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Kassandra Frederique, DPA’s New Executive Director, Shares Her Message to the Movement

Drug Policy Alliance
Sep 8 · 3 min read
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To our loving, complex, and unapologetic community:

Today, I assume the role of Executive Director for the Drug Policy Alliance. It’s actually quite incredible to write those words. I never imagined when I started at DPA in 2009 that I would get to learn from incredible visionaries at DPA like Ethan, Deborah, asha, Roseanne, Jasmine, and gabriel. I’ve been honored to be at DPA for eleven years as we redefined policy, advocacy, and organizing. Together we’ve played a pivotal role in transforming the national conversation about drug policy. This is an organization I undoubtedly love — and it is an organization that needs to grow.

With such an incredible track record, one could say “keep doing what you’re doing”, but we know DPA can and must do more. During this overwhelming year, COVID-19 has further exposed the inequities across the globe; inequities further exacerbated by drug policy. Confined to our homes, many of us have watched on our screens the violence of racism, transphobia, and sexism plague our communities. From the news to social media, it’s impossible to ignore.

I’m stepping into this moment with the understanding that to expose and extinguish the drug war we must redefine it.

I’m stepping into this moment with the understanding that to expose and extinguish the drug war we must redefine it. To be clear, ending the drug war will always be our focus at DPA, but as we enter our third decade of work, we must remember that we cannot fight against the drug war as an end unto itself. Rather, our work has to be informed by the layered, intersecting injustices faced by the people and communities we work to support and follow the leadership of those most impacted by the drug war itself — groups disproportionately targeted by drug law enforcement, particularly low-income people and those of color.

…we are going to emphasize this interconnection, shining a light on the drug-related policies that hold us all down while doing the fundamental work to lift us all up.

At DPA we are going to emphasize this interconnection, shining a light on the drug-related policies that hold us all down while doing the fundamental work to lift us all up. We know that piecemeal strategies in the fight for freedom have only left the most vulnerable in our communities behind.

People who use drugs need everyday healthcare, not just treatment. They and their families need housing and food, just like everyone else. They need communities that are thriving, with plentiful jobs and top-class schools, just as everyone does. The drug war through its policies, twisted drug war logic, and its aim to dehumanize our loved ones limits the resources people need to be full participants in society. In this fight, it is our duty to reimagine policies, push forth logic grounded in truth, and create pathways that serve as enablers to the actualization of full participation.

In this fight, it is our duty to reimagine policies, push forth logic grounded in truth, and create pathways that serve as enablers to the actualization of full participation.

Victory is far from certain, but I know that progress without a final, full ending to the drug war is empty; I also know that a moral war fought on narrow policy successes is doomed to the margins. If this year has taught me anything it’s that a fight for an ending can feel endless; that is why I want us to fight for an ever after — one that is limitless in possibility. Yes, it is time to end the drug war, but as our comrades on the frontlines fighting against police violence push us to remember — it is also time to build the world after. We can do them both and we must do them now.

If this year has taught me anything it’s that a fight for an ending can feel endless; that is why I want us to fight for an ever after — one that is limitless in possibility.

I won’t promise perfection, but DPA will strive for progress. And as my ancestors, friends, and fierce mentors of VOCAL-NY and Communities United for Police Reform have taught me, we will do it with others, together.

See you out there,

Kassandra

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