Covering Washington politics. From our vantage point. One day a time.

Friday, April 5, 2013

African American Think Tank Group to Obama: End The War on Drugs

Speaking at the National Press Club yesterday, Dr. Ron Daniels, noted lecturer at York College City University of New York and president of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century has an immediate call to action and fervent message for President Obama: Stop ignoring the plight of African Americans.

Dr. Ron Daniels at National Press Club announcing IBW's Day of Direct Action. Photo/CD Brown.
When 27 elementary children at a Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut were assassinated during on a regular school day, President Obama was there - front and center - vowing for tougher gun laws. When a hurricane and winds pummeled cities and towns of New Jersey last year, President Obama was there.  To thwart women being discriminated against in the work place, President Obama took swift and immediate action.

As the president continues his push for the rights of the middle class, immigration reform (mainly for those of Hispanic descent), and equal treatment for LGBT communities, many are noticing that the president has had little to say or do with the concerns of inner-city communities.  One such concern is the so-called War on Drugs that has incarcerated more than a million African Americans across the nation.

Says Daniels, "For far too long, this nation has ignored the myriad crises in urban inner-city neighborhoods, choosing instead to substitute paramilitary policing tactics like stop-and-frisk, tougher sentencing, and mass incarceration for social, economic and racial justice."

The press conference, held on the memorial of the April 4, 1967 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, and his iconic speech Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence, also served as the announcement of the IBW's June 17th, 2013 Day of Direct Action which will call upon President Obama to:
  • Intensify efforts to eliminate the disparity in sentencing between powdered and crack cocaine
  • Issue an Executive Order terminating the War on Drugs, replacing it with a national initiative that treats drugs and drug addition as a public heath issue.
  • Issue an Executive Order ending the practice of using incarcerated persons as prison labor.
  • Publicly support decriminalization of the possession of small quantities of marijuana.
  • Allocate more federal funds for drug education, counseling and treatment.
  • Mobilize moral and political support for direct public sector jobs and sustainable economic development programs with priority inclusion of formerly incarcerated persons targeted to transform distressed Black communities.
  • Form a Presidential Commission to initiate a National Dialogue on the regulation and taxation of drugs.
In a 2012 article written in the Washington Post by Columbia University professor Frederick Harris, Still Waiting For Our First Black President, Harris purports to reveal and vent what appears to be his own frustrations with how the president seems ignore immediate concerns within the African American community.

Writes Harris, "Obama has pursued a racially defused electoral and governing strategy, keeping issues of specific interest to African Americans — such as disparities in the criminal justice system; the disproportionate impact of the foreclosure crisis on communities of color; black unemployment; and the persistence of HIV/AIDS — off the national agenda.

To its credit, however, in April of 2012, the Obama administration released its 21st Century Drug Policy Strategy claiming to outline "113 specific actions to be undertaken throughout the Federal government to reform U.S. drug policy through innovative and evidence-based public health and safety approaches aimed at reducing drug use and its consequences."

Gil Kerlikowske, the Obama Administration's Director of National Drug Control Policy was on the record saying, “Outdated policies like the mass incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders are relics of the past that ignore the need for a balanced public health and safety approach to our drug problem", adding, "...we cannot simply arrest our way out of the drug problem.”

Writes Daniels, in his essay, President Obama Ignores Crises in America's Dark Ghettoes, "Mr. President, it's time for a wake-up call". 

"The agenda you have put forth is commendable, but it simply does not go far enough to combat the crises in urban inner-city neighborhoods.  We respect you, but just as MLK, Jr. and other civil rights leaders were compelled to confront John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson to demand government action to end southern apartheid, we today must raise our voices to demand social and economic justice for distressed Black communities.  There is a growing concensus among civil right/human rights and political leaders in Black America that you must call for and educate the American people on the urgent need for social and economic policies and programs targeted directly to ending the State of Emergency in America's dark ghettos."

The press conference also addressed the difficulties of returning citizens to find viable employment.  (Incidentally, today, the White House released employment figures for March).  The presser also addressed the stigmas associated with being a convicted felon, as well as stop-and-frisk policies being implemented nationwide.

The Day of Action date, June 17th, coincides with the War On Drug policy expanded by President Ronald Reagan, which many have called a failed policy.

WATCH: Testimony, Recordings at Trial Reveal the Racial Biases and Arrest Quotas Behind NYPD’s Stop & Frisk
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