U.S.: Moms United to End the War on Drugs Speak Out Against Prohibition
“The Empty Chair at the Holiday Table” Campaign Highlights Those Not With Us Because of Incarceration, an Overdose Death or Prohibition Violence
Each holiday season, A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment & Healing) and moms from around the country share their stories of loss while calling for an end to the War On Drugs -- which has been so disastrous for tens of millions of families. Many of the moms leading this campaign have been personally impacted by the War On Drugs.
The holidays are a particularly painful time for families – whether they are separated because of a loved one’s incarceration, lost on the streets due to drug problems, in danger because of drug war violence, or have lost a loved one to accidental overdose.
“I have painful memories of holidays when my son was absent because he was locked behind bars for drug use, and of family celebrations when one of my sons wasn’t included because he was lost in the maze of his addiction,” said Gretchen Burns Bergman of San Diego, founder of A New PATH, Moms United lead organizer and the mother of two sons who have struggled with heroin addiction and incarceration.
“We haven’t celebrated the holidays since 2008, when my son died of an accidental overdose," said Denise Cullen of Palm Desert, California. "We can’t escape the emptiness.”
"In each of these years, 1987, 1994 and 2012, I lost a sibling because they/their partners were prevented access to a $0.07 sterile syringe," said Joyce Rivera, founder of St. Ann’s Corner of Harm Reduction and the sister of an injection drug user who died of HIV/AIDS. "Their children lost parents. Let's take responsibility for our drug policy. Let's welcome our loved ones back home because their foibles are human. Let's not allow any more empty chairs at anyone's table."
Each holiday season Moms United gathers photos featuring a chair with a picture of a lost or missing loved one, and a sign with one of these statements: Incarceration, Accidental Overdose, Drug War Violence, or Stigma. These photos will become a part of a growing collection of personal stories of loss. Moms United has also created a moving and poignant video featuring these haunting pictures.
Moms United is asking mothers and others to take action during this holiday season in three ways:
• Use their newly created “Empty Chair” logo as your Facebook profile from Thanksgiving through Christmas.
• Sign and share the Moms Bill of Rights: Through this campaign the organization works to end the stigma and shame associated with addiction, as well as reaching out to and help suffering families.
The Moms United campaign says its mission is to “end the violence, mass incarceration and overdose deaths that are a result of current punitive and discriminatory drug policies. We are building a movement to stop the stigmatization and criminalization of people who use drugs or who are addicted to drugs. We are urgently calling for health-oriented strategies and widespread drug policy reform in order to stop the irresponsible waste of dollars and resources, and the devastating loss of lives and liberty.”
Moms United to End the War on Drugs is a project of San Diego-based A New PATH (Parents for Addiction Treatment and Healing), a 15-year old nonprofit organization that works to reduce the stigma associated with addictive illness through education and compassionate support, and to advocate for therapeutic rather than punitive drug policies.
Leaders of the Moms United campaign from around the country include Gretchen Burns Bergman (San Diego); Julia Negron (Florida), a mother of a son whose son served several prison terms for drug possession; Denise Cullen (Palm Desert, CA), Joyce Rivera (New York, N.Y.); Kathie Kane-Willis (Chicago), director of the Illinois Consortium on Drug Policy Roosevelt University; Charmie Gholson (Michigan), director of Michigan Moms United; Joy Strickland (Dallas), founder of Mothers Against Teen Violence, who lost her son to Drug War violence; and Yolande Cadore (NY, NY), director of Strategic Partnerships, Drug Policy Alliance.
Join and follow the campaign on Facebook – Moms United to End the War on Drugs