Whitney Alexandra on dieta in the Peruvian Amazon

Whitney Alexandra
Cosmic Sister Emerging Voices Award
MAPS Canada

Congratulations, Cosmic Sister Emerging Voices Award (CS EVA) recipient Whitney Alexandra (@ayasisterhood)!

Whitney Alexandra is a Minnesota-born singer, songwriter, mother, and advocate of entheogenic plants as a tool to uplift communities of color.

The Christian church played an integral role in Whitney’s upbringing. Her mother was the children’s choir director, her grandmother played the organ, her grandfather and great uncle were pastors, and everyone sang in the choir. “I always called myself a believer, but inside I was always looking, reaching, trying to feel something real in my bones,” she says. “I wanted to hear from God directly. I wanted to feel something certain.”

In 2009, Whitney left a promising music career in New York City to begin her ayahuasca journey in Costa Rica with Christina Mendoza of Jaen, Peru. “In that moment, so much of my upbringing and identity simply dissolved,” she says. “Religion, gone. But ironically enough, the words and teachings of Jesus resonated more than ever. They felt truly alive. Ayahuasca showed me a broader perspective, a universally inclusive perspective, and an undeniable understanding of myself that irrevocably shifted my path.”

Whitney spent two months in dieta with Roger Lopez, a Shipibo shaman near Pucallpa, Peru, in 2014. She was asked to sing in ceremony and humbled by the spiritual gifts that she received about the energetic and healing power of voice, melody and vocal technique, and the value of intention. Shortly after this trip, Whitney gave birth to her now 5-year-old son, Forrest.

“Ayahuasca was a huge turning point in my life path and my journey to self-love,” she says. “There are so many of us questioning our value and denying our worth and looking outside for the answers. But once you experience the beauty, the radiance, the glory and absolute worthiness of your Self, you can never unknow it.”

Still, she longed for community with other women of color who could sit with and support her in ceremony. In 2020, she founded Aya Sisterhood, a community, resource and travel/wellness organization that creates authentic, safe spaces for women of color to experience healing, empowerment, and transformation through the use of traditional entheogenic plant medicines. Aya Sisterhood organizes destination ayahuasca retreats and local gatherings to build community and connect like-minded women who are discovering and reclaiming spiritual roots, medicinal traditions, and sacred rituals for themselves and their communities.

“We need more of these spaces to be able to be fully vulnerable, to support each other, to speak our truths and tell our stories without fear,” she says. “Just knowing there are other like-minded women out there on the same path, who look like you and understand where you come from in ways that the society at large does not—that in itself is deeply healing and profoundly empowering.”

The eldest daughter of an African American mother and a Caucasian father, Whitney was raised in one of the most racially inequitable and socioeconomically segregated states in the nation and became acutely aware of race/identity politics, colorism, systemic/institutionalized racism and discrimination, and passive complicity, even as it divided her own home at times, from an early age.

Whitney holds a BFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music. MTV featured her as a Subway Fresh New Artist under her alias, Charley Paige, and she has performed professionally at many of NYC’s landmark music establishments including The Knitting Factory, Rockwood Music Hall, The Mercury Lounge, The Living Room, and The Bitter End.

She has continued to write and record and is completing a large collection of original songs, including “direct transmissions” received during ayahuasca ceremonies. “Music with medicine work feels different,” she says. “It doesn’t feel like a performance.”

June 2020