Press Release  | 01/06/2011

Civil Rights, Criminal Justice and Drug Policy Reformers to Hold Town Hall Forum to Commemorate Dr. Martin Luther King's Legacy

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Advocates, Scholars and Activists to Gather in Washington, DC on January 14 to Demand Exit Strategy from 40-Year-Long War On Drugs

Participants to Address Racial Profiling, Mass Incarceration, Prohibition-Related Violence, and Their Impact on Black Communities

WASHINGTON, DC— Is the disparate impact of the war on drugs on black communities the next big civil rights struggle? Why are black men imprisoned for drug offenses at 13 times the rate of white men despite equal rates of drug use and selling across races? How do we begin to address the connections between astronomical rates of incarceration, disintegration of black families, and the war on drugs?

These questions and many more will be addressed at a town hall gathering to commemorate Dr. King's birthday in Washington, D.C, on Friday, January 14 at First Baptist Church (712 Randolph St. N.W., Washington, DC) from 6:30-9p.m. The town hall is organized by the Drug Policy Alliance, the Institute of the Black World 21st Century / Black Family Summit, the National Conference of Black Lawyers, and the Black Leadership Commission on AIDS of DC and Vicinity.

The town hall meeting – "Ending the 40 Year Drug War: Promoting Policies That Rebuild/Reclaim Our Families and Communities" – will bring together a diverse group of scholars, community activists, social service providers, and religious and political leaders. They will discuss viable alternatives to the quagmire of the misdirected war on drugs, which has torn apart the fabric of many communities.

Speakers and panelists include:

  • Dr. Tricia Bent-Goodley, Professor, Howard University, School of Social Work
  • Dr. Annelle Primm, Director of Minority and National Affairs, American Psychiatric Association
  • Ethan Nadelmann, Executive Director, Drug Policy Alliance
  • Judge Arthur Burnett, Executive Director, National African American Drug Policy Coalition, Howard University School of Law
  • Dr. Ron Daniels, President, Institute of the Black World 21st Century
  • Dr. Divine Pryor, Executive Director, Center for NuLeadership on Urban Solutions
  • Rev. Frank D. Tucker, Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church
  • Asha Bandele, Director, Advocacy Grants Program, Drug Policy Alliance
  • Nkechi Taifa, Esq., Senior Policy Analyst, Open Society Institute

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the failed war on drugs. The casualties of this war have come from low-income and communities of color. High rates of incarceration, fueled in large part by the war on drugs, have led to a breakdown in trust between law enforcement and the communities that they strive to serve and protect. The war on drugs is also responsible for premature deaths from preventable diseases such as Hepatitis C and HIV among injecting drug users.

The collateral damage of the drug war has resulted in overwhelming barriers to the creation of vibrant, sustainable and healthy communities. Today, civil rights advocates are honoring Dr. King's legacy by standing up against the "new Jim Crow" – mass incarceration and the racially disproportionate war on drugs.

Tony Newman at 646-335-5384 or Yolande Cadore at 646-508-1790

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