This weekend, we honor Juneteenth, a national day of Independence commemorating the official freedom for all formerly enslaved peoples. On June 19th, 1865, two and half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, slavery ended in the United States. Post-emancipation, newly freed individuals and communities began the fight towards reparations, equality and empowerment. “The historical legacy of Juneteenth shows the value of never giving up hope in uncertain times.” 

In recognition of this second Independence Day, we acknowledge the contributions of formerly enslaved peoples and their struggle for freedom as an integral part of the American story. Juneteenth is a day for Black communities to come together for jubilant celebrations of shared culture and authenticity filled with love, music, food and art.

Despite the monumental significance of Juneteenth, this day has gone largely unrecognized within the predominantly white narrative of US history that continues to suppress the lived experiences of Black, Brown, Indigenous, and other communities of color. “That’s why Juneteenth is more than an observance of freedom. It’s also a time to share the experiences of those who fought—literally and figuratively—to seek true freedom for future generations. It’s important that we don’t whitewash this history.” Learn more about Juneteenth education and celebration here.

The War on Drugs

Following the major victories of the Civil Rights Movement, The War on Drugs began and redirected efforts to target people of color. Drugs became “public enemy number 1” and were intentionally linked to non-white, poor and minority communities. This war began a campaign of law enforcement and military intervention to eliminate any drug that the US arbitrarily classified as illegal. Thus the carceral state and prison industrial complex was born, a modern day expression of domestic enslavement that disproportionately targets and criminalizes Black, Brown, Indigenous, and impoverished communities. This for-profit prison system has allowed policies such as discriminatory sentencing, mandatory minimums, racial profiling, pre-trial detention, unpaid labor and cash-bail to exacerbate the strain on these communities. 

The lasting results of the War on Drugs has only caused further health problems rather than preventing them. Individuals with substance dependencies and drug offenses on their records face barriers to healthcare, treatment, employment, housing and education. Rather than refocus resources on public health, mental health, and rehabilitation: 

  • The US still spends $47 billion annually on the War on Drugs. 
  • 15.7 million people have been arrested for cannabis in the last decade while cannabis is now legal in 37 states for medical use and for adult use in 16 of those states.
  • Drug arrests account for 20% of people who are incarcerated.
  • Every 25 seconds, a person is arrested for possessing drugs for personal use.

Black people are almost 4x more likely to be arrested for marijuana than white people despite nearly equal rates of marijuana use between black people and white people. Ending marijuana prohibition is a critical component to dismantling this unjust crusade against human and civil rights inflicted upon marginalized communities.

The Tucson Second Chance Community Bail Fund

Today, Arizona has the 5th highest incarceration rate in the country. 70%-80% of those incarcerated at the Pima County jail are there on pretrial status, meaning that they have not been convicted of a crime. Many are unable to afford cash bail, further perpetuating the criminalization of poverty. 

The Tucson Second Chance Community Bail Fund is a Black-led abolitionist revolving bail fund that is working to end the cash-bail and pre-trial detention system and end the criminalization of poverty.  Led by daughter-mother team Tiera Rainey and Lola Rainey, “TSCCBF posts bond primarily for individuals from black, brown and indigenous communities who are unjustly detained while waiting for trial simply because they cannot afford bail.” 

The Prime Leaf is proud to stand with TSCCBF in their fight to end the criminalization of poverty, the practice of pretrial detention and the cash-bail system.  As an industry and a global community we must work to reverse the harms of the discriminatory War on Drugs. We must reckon with how prohibition and policing disproportionately impact and inflict trauma on Black, Brown, Indigenous, Asian and all communities of color and those living in poverty. We need to fight for equality through much needed social, economic and criminal justice reform. 

Juneteenth is a day of both remembrance and celebration of progress. It is a day of empowerment and love. Within this celebration, we must continue to advocate for Black liberation and autonomy rooted in joy, peace and justice.

To learn more, head to The National Museum of African American History and Culture and Learning for Justice.

Support TSCCBF here.

Check out Black-owned restaurants around Tucson here.