Who Is Dr. Sebi & Why Is He Resurfacing Amid Nipsey Hussle's Death?
How a man who once claimed he had the cure for AIDS is at the center of a conspiracy theory about Nipsey Hussle’s death.
Before Nipsey Hussle‘s untimely death Sunday afternoon (March 31st), the Los Angeles rapper had just purchased the plaza where his Marathon Clothing store resided. Hussle had planned on rebuilding the area as a six-story residential building atop a commercial plaza — along with a new iteration of his clothing store — in hopes of “giving opportunities and jobs to all communities and improving the neighborhood,” according to a Forbes story about Hussle’s entrepreneurship.
Hussle was also working on a documentary about Alfredo Bowman, better known as the late Dr. Sebi, an unlicensed physician who, in the late ’80s, claimed he could cure AIDS.
“I’m working on doing a documentary on the trial in 1985…when Dr. Sebi went to trial against New York because he put in the newspaper he cured AIDS,” Hussle said in a 2018 Breakfast Club interview that resurfaced shortly after his death. “He beat the case and he went to federal court the next day and beat that case…the story is important.”
“If I could say ‘Hey, somebody cured AIDS,’ y’all would be like ‘Yeah, right,'” he continued. “And then I could show you an example of him going to trial, proving in court to a jury that he cured AIDS, y’all would be interested in that.”
Hussle also spoke about the documentary with author and documentarian Tariq Nasheed in a past interview and even implied — albeit jokingly — that the project could result in his death.
Nipsey said “If they kill me for this documentary yall better ride”. pic.twitter.com/nwdHj12g4G
— Tauge.P (@Ryder_____) April 1, 2019
However, some skeptics believe in this theory, seeing the rapper’s death as an attempt by the American government and pharmaceutical industry to silence the work of the late Bowman.
This isn’t a coincidence! Nipsey Hussle was working on a documentary that will narrate Dr. Sebi’s Trial in 1985. Dr. Sebi claimed that he could cure AIDS & was allegedly executed by way of U.S. Medical Corporations because his AIDS remedy would take away from their own profits. pic.twitter.com/rqrvaeSbAi
— Jared Sawyer Jr. (@JaredSawyerJr) April 1, 2019
Look into Dr Sebi curing HIV
Nipsey hussle was making a documentary on the pharmaceutical industry being worth billions and he was going to expose the government for having no cure now he dead #StayWoke #nipseyhustle pic.twitter.com/Z71oChggX0
— S H A Q 📸 (@Sh0tByShaq) April 1, 2019
Don’t let the media fool you that’s some government shit over the Dr. Sebi documentary man!! If it was over gang shit they would’ve gotten him a long time ago, nipsey wasn’t hard to find. #NipseyHussleForever 🙏🏽
— Wu(Jedi) (@TheUsualNinja) April 1, 2019
Bowman died in 2016 in Honduras — where he was born — due to complications of pneumonia that worsened while he was in prison on money laundering charges. But before his death, he had made a name for himself as an herbalist and holistic doctor in the United States.
Not much is documented or known about Bowman’s life. His website provides a brief summary of his upbringing in Honduras with his grandmother — who first introduced him to herbal healing — and his migration to the United States, where he was diagnosed with “with asthma, diabetes, impotency, and obesity.”
“After unsuccessful treatments with conventional doctors and traditional western medicine, Sebi was lead to an herbalist in Mexico,” where he found “great healing success from all his ailments,” the summary reads. Inspired by his personal healing experience, Bowman “began creating natural vegetation cell food compounds geared for inter-cellular cleansing and the revitalization of all the cells that make up the human body.”
He then shared the compounds with others, which led to the creation of the USHA Research Institute (which was in Brooklyn, New York), Dr. Sebi LLC, and the USHA Healing Village (USHA) located in La Ceiba, Honduras. Through these entities, Bowman developed an assortment of products including “Cell Prolifirant Eva-Therapeutic Salve,” “Hair Food,” “Horadin,” “Limphaslin,” “Nervino,” “Sperma I,” “Testee II,” and “Uturin.”
Bowman was even selling a $1,500 “All Inclusive” package that claimed to cleanse “the body on the cellular level by breaking down acid, mucus, toxins, and calcifications.”
By the 1980s, Bowman was marketing his products in the United States, as well as practicing medicine through his Brooklyn-based institute. In 1987, Bowman was charged with two counts of practicing medicine without a license and taken to court by Robert Abrams, the New York Attorney General at the time. The charge stemmed from advertisements he placed in the Village Voice and the Amsterdam News, that told patients they could be cured of AIDS, herpes, leukemia, lupus, sickle cell anemia, and other diseases for an initial fee of $500 and $80 for each additional visit. The advertisement had also claimed that “AIDS has been cured” by Bowman’s USHA.
