The crusade to end police violence against people of color in America begins with statistics, or what Dr. Carl Hart refers to as, “Empirical evidence. More than one thousand people are killed by police every year in America,” he states, “Nearly 60% of victims did not have a gun, or were involved in activities that should not require police intervention, such as harmless ‘quality of life’ behaviors or mental health crises.”
Campaign Zero was launched by Black Lives Matter activists Samuel Sinyangwe, Brittany Packnett, DeRay McKesson and Johnetta Elzie. The organization’s website displays a graphic of the current 2015 calendar year, January through September, stating there has only been nine days that the police have not killed someone. The stats on police killings in other countries pale next to the U.S., with a reported 1,100 people killed at the hands of those enlisted to “Protect & Serve,” compared to six in Germany, two in the UK, six in Australia, and zero in Japan.
Some ways to encourage transparency and accountability within law enforcement in your community:
End “broken windows policing,” for minor crimes or activities that can lead to over-policing
Community oversight, where residents hold officers accountable via a civilian oversight structure
Establish standards for reporting police use of deadly force, revise and strengthen policies
Monitor how police use force and hold them accountable
Independent Investigations of police violence, and mandatory body cams
Community Representation, increase the number of officers who reflect the communities they serve
Training in interacting with communities that preserve life
End for Profit Policing via quotas for tickets and arrests and end high-speed chases
Demilitarization, ending the war zone at civil protests
Fair Police Contracts, remove barriers to effective misconduct investigations, with civil oversight.
Black Lives Matter, Not a Moment, a Movement: “Moving the Hashtag to the Streets”
The movement, spurned by often unexplained and harsh abuse of people of color by law enforcement, began after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed by neighborhood patrolling volunteer, George Zimmerman. What began as an online connection-building forum by three women, Patrisse Cullors, Opal Tometi, and Alicia Garza, turned into a platform for empowerment. According to its website the three women wanted to “spark dialogue among black people, and to facilitate the types of connections necessary to encourage social action and engagement.”
Co-founder Garza writes, “Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. It is an affirmation of black folks’ contributions to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression.”
The founders created the movement in an effort to “rebuild the Black liberation movement,” and reinstate the basic human rights and dignity so many blacks in this country are deprived of. It’s an acknowledgement that black poverty and genocide is a state violence, and that “one million black people are locked in cages in this country – one half of all people in prisons or jails – is an act of state violence.” The list of “state violence” against blacks in America is a long one, and the organizers surmise, “#BlackLivesMatter doesn’t mean your life isn’t important – it means that black lives, which are seen as without value within white supremacy, are important to your liberation. Given the disproportionate impact state violence has on black lives, we understand that when black people in this country get free, the benefits will be wide reaching and transformative for society as a whole. When we are able to end hyper-criminalization and sexualization of black people and end the poverty, control, and surveillance of black people, every single person in this world has a better shot at getting and staying free. When black people get free, everybody gets free.”
Ngaio Bealum, Comedian, Activist, Writer, Chronnisseur
Funny man Ngaio Bealum has graced the stages of weed festivals and cannabis cups coast to coast, appearing in television shows, such as Doug Benson’s “Getting Doug with High,” “The Sarah Silverman Program,” and recording “Weed & Sex,” a comedic CD that needs no explanation.
The son of hippie parents, Bealum gathered a lifetime of comedic material growing up on the culturally diverse streets of San Francisco – but it wasn’t all fun and games. “My neighborhood was racially mixed and pretty cool, but there were some ass hats,” he shares. “My sixth grade teacher told me, ‘nigger kids don’t belong in the gifted program,’ but overall I had a good time.”
Bealum said while all black people are his role models, there have been a few white folks in the mix,
“Langston Hughes, Sherlock Holmes, Fred Hampton, Lee Morgan, and Moms Mabley, come to mind,” he shares. Weed didn’t enter into the equation until college, burning joints a favorite method of delivery, with jokes to follow. “Working weed into my routine happened organically,” says Ngaio. “They tell you to talk about what you know – I know weed, and the history of weed, and what it’s like to lead a canna-centric lifestyle.” Though he’d like to see more people of color at cannabis events, he says it is happening slowly. “I just joined the Minority Cannabis Business Association. Our goal is to get more women and people of color involved in canna-business.”
A common belief throughout the cannabis community is the feeling that the War on Drugs is actually a war on its people, and Bealum agrees.“The private prison industry is unconstitutional and un-American,” he says. “No one should make money from human suffering, and folks deprived of their freedom. Private prisons lead to more prohibitions and longer sentences – just to increase the bottom line – and that should be abhorrent to any right thinking person. Decriminalization would go a long way toward decreasing the systemic racism and abuses of authority we have in this country.”
Kyndra Miller, Attorney, CannaBusiness Law, Inc.
Kyndra Miller was born in Rochester, New York, but raised by a single mother in Palo Alto, California. A predominantly white community in the late 1970s and 80s, Miller says the climate of the Stanford University town was liberal and culturally diverse.
