Blog Post

"Mama Roz" Preudhomme: "When you honor me, you honor those who came before me"

Kassandra Frederique

She carries the name of the two women that she loves the most, her godmother and her grandmother, her name is Gloria Rosaline Preudhomme. Her work with the Institute of the Black World is a testament to her commitment to end the war on drugs.

Gloria Rosaline Preudhomme is one of the key organizers at the Institute of the Black World. In the last 50 years, she has dedicated her life to service – even honored by the New York State Senate in 2013 for her outstanding contributions in New York State as well across the country with IBW.

During our afternoon together, “Mama Roz” as we affectionately call her, is reflective on her life as she talks about her entry into the drug policy reform world which was later than most other drug policy reformers that we’ve honored in the past.

When asked what made her come into the field Mama Roz said, “When I saw the war on drugs was really a war on us. In any war there are always casualties, so in this war, my community was declared the enemy. I saw our institutions, especially our faith institutions, didn’t really want to admit or acknowledge that the war, not just the drugs, but the war itself was harming our community.

“Some of us fell for the okie doke thinking, ‘yeah she’s on crack so it is alright to take away her baby’ not recognizing that she’s on crack because of the war that is declared on her and if they take away her baby they are disrupting families and when they take away the caregiver then they are not looking at drugs through the prism of economics, poverty, and health. Harm at any level is something that I want to address. When I put it all together, I wanted to be involved, because it got to me. The war on drugs is like the same war that African people have endured in this country and I finally said, enough is enough.”

Part of the history that is consistently missing from the conversation, according to Mama Roz, is the role that Black women have played in some of the most important drug policy reforms. Mama Roz and the Institute of the Black World played a key role in curating the messaging and organizing for the historic Washington DC legalization effort, Initiative 71. Mama Roz’s work with DC organizers helped garner historic support from the African American community for the marijuana legalization initiative. In addition to her work around marijuana legalization and African Americans, Mama Roz works with Congressman Danny K. Davis on regional meetings about the drug war and child welfare.

“What is missing from the conversation are the people who the war was declared on. Everyone is trying to fix the problem, not always recognizing that the problem has been based and rooted in institutional racism,” she said. “What needs to come into the conversation is our voice. Yes, we need everyone at the table but you cannot speak for us. You need to have the voices of those that have endured the pain and understand what it is like to be black in America. It must inform your policy agenda.

“What’s missing from the conversation are the people most impacted. When we are involved, it’s usually when we are there to tell our story and how we overcame our hardships. But we too have played a role in ending the war on drugs and that is often not as celebrated as our trauma.”

“When you honor me, you are honoring all those before me and all those that are yet to come. We represent as women the daughters of those that they could not kill. Therefore, we have a sense of responsibility. It is our duty because they were the resilient ones. If they weren’t resilient we wouldn’t be here. They bore us through some very difficult times. They labored. They put up with whatever it is to survive. Black women will bring us through the war on drugs.”

Thank you Mama Roz for your continuous work to lift us up through our journey.

Kassandra Frederique is the director of the New York policy office of the Drug Policy Alliance.

*Editor’s note: This post is a part of the Black History Month series from the Drug Policy Alliance. See posts from the whole series, including past years, here.

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