Religious Leaders, Treatment Providers and Civil Rights Advocates to Call for End to Racial Injustice in U.S. War on Drugs
Black Men Imprisoned for Drug Offenses at 13 Times the Rate of White Men
The Campaign to End Race Discrimination in the War on Drugs, an ad-hoc coalition of drug policy reform advocates, is calling for an end to the apartheid-like American criminal justice system fueled by the war on drugs. They hope to make the drug war one of the more prominent issues addressed in Durban, South Africa during the upcoming World Conference Against Racism.
The coalition, which consists of human rights activists, treatment service providers, and drug policy experts, will encourage the thousands of conference participants to examine the racism inherent in the enforcement of U.S. drug policy.
While rates of drug use are roughly equal across race, for example, African-American men are imprisoned for drug offenses at 13 times the rate of white men. In addition, almost half of those arrested for marijuana offenses are Latino.
"The drug war is one of the most serious obstacles to achieving racial justice both in the U.S. and internationally," said Deborah Small, Public Policy Director at The Lindesmith Center - Drug Policy Foundation (Lindesmith - DPF), the nation's leading organization promoting drug policies based on science, public health, common sense and human rights. In an effort to put pressure on American policymakers, the Campaign will release a sign-on letter addressed to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan calling on leaders in the African diaspora and the international community at large to voice their opposition to the racist pursuit of the U.S. led war on drugs.
Individual interviews with the delegates and background information on the drug war are available upon request. Delegates' biographies follow.
Campaign to End Race Discrimination in the War on Drugs
WCAR Delegate Biographies
Eddie Ellis, President of the Community Justice Center, Inc. in New York City. Ellis serves on both the National Criminal Justice Commission and the New York City Commission on Human Rights Board of Advisors. He is a member of the New York State Latino Commission on AIDS, and is a consultant for the New York State Black and Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus. A former leader of the Black Panther Party, Ellis served 25 years in prison for a crime he maintains he did not commit.
James E. Ferguson II is the president and senior partner of Ferguson, Stein, Wallas, Adkins, Gresham and Sumter, one the nation's leading civil rights law firms. He is known nationally and internationally for his tireless work in fighting discrimination in the criminal justice system, including his representation of the Wilmington Ten and the Charlotte Three, two groups of civil rights activists who were among the first persons in the United States to be declared "international prisoners of conscience" by Amnesty International. He established the first trial advocacy program in South Africa and dedicated the program to training Black lawyers for the fight against apartheid. He was recognized by the National Law Journal in 1989 as one of the nations top ten trial lawyers. He has been listed in two categories in every edition of the book, The Best Lawyers in America. Ferguson is a leader in the ACLU, currently serving as one of its General Counsel and on the National Board and Executive Committee.
Onaje Mu'id, human rights activist, is the international commissioner of N'COBRA, and the Malik Shabazz Human Rights Institute representative to WCAR. A credentialled alcoholism substance abuse counselor, he has an extensive fifteen year history in the drug prevention and treatment profession. Mu'id served as the UN representative for the International Human Rights Association for American Minorities, where he organized a forum on the impact of the illicit drug trade on national minorities for a special UN session on the drug trade. He formerly served as policy chair for the New York chapter of the National Black Alcohol and Addiction Council. He is currently employed as a Director of Phoenix House, the nation's leading non-profit substance abuse treatment organization. As a co-founder of the Resocialization Drug treatment model, as created by Phase: Piggy Back, Inc., he advocates culturally relevant treatment theories and practices, and remains a staunch activist for group rights.
Rev. Edwin Sanders, Senior Servant and Founder of the Metropolitan Interdenominational Church, which has outreach ministries in the areas of substance abuse, harm reduction, and servicing persons infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS. His extensive work in the field of HIV/AIDS includes serving on the CDC Advisory Committee on HIV and STD Prevention, serving on the Steering Committee of Harvard University AIDS Institute's "Leading for Life" program, and presenting at the last two World AIDS Conferences . Sanders is a member of the Tennessee Human Rights Commission, and has served as Pastoral Counselor for the Meharry Medical College Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program.
Sharda Sekaran, Associate Director of Public Policy and Community Outreach at Lindesmith - DPF. Sekaran has spent years travelling internationally to research discriminatory government policies and ethnic conflict resolution. She has worked with the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch in Washington, DC, tracking the flow of small arms and inhumane weapons used in violation of international human rights law. Currently, as an advocate of drug policy reform, Sekaran regularly speaks to youth, students, elected officials, educators, health professionals, and others on the topic of the failed drug war.
Deborah Small, Director of Public Policy and Community Outreach, Lindesmith - DPF. In this role she coordinates Lindesmith - DPF's state based legislative initiatives to reduce harms caused by punitive drug policies. She also serves as Lindesmith - DPF's main ambassador for drug policy reform. She speaks regularly about the failures of the "war on drugs" to legislators, religious leaders, parents, community leaders and others. Small is a graduate of Harvard Law School and the Kennedy School of Government.
Susan Tucker, Director of The After-Prison Initiative, one of the ten U.S. programs of the Open Society Institute (OSI), a not-for-profit operating and research foundation established by international financier George Soros to promote civil society. While at OSI, Tucker has helped launch a community re-integration campaign designed to break the cycle of incarceration and reduce racial and economic disparity in the criminal justice system. Tucker served as Director of Policy and Research for Victim Services in New York City, the nation's most comprehensive victim assistance organization, where she worked with urban victims of crime and violence. While at Victim Services, she oversaw the evaluation of a harm reduction approach to working with street youth and revised English as a Second Language programs to include anti-racist curricula. Tucker is a graduate of New York University School of Law.
Alicia Young, Attorney, ACLU National Drug Policy Litigation Project. At the ACLU, Young has successfully represented needle exchange participants in their suit to stop police harassment. She is currently developing cases to redress racially targeted drug sweeps, and is active in a national ACLU campaign to register former offenders in states where they can get back their vote after completion of their sentences. Prior to joining the ACLU staff, Young worked for the Manhattan Office of the Appellate Defender. She has also served as a Fellow with the Ford Foundation, where she made funding recommendations and assisted in portfolio development for the Peace and Social Justice Program Area. Young is a graduate of the University of North Carolina School of Law, and received her B.A. in French and Philosophy from Northwestern University.
- Daniel N. Abrahamson, Director of Legal Affairs for Lindesmith - DPF and Adjunct Professor of Law at Boalt Hall (University of California-Berkeley) and Hastings College of the Law. Among his legal efforts, Abrahamson has helped represent pregnant and parenting women, primarily African-American, targeted for criminal sanctions as a result of their drug dependence. He is a graduate of New York University School of Law and received his B.A. from Yale University and his M.A. from Oxford University.