Hope grows together

HOPE BEYOND AUTISM: Black History Month

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My journey over the past five years has been, let’s say, colorful. For the first ten years of my son Leo’s life, I fought for survival, both his and my own. My dark-haired, chestnut-eyed firstborn started his battle when he was just 21 months old. It was a war raging inside his body and his mind; I could neither see nor draw interference. I both witnessed and absorbed the pain inflicted by the symptoms associated with his autism. As his mother, I could not offer a band-aid, lemonade, or even a professional aide to help. The battle was ours and ours alone. At least that’s what I thought at the time.  


But nature blessed our community with an under-recognized and under-appreciated ally—and our maternal instincts blessed us with the fortitude to find it and fight for it. Medical Cannabis has saved Leo’s life and, in turn, mine. It is not a cure, but a counteraction to the relentless abuse autism symptoms can inflict.  

Leo is now 15, and his behavior, once uncontrollable and unpredictable, has quieted. 

Leo is happy. I, too, have found happiness and peace knowing his internal war may not have ended but has, at the very least, extended the relief of a consistent ceasefire. 

Back to that maternal instinct, my determination to help my son Leo transcended into a decision to help others. After years of self-education and searching, I was blessed to find a friend and partner in Dr. Oludare Odumosu, a native of Nigeria with a PhD in biochemistry and soon to become one of a small number of ethnically diverse CEOs leading an ASX-listed company, to develop the medical cannabis tinctures line HOPE™.

Together, we designed the HOPE™ line to assist other parents in bypassing the guessing process when trying to find an effective tincture combination for their child. What I learned over the past five years is “hope” isn’t explicitly designed for anyone. Hope, the idea, not the medicine, is intended for everyone.    

HOPE™’s newest licensing partners, Ilera Holistic and Southern University, the first historically Black University to launch a THC line of medical cannabis products. This launch is significant for so many reasons. Firstly, black business owners need to be supported, and this country needs to have more diversity and inclusion in the entrepreneurial world. 

Secondly, medical cannabis, specifically the line HOPE™, is useful for so much more than just autism. More than 50% of HOPE™ patients have intractable seizures, neuropathies, chronic pain, neurodegenerative diseases, anxiety, ALS, Parkinson’s, and more. These are conditions that disproportionately affect the black community.

Pictured Dr. Odumosu and Erica Daniels formulating HOPE in PA
Pictured Dr. Odumosu and Erica Daniels formulating HOPE in PA

Lastly, but certainly not least, is reclaiming and re-educating a world misinformed with stereotypes about cannabis. Experts say Ilera Holistic’s products are a part of a “larger discussion on how African Americans are affected by marijuana and the laws surrounding it.” For decades the illegalization of marijuana has served as a pipeline to inequity. Blacks are four times more likely to go to prison because of marijuana possession. Yet, science has failed to make a compelling argument that marijuana is addictive or, as the infamous “war on drugs” claimed, a gateway drug. There has been a negative stigma associated with a plant for far too long. Blacks, Browns, and Latinx have been the apparent target of this essential medicine’s prohibition.

Not only is Southern University spearheading the movement to make this plant a safer alternative to a pharmaceutical-centered world, but they are also changing the narrative. The narrative that diversity is necessary in the business leadership world and that cannabis is an essential medical product, and it should no longer be used to suppress the black community through a systemic racist justice system. A new age in which the black community can bring enormous benefits to the health of hundreds of thousands of people while promoting this potential industry giant’s economic development. It is a win-win revolution in which my involvement was unexpected, but I am very grateful for it. 

There is a children’s book called Flat Stanley. The newest version centers around a young boy who mysteriously turns flat. 

About halfway through the book, he becomes frustrated, longing to be just like everyone else. Stanley asks his parents, “Why do these things always happen to me?”. Their answer? 

Sometimes we don’t know why things happen to us until much later when something happens, and we understand why.  

I still do not know why autism happened to Leo. But I do know this journey has offered me an entirely new perspective on other people’s pain. I am not comparing my journey to the atrocities the black community has suffered for hundreds of years. Still, my obstacles and Leo’s, have made me more aware of inclusion, embracing differences and the strength it requires to overcome adversity. I am more aware of prejudice, injustice, bias, stares, assumptions, generalizations, stereotypes, and the importance of providing opportunities to EVERYONE.

Our collective awareness shouldn’t be limited to February. Please visit www.zelirahope.com to learn more about HOPE™ products and our community-built health network. 


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