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The Impact of the Drug Epidemic on Black Families

June 4, 2019 - 10:25 am

Crack cocaine, swept throughout the US in the 1980’s as an inexpensive and easily accessible drug.  Neighborhoods and families were severely impacted by this epidemic.   Aaron Dixon, the former Seattle Chapter Captain for the Black Panther Party, is writing a book on the impact of crack cocaine on black communities.  He starts by describing how large amounts of cocaine began streaming through the US in the 60’s and 70’s.

You’re listening to 91.3 KBCS. This is Yuko Kodama, I interviewed Aaron Dixon, who is the former Black Panther Party, Seattle Chapter captain. He wrote the book, “My People Are Rising”. And more recently, he’s been finishing a second book. I spoke with Aaron Dixon earlier this month about the book he’s working on now. You had written, “My People Are Rising” and tell me what’s in your second book.

My second book, well the – the working title is “Journey Through The Black Underground”; Ronald Reagan, crack cocaine, gang epidemic, destruction of the black family and the black community. And that’s what I explore – is the beginning of the 80’s because I think the beginning of the 80’s really exemplifies where we’re at right now.

Of course, it didn’t begin with Ronald Reagan. It didn’t begin in the 1980’s. Before Ronald Reagan in the 80’s, there was a lot more possibilities that we could really create a more just society and a just world coming out of the Vietnam War, the impeachment of Richard Nixon, and coming out of the whole movement of the 60’s and 70s’… and all the things that the Black Panther Party did and all those movements of the 60’s did. Unfortunately, Ronald Reagan was elected as president, and Ronald Reagan was the beginning. It was the beginning of a lot of things with Ronald Reagan was elected. Before Ronald Reagan we didn’t have large amounts of homeless people – we very rarely saw any homeless people. We had a level of socialism that existed in our society. College tuition was much more affordable because the wealthy we’re being taxed to pay for a lot of that college education. You know, our medical mental health system was still intact.

What I wanted to do is explain and lay a foundation to young people. To explain how we got to where we’re at right now. You know, one of the first things that Ronald Reagan began to do was he cut the mental health funding, almost in half or more than half which, you know, people who are mentally ill, they need help. They need a place to go. They need a place where they could live and sleep and get the help and the care that they need to get. And when you can’t provide that – when you as a society cannot provide for the mentally ill. You’re really laying the foundation for a failed society. And that was the beginning of what we saw what Ronald Reagan did, by slashing the funding for mental health that put thousands and thousands of mentally ill people out on the streets today. And as a matter of fact, a lot of the people who are in prison are mentally ill, because they have nowhere else to go. So they’ve ended up in prison, but by putting a lot of them out on the streets, you had a lot of things that happened to them, as well as things that they did to other people, you know, there were people that were killed and murdered by the mentally ill, because we weren’t willing to take care of them. He also slashed the funding for HUD. Not in half, but damn near in half, you know, subsidized housing was slashed under Ronald Reagan. And then of course, you know, the war on drugs really began with Richard Nixon. Richard Nixon laid the foundation for the war on drugs. There were a lot of black men that were arrested in the 70’s.

And we started to go into our prison reform in the later part of the 70’s. So it looked like you know, there would be some reform, and so many people wouldn’t be going to prison. Also, in Nicaragua, we had the Sandinistas who forced Samoza out of power, who was one of the most brutal dictators in South America, who got a lot of funding and a lot of support from the US government. And Ronald Reagan became so alarmed with Samoza being pushed out of office and that fear and paranoia of communists spreading throughout South America, you know, created this thing where we started funding a counter-revolutionary group, the Contras. Oliver North was involved to try to get funding to the Contras. Congress said that they weren’t going to fund it. So what did they do? The CIA turned to the Nicaraguan drug dealers who had been big time drug dealers in the 60’s and 70’s, who were also responsible for bringing a lot of cocaine into America, and so they began to use those drug dealers to import cocaine into America to raise money for the Contras to have this counter-revolutionary war against the Nicaraguan government and the Nicaraguan people who had fought and died to create a better society in their country. And so, you know, millions and millions of pounds start finding its way into America.

Now, this wasn’t the first time that the CIA was involved in drug dealing. The very first time that the CIA began to get involved in drug dealing was during the Vietnam War. When there was a General Po, who was the General in Laos, who was the kingpin drug dealer in Southeast Asia, the CIA became partners with him. First of all, they started giving him planes to be able to export his heroin around Southeast Asia. And then the next thing they did was introduce him to Jim Conniff, one of the leaders – leading mobsters in New York. They connected him with General Po, and that’s when they began, the mob began to import heroin into America. And you saw a devastating effect of this heroin that came into America in the 60’s, particularly was coming into New York and created a heroin epidemic.

