Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “gangs”

Meet Lincoln Plair – Guest Post by Norman Weekes

I met a great kid earlier this week. His name is Lincoln Plair, a twenty year old from Richmond.

He’s the same age as my son. He works at Pogo Park, a non-profit in Richmond dedicated to rebuilding and restoring playgrounds for children.  He’s real popular and his personality attracts friends young, old, white, Latino, Filipinos and any type of human you can think of.  He was recently hired at Pogo Park after a year of volunteer service at the Elm Park play lot in Richmond’s Iron Triangle neighborhood.

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This is the perfect job for Lincoln because he loves working in his community. He loves the people of Richmond and it gives him the flexibility to be nearby to help his ailing father. This is good news in a place and time where good news doesn’t come easy.  Growing up he mostly remembers the good times with family and friends and the look back and laugh memories. Like the times his cousin would tattle to his Mom just to see him get a whupping, or the playful flirtations with real and would be girl friends, some more serious than others. While courting one of his paramours he helped her fall in love with the Lord and she now dedicates her life to making the community more peaceful through music and community activism.  One cousin always thought he was too soft for Richmond, a tough town where non-violence seems like the road less traveled.  She begged him to toughen up, take a harder line even with his own family if necessary. Lincoln would stand his ground saying, “I’m not trying to fight my own family.”

You don’t hear a lot about the 99% like Lincoln in Richmond’s Iron Triangle – the toughest hood in one of the toughest cities in our country. Young people like Lincoln who graduate high school, say no to the drug industrial complex and simultaneously avoid police and gangs while trying to climb up the ladder one rung at a time.

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Regretfully I met Lincoln through the stories of family and friends at his funeral.  He’s the grandson of one of the deacons in my church. On a Monday afternoon this March Lincoln was shot and killed while washing a car. Witnesses at the scene say he saved two little children from the spray of gunfire. The community was shocked by this senseless murder. 

One of his friends said when you hear about something like this it’s often expected and not a surprise. But this one was a shocker. Lincoln was not involved with the wrong crowd, not someone with known “affiliations”.  He was not a usual suspect.  At the funeral his family called for peace in the streets, for an end to the killing. His sister pleaded for no retaliation because Lincoln wouldn’t want that.

There was coverage of his murder because of the senseless nature of the crime and the quality of the victim. Documentary filmmaker Mariel Waloff  took footage during the funeral. The film will tell of the struggle to make positive change in Richmond. Lincoln’s positive life spread love and hope in twenty short years. One can only wonder how much better off we all would be if he’d have just another twenty.

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On Sunday after church Lincoln’s grandfather walked up and handed me a thank you card. A feeling of unease came over me.  It felt all backwards. I should have had a thank you card for him for the opportunity to meet Lincoln Plair.

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Norm Weekes lives in the East Bay and volunteers with non-profits working in social justice and digital literacy. He is a volunteer at The Mentoring Center and Oakland Digital.

13,609 Dead and Counting

Tuesday, September 20th 2011, thirty-five bodies were dumped beneath an underpass during rush hour traffic in a Mexican coastal city.  War on Drugs Update –  the Mexican death total for 2011 now stands at 13,644.

(picture from Getty Images)

Are we, citizens of the U.S., in anyway responsible for the deaths of so many people south of our border? Is our forty year war on drugs really working? Has the prohibition of anything desired by man ever been successful? The short answers: YES, NO and NO (respectively).

When a significant number of people want something, someone or some entity will provide it. The majority will go to a legal source. If a legal source is not available, they will go to an illegal source. If there are buyers, there will be suppliers. It is that simple.

So here’s the real question. Are responsible businesses practicing lawful commerce better suited to sell drugs or are criminal gangs that make up their own rules enforced by death and violence a better choice? When the U.S. started prohibition of alcohol in the early 1900s, drinking did not stop but criminal activity, violence and death increased dramatically. These negative elements went away once alcohol was made legal again.

The War on Drugs has cost the U.S. tax payers $1 trillion and the percentage of people that use drugs has not decreased; all the usage statistics are virtually the same. What has increased are the number of deaths at the hands criminals and the prison population of non-violent drug users. This Nixon-era policy has failed because you cannot stop the will of the people. Again, if a significant number of people want something they will eventually get it, legal or not.

(Mexican Drug War Death Map, WM Consulting)

Approximately 11,000 people die in the U.S. annually from illegal drugs, over 100,000 people die from prescription medication and alcohol is linked to 75,000 deaths per year. Perhaps the war is focusing on the wrong drugs.

Our War on Drugs is a crime enabler that results in the death of 10,000 to 20,000 Mexicans annually and who knows how many people elsewhere. If we eliminate the prohibition of drugs, the western hemisphere would be a safer place for all Americans – Canadians, Chileans and all of us in between.

Stop the insanity. History proves prohibition does not work. Say no to violence, no to criminals and no to enslavement by voting No on Prohibition.

-Roger Ingalls

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Roger Ingalls is well traveled and has seen the good and bad of many foreign governments. He hopes his blogging will encourage readers to think more deeply about the American political system and its impact on US citizens and the international community.

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