Coalition looks at alternative to the War on Drugs

Jul. 26, 2013 @ 04:14 PM

The Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham took on the topic of drugs at its monthly roundtable Thursday at Shepherd’s House United Methodist Church on Driver Street.

Spencer Bradford, executive director of Durham Congregations in Action, an interfaith organization of 62 congregations, introduced a screening of “The House I Live In” by Eugene Jarecki. It won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Those at the meeting watched a shortened version – 50 minutes long, about half – of the documentary about the impact of the War on Drugs. The film shows a variety of perspectives, including those jailed on drug charges, judges and law enforcement. “The House I Live In” points out the large racial disparity between those who use drugs and those who are arrested on drug charges.

Bradford is participating in a new local coalition called Fostering Alternative Drug Enforcement, or FADE, to explore what Durham can do locally to address issues raised in the film, he said. Bradford encouraged faith and community groups to watch “The House I Live In,” now available online and DVD, for “a first step in a larger conversation our community needs to have,” he said, about how to save people, especially young black men.

“This can generate more discussion in the community,” he said.

Bradford said that one question FADE wants to raise for the community deals with marijuana use in Durham: If the number of white people using marijuana is the same as the number of black people using marijuana, why is the arrest rate three times higher for African Americans?

“And what should we be doing about that?” Bradford said. He said they also want to address the cascading consequences of a young person arrested for drugs in terms of his future employment, family life and benefits. It’s also a question of poverty and racial disparity, he said.

For information about FADE, email Bradford at dcia@dcia.org.