STATE REP. ED GAINEY
Brandi Fisher believes the war on drugs is really about a war on Africa-Americans.
“The war on drugs feeds prisons and turns our communities into prisons outside of those four walls,” she said.
Fisher, president, Alliance for Police Accountability, was among the panelists in the NAACP town hall meeting, “Ending the War on Drugs.”
The town hall meeting was part of the civil rights group’s Northeast Regional Civil Rights Training Institute.
Panelist Michael Skolnik, Global Grind editor and chief and political director to business magnate Russell Simmons, evoked the memory of slain civil rights leader, Rev. Martin Luther King, to make a point.
“When I see the destruction that this horrific and unjust war has caused specifically to Black communities, but also Latino communities as well, across this country; I think about what King said about the rights you take for granted are worthless unless you fight for those same rights for others.” Skolnik said to the hundreds of people gathered in the auditorium at CCAC’s Allegheny Campus.
He talked about being White and why because of his race he should do more to champion against the ills facing the African-American community.
“I have a responsibility with that White privilege to do something,” he said.
The war on drugs, Skolnik said is perhaps the issue that he and Simmons care the most about ending.
Also on the panel was Pennsylvania State Rep. Ed Gainey who got personal as he discussed the scourge of drugs. He recalled how the high-rise in East Liberty, where he grew up, has been ravaged by the illegal narcotics trade.
“In 20 years I’ve seen so many drug addictions. People sleeping in the stairways. People sleeping in the laundry room. Human feces. Children walking by this every single day,” he said.
But, Gainey did more than lament how bad things were in the neighborhood of his youth. Speaking in a tone, much like a preacher delivering a fiery sermon on Sunday morning, he denounced what he called the “federal lie.” He zeroed in on the much quoted theme of former first lady Nancy Reagan whose idea in the 1980s for young people to not get hooked on drugs was to just say no.
“It was the biggest lie I ever heard in my life.” Gainey said while pointing out what he saw as a federal government contradiction after Mrs. Reagan launched that drug abuse campaign.
“From that time on how many wars have we financed with drug money? We stipulated an economy out of drug money and then we created sub-cultures called the penitentiary. Ran drugs through the African-American and Latino communities. Fueled the jail system through drugs that they bought to fund the war.”
Celebrated hip-hop artist Jasiri X takes record companies and rappers to task for contributing to the problem. He cited a popular song by Rick Ross that referenced cocaine, that he heard being heavily played on a New York City radio station.
“A lot of time as artists, we’re glamorizing the very thing that’s imprisoning and hurting our community,” he said.
But through his organization, One Hood, hip-hop has made positive changes in communities, Jasiri X said, where there might be problems because people didn’t get along because someone was from a different “hood” or neighborhood.
“We use hip-hop, being from the hip-hop generation, as a way to begin to do things to bring these communities and neighborhoods together.”
(Reach Tene’ Croom at firstname.lastname@example.org.)