Khadijah Tribble: How marijuana reform could repair, reclaim and restore communities

Recorded atMarch 29, 2019
Duration (min:sec)10:17
Video TypeTEDx Talk
Words per minute168.02 medium
Readability (FK)55.67 medium
SpeakerKhadijah Tribble

Official TED page for this talk


The war on drugs in the United States undid much of the progress of the Civil Rights Movement -- and today, it continues to derail millions within marginalized communities with arrests, convictions and incarcerations for marijuana possession. As more states move to legalize cannabis, social entrepreneur and activist Khadijah Tribble calls for equitable reform that centers on the casualties of the war and its insidious policies and paves a path toward restorative justice.

Text Highlight (experimental)
100:14 "What did you want to be when you grow up" is a question that I'm sure many of you have heard in your childhood.
200:24 But if your upbringing was anything like mine, it is a question that you heard over and over again.
300:32 And it wasn't until I became an adult that I began to understand the significance of the asking of the questions by our community leaders and my grandparents.
400:43 But it was only recently in the last two years that I get some true understanding of just how much significance and weight there was in the answer back then and even today.
500:57 You see, growing up Black and female in the South more than 40 years ago, there are some limitations to the answer to that question.
601:06 Whether real or perceived, there were limitations all the same.
701:12 And so what I want you to understand at this moment, as a young girl growing up, with all that was happening right after the civil rights movement, all of the advancements of the struggle, things that were meant to push and advance the African-American community; things like the Voting Rights Act, The Fair Housing Act and affirmative action, and my generation was supposed to be taking full advantage of all of those opportunities.
801:46 So, when they ask the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?," it meant something to them.
901:54 I remember hearing this question one summer at vacation Bible school.
1002:00 And if anybody is here from the South, you understand that vacation Bible school is not to be confused with BTU training school or Sunday-go-to-meeting school.
1102:10 it is vacation Bible school.
1202:13 I'm still trying to figure out who thought it was a good idea to put a vacation, Bible and school all together ... (Laughter)
1302:21 But the first week of every summer, of every summer during my childhood, it was spent in vacation Bible school.
1402:27 And this one particular summer there was a teacher.
1502:30 She wasn't too much older than me and my middle school friends.
1602:34 She wanted to make sure that we understood scripture and was able to connect it to this real world question of what you will be when you grow up.
1702:45 And so as my gaggle of girls sat around lunch that day, trying to figure out what we were going to say, thinking back now, it was a really impressive group of girls because they wanted to be things like civil rights attorneys, educators and doctors.
1803:02 I didn't want any of that.
1903:05 I was going to do something different.
2003:07 You see, I was going to be ... wait for it ...
2103:12 A thinker.
2203:14 (Laughter)
2303:15 Yes.
2403:16 (Applause)
2503:20 So when it came time for me to take the stage and share with the entire vacation Bible school, I introduced myself and I said, "When I grow up, I'm going to be a thinker."
2603:33 There was some laughter, some giggles, but it was really the disapproving look on the teacher's face that made me recant.
2703:41 And so I said really quickly, "When I grow up, I'm going to be a lawyer," and then I exit stage left.
2803:47 But fast-forward to two years ago
2903:49 and I get an opportunity to spend time at an institution known for creating and cultivating great thinkers.
3003:57 Little did I know at the time that there's a ritual at the Kennedy School where students get an opportunity to stand on the famous forum stage and they're given 15 seconds to say what they were going to do at the Kennedy School.
3104:12 And so, you know what I'm thinking, right?
3204:14 It's a full-circle moment. I'm going to get it right.
3304:17 So I take the mic, I introduce myself and I say to my peers, to deans and to faculty members that I'm here to tell you that marijuana matters.
3404:32 Not a lot of giggles.
3504:34 Actually, it was actually a lot of applause.
3604:38 But in my head, I'm thinking, "Khadijah, did you just stand on the premiere policy stage and tell these folks you’re going to talk about weed?”
3704:45 (Laughter)
