A Drug Kingpin, the CIA, and Prisoners: Freeway Rick Ross and America’s Mass Incarceration Problem

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What does Freeway Rick Ross, the drug kingpin, have to do with Martin Luther King and the 50th anniversary of the Selma March? Good question.

Freeway: Crack in the System has been invited by the Jubilee Film Festival to close next weekend’s historic events in Selma, Alabama. Now what does our documentary on the crack era and the man at its epicenter, Freeway Rick, have to do with this epic civil rights confrontation that galvanized the nation half a century ago?

The movie Selma, and Common and John Legend’s mesmerizing Oscar night performance of “Glory,” provide the answer. “Selma is now,” Legend said, explaining, “We live in the most incarcerated country in the world.” The mass incarceration of so many men of color is The New Jim Crow, the title of Michelle Alexander’s groundbreaking book. As she says in the film: “What explains the sudden explosion in incarceration, if not crime and crime rates? Well the answer is the War on Drugs and the Get Tough Movement.”…

I first heard “CIA equals Crack In America” around the time of the Iran-Contra hearings in 1986, which I was covering as a young producer. But it was the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gary Webb who blew the story open with “Dark Alliance,” his 1996 series for the San Jose Mercury News. Webb put a spotlight on the CIA and the Reagan Administration’s unholy alliance with anti-communist guerrillas and their supporters who were involved in drug trafficking. He uncovered how tons of cocaine were shipped into San Francisco by supporters of the CIA-backed Contras and then distributed down to L.A. to a Nicaraguan named Danilo Blandón who sold it to a street dealer from South Central: Freeway Rick Ross.

This is the story that rocked black America and led to all sorts of conspiracy theories and urban legends.  It is also the story that goes to the fundamental hypocrisy and corruption of this failed War on Drugs.

Read the full article here.

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