The trial resulted in a noteworthy decision in Brooklyn Supreme Court, when the jury found Bowman not guilty of the charges. Two undercover agents had been sent to Bowman’s institute “to entrap Sebi into making medical diagnoses,” and were wired with a small tape recorder. But the tape recording “failed to convince the jury that Sebi did, in fact, make a medical diagnosis,” according to a New Amsterdam report on the trial.
“What was significant about the verdict is the fact that USHA’s African Bio-Mineral Balance will now be recognized throughout the world,” Simeon Greenaway, Bowman’s attorney, said at the time. (The African Bio-Mineral Balance was “a therapeutic approach” that benefited “the nutritional needs of the African gene structure.”)
However, there was a successful civil case against USHA, where the company agreed to no longer make therapeutic claims for any of its products.
The agreement barred “Ogun Herbal Research Institute (d/b/a USHA), Fig Tree Products Company and their principals, officers, directors, employees, agents, successors, heirs and assigns and Alfredo Bowman and Maa Bowman, their successors, heirs and assigns” from “claiming, orally or in writing, directly or by implication, that respondents, their services or their products can cure, mitigate, or in any way relieve or alter the course of AIDS, herpes, leukemia, sickle cell anemia, lupus or any other human disease, pain, injury, deformity or physical conditions,” among other restrictions, according to a court document.
“When I told my mama I had cured my thirteenth AIDS patient, she said ‘They gonna get you,'” Bowman said in a 2015 interview on The Rock Newman Show, where he claims to have defended himself. “…The judge said that I had to bring one of every patient that I had cured…I took 77.”
In the interview, Bowman also gave an explanation of how he healed his patients of AIDS, claiming he helped someone by the name of Michael White in Boston by creating a compound “made to cleanse the cells.”
“I removed from the man’s diet lactose, uric acid, and carbonic acid,” Bowman explained. “Milk, starches, and meat. By removing these things from his diet and then cleansing his cells, he began to see recovery in 24 hours.”
The USHA Research Institute and Bowman relocated to California following the case, where he expanded his clientele to included celebrities like Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes (the late TLC artist had visited Bowman in Honduras prior to her death), Steven Seagal, John Travolta, Eddie Murphy, and Michael Jackson, whom Bowman claimed to have cured of his addiction to painkillers.
In an obituary for Bowman by The Telegraph, the story reported that “In June 2004, Jackson was reported to be spending $3,960 a night at Loews Miami Beach Hotel meditating and praying with Sebi (described as a “witch doctor” in some reports), to prepare for his forthcoming trial on nine charges of child abuse.”
Later that year, Bowman had sued Jackson for $380,00 in unpaid bills after the late pop icon’s brother Randy had given him $10,000 as “payment in full” for his services. The case was dismissed in 2015 for lack of prosecution.
In 2016, Bowman was arrested and charged with money laundering by the Honduran Government after he tried to transfer from a commercial flight from the U.S. to a private plane at an airport in Honduras. According to previous reports, Bowman was traveling with $37,000 in cash and was released pending a court hearing, only to be rearrested June 3 by the Ministerio Público — Honduras’ FBI equivalent — and charged with money laundering. Bowman’s family attempted to secure his release, as well as alleged that he contracted pneumonia while in prison, but were unsuccessful. Bowman died at the age of 82 on August 6th, 2016.
A conspiracy theory about Hussle’s death has been born from a conspiracy theory surrounding Bowman’s death. Supporters believe that the lack of mainstream attention to not only his death but his success in court has been to silence his legacy, claiming that he was a threat to the pharmaceutical industry. However, others view Bowman as a practitioner of pseudoscience and a proliferator of false Afrocentric claims, whose approach in handling illnesses like AIDS undermines the severity of it.
“It’s highly unlikely that nutrition and diet alone could cure anyone of HIV…” Dr. James E.K. Hildreth, an AIDS and HIV expert, told Ebony earlier this month. “I am part of some research by some investigators in Africa that have identified some plants that can control the virus. But controlling and curing are two very different things. If we’re talking about a technical cure that is ridding a person of the virus that’s gonna be hard to do without a genetic or chemical intervention.”
With Nick Cannon hinting at finishing Hussle’s documentary on Bowman, it seems as if the late self-proclaimed healer may find a resurgence and even a new audience, his story taken on by some Afrocentric enthusiasts since his death. But there’s a danger in propping this conspiracy theory with Hussle that is more nestled in opinion and paranoia than fact, no matter how warranted black people are in their distrust of governmental agencies.