“Growing up in a predominately white, financially wealthy neighborhood provided me with an opportunity to obtain a top-notch public education at the primary and secondary levels,” she explains. “It also gave me an academic advantage when I matriculated to the University of California, San Diego.”
From a social perspective, Miller says all of her friends growing up were white. “I learned to love and trust people that looked different from me at a very young age,” she continues. “In hindsight, I realize that this ability is why I’m successful today.”
The only black role model Miller said she had was her mother, Deidre Miller. “This woman is fierce!” Miller shares. “She started a Ph.D. program in Clinical Psychology at the University of San Francisco as a single mom. She is my first love, my first BFF and my primary role model. My mother taught me to love all people regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or economic status. She set me up for success from the very beginning.”
Miller began practicing law in Los Angeles in the entertainment industry, but soon moved into cannabis business law, with two offices, representing clients in Los Angeles and San Francisco. She’s been a patient out of necessity since a teenager.
“My consumption was medicinal from the very beginning, as I faced some challenges with eating properly. Smoking cannabis works best for me, though I am excited to learn about alternative consumption methods, like vaporizing and eating edibles.” Miller’s activism to end the prohibition of the plant began in 2009, first with NORML, then the NORML Women’s Alliance (NWA). Since she grew up in a white demographic, she was undaunted by the predominately white cannabis community.
The women’s groups are appearing to make more headway with people of color, and Miller says the NWA’s logo features a woman of color.
“I think the solution is rather simple, the more people of color that speak out publically about cannabis prohibition and occupy seats in the board rooms and executive offices of cannabis businesses and organizations, the more we will see people of color participating in the industry,” she shared. “I’ve seen more women and people of color participating in cannabis cups and rallies, but I wish there were more black speakers on the circuit. I’d like to see more successful black entrepreneurs – the fact that anyone can still count on one hand the number of ‘black’ cannabusinesses is just sad, but that’s true for most industries.
Dr. Carl Hart, Author, Professor & Neuropsychopharamacologist, Columbia University, New York
Dr. Hart’s past was made public after penning his best-selling book High Price. Brought up by a single mother with eight kids in a predominantly black and poor south Florida neighborhood, Hart’s work includes personal stories from his past, with critics applauding him for his honesty.
“I didn’t want young black men and women thinking they had to be perfect to get where I’m at, because I’m by no means perfect.”
PBS Talk show host Tavis Smiley questioned the professor on his appearance, stating he would never guess by looking at him he was a professor at Columbia, to which Hart replied, “You have to be the best at what you do. If you aren’t the best, you aren’t getting away with it. I work at being the best that I can, in order to be myself.”
Hart says his dreads are also a nod to the Rastafarian movement, where he explains he initially learned to question authority, something he’s grateful for now. “If all the young brothers understood what dreadlocks were about, why we wear them – they would begin to think critically. Politics of respectability has done so much harm. There’s this notion that black people have to be so much better than white people. If we paid more attention to how black people think and not how they look, when faced with a potentially dangerous situation, they might have better people skills.”
Smiley posed the question, “Why should people listen to you if you look like a drug dealer?” To which Hart replies, “I encourage people to be smart and think for themselves. I don’t feel the need to physically smack someone down for disagreeing with me, I’ll smack them intellectually.”
The Black Lives Matter campaign, he says, brought up some valid albeit, painful realities. “The facts are black women can expect to live three years less than white women; the difference between black and white men is nearly five years. In the United States, being black can be bad for your health. This is an inescapable fact, especially when you consider the following people and circumstances surrounding their deaths: Kathryn Johnston, Tarika Wilson, Trayvon Martin, Eric Gardner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, and Freddie Gray. These and other racial health disparities are not the result of some unique defect of melanin content. They are the result of the racial discrimination that operates day-in and day-out, hour-by-hour, in this country.”
Drug War Facts, sixth edition, by Douglas A. McVay
Cannabis activist, journalist, and executive director of the non-profit Common Sense for Drug Policy Doug McVay created the “Drug War Facts” website in 1998 in an effort to provide evidence from government and other accredited sources on the failed War on Drugs in the U.S. Its mission is to debunk myths and misinformation surrounding the failed policies plaguing its people for decades. It also advocates drug management policies rather than incarceration.
According to drugwarfacts.org, “Black males had higher imprisonment rates across all age groups than all other races and Hispanic males. In the age range with the highest imprisonment rates for males (ages 25 to 39), black males were imprisoned at rates at least 2.5 times greater than Hispanic males and 6 times greater than white males. For males ages 18 to 19 – the age range with the greatest difference in imprisonment rates between whites and blacks – black males (1,092 inmates per 100,000 black males) were more than 9x more likely to be imprisoned than white males (115 inmates per 100,000 white males). The difference between black and white female inmates of the same age was smaller, but still substantial. Black females ages 18 to 19 (33 inmates per 100,000) were almost 5x more likely to be imprisoned than white females (7 inmates per 100,000).”