Per The Grio, Shawn ‘Jay-Z’ Carter made waves Thursday when he teamed up with visual artist Molly Crabapple to release a 4-minute video slamming the War On Drugs as an “epic fail.” The video A History Of The War On Drugs, From Prohibition To Gold Rush, was featured in the opinion section of the New York Times and went viral.
The music mogul, who has rapped about the life and trials of being a drug dealer, narrated the video over Crabapple’s animated drawings, describing the impact of Richard Nixon’s war on blacks and Latino people.
“Even though white people used and sold crack more than black people, somehow it was black people that went to prison,” Carter said. “The media ignore actual data to this day. Crack is still talked about as a black problem. The NYPD raided our Brooklyn neighborhoods while Manhattan bankers openly used coke in impunity.”
“The war on drugs exploded the U.S. prison population, disproportionately locking away Black and Latinos, our prison populations grew more than 900%,” he continued.
At a launch party for the video in New York City, activist and filmmaker dream hampton joined artist Molly Crabapple, Asha Bandele and other leaders of the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) to talk about what inspired them to produce the video.
“[Jay-Z] was ready and he loved the idea,” hampton told theGrio. “It’s a complicated issue we’re trying to unpack in four minutes…We don’t need celebs who are just going to say the wrong thing.”
She also addressed critics who say the rapper’s past life as a drug dealer disqualifies him from addressing social issues related to the War on Drugs.
“He’s an easy target,” hampton said, pointing out instances in which the media referred to Carter as an “ex-crack dealer” years after his street hustling days. “When you see Martha Stewart, no one introduces her as a former felon. [Jay-Z] hasn’t been convicted — but former felons are saddled for life.”
The Drug Policy Alliance’s work centers around addressing harsh drug crime punishments, decriminalizing marijuana and pushing officials to treat drug use and addiction as a health issue.
DPA’s New York State Director, Kassandra Frederique, challenged the audience to work to change hearts as well as laws.
“It is about acknowledging the devastation that has swept this country that has affected certain communities more than others,” said Frederique. “If we ignore that, we’re not going to end the drug war.