Adaku Utah worked as a Training Specialist from 2015-2017 for HMI’s Advocacy and Capacity Building team. She co-led the development of thousands of teachers, city agency officials, social workers and organizers to cultivate safer and more inclusive spaces for LGBTQIA+ young people.
Adaku also served as lead consultant with the NYC Department of Health (DOH) and Mental Hygiene, coordinating the first of its kind community-based participatory processes across all five boroughs to identify the most pressing issues related to sexual and reproductive health and justice in New York City, for the sake of shifting practices and policies at DOH and cultivating transformative campaigns.
Later she moved on to teach fellow with BOLD (Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity) and the Generative Somatics teaching team, before joining National Network of Abortion Funds as their Movement Building Leadership Manager cultivating the leadership capacity of reproductive justice leaders.
Born and raised in Nigeria, Adaku was chronically ill as a child, suffering from severe bouts of pneumonia and malaria and had to be treated with herbal medicine to better outcomes over orthodox medicines. A descendent of Marxist organizers, herbalists, and farmers who dealt in herbal treatments and ancient care to strengthen their communities, she grew up in a household that had a lot of self-determined care. This led to her devotion to spreading practices that healed her and her forbearers. She’s deeply committed to fighting oppression by reconnecting the most marginalized members of her community with the ancient healing practices of their ancestors and helping them seize their intrinsic, intuitive power.
Adaku is an award-winning liberation educator, organizer, healer and performance ritual artist committed to cultivating movements within oppressed communities that are strategic, sustainable and mutually nourishing. Her work has centered in movements for radical social change, with a focus on gender, sexuality, race, youth and healing justice. She founded and is the Director of Harriet’s Apothecary, a healing village led by Black Cis Women, Queer and Trans people committed to living out Harriet Tubman’s legacy of liberation—centering healing, wellness, and safety as movement building strategies to deconstruct legacies of trauma and galvanize communities to shape generative transformation. She is also the founder of BeatBox Botanicals, a local sliding-scale, love-centered, and community-inspired, plant medicine and healing practice.
Adaku has taught, organized and created sacred healing spaces nationally and internationally as a Social Change Initiatives coordinator, rape crisis counselor, youth organizer, intuitive healer, gender-based violence advocate, dancer, liberation trainer, sex education teacher, herbalist, sexual violence organizing educator, and board member. She has worked with several groups and organizations including Black Lives Matter, Students Active for Ending Rape (SAFER), Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity, National Network for Abortion funds, Lincoln Center, Brooklyn Museum, Ella Baker Justice Center, Sadie Nash Leadership Project, Yale University, Chicago Foundation for Women, The Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health, Planned Parenthood, the Astraea Foundation, One Billion Rising, Black Women’s Blueprint, Black Youth 100, the Movement for Black Lives, Astraea Foundation, and the Audre Lorde Project.
Adaku is a certified herbalist, Rape Survivor Crisis Counselor, Re-Evaluation Counselor (RC), and Non-Violent Communications Counselor. She has studied and practiced with priestesses, shamans, astrologers, herbalists and wise women in Nigeria, Jamaica, Kenya, Haiti and the U.S. Adaku has been featured in various publications and media programs including Elle magazine and The Laura Flanders Show, and she has been recognized as a 2020 Laundromat Project Community Impact Honoree, a 2017 Essence Magazine Woke 100 Change Maker and is a recent recipient of the 2017 Gye Nyame Empowerment Project My Sister’s Keeper Award, the 2015 Blade of Grass Fellowship, the 2015 Laundromat Project Create Change Fellowship and the 2012 Sexuality Leadership Development Fellowship with the Africa Regional Sexuality Resource Centre in Lagos, Nigeria.
Adaku’s social justice work is coupled with her award-winning performance art. Described as “a compelling presence” by the New Yorker, her artistry is inspired by love, constructive rage, ritual, storytellers, acts of resistance, healing, nature, Nigeria and bridge building. She has performed at numerous venues nationally and internationally, including the Oprah Show, Jacob’s Pillow, Lincoln Center, The American Dance Festival, New York Live Arts, Harlem Stage, FuseBox Festival, APAP conference, Arsht Center, Brooklyn Museum, National Black Theatre and shared the stage with the likes of John Legend, Black Eyed Peas, Oprah, Ne-yo and Meshell Ndegeocello.
Adaku has proudly served as a founding board member of Soul Fire Farm as a commitment to ending the racism and injustice in the food system and received a BSc in Biotechnology and Psychology from Pennsylvania State University.
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