not effective, no matter what your title. With that, you are a seed for change.”

When Mandy spent a month this year training with a South African traditional healer, he found aloe vera growing in the healer’s garden. Aloe vera, also known as the medicinal aloe, is a species of succulent plant that originated in Northern Africa and was used by the ancient Kemetans (Egyptians). It is frequently used as herbal medicine and there is evidence that it is useful in the treatment of diabetes and elevated blood lipids in humans.

“These plants have traveled the world just like prized foods,” he said. “I can find peppermint and spearmint growing in South Africa because they are healing plants.”

Mandy was named the Mentor of the Year for 2007-08 by CSULB’s Partners for Success. He is a faculty advisor to the African Student Union and to the Black Psychology Student Association. He earned a B.A. in English literature, an M.A. in African American Studies, and a Masters in Social Work from Boston University. He also has a BMsc and an MMsc in Metaphysical Science from the University of Metaphysics, and is writing his doctoral dissertation in that discipline.

“For me, visiting Senegal was a return home,” Mandy concluded. “There, at CEMETRA, I was just another human being learning about healing. But when I got to the Cheikh Anta Diop University of Dakar, I was a scholar presenting a paper on African philosophy. I was, and am also a traditional healer. Combining those elements is what this trip did for me. It was a coming-home and an expansion into new things.”