Message from Kevin Zeese

From:  Kevin Zeese
Sent:  Thursday, September 21, 2000 11:23 PM
Subject:  The Eve of the Journey for Justice in Texas


Tomorrow the Journey for Justice begins -- we leave Houston after a 12:30 press conference on our week long journey to Austin.  Before I left the airport I did two radio interviews, one in New York City the other in San Antonio (thanks to the work of Tony Newman of Lindesmith-DPF.) Hopefully, this is a sign that the media will pay attention to this Journey.

Tonight we had a meeting at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Houston thanks to Frances Burford -- a member of the Church.  Frances played a key role in getting the Unitarians to adopt drug policy as a study issue for the Church natio nally.

About 50 people attended the meeting and pot luck dinner.  Al Robison, the exec director of Drug Policy Forum o f Texas, started the evening off with brief comments about the Journey and Drug Policy Forum of Texas.  He introduced me -- the theme of my brief comments was that this was a time for action, not a time for talk because the harms of the war on drugs had becom e so obvious and so significant that if we did not act we were part of allowing it to continue.  I noted that the Journeyers we re in the vanguard of a growing social justice movement, a movement that was confronting an aggressive and sometimes violent opponen t, but that we needed to meet their violence with peace; their hate, with love; their desire to incarcerate, with education; their d esire to warehouse people, with freedom; their desire to deny medicine, with efforts to make medicine available; and their desire fo r drug war, with drug peace.

Ray Hill, the producer and host of The Prison Show, spoke about the prison machine.  Ray is a former prisoner w ho now uses his freedom as a citizen provocateur to urge reform.  He described how we were all connected to the prison machine.  How the prison machine purchas es candidates -- over half the donations to former Governor Ann Richards came from construction companies that built prisons and oth ers that manage them and after the oil industry, the prison industry was George W's largest contributor.  Further, after pointi ng out that Texas has the largest prison system of any state, and larger than most other nations, he noted that Harris County -- whe re Houston is located and where the Journey originates -- is the largest source of inmates in Texas.  Thus we are in many ways as we begin our Journey at ground zero for the prison-industrial complex.

Kay Lee, a mother and grandmother, who organized the first Journeys (in Ohio and Wisconsin) and who has continued to work with Jodi James on the Florida and Texas Journeys spoke about how she feared that history books may report that the great expe riment in human freedom -- the United States -- ended a failure just over 200 years after it began; how it became a nation of prison ers and prison guards.  She fears her grandchildren may yearn for freedom by not really know what it is.

Tiffany Landreth, a medical marijuana patient from Dallas/Ft. Worth who suffers from a rare and debilitating disease , Arachnoiditis, has joined on the three previous Journeys.  She has asked her Governor, George W. Bush, to allow his staff to meet with her while we are in Austin.  She expressed appreciation for the work of the organizers and the camaraderie of her fellow Journeyers.

Jodi James, the lead organizer of the Texas Journey, spoke about how the war on drugs reminded her about what she wa s taught about in school about the Communist Soviet Union -- how the government had informants everywhere.  She wondered how di fferent was that from the informants utilized by the drug war.  Indeed, the DEA has more paid informants than it does DEA agent s.  She also emphasized how the drug war creates fear -- how patients are afraid to talk to their doctors about their addiction , how children are afraid to talk to their parents and how citizens fear the police.

The evening ended with an excellent hemp fashion show, which included discussion of the history and current politica l issues surrounding hemp.  The show was organized by The Hemp Store -- the oldest hemp store in the United States which is bas ed in Houston.

Prior to the public meeting, the Journeyers met and reviewed plans for the week.  The bottom line is that we ha ve pledged to each other to be unified and to make it through to Austin no matter what hurdles are placed before us.  We will n ot be turned around -- we will persevere.



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