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For Immediate Release


Tommy McDonald: 510-338-8827

Press Release

Been Here for Years: DPA Salutes Black Drug Policy Reformers

Drug Policy Alliance Celebrates Black History Month with Blog Series that Honors Black Drug Policy Groundbreakers

This February, the Drug Policy Alliance will launch a month-long online tribute to Black drug policy reformers. At a time when the nation reflects upon the history and contributions of Black Americans, DPA seeks to raise awareness about the significant and far-reaching roles that Black authors, activists and movement builders have played and continue to play in drug policy reform.

Each week will feature its own category and honoree.

“The work of African Americans has often gone un-discussed when it was mentioned at all. Many have labored outside of the light and so the question has been asked time and again: Where are Black people in this movement? Why are they so silent despite the extraordinary ways in which the drug war has disassembled their communities, their lives, their very ability to breathe?  But the answers to that are, we are here and have always been here despite mass criminalization and despite cultural dissonance in the non- profit world.  The answer is also that those in our movement who have looked outward for our presence should likely have looked inward.  We were there, and this project means to prove that,” said asha bandele, director of Drug Policy Alliance’s advocacy grants program.

Building on 2014’s Black Drug Policy History series that focused on the “Forerunners”, or those that laid the foundation for the current drug policy reform movement, like former mayor of Baltimore Kurt Schmoke, sociologist Troy Duster and trailblazer Deborah Peterson Small, this year’s series will focus on current “Groundbreakers.”

From scientists and bestselling authors to on-the-ground activists and service providers, DPA acknowledges the profound and transformative contributions of this distinguished list of drug policy reformers who have made it their life’s work to end the drug war in all communities.

The Record Setter, because his work in the laboratory and on the page turned widely held beliefs on their heads and set the record straight.

Dr. Carl Hart is an Associate Professor of Psychology in both the Departments of Psychiatry and Psychology at Columbia University, and Director of the Residential Studies and Methamphetamine Research Laboratories at the New York State Psychiatric Institute. He is the author or co-author of dozens of peer-reviewed scientific articles in the area of neuropsychopharmacology and author of the critically acclaimed book High Price.

The Quilt Maker, because her work is intersectional, and has made our movement a more brilliant and truthful quilt, a coat of many colors.

Deon Haywood is the Executive Director of Women With A Vision, Inc., a New Orleans-based community organization founded in 1991 to improve the lives of marginalized women. Major areas of focus include Sex Worker Rights, Drug Policy Reform, HIV Positive Women’s Advocacy, and Reproductive Justice outreach.

The Movement Builders, because their work has been foundational in building a national movement for reform.

Over the last 15 years, Lorenzo Jones and Robert Rooks have been at the forefront of building the drug policy reform movement in the U.S. Their work includes passing legislative reforms and voter initiatives; identifying and mentoring new leaders in every region of the country; advising a variety of stakeholders from governors to community block club leaders to community advocates in Europe and Latin America; and creating multi-layered strategies that knit together highly trained advocates on the ground, the people in directly impacted communities and researchers.

The Patriots, because this is what democracy looks like when everyone has a seat at the table.

VOCAL (Voices of Community Advocates & Leaders VOCAL-NY) is a statewide grassroots membership organization building power among low-income people affected by HIV/AIDS, the drug war and mass incarceration, along with partner organizations, to create healthy and just communities.

The full-length features of our honorees will be posted on our blog every Friday during Black History Month and shared on DPA’s Facebook page.


The Drug Policy Alliance is the nation’s leading organization promoting drug policies grounded in science, compassion, health and human rights.

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