3804:48 That's exactly what I did, and for the next 12 months, I immersed myself in all things marijuana, day in and day out, reading, talking, sniffing, thinking about marijuana.
3904:59 So much so, my lovely wife Robyn banned the topic from the dinner table.
4005:04 (Laughter)
4105:05 But here's what I came to understand about marijuana.
4205:09 And if you don't remember anything else from my talk, please remember this.
4305:14 That for all of the gains that we were trying to make with the civil rights movement -- fair housing, expanded opportunities in education, employment opportunities, building the wealth of the African-American community, the failed policies of the war on drugs single-handedly undid all of that.
4405:35 (Applause)
4505:40 And here's how we know that.
4605:42 I want to give you guys five numbers.
4705:44 Five.
4805:46 Seven.
4905:48 46. 23 and one.
5005:52 And no, it's not the Mega Millions jackpot numbers.
5105:55 See, for more than five decades, this country has waged a war on drugs, which has been tantamount to waging a war on Black and brown communities.
5206:05 Millions of people have been arrested, convicted and incarcerated for marijuana-related possessions.
5306:13 In the last decade alone, 7 million.
5406:17 And those 7 million people are facing what's known as 46,000 collateral consequences.
5506:25 Now, some of you may be saying, "If you do the crime, you do the time."
5606:29 And I only have five minutes left, so I can't argue that point today.
5706:33 But I will say to you, at this moment, when 33 states and the District of Columbia have some form of regulated growing marijuana, selling marijuana, consuming marijuana and distributing marijuana on a mass scale, is it still a crime?
5806:51 I ask because I've met people all across this country who are living with those collateral consequences.
5906:58 People like Keyvette, a young woman, very energetic about her future.
6007:03 When she left high school, she was ambitious and she wanted to go off to college.
6107:08 But before she could realize that she was stopped for a routine traffic violation, I think it was a broken headlight.
6207:19 And in the course of that stop the police officers smelled marijuana.
6307:25 And if you're in the state of Virginia, the smell of marijuana is probable cause for search and seizure.
6407:33 The car was searched, there was marijuana that wasn't used.
6507:37 She was arrested, booked, and to this day, she still has a criminal record related to marijuana.
6607:43 Because of that record, she often finds it hard to qualify for an apartment, employment opportunities.
6707:52 She also lost the opportunity to use financial aid to go to school.
6807:57 Some of you might not even know there are about 26 licensures for entry-level employment opportunities, that if you have a marijuana-related conviction, you may not be able to get that license, like a barber's license or a cosmetology license.
6908:11 But the thing that I find so offensive about ??? situation is that she has two kids.
7008:19 And there's evidence to suggest children born to individuals who have a marijuana-related offense, they're more likely to live in poverty.
7108:28 And I ask you guys, is that fair?
7208:32 Is that equitable?
7308:34 Or take the veteran who proudly and honorably served for 26 years in the United States Air Forces.
7408:41 In that service, he actually lost the use of his legs, he's paralyzed and he uses marijuana for pain management.
7508:49 He also uses it to deal with his anxiety and depression that you can imagine would come with losing independence and mobility.
7608:57 And he uses marijuana knowing full well that he is at risk of losing the very health benefits that he earned as a disabled veteran.
7709:09 You know, people ask me all the time, "Khadijah, why marijuana?
7809:13 Why are you so passionate about marijuana?”
7909:16 The reality of it is I feel like this is just a continuation of the work I've done my entire life.
8009:22 I've worked alongside marginalized communities, in service of marginalized communities in hopes that I would be able to improve their life in some way.
8109:34 But if I'm being honest and frank, it's also very personal to me, marijuana is a personal issue for me.
8209:42 You see, that veteran happens to be my father, Retired Master Sergeant Willie B. Tribble, and I will fight for his right and the thousands of other veterans to get the life saving -- and we don't know that yet by research, but I suggest that it could potentially be -- medicine that is quality and safe for veterans.
8310:06 And Keyvette? Keyvette is my daughter in law.
8410:09 And those two kids, King and Titan, mean so much to me.
8510:15 And just like my grandparents asked me, "What do you want to be when you grow up?," I want to be able to hear from my grandsons: anything they want to be.
8610:27 Thank you for listening.