The Institute for the Black World 21st Century, in conjunction with the Black family Summit, will host a forum on Saturday June 17 at the National Press Club in Washington, DC to examine the nation’s 40-year “War on Drugs,” and its impact on the Black community. The event, framed by the theme “Declaring War on the ‘War on Drug’ – Creating Just and Humane Alternatives to a Failed Strategy,” will take place at 12:00 noon and will feature the Rev. Jesse Jackson, president of Rainbow/PUSH Coalition as the keynote speaker.
The forum is taking place against the nation’s continued struggles to curtail the rampant distribution and use of illegal narcotics. Since the late President Richard Nixon’s “get tough on crime” approach, the nation has pursued a strategy to halt the trafficking of illegal drugs in the country that has failed to do so and consequently result the mass incarceration of African-Americans. The disparity in sentencing for cocaine convictions, with crack cocaine defendants receiving harsher sentences than those found trafficking powder cocaine is but one example of how the judicial system has driven inequities in the criminal justice system. With Blacks more likely to be convicted of the former, the nation’s prison system has been disproportionately populated with Black men. Dr. Ron Daniels, president of IBW and a contributor to NorthStar News notes, “Far from stemming the tide of illegal drugs, the War on Drugs quickly became a war on us. Black communities have been a primary target for selective policing practices that have resulted in the mass incarceration of millions of Black people. Families have been disrupted and communities devastated by a racially biased policy. It is time to declare war on the war on drugs and vigorously explore just and humane alternatives to a failed strategy. ”
Joining Rev. Jackson for the event will be a stellar roster of political leaders and policy analysts, including: Dr. Elsie Scott, President, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc; Congressman John Conyers, Jr, Ranking Member, House Judiciary Committee; Congressman Robert C. "Bobby" Scott, Ranking Member, Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security; Richard Adams, Chairman, IBW Board; Leonard Dunston, Convener, Black Family Summit; Dr. Edwin Chapman, MD, Medical Director, Washington, D.C. Drug Treatment Center; Kinaya Sokoya, Executive Director, D.C. Children’s Trust Fund; Rev. Dr. Frank Tucker, Chairman, Greater Washington, D.C. Area National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS; Dr. Benson Cooke, President, National Association of Black Psychologists; Sanho Tree, Fellow and Director, Drug Policy Project, Institute for Policy Studies; Deborah Small, Director, Breaking the Chains: Communities of Color and the War on Drugs; Judge Arthur Burnette, Director, African American Drug Policy Coalition; Jasmine Tyler, Deputy Director of National Affairs, Drug Policy Alliance; Robert Rooks, NAACP Criminal Justice Director, and, Neill Franklin, Executive Director, Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.
Noting Rev. Jackson’s role as keynote speaker for the event, Dr. Daniels said, “No one has been more consistent and persistent in analyzing and sounding the alarm about the flaws and egregious consequences of America’s criminal justice policies and priorities than Rev. Jesse Jackson. Therefore, we felt it appropriate that Rev. Jackson once again give the nation the benefit of his knowledge and experience of crusading against a failed strategy for the past four decades.” During the event Dr. Daniels will issue a “Call to Action” to confront the crisis of drug trafficking and use in the Black community. Attorney Nkechi Taifa, Senior Policy Analyst for the Open Society Institute, will serve as moderator for the event.
The program is part of an extended series of activities during the month of June that IBW is sponsoring with the Black Family Summit to examine the “War on Drugs.” The two organizations will conduct a multi-year national dialogue and educational campaign to mobilize support for alternatives to the nation’s current drug policies. The Black Family Summit is comprised of a number of Black professional organizations including the National Association of Black Social Workers, National Association of Blacks in Criminal Justice, National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, National Association of Black Psychologists, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, National Association of Black Psychiatrists of America, National Medical Association, All Healers Mental Health Alliance, Nation of Islam, Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference, National Black United Front, International Association of Black Professional Fire Fighters, The Black Farmers and Agriculturist Association, Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions and Black Administrators in Child Welfare.