Video Narrated by Shawn “Jay Z” Carter and Illustrated by Crabapple Depicts Drug War’s Devastating Impact on the Black Community from Decades of Biased Law EnforcementShawn “Jay Z” Carter has teamed up with acclaimed artist Molly Crabapple on a striking animated video, launched Thursday in the New York Times, that slams the War On Drugs.
The video traces the Drug War and its impact on the black community from President Nixon to the draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws to the emerging aboveground marijuana market that is poised to make legal millions for wealthy investors doing the same thing for which generations of people of color have been arrested and locked up.
The four-minute work, narrated by Jay Z, is part history lesson and part vision statement. He maps the devastation caused by the war on drugs and raises important questions about economic equity in the emerging aboveground marijuana industry.Molly Crabapple, celebrated artist, activist and author, hand painted and animated the video with her distinctive style. The video, “From Prohibition to Gold Rush,” was produced in collaboration between Revolve Impact and the Drug Policy Alliance.
The video addresses mass incarceration, racial discrimination in drug arrests, the emerging legal marijuana market, and the need to repair the drug war’s harms to the African American community. Black people comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population, and use and sell drugs at similar rates to people of other races – yet comprise 31 percent of those arrested for drug law violations, and nearly 40 percent of those incarcerated in state or federal prison for drug law violations.“Jay Z and Molly Crabapple’s groundbreaking video will educate millions of people about the devastation wrought on the African American community because of the drug war,” said asha bandele, senior director for Grants, Partnerships and Special Projects at the Drug Policy Alliance. “That it is offered at a moment when policymakers are finally joining advocates in demanding an end to the architecture that actually incentivizes biased policing and police violence makes it especially timely.”
“As a resident of California, I am especially pleased that this video speaks directly to the heart of economic equity,” said dream hampton of Revolve Impact. “In November, Californians will have the opportunity to vote Yes on Prop 64, which is the most racial-justice-oriented marijuana legalization measure ever.“It not only reduces and in many cases eliminates criminal penalties for marijuana offenses, but it’s retroactive, meaning people needlessly sitting in jail for small amounts of marijuana, can get out and have their records expunged,” hampton said. “Plus, it drives hundreds of millions of dollars in direct funding and investments to communities most harmed by police and the criminal justice system.”
Since both the video and dream hampton have pointed out the economic inequity that is at the heart of the Drug War, it becomes necessary for us to point out that California’s Adult Use of Marijuana Act (Proposition 64), the recreational cannabis legalization measure on November’s ballot, may actually help perpetuate such economic inequities through favoring corporate big money over the mom-and-pop medical marijuana businesses that have legally existed in California for 20 years now, according to many activists. Another piece of that glaring inequity is that street-level dealers, often minorities, will continue to be arrested for “unlicensed marijuana sales” under such a plan, while wealthy pot-shop owners rake in the cash.
The video and critique of the Drug War comes a few months after an unprecedented group of voices called for an end to the War On Drugs.
In April, on the eve of the 2016 United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on the World Drug Problem, world leaders and activists signed a letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urging him to set the stage “for real reform of global drug control policy.” The more than 1,000 people who signed the letter included: Senators Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Bernie Sanders, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, businessmen Warren Buffett, George Soros, Richard Branson and Barry Diller, actors Michael Douglas and Woody Harrelson, Super Bowl champion Tom Brady, singers John Legend and Mary J. Blige, activists Reverend Jesse Jackson, Gloria Steinem and Michelle Alexander, as well as distinguished legislators, cabinet ministers, and former UN officials.