Published: September 7, 2011
Meadows has been careful about her treatments since her mom's death. She'd taken the old woman to Jamaica to pass away in a nicer setting than a Detroit neighborhood, and during those last days her mom kept requesting her daughter's folk treatments to soften the pain of her cancer. Somehow rumors spread that there was this American practicing medicine without a license, and Meadows had to skip her own mother's funeral for fear of being arrested in a foreign country.
"I wasn't practicing medicine," she says. "I was doing what I was doing here for my mom. Whatever she told me to do, I did."
But the scare made her leery. Nowadays she treats only those who already know her, or their trusted friends. She doesn't advertise, doesn't charge money, doesn't make any health claims.
"I do it only if somebody comes and they're serious about it," she says. "There's a lot of energy involved in it and a lot of people don't understand it, and people don't really respect that art anymore. But I don't like to see people sick, and if there's something that I can do to help them, that's what I'm gonna do."
But those who know her encourage her to be open about her skills. Jamiel Wilson, her next-door neighbor, hosts a webcast at w6mx.com. He's a ghettotech musician known as Sixfoe, with a following locally and in Europe, and he's so impressed by Meadows he's creating a show for her on his website.
"Tamra has a good perspective on healing, a perspective that we need in our community," the 38-year-old says. He sees her keeping alive a fading art, and he thinks it needs rekindling in the community. "Tamra has so much knowledge about herbs, what you can take for your body, and just mother experience. 'Cause these younger women need to hear that perspective."
Living next door to the Witch Doctor has its benefits. She gives tips on natural healing, gives him herbs for ailments, even brings new life to his yard without trying.
"We was cutting our grass," he says, "and some of those seeds must've got over here, 'cause I was cutting it and I was like, 'I smell lemon!'"
Aside from the virtue of keeping the old ways alive, and despite the respect she's earned for her abilities, her skills really just serve a very practical, very mundane purpose for her, much as it does for so many of those who come to her. It's simply necessary around here.
"It's a God-given gift I never knew how important it was," she says. "I don't have medical insurance, so all I can do is heal myself."
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