Thursday, November 17, 2005

A bigger tent. A stronger movement.

Along with more than 100 SSDPers and a thousand other reformers from around the world, I attended the International Drug Policy Conference held last week in Long Beach, CA.


The breadth of information, concern, and participation was so intense that I am still reflecting and unpacking my thoughts five days later. As always, I am continually amazed by our student activists who are so passionate and accomplish so much.

One recurrent theme throughout the entire conference was the lack of diversity within the drug policy reform movement. I was impressed by the level of attention that conference organizers paid to the need for broadening our tent. An impromptu plenary session, featuring Ira Glasser and Cliff Thornton, linked the drug war to a dark history of oppression, from slavery to Jim Crow. Subsequently, the DPR movement was framed as the successor to the civil rights movement.

Let me restate that: Our movement is the current civil rights movement.

This should make us take serious reflection on our intentions and the urgency with which we conduct our work. We should also take a look around our tent and start asking hard questions about why so many of those faces are so pale. Although people of color are the disproportionate targets of drug war oppression, they are not proportionately represented in our movement. If we truly believe that our movement is one that is fundamentally about justice - and we do! - then justice dictates that we should be linking our arms with those who bear the brunt of drug war brutality.

Reflection is important. Discussion is critical. But, ultimately what really counts is whether or not we act to widen our movement and work alongside those who bear the deep scars of the drug war.

We all heard the calls from Rev. Kenny Glasgow at the Ordinary People Society and Judge Arthur Burnett of the National African American Drug Policy Coalition, among others, to act. We all squirmed and we were all uncomfortable. Good. Now, let's do something about it.

In solidarity,

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