First Stop on The Journey for Justice
a report by Kevin Zeese
posted at DrugWar.com October 15, 2002
Below is a report on the first stop of the Journey
for Justice. The Journey will becoming to DC on November 1.
I hope we can produce events that get the full advantage of their
visit to the DC Area. If anyone is interested in planning an event
at their school or other location while the Journey is in town
please let me know- Kevin
I just returned from the first stop on the
Coalition's Journey for Justice. The Journey had an incredibly
strong send off from the Detroit/Ann Arbor communities. They set
a standard for other communities to emulate, meet and hopefully
-- as good as Detroit was -- surpass!
Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D- MI)
The Michigan stop included seven events,
along with a number of media opportunities. As Congressman
John Conyers, the ranking member of the Judiciary
Committee in the US House of Representatives (and who will
be Chairman of Judiciary if the Democrats retake the House) said
at the main event in Detroit -- "If the victims
of the drug war stand united they will form a political constituency
that could end the drug war." That is the essence of the
goal of the Journey for Justice -- to activate a constituency
of people directly effected by the drug war so that they can become
an effective army against the drug war.
began on Friday, October 11 with a small meeting with a half
dozen African American men in Detroit. After meeting with Nora
Callahan, Executive Director of the November Coalition, and Chuck
Armsbury, also of the November Coalition-- discussing the drug
war, sentencing, lack of treatment -- they agreed to form a new
chapter of the November Coalition. One thing they said -- that
became a common refrain for the weekend -- was "it is time
for the various races to work together to end the drug war."
If you want to get active with the new November Coalition chapter
contact Amanda Brazel at: email@example.com.
Amanda reports that the new November Coalition chapter will be
holding meetings at the Unitarian Church in Detroit.
The next event was held at the University
of Michigan that night. The SSDP
chapter of U of M worked
with the Drug
Policy Forum of Michigan to organize the event. A November
Coalition slide show was shown at the beginning -- highlighting
the lives of many drug war victims and providing key facts about
the drug war. Nora, Chuck and I spoke along with representatives
from SSDP and DPF MI. Approximately 60 people attended the event
on a Friday night. About half of the attendees joined us in a
march where we carried signs urging an end to the drug war and
chanted slogans through Ann Arbor after the forum. The goal of
these events was to give attendees the tools they need to become
more activeand effective in working for reform.
Nora filmed a local television show the next
morning --"For My People" -- a discussion show where
the impact of the drug war with a special focus on its impact
on the Black community was discussed.
The main event for the Journey in the Detroit
area was held at the University
of Detroit School of Law. The Saturday event, lasting from
1 to 5:30 PM was attended by over 100 people. Happily, two members
of Congress attended -- Rep. John Conyers and Representative
Cheeks Kilpatrick (who also happens to be the mother of the
Mayor of Detroit). To have two members of Congress attending,
just a few weeks before very important elections, was a major
coup for the Journey for Justice and DPF MI. Rep. Conyers is strongly
with the reform movement -- he believes the drug war needs to
be ended and wants to see us develop the political base needed
to effect the national legislative process. He congratulated the
Journey for its effort at building a national grass-roots base.
Rep. Kilpatrick began agreeing that there is "No Justice
in the War on Drugs" -- the slogan of the November Coalition
and also applauded the national coalition building of the Journey
for Justice. She noted "we are all recovering from something."
Rep. Kilpatrick, while still needing some education on some drug
policy issues, understands
that the drug war is unjust -- DPF MI and others will build
with her from there.
Representative Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-MI)
Interestingly, opposition to reform felt
a strong need to be at this main event. Indeed, when I was in
the hallway I overheard an opponent of reform on her cell phone
saying -- "we need to get some people down here to speak
up" - a handful of opponents did show up and did speak against
reform during question and answer periods. However, they were
largely ineffective. The opponents came primarily from people
in the drug treatment industry. Having opponents in the room actually
enhanced the dialogue as attendees were able to hear their arguments
and the effective reform responses to them.
The formal event was followed by an informal
event for core activists at the home of Tim
Beck. Tim is the advocate who so professionally approached
the medical marijuana issue in Detroit with a voter
initiative. While he was unsuccessful in getting the issue
on the ballot (through no fault of
his own), he has shown great leadership in the way he approached
the issue and promises to continue with his good work. The evening
event allowed for excellent opportunity for informal discussion
of next steps for Michigan activists.
On Sunday, the Journey for Justice had two
events at the First
Unitarian Universalist Church in downtown Detroit. The pastor,
Larry Hutchison, gave a sermon that weaved the drug war and its
impact throughout. Nora was asked to address the UU church service
to over 100 people from the pulpit. This was followed by a small
meeting of 13 people who were interested in getting active. Once
again the common theme of white-black-brown unity came up -- the
recognition that we
are all in this together and need
to work together was expressed.
The final event for the first stop of the
Journey was a vigil at the Federal Correctional Institute at Milan
outside of Detroit. A half dozen activists stood near the sign
of the FCI at a major highway holding signs proclaiming there
is "No Justice in the War on Drugs."
In addition to the taping of the television
show mentioned above, the NBC affiliate for Detroit took footage
of the main event at Detroit Law School. In addition, the Metro
Times attended both the event in Ann Arbor and at the law
school along with several smaller community and college papers.
After this series of events, where at each
there was a mix of new people as well as reform activists, Nora
came to the conclusion that we have a lot of community education
still ahead of us. While the new people attending had heard some
background noise about the problems with the drug war, they also
were largely uninformed about reform and did not know there was
a growing reform movement throughout the US. Basic information
is still needed for the community, media and community leaders.
People know the drug was is not working, often they know people
hurt by the drug war but have not yet committed to the need to
end the war on drugs.
There were other lessons learned from the
Detroit experience that Nora will be sharing with November Coalition
leaders and those who have expressed interest in working on the
Journey. If you want to be part of the Journey please let Tom
Murlowski know as he is manning the office while Nora and Chuck
are on the road for the next five weeks.
The schedule for the next steps in the Journey
for Justice can be viewed on the November Coalition's web site
This is the first phase of the Journey for Justice -- a journey
that Nora and Chuck plan to stay on the next four years. So, if
you want them to come to your community let them know.
The success of the first stop of the Journey
not only goes to the November Coalition but also to many local
individuals and organizations -- especially -- DPF Michigan, SSDP
at University of Michigan, the Unitarian Church and Police
Officers for Drug Reform. Congratulations to everyone involved
for a very good beginning of a historic Journey for Justice.
President, Common Sense for Drug Policy