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Institute of the Black World announces ‘Day of Direct Action’

By Hazel Trice Edney
Trice Edney Newswire

An organization that is escalating its call for the end to America’s so-called ‘war on drugs’ is organizing a ‘Day of Direct Action’ with a goal of pressuring President Barack Obama to address ways to repair the havoc the ‘war’ has wreaked in  Black communities.

“Against the back drop of what the Institute of the Black World 21st Century believes is a state of emergency in urban, inner city neighborhoods, which we are calling dark ghettos, we come today to announce a day of direct action, Monday, June 17, to call upon President Barack Obama to end the war on drugs and mass incarceration and to invest in America’s dark ghettos,” said IBW President Ron Daniels at a press conference held April 4 at the National Press Club.

Daniels has established a coalition of like-minded groups called a “justice collaborative” in order to tackle the problems from several directions. The “Day of Action” will encompass a rally of sorts outside the White House.

Courtney Stewart, chairman of the D.C.-based Re-entry Network for Returning Citizens described how he has experienced injustices first hand:

“A lot of us, when we come home, we’re confused because we have to go from pillar to post to get papers signed and people shuffling us here and promising us jobs and referring us to this place and referring us to that place. We can’t go back — in many cases — to our communities; so therefore there’s a housing issue. Fifty percent of those who return to the district report to a shelter. That’s just like leaving prison A and going to prison B. The only difference is the shelter has no supervision. You have rape, drugs and all the other things that you can get caught up in that sends you right back through the system.”

It takes an inmate nine months to two years to find a job after getting out of prison, causing hardships — for even non-violent offenders — that could land him or her back in prison, he added.

A former inmate at the Lorton Reformatory, who was released in 1985, Stewart quoted Dr. King’s letter from the Birmingham Jail in order to make his point, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

It was 42 years ago that President Richard M. Nixon started the “War on Drugs.” It was said to be aimed at illegal importation as well as the street-level demand for illegal drugs. But, more than four decades later, the most visible and dominant results has been intensified police focus in Black communities, resulting in astronomical rates of Black males in prisons; hundreds of thousands of Blacks and Latinos dead from gun violence; and police corruption, including profiling, brutality, and abuse of power.

“We’ve come today to claim that we’ve suffered enough and suffered is the operative word. It’s time to bring an end to an ill-conceived and destructive policy and strategy,” Daniels said. Referencing a poster on the wall behind him, he said the logo for the initiative “graphically illustrates and depicts what millions of Black people know to be the truth. The war on drugs is a war on us.”

IBW actually first announced its initiative two years ago upon the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s initiative. At that 2011 forum, dozens of social and political activists — including the Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., then CBCF President Dr. Elsie Scott, and U. S. Rep. John Conyers — gathered to discuss the extreme social ramifications of the anti-drug measures. Since then, not much has changed about the following statistics:

-Black men are sent to state prisons on drug charges at 13 times the rate of white men.

-Drug transactions among Blacks are easier for police to target because they more often happen in public than do drug transactions between whites.

-The disparities are particularly tragic in individual states where Black men are sent to federal prison on drug charges at a rate 57 times greater than white men, according to Human Rights Watch.

-More than 25.4 million Americans have been arrested on drug charges since 1980; about one-third of them were Black.

-The Black populations in state prisons are majorly disproportionate: For example, in Georgia, the Black population is 29 percent, the Black prison population is 54 percent; Arkansas 16 percent to 52 percent; Louisiana 33 percent to 76 percent; Mississippi 36 percent to 75 percent; Alabama 26 percent to 65 percent; Tennessee 16 percent to 63 percent; Kentucky 7 percent to 36 percent; South Carolina 30 percent to 69 percent; North Carolina 22 percent to 64 percent; and Virginia 20 percent to 68 percent.

-According to the Global Commission on Drug Policy arresting and incarcerating people fills prisons and destroys lives but does not reduce the availability of illicit drugs or the power of criminal organizations.

-States are spending approximately $17 million per day to imprison drug offenders or more than $6.2 billion per year.

These statistics reveal the need to take a holistic approach to dealing with low-income and impoverished communities, which means just ending the war on drugs is not enough, Daniels says.

“For far too long, this nation has ignored the myriad crises in urban inner-city neighborhoods, choosing instead to substitute paramilitary policing tactics like stop-and-frisk, tougher sentencing and mass incarceration for social, economic and racial justice,” Daniels said. “The levels of joblessness, underemployment, inferior education, crime, violence and fratricide in America’s dark ghettos is unacceptable, a moral and political crisis which cries out for presidential leadership to promote the development of wholesome, sustainable communities.”

Among the solutions IBW is pushing:

-Intensify efforts to eliminate the disparity in sentencing  between powdered and crack cocaine.

-Issue an Executive Order terminating the War on Drugs and replacing it with a national initiative that treats drugs and drug addiction as a public health issue.

-Issue an Executive Order ending the practice of using incarcerated persons as prison labor.

-Publicly support decriminalization of the possession of small quantities of Marijuana.

-Allocate more federal funds for drug education, counseling and treatment.

-Form a Presidential Commission to initiate a National Dialogue on the regulation and taxation of drugs.

-Mobilize moral and political support for direct public sector jobs and sustainable economic development programs with priority inclusion of formerly incarcerated persons targeted to transform distressed Black communities.

Daniel’s concluded in his statement, “Black people marched on ballot boxes in overwhelming numbers to ensure the re-election of President Obama. Now it is time for the President to directly respond to the State of Emergency in America’s dark ghettos…Thus far, the response from the White House on these vital issues has been grossly insufficient. Therefore, those who marched on ballot boxes in the presidential election must march/assemble at the gates of the White House as “drum majors” for justice to underscore the urgent need for the President to decisively act on this issue.”

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