You even see “The Godfather”, alluding to this in the movie, the first “Godfather”, you know, when Marlon Brando played the role, and he said, “Well, you know, we don’t want the- heroine is dirty. We don’t want that.” And then when the other Mobsters said, “we’re just going to give it to the n****rs”, thats what he said, and so that was the first time the CIA brought heroin into America. And what that did then was it created a whole epidemic of heroin addiction and crime, which began this war on drugs by Nixon, they began to put more black people in prison. So here it is, 10 years later, under Ronald Reagan, they’re importing all this cocaine into America. And at the same time, you have his wife saying, “just say no to cocaine”, and it’s – it’s proven that Ronald Reagan, Bush no. one, were involved in this, and Bill Clinton, were involved in this cocaine coming into America. And at first it was going to LA because in LA there was a man who was a businessman in Nicaragua. He was a sympathizer of the Contras, and he wanted to raise money for the Contras. So the CIA contacted him and asked him to work with him. So they were shipping him millions of pounds of cocaine into America. But he needed an outlet. And it just so happened that he found an outlet – this young man named Ricky Ross, who was a black – all this is in the “Dark Alliance”, a book by Gary Webb, called “Dark Alliance” and he researched this for over 10 years.

Now, Ricky Ross was a young black man who wanted to be a tennis player. He played tennis in high school. When he got out, he tried to get into college, but he couldn’t because he couldn’t read or write. So he went to trade school, and he met this black guy who was selling just a little bit of cocaine here and there, you know, because in the 70s, cocaine was a casual drug. Everybody was snorting it; Hollywood people, Congress people, everybody was snorting – it was a casual drug. But the more money you had, the more likelihood that you would get addicted to cocaine. And so when you have so many people using a drug like that, then people started experimenting with other ways and they get more access to more pure cocaine. And so, you know, first you had to powder cocaine, and then you had this thing, that people who had money started to smoke the pure cocaine, which was called “rock” – you know, like a big pure rock of cocaine. The Rock cocaine became popular, but you had to have more money to smoke that rock because it costs a lot of money. Okay, so Ricky Ross, he starts selling rock cocaine. But Ricky Ross, he’s smart, he knows how to market. So he sees how people are buying this coke, he said “Well, we got to make it more affordable for the average person.” So they come up with this method of cooking it down to this little small packages of 10 – 20 dollars a package. This is the crack now we’re talking about crack, it went from powder to rock, who was for the rich people, to crack to for the average person. It’s more addictive than anything that anybody has ever seen. I mean, people will come buy it and 10 minutes later they come back buy some more. It just like kept going and getting growing and growing bigger and people came more addicted and more addicted and he opened more crack houses and the gang see this and gangs have always been territorial. The gangs weren’t about making a lot of money. You know, they were doing small time hoodlum crimes, you know, and they were more concerned about their territory and different things like that. But when the gangs saw how lucrative this business was, they got involved. And the thing about it is this drug is so addictive, that people would do anything to get some more crack. And, you know, black mothers have always been the most maternal, because they had to take care of the slave masters kids. They were used to take care of other people’s kids. When slavery ended, they had a chance to take care of their kids. And so they were very – black mothers were very maternalistic. But when they used crack cocaine that maternalism went away.

And so people became highly addicted- I mean, everybody was getting addicted! Mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandparents; everybody is getting addicted under this crack. And the gangs, they’re making lots of money, but also it creates more violence. Because not only is cocaine coming into the country – into LA, specifically at this moment – but also a lot of guns and weapons are coming in by the CIA. I was in Oakland when crack cocaine hit. I was there. I saw what happened in Oakland when crack cocaine came. I saw the destruction that it did to families, to businesses, black owned businesses. You know, the other thing that was happening in the 80’s was this materialism, this extreme materialism that people really didn’t care that much about in the 60’s and 70’s. Everybody wasn’t so consumed with wealth, but in the 80s it was all about money. It was all about getting your money, you know, and you had black athletes for the first time getting million dollar contracts and, you know, 10 million – you know, Michael Jordan, then you had, you know, you have Michael Jackson. And so materialism and money, it took over people’s minds in the 80’s. And so, you know, I remember being in Oakland, I remember school teachers were selling cocaine because they wanted to get rich they want to have money too! So everybody was either selling cocaine, or they were using it.

I think all that the black community has gone through. We got to give ourselves some props that we – we survived that first of all, but that we are able to rise up above that, you know, and do better. And being able to overcome and producing a lot of great young black people. I mean, right now, black entertainers are in demand. Black filmmakers are in demand, creating some of the best films that have ever been made. black actors are in demand. And so the fact we may not be this solid group that we were in the 60’s and 70’s, we are dispersed and spread out in a lot of different avenues, but we have been able to rise above. You know, I’m thinking about the movie, “Moonlight”, that won an Academy Award – that was an extremely beautiful movie, and the fact that “Black Panther” is one of the highest grossing movies of all time. You know, we gotta give ourselves some props. We got to give ourself some props.

That was Aaron Dixon, former Black Panther Party Seattle Chapter Captain. You’re listening to KBCS independent radio.