For 42 years, we have waged war against our own people that we have disguised as the "War on Drugs." Forty-two years of failure that has cost the American taxpayers $1 trillion dollars, resulted in 45 million drug arrests, and overfilled America's prisons while failing to reduce the availability, sale, or use of drugs in the United States. Instead, it destroyed the fabric of communities of color, where diseased, innocent people in need of drug rehabilitation were trained in violent criminal behavior and became lifetime consumers of the prison industrial complex. All the while, it led America to become the world's leading jailer, with 2.3 million of our citizens behind bars, more than any country on earth. Tomorrow, we will begin a "cyber march" on Washington to stop this five-decade-long misery and devastation of humanity, that has resulted in one in every 15 African-American men in prison.
It is a despicable disgrace that drug-addicted, diseased members of entire generations of African-Americans and Latinos were massively thrown into horrific prisons that mainly exposed them to the vices of violent criminal practices. Then these victims of brutal long periods of unjust incarceration were dumped back into communities without any hope or chance for gainful employment, which only resulted in the downward spiral of self-destruction, youth gun violence, poverty and the rise of a cold-hearted prison culture that rules most of streets today across the nation. But all of this can be challenged and changed. Yet it is with a renewed sense of urgency that we must speak out and build an effective movement. The lives of millions of people are at stake.
Upon reflecting with my friend, Dr. Boyce Watkins, recently, we asked ourselves how we could we engage our collective resources to do something about this injustice. It hit me that there was no greater contribution that I have made in my lifetime than the effort that I helped to wage 10 years ago with Dr. Ben Chavis, Andrew Cuomo, the Drug Policy Alliance, the hip-hop community and a coalition of politicians, activists, artists, celebrities and other concerned people to reform and end the Rockefeller Drug Laws in New York, then the harshest drug laws in the country. When Puffy, Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Alicia Keys, Wyclef, the Beastie Boys, Wu-Tang Clan, Mariah Carey and countless other celebrities jumped on the stage in front of 100,000 people in downtown NYC, it was that collective power of popular culture that made the media and politicians pay attention to the needs of the people. The demand for change resulted in thousands of people in NY being released from prison, after Republican Gov. Pataki and later Democratic Gov. Paterson ultimately reformed these draconian laws.
Since that time, we have seen a dramatic shift in the public's opinion on how we can reduce crime and how we can alleviate the suffering of addiction of millions of Americans. No longer do we believe that the suppression-based model of the past has more effective results than a prevention and rehabilitation model of the future that many states have already implemented. We have been encouraged by action taken by President Obama on federal policy, including the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, as well as significant investments in re-entry programs, "problem-solving" courts, prevention and treatment programs. As we enter the second term, we know that there is no time to waste and that is why we are doubling down our efforts to work with the president in his desire to end the "War on Drugs" once and for all.
Tomorrow we will release a letter to President Obama, co-authored by myself and Dr. Boyce Watkins, signed by over 175 of the most influential people in America, offering the president our support in creating a new strategy to advance a national effort to raise awareness on this issue and to be a nucleus for a huge campaign to end these draconian laws and prison sentences across America. If those of us who have a public profile have the ability to uplift others, then it is our duty to do so. Furthermore, during a very difficult economic time, we must find ways to reduce our government spending, while maintaining safe and healthy communities. Instead of investing in building more prisons, let's invest in building better schools!
We will be asking all of you to join us on our cyber march on Washington, where we will use every resource from newspapers to television, but especially the internet and popular culture to educate and engage the masses to push for the end of the war. In anticipation of this movement, we urge you all to turn on PBS tonight and watch the critically acclaimed film The House I Live In, which chronicles the entire failure of the "War on Drugs." When you wake up on Tuesday morning, go to www.globalgrind.com/endthewarondrugs and let's go to work!
This is our moment to take back our streets. Our moment to uplift our people. Our moment to force a disarmament of weapons of war that have been used against our communities. Join us. Connect with us. Build with us. The time has finally come to change what has been referred by many as the new "Jim Crow." But we know that the transformative power of the people organized and mobilized for what is right is always stronger than the forces of wrong. Freedom is in our sights. Justice is on the horizon. And soon enough, we will make sure that America no longer holds the title of the world's most populated prison system. #EndTheWarOnDrugs