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The Black Panther Party & Auricular Acupuncture

The Black Panther Party's Utilization of the NADA Protocol:

A Revolutionary Approach to Community Health and Healing



The 1960s and 1970s marked a tumultuous period in American history, defined by social upheaval and the struggle for civil rights. Amid this era of change, the Black Panther Party emerged as a powerful force advocating for justice and equality. While their political activism is well-documented, a lesser-explored facet of their initiatives was their pioneering use of the NADA (National Acupuncture Detoxification Association) protocol. Originally designed to aid in addiction recovery, the NADA protocol assumed a unique role within the Black Panther Party, serving as a revolutionary method to address the pervasive impact of trauma within their communities. This essay delves into the historical context, the development of the NADA protocol, and how its integration by the Black Panther Party exemplified a commitment to holistic community care, offering a distinctive pathway to healing and resilience.


The 1960s was a time of profound social change and activism, with movements such as the Civil Rights Movement challenging systemic racial inequalities. In this milieu, the Black Panther Party was founded in 1966 by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland, California. Originally established as a response to police brutality and the oppression faced by African American communities, the Party's Ten-Point Program outlined their commitment to justice, equality, and community empowerment. As the Party evolved, so did their understanding of the multifaceted challenges faced by their communities, leading to the incorporation of innovative approaches to address not only the external threats but also the internal struggles, including the pervasive impact of trauma.

The NADA protocol, a method of acupuncture developed in the 1970s by Dr. Michael Smith, was initially designed to support individuals in overcoming addiction. It involves the insertion of small, sterilized needles into specific points on the ear. The protocol gained recognition for its effectiveness in reducing withdrawal symptoms and promoting overall well-being in the context of substance abuse treatment. However, its adoption by the Black Panther Party showcased an astute understanding of its broader applications in addressing trauma and mental health within their communities.


One of the key reasons behind the Party's adoption of the NADA protocol was its holistic approach to healing. The Party recognized that the impacts of systemic oppression and violence extended beyond physical manifestations and permeated the mental and emotional well-being of their community members. By integrating the NADA protocol, the Black Panther Party aimed to provide a comprehensive and accessible method of addressing the mental health challenges associated with trauma. Acupuncture, with its roots in traditional Chinese medicine, was a departure from conventional Western medical practices, symbolizing a shift towards alternative and community-centric health interventions.


The utilization of the NADA protocol by the Black Panther Party was not just a medical choice but a political one. It underscored the Party's commitment to empowering their communities on multiple fronts. In a time when access to quality healthcare was often limited for marginalized communities, the Party sought to democratize health services. The NADA protocol's simplicity and effectiveness made it an ideal tool for community-based health initiatives, aligning with the Party's broader goals of self-determination and community empowerment.


The impact of trauma on marginalized communities was profound, stemming from a history of systemic oppression, racism, and violence. The Black Panther Party recognized that addressing trauma was not only a matter of individual healing but a crucial aspect of building resilient and empowered communities. The NADA protocol's focus on the ear as a microsystem connected to the entire body made it a particularly apt tool for addressing the holistic nature of trauma. By strategically placing needles in specific points on the ear, the protocol aimed to restore balance and promote overall well-being, addressing both the physical and emotional aspects of trauma.


Moreover, the adoption of the NADA protocol by the Black Panther Party showcased their commitment to alternative forms of healing rooted in cultural awareness. Traditional Chinese medicine, of which acupuncture is a part, offered a perspective that differed from the Western medical model. This departure reflected the Party's embrace of diverse cultural practices and a rejection of the hegemonic systems that perpetuated inequality. In incorporating the NADA protocol, the Black Panther Party not only provided a tool for healing but also affirmed the value of cultural diversity in the pursuit of holistic well-being.


The implementation of the NADA protocol also demonstrated the Black Panther Party's foresight in recognizing the interconnectedness of physical and mental health. Trauma, whether stemming from personal experiences or systemic injustices, often manifests in both physiological and psychological symptoms. Acupuncture, through the NADA protocol, offered a holistic approach that acknowledged and addressed this interconnected nature of health. By targeting specific points on the ear, the protocol aimed to regulate the nervous system, reduce stress, and promote a sense of calm—an essential component in the healing journey for individuals affected by trauma.

The NADA protocol's effectiveness in promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety became a crucial aspect of its application within the Black Panther Party's community programs. Recognizing that mental health was an integral part of the overall well-being of their community, the Party implemented acupuncture clinics as part of their health initiatives. These clinics provided a safe and supportive environment for individuals to receive acupuncture treatments, fostering a sense of community and solidarity in the face of shared challenges.


In addition to its therapeutic benefits, the NADA protocol became a symbol of resistance and empowerment within the Black Panther Party's ethos. The act of reclaiming control over health practices, especially in the context of mental health, challenged the narrative that marginalized communities were passive recipients of care. By integrating the NADA protocol into their community programs, the Party actively engaged in reshaping the narrative around health, advocating for a more inclusive and community-driven approach.


Furthermore, the Black Panther Party's use of the NADA protocol exemplified their commitment to preventive healthcare. Acupuncture, with its focus on restoring balance and preventing imbalances from manifesting as illness, aligned with the Party's vision of proactive community care. By offering acupuncture as a regular part of their health services, the Party aimed not only to address existing trauma but also to prevent the exacerbation of mental health challenges within their communities.


The legacy of the Black Panther Party's use of the NADA protocol extends beyond its immediate impact on individuals within their communities. It serves as a testament to the Party's ability to innovate and adapt in the face of evolving challenges. The integration of acupuncture into their community programs was a radical departure from conventional approaches to healthcare, reflecting the Party's commitment to finding unconventional solutions to systemic issues.


To learn more about the Black Panther Party and its use of the NADA protocol, watch the documentary Death is Dope (2021) on Youtube.


To learn more about how you can use the NADA protocol to heal from trauma, addiction, anxiety and more download my free resource The NADA Detox Toolkit.


Dani Ellison



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