Though scheduling conflicts with protests aimed at the National Rifle Association’s convention forced the cancellation of planned summit events, the National Council for Urban Peace and Justice rallied at Freedom Corner in Pittsburgh’s Hill District calling for an urban agenda to address problems in the Black community.

Joined by a small but determined group of supporters that included Black Empowerment Project Director Tim Stevens and Hill Consensus Group Co-convener Carl Redwood Jr., NCUPJ President Khalid Raheem said political leaders need to join the fight.

URBAN AGENDA—National Council for Urban Peace and Justice President Khalid Raheem calls for an Urban Marshall Plan to address violence, unemployment and inequality in the Black community.

“Our focus is on violence in the Black community, but with disproportionately large numbers of African-American males represented in the criminal justice system, high unemployment and high dropout rates, we need a comprehensive urban agenda,” he said. “We need to pressure local, regional and federal government officials to address the issues of drugs, violence and mass incarceration.”

Raheem said while work continues on issues ranging from police brutality, political prisoners, access to healthcare and racial inequality, addressing neighborhood violence is of paramount importance. And the first step toward that involves drug decriminalization efforts.

“We are currently involved with the folks at on a national decriminalization campaign,” he said. “In Pennsylvania, we’ve gone from seven state penitentiaries to 35 state facilities that are disproportionately filled with Black men for non-violent drug offenses. That means they aren’t in the community and we have an explosion of single-mother households.”

Raheem said the campaign calls for:

•Repealing legislation and criminal codes that criminalize drug use, sales and low-level distribution that contributes to mass incarceration.

•Development of a comprehensive AMNESTY PROGRAM for those convicted of drug related offenses in order to address issues of structural bias and inequality;

•Replacing the law enforcement focus with focus on recovery, rehabilitation and treatment;

•Providing comprehensive social service and human development support services such as counseling, therapy, housing, employment, job training and life skills, and

•Ending the epidemic of urban violence has been exacerbated by the “war on drugs” and used as a pretext to justify containment and disfranchisement.

“What we’re looking at is an urban Marshall Plan for jobs and treatment,” he said.

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