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Community effort can stop drug related crime

A letter from Council member Darby to a critic
Warwick Jones, Editor

I am proud to be a friend of Henry Darby who represents District 4 on County Council. He has often shared his concerns about the ill winds that blow through the community and in particular those of drugs and associated crime. He received a letter from a prominent member of the African American community who was strongly critical of a recent action. He showed me his response. I asked that he let me publish it. Part of the reason for my request was to explain again why he asked Council for a small donation to a drug reform group. More importantly, it was to show that the community can win the war against drugs and related crime - and the need for the community to be involved.

He consented to my request and his letter is shown below with some light editing.

Dear Dr. xxxxxxx:

Seldom do I take the time out to respond to letters that criticize me but I was quite shocked and surprised that a letter addressed to Vice-Chairman Scott of Charleston County Council was not sent directly to me since it was me to whom you were referring when you stated "I was somewhat grieved that there is a member of Charleston County that is supportive of an organization that would like legalization of drugs." I would have appreciated a letter coming directly from you and perhaps a copy to the Vice-Chair and to other Council members.

Firstly, let me say as a young man I always looked upon you as a talented physician, an honorable man, and a mentor for African-American youth throughout the Charleston area. In addition, when I was an instructor at Burke High School, you were often the topic of discussion in my African-American history class and in other classes where I encouraged many of my students to go into the medical field. You do not recall but you were the physician of my uncle at whose funeral you had spoken several years ago - Reverend Johnny Gathers.

Secondly. I think my views have been misconstrued; and you have been misinformed. I am not in favor of legalizing all drugs. That would be absurd and insane! I am in favor of legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes only. I supported South Carolinians for Drug Law Reform (SCDLR) because obviously the present system is not working - drugs cannot be kept out of prisons much less the streets! It does not seek to decriminalize all drugs - the cornerstone of the organization is the treatment thereof. Furthermore the funds (a mere $500) given to SCDLR have been returned as well as my withdrawing funds that were to be given this year and beyond.

Thirdly. several years ago I founded the organization "Citizens Patrol Against Drugs" (CPAD) which patrolled Liberty Hill, the most drug-invested black community in North Charleston at the time, from 6 pm until 2 am, six days a week for nine long months. I literally (and seldom have I mentioned this) placed my life and that of others on the line to resolve the drug problem. Too often these young black boys have no fear in pulling out a 9mm and blowing out one's brains over drugs and drug money - needless to mention the threats that were given. From Liberty Hill, CPAD went to George Legare, Chicora-Cherokee Accabee Russelldale and a black community in Summerville to resolve the drug problem. We offered to take the organization to the East Side of Charleston. But the organization was not extended a welcome when we volunteered to help the drug problem there.

Not to be arrogant but CPAD was successful to the point that five police departments (Greenville, Florence, Spartanburg, Sumter and one other the name of which I do not recall) came to study us. The organization received a national award and a letter from the White House. Furthermore and according to the North Charleston Police Department 95% of the drugs left Liberty Hill; 100% of the prostitution left; homes were no longer broken into (home invasion); and there was no killing in Liberty Hill for eleven years - 10 years after the patrol placed fear in drug dealers not to sell drugs here and drug users not to purchase them. The organization also testified against drugs dealers in court; we protested liquor licenses; and we demanded 25 jobs for former drug dealers and users, and the unemployed, when we expressed to the Mayor of North Charleston at that time that government needed to be involved as well (incidentally 24 jobs were given).

I too have seen what drugs have done. Prior to CPAD a man was found dead in my backyard because of drugs; one of my friends was killed because of drugs; several of my students had been killed because of drugs; and these incidents caused me to do something which brought CPAD into existence. It really hurts me that I would be castigated by black folk, particularly when all facts are not applicable, for trying to find an alternative in helping other black folk and the white poor by having marijuana possibly decriminalized and to bring about a greater degree of treatment for drug users (My organization and I could not patrol forever). If you could come up with an alternative solution I would gladly entertain it; but to criticize me for at least in trying to resolve perhaps the greatest problem within the black community (although be-it a non-traditional method) should not be.

Finally in the future I would that you contact me directly as opposed to indirectly. We both are men of character; and we both have the same goal in mind I would think - to help those who are being destroyed by drugs within the black community and beyond. I hope the day will come that as black men we could agree to disagree as opposed to attacking one another, which is the cause of much consternation in the African-American community. I would gladly meet and/or talk to you if there are any other questions or concerns.

Charleston County
District 4

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