(PHOTOS) IBW Call to Action to End Mass Incarceration & War on Drugs

By Nick Westbrooks @NickWestbrooks

End the War

WASHINGTON (June 17, 2013) – D.C. residents and national supporters alongside the Institute of the Black World marched and rallied today in front of the White House urging the Obama Administration to end mass incarceration and the War on Drugs.

The Direct Day of Action marks the 42nd anniversary of the War on Drugs, and it brought a plethora of speakers including clergy men (Yes, they were all men.), leaders of community organizations relating to the criminal [in]justice system, law enforcement and reentry as well as activists and politicians. Rev. Jesse Jackson was the keynote speaker, and Mark Thompson the host of Make it Plain on Sirius/XM radio moderated the event. The youngest and the probably the only young person that spoke was Hip-Hop artist and activist Jasiri X who delivered a few rhymes before engaging in a brief speech on the criminal [in]justice system’s attack on the youth.

A few people held signs that read “the War on Drugs is a war on us” [Black people]. Unfair sentencing laws for nonviolent drug offenses and mass incarceration disproportionately affect African people in the United States. Activists fighting against the system constantly reference Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow to put the relationship between slavery/Jim Crowism and the current Black prison population into perspective.

Advocates are calling for federal intervention in particular for President Obama to end mass incarceration and the War on Drugs through either Congressional legislation or executive order. After its inception 42 years ago by President Nixon, families and communities have been destroyed by the War on Drugs, and many Americans are tired of it. Most supporters would prefer the government to focus on drug rehab, mental health and job creation.

Although the rally was small in number, the energy was powerful, and the message will get out to the masses through the various media outlets that were present –both national and international– and the influence of social media and the Internet. Petitioning the federal government is a step towards ending mass incarceration and the War on Drugs, but as Salim Adofo from the National Black United Front (NBUF) said, we need our own people in the boardrooms to change policy as well as the street soldiers in the community reaching out to the grassroots. We must unite across organizations, faiths and races and  implement all tactics and use all avenues to obtain the change we want to see.

View some of the photos from today’s rally below:

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Memorial Day: Remembering Our Service People at Home

Every year at this time, Memorial Day is observed. It’s a time when Americans remember the service people who fought and died in the country’s various wars from the birth of this nation through the present day.  The United States habitually involves itself in wars and conflicts abroad, declared or undeclared. In history classes, students learn about these battles and acknowledge the entirely too many lives lost in combat overseas.

Unfortunately, the history books and Memorial Day observers fail to acknowledge and memorialize the soldiers who lost their lives fighting in wars at home and quite inexplicably, against home. I don’t mean the government and mainstream media-spawned “War on Drugs” and “War on Terror,” although this message is also dedicated to the victims of these illusory wars.

In essence, I’m referring to the wars declared against individuals who merely wanted to enjoy their so-called irrevocable human rights but were denied such by the powers that be. During World War II, Black people across the country championed the Double V campaign in which African Americans committed to victory over totalitarianism abroad and victory over racism and discrimination on the home front.

Since the 1940s, the reasons for America’s involvement in conflicts abroad have changed on the surface from combating communism to suppressing terrorism. Nevertheless, Americans pay homage to those service people who gave their lives fighting in America’s wars, whether justifiable or unjustifiable.

Although the Double V campaign was probably the only official campaign waged, Blacks and other marginalized minority groups have always fought against ostracism at home and against home. Just like the conflicts abroad, an exorbitant number of lives were lost on America’s soil. The sources of death have transformed from lynchings to trigger-happy law enforcement, capital punishment and vigilante oppression.

On Memorial Day, we remember the deceased soldiers killed in other countries at the expense of “politics as usual” and America’s greed. Why can’t we salute our deceased freedom fighters who shed blood in the struggle for our God-given rights?

This is not to discount the contributions of the men and women of the U.S. armed services, and it’s not a critical analysis of foreign policy and defense. I appreciate our service people for sacrificing it all, but this is a call to recognize—on Memorial Day—soldiers of another sort who paid that same ultimate price.