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Unity Conference A Huge Success!

31 December 2013 No Comment

Javier Scilia & Michelle Alexander

MIRA’s 7th Annual Unity Conference Criticizes Mexico and the United States for Victimizing Millions with their “War on Drugs,” Contributing to Forced Migration

Sponsored by religious, union, community and civil rights organizations, the 7th Annual MIRA/SCLC Unity Conference organized by the Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance, “CRIMMIGRATION: The Tragic Consequences of U.S. Drug Policies on Families and Youth,”  featured two leading opponents of the war on drugs.

The conference brought some 250 people together from throughout Mississippi and others from as far away as New York, Texas, Colorado and Mexico. Participants from Mexico and the U.S. now understand that this war is not just in one country, but is joined throughout the Americas and must involve action in all countries together to bring it to an end.

Two leading critics of the war on drugs, Javier Sicilia of Mexico and Michelle Alexander of the U.S. came together in the MIRA Unity Conference for the first time.  They were joined by Maria Jimenez of the Houston (Texas) United Working Group for the Prevention of Migrant Deaths, Nsombi Lambright of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Attorney Harriet Johnson, of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Alexis Mazon of Justice Strategies, Jackie Castro Cooper of Our Lady of Fatima in Biloxi, Jed Oppenheim of the Southern Poverty Law Center and many others.  MIRA leaders Attorney Patricia Ice and MIRA Director Bill Chandler organized the conference with MIRA president Rep. Jim Evans, MIRA Board member Dr. Ivory Phillips, and many volunteers who helped make it a success.

Poet Javier Sicilia has led Mexico’s Movement for Peace with Dignity and Justice (MPJD) since his son and six friends were murdered in 2011. Mr. Sicilia joined with other Mexican victims of drug war violence to organize marches and caravans throughout Mexico.  Since Mexico’s drug war strategy is made in the USA, Mr. Sicilia led a 125-person caravan (comprised of relatives and loved ones of victims of the drug war) across the United States in 2012. More than 200 U.S. groups organized events in 27 cities, including Jackson, focused on ending the drug war, stopping gun smuggling, jailing bankers who launder money, and respecting the full human rights of immigrants.

From left to right: Nsombi Lambright, Dr. Ivory Phillips, & Maria Jimenez.

Michelle Alexander is a highly acclaimed civil rights lawyer, advocate, and legal scholar. In recent years, she has taught at a number of universities, including Stanford Law School, where she was an associate professor of law and directed the Civil Rights Clinics.  In 2005, she won a Soros Justice Fellowship, which supported the writing of The New Jim Crow. Since its first publication, The New Jim Crow has received rave reviews and has been featured in national radio and television media outlets, including MSNBC, NPR, Bill Moyers Journal, Tavis Smiley, C-SPAN, and the Washington Journal, among others.  The book won the NAACP Image Award for best non-fiction in 2011. Since 2010 when the book was first published, Michelle Alexander has become an active leader in the effort to de-criminalize drugs the United States.

Michelle Alexander and Javier Sicilia agreed that the damage done by the drug war in various countries has a common source in our deeply militarized and misguided prohibition policies.  Both Michelle and Javier are models of courage and determination to speak unpopular truths. They agreed to work together to build the international movement and consensus on the urgent need to rethink and build a movement to undo the militarization of the drug war.

They agreed that it was critical to assure that the voice of victims be represented at policy discussions and that those impacted by the war on drugs are vital by sharing their stories and their policy recommendations.

Books by Michelle Alexander in English, and Javier Sicilia in Spanish are available at the MIRA office or online.

We were truly thrilled with the results of our 2013 Unity Conference. You can see a gallery of photos by our ally and friend Al White of ACER (Action Communication and Education Reform).

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