While at the UNGASS 2016 there were two other gatherings that really enlightened people as to what the Drug War is really about.
The Drug Policy Alliance had it’s Partner’s gathering. Asha Bandele of the Drug Policy Alliance called for all of those around the country to gather as they do every year in a real and intentional way.
She brought in all the State Partners of DPA that consist of a very diverse group, from Lawyers, educators, and entrepreneurs, to those that are directly impacted, active users, and Politicians.
We were all Blessed to go to Columbia University and be in the classroom and in the midst of the brilliant Dr. Carl Hart who wrote the book ” High Priced “.
Asha Bandele selected a very diverse group of us to be on different panels that fit our expertise on different parts of the Drug War. These panels were very educational expressing the benefits of those of us in the room. Yes Dr. Hart’s classroom which actually turned out to be an auditorium that seated the 350 or more very comfortably. Ethan Nadelmann and Stephen Gutwillig had to be very happy at the attendance and what took place. This prepared a lot of us for the next few days at the United Nations and the UNGASS 2016. It really helped some of us that have not been abroad to see this Drug War from a Global perspective. It also gave some of us more insight about this War on Drugs.
You see even though we fight this War on Drugs we all do it from our own interest and our experience, or education. Being in the room with each other made us all look at it in a different light. In most of the cases it made us see our own bias and prejudice that we were not even aware existed within ourselves. We all starting looking at politicians differently when the Mayor from a small town in New York spoke and said what they were doing in his town. It made white people look at themselves differently when Shilo expressed how him being a White male gave him some privilege, and how “white folks need to be the ones to address white folks”. I myself along with other men in the room had to look at how we treat women and make sure that we are not being misogynistic.
Yes after that Monday we were really ready for UNGASS 2016. We left there with a clear mind of the fight, no war, we were in and why. Who it was targeting, who were the most vulnerable, who we were, and how we could really help one another. That Partner’s gathering eradicated and destroyed even the myths and misunderstandings between our own ranks. We all left there knowing that we had everything and everyone we needed to win this War right within our own ranks and what a refreshing moment it is to be there.
Not only did we get to visit the infamous Columbia University and be in the classroom/auditorium of Dr. Hart but we gained a new respect for those that are in this struggle with us.
We went from there to an Ethiopian Restaurant traveling through New York City on customized buses that accommodated us in every way. Enjoying the great food and Honey WINE that they’re famous for.
The next day when you would think that things could not get any better; they did. We went to ( on those same exquisite buses) the Museum of Drug Policy. I’m still flabbergasted at the detailed displays that were there. ( see pictures below ). I was particularly interested in the make shift cell. It was created just right, if you can call solitary confinement and caging people like animals right. But anyway it had all the particulars in it. The steel bed, the concrete block walls, and the aluminum looking sink/toilet bowl. I will never forget the two years I spent in those cells while doing my 14 year bid in Florida Department of Corrections counting those blocks. The Inhumane treatment I received that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. They even had the sound of the banging and hollering that you hear in those solitary confinement dorms 24 hours a day. Someone really took the time to capture the most degrading time a person could ever have in life. Outside of the cell was letters written by people incarcerated. I cannot stand for people to call us ” inmates, ex-felons, ex-convicts, or ex-offenders. That’s like calling me a ” nigger “. Even though some may say it’s not racism, it’s definitely classism and that’s just as bad. THEN there was this picture of a black man in handcuffs and shackles from the old slavery times looking at another black man in handcuffs and shackles with an orange jumpsuit on from any given county jail of the day. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one captures not only a thousand words, but a thousand years of oppression. We did panels at the Museum that was facilitated by Melony who works with Gabriel Sayegh and Lorenzo Jones at KATAL. While I was there I seen a few friends I had not seen in a while Tamika Mallory and Rachel Noerdlinger who helped in the displays and exhibits at the Museum of Drug Policy.
It was AMAZING !!!