By Jessica Dupree
Edited by Darlene Aderoju. Photos by Nialah Baker and Allen Cooley
Kellie Bowman is a uniquely gifted woman, actively forging her own path to success. Throughout her childhood, Bowman and her father — healer Dr. Sebi (né Alfredo Darrington Bowman) — shared an incredibly special bond, which grew deeper as she grew older. It was during her youth that Dr. Sebi passed on his wisdom and advice, which remains permanently etched on her heart. When Dr. Sebi died in 2016, Bowman could not speak for an unprecedented amount of time. Four years after her beloved father’s death, Bowman is still mourning. She tells Heart & Soul that if she could ask her dad one question, it would be, “Dad, did I make you proud?”
The nutritional specialist keeps her faith as her top priority — each day when she wakes up, Bowman gives praise and thanks before beginning anything else. She explains: “I like that my relationship with the creator of all things, Jehovah God, is my grounding. I’ve been taught, from the Bible and my parents, that being kind is important and showing love at all times is equally as important. Those principles lead me and give me peace. Hopefully, I am expressing that peace to everyone I know and everyone that I will meet.”
Adds the herbalist, “My goal in life is to show love, whether it’s through my products, my conversations through my passing by or a quick discussion in line in a store. I always show some form of love that is beneficial to someone else. Being helpful is amazing and I have learned that. Those values are important to me, that’s my mantra and that’s my everything.”
Despite the amount of time or space — from his time in the Honduras, Puerto Rico, New York or California — Dr. Sebi would never allow distance to alter the strong bond he shared with his daughter. Bowman worked with her dad in his Los Angeles store, which was located in the Marla Gibbs complex, for 15 years. One of her most adored herbs to incorporate in her products is sea moss, a popular type of seaweed which has many health benefits. “Sea moss was always important in our lives because it carries 92 of the 102 minerals the body requires,” she details. Bowman also explains that the natural supplement is a combination of Irish moss and Bladderwort – she says it allows individuals to cleanse, nourish and re-build their bodies from the inside out. Sea moss is a primary staple that was deeply incorporated into Dr. Sebi’s legacy. Dr. Sebi is revered by many as the founder and creator of the natural herb movement.
“He treated the inside of the body and I decided to continue applying the sea moss to the outside as well,” Bowman tells Heart & Soul. She has created lip balms, moisturizers and other products using the ingredient. “I think he would laugh because I did something just like him, but in my way,” she shares.
To commemorate her father’s legacy and the love she shared with him, especially during their long walks in Honduras together, the Atlanta-based businesswoman continues his work through her own company, Sebi’s Daughters. Bowman steadfastly follows the plant-based diet in which her father is widely known for developing, but she has successfully taken it to another level. Bowman speaks with Heart & Soul about the most influential pieces of wisdom she ever received from her father, the late Dr. Sebi — and many of his teachings were instilled through his compassion and unforgettable spirit.
What was it like growing up as Dr. Sebi’s daughter in your household?
Just like anyone else’s household, you have your disciplinarian and the loving security within your parents. Every day brings a different challenge and a different benefit. In our household, I found out through the years that our home was a little different than most. Our food choices may have been different, but our love was the same as any other family. My father would come home after he learned more about various plants and vegetables, which he wanted to incorporate into what he was doing. He would have such excitement and tell us about his discoveries. With each new plant, he would exude a different level of excitement and share information and that he was so excited about. Actually, what excited him the most in our backyard was our garden filled with different plants, fruits and vegetables. He was always excited about something new that he had just learned and I was always grateful for him to teach us.
How did your dad express his love to you as his daughter?
That’s a great question. How did the great Dr. Sebi have time to share his love with his family as he did with the world? We were his first, principal audience. I would say, similar to anything else he did, he showed love through what he fed us because he always felt that if you love somebody, you feed them only the best. You feed them the goodness that is out there. He also believed you talk to those you love with kindness in your heart. If I had to say how he loved us, it was through the knowledge he gave us from as early as when we were children.
I remember being as young as nine years old when he started teaching me. I can recall when he would make us breakfast. One of the things that was important to me was that he could make banana pancakes from scratch. My dad showed us a lot of love through what he gave us along our pathway and our journey through life and he did that through teaching us how to eat. He believed, ‘Once you teach them how to eat, you teach them how to grow in a way that is fulfilling and natural.’ He showed us the goodness from the earth, which is God’s goodness from the earth, which led to us growing up in a very healthy way, with healthy thoughts. I must say, that’s the best love you could ever show somebody.
What is the best present Dr. Sebi ever gave you and why was it so special?
The best present I ever received from my father was a special, material fabric from Zimbabwe. I was just finishing nursing school and he said to me, ‘I don’t know why at this time you want to be a nurse, because you’re more than that, but you’ve done good. I brought you something back because I never want you to forget who you are, no matter what you do for a living and I want you to have this. I want you to carry a piece of it on you wherever you are.” So, I took it and I made a sash out of it and I wore it during graduation from nursing school. I still have it today in a stash.
The material is so special to me because it means, ‘Never forget who you are.’ During our long walks, he taught me that my story did not start with slavery here in America. He would say, ‘Your story didn’t start here, so don’t accept the fact that slavery was the beginning of your story. That’s not who you are. Always remember who you are, where you come from, what’s important to you and what’s important about where you come from first. Slavery was not the beginning of your story, your story started in Africa. You were born in America, but your story didn’t begin here, it began in Africa.’
My dad washed my soul with those powerful words that tethered me to my original identity, an identity that had origins with the Maasai tribe in Africa. I began to look beyond magazines here in America, as my parents taught me more about my true worth. What I take from my father saying these things to me is to celebrate who I am, my hair and my nose, which are not celebrated here in America. He was saying that I am enough, that I am strong. I live in that strength.
What’s next for you?
What’s next for me is a spring water line. I will be reopening my Atlanta store and it will be based on the walks I shared with my father in Honduras. I call it ‘The Honduran Experience,’ where I’ve created our walks in Honduras on the walls.
For more information on the entrepreneur and to support her Black-owned business, visit SebisDaughters.com.