November Coalition's Local Activities
to End Drug War Injustice
December 17, 2009 -- New Haven Independent (CT)
Blame The Dads? Or The Drug War?
by Melinda Tuhus
November Coalition's Barbara Fair joins local leaders and
activists at hearing
Those were two of the targets as black leaders and activists
filled a City Hall hearing to address ongoing gun violence.
Eleven of 13 murders in New Haven this year had black male
victims, all shot to death. Crime is down citywide, while both
fatal and non-fatal shootings have spiked in the black community.
Some 150 people wrestled at a Board of Aldermen hearing Wednesday
with the question of why that's happening. Here are four theories
The War on Drugs Has Criminalized Young Black People
"Given the nexus between gun violence and the illegal
drug trade," moderator Jefferson asked, "should our
community at the very least begin a serious discussion about
the legalization of drugs?"
He directed the question to Barbara Fair, a community activist
around criminal justice issues, who had a ready answer.
Fair (pictured) said the drug war has been going on for 40
years -- and drugs are more available, cheaper and more potent
than ever. She argued that the black community has been targeted
for prosecution. She cited surveys showing about equal drug use
between blacks and whites, even though proportionately far more
blacks get locked up for drug crimes.
"We should be having a conversation about ending the
drug war altogether," Fair said. "And let's give resources
to the people who are strung out on drugs and need help, let's
get them the help. Instead of investing in prisons for people
using drugs, let's invest in treatment centers."
Clergy & Elected Officials Aren't Doing Their Jobs
"How in the world can we expect the community to come
together at the bottom level if we as leadership can not even
unify together?" thundered Pastor John Lewis of Life-Centered
Ministries on Whalley Avenue.
"Our government -- and that includes the mayor and the
Board of Aldermen -- have failed to recognize the problem that
has caused the gun violence, that has caused the drop outs of
our kids, that has caused the despair in our neighborhoods,"
said former Mayor John Daniels (pictured). "And that is
At that, Michael Jefferson (pictured), the event's moderator,
interjected, "Mayor Daniels, with all due respect, what
was your response to the violence that plagued our communities
when you served two terms in City Hall?"
"I instituted community-based policing," Daniels
shot back. "I got the police officers in the neighborhoods.
And you know what? Our neighborhoods were safe."
The Black Community Has Not Organized to Demand that Politicians
Do Their Jobs
State Rep. Gary Holder-Winfield (pictured) returned over and
over to the idea that unless the black community organizes for
political power, it will be ignored.
"If you choose not to organize," he said, "you
might as well go home. That's just the honest truth. What we
need to do is have people creating policy who understand what
they're dealing with, and most people who are creating policy
have not been in these communities.They have not studied these
issues," he said, to applause.
His view was seconded during the audience participation part
of the meeting by Westville activists Lashell Rountree. She pointed
out the low voting percentages in black neighborhoods in the
last election (in which she ran unsuccessfully for alderwoman).
"Keep staying home," she advised, if you don't want
to see things change for the better.
Black Fathers Are MIA
Police Officer Shafiq Abdussabur (pictured) said the community
needs to look to itself -- and especially to the absent fathers.
He has run programs for at-risk teens for the past decade.
"Without an active father in the lives of a child --
that is more impacting than anything. The father that is there,
the father that is talking to that kid, the father who's spending
time with that child" could make a huge difference, Abdussabur
said. "We have to become surrogate fathers. The fathers
got to get on their game. I don't care if he's in jail. I don't
care if he's going to jail. Whatever you're doing, get in touch
with your child, because that's where it begins."
The Brotherhood Leadership Summit helped organize the forum.
More about Barbara Fair's Activism