Devin Reaves describes himself as a product of the 1980’s crack epidemic and the ensuing War on Drugs, which had an undeniable impact on people of color, beginning the earliest stages of what we see today as mass incarceration.
He used an analogy of fence to describe the importance of equity. There are three people: one tall, one average and one short. If we give them all the same height stool to stand on, that is equality, but the tallest person still has more of an advantage. But to have equity, the tallest person wouldn’t get a stool, the person with the average height would get a short stool and then the shortest person would get the biggest stool, so that now everyone is the same height. Social justice is “how do I get rid of the fence?” he said.
“The tattoos are out,” said Reaves as he rolled up his sleeves. He’s been in recovery since August 2007.
Reaves works on the intersection between race, incarceration and recovery He works for the Bridge Way School, which was the city’s first recovery high school.
He’s had a long haul of legal battles due to his interest in wanting to open a recovery residence in the city, but because of zoning laws, he couldn’t. He almost went bankrupt because of this. He was able to open the residence, but had to close it after receiving a cease and desist because of zoning laws.
“Cities use zoning laws to craft how a neighborhood looks,” he said. “The city has lots to do around large-scale interventions to problems.”
He talked a lot about the fact that the War on Drugs created a new public enemy #1, which in contrast to popular belief, isn’t drugs, but black bodies, he said.
But with the “new face” of the heroin epidemic being white people, now there is a need to have hearings and to create task forces to combat addiction.
“If you can afford Oxycotin, your life matters more,” he said.