On Sunday, October 4, tens of thousands of people will come together on the National Mall to face one of America’s biggest health crises: drug addiction. The UNITE to Face Addiction Rally will demand solutions for the nation’s addiction crisis.
Drug addiction affects approximately 22 million Americans. More than 350 lives are lost each day to alcohol and other drug problems, making it one of the most significant health issues of our time. Twenty-three million more Americans are in recovery.
“The ultimate goal [of the rally] is to transform the conversation about the disease of addiction,” said Janice Ferebee, Field Organizer/DC & African American Outreach Leader for UNITE to Face Addiction.
This is not the first time that an event like UNITE to Face Addiction has been organized. Recovery marches have been around for a long time. But according to Ferebee, this is the first rally of this magnitude.
By convening such a large group of supporters in the nation’s capital, organizers aim for addiction to become recognized as a national health crisis.
Aloe Blacc, Sheryl Crow, Steven Tyler with his Nashville-based band, Loving Mary and other artists will perform live at the rally. Throughout the day, speakers from all walks of life will share stories of how addiction has affected them.
Ferebee is driven to make the most out of UNITE to Face Addiction because she struggled with and overcame addiction herself, and celebrates 25 years of long-term recovery on October 1. Ferebee emphasized the importance of getting support from others when facing addiction.
“Pray to whatever spirit or creator you believe in and reach out to someone, because silence is death,” Ferebee said. “Recovery is possible. Pray and find someone who you can call and talk to and get help.”
Originally from the Long Island, Ferebee was a straight-A student and involved in extracurriculars such as pre-med club and fashion board. She graduated from the Michigan State University in 1977 and ended up working in fashion, where she became the first models editor of African descent for Seventeen Magazine in 1979. While working her way up the corporate ladder, Ferebee also ventured into real estate.
She married a man who convinced her to try hard drugs and became addicted to heroin, crack and alcohol. She began running the streets of New York at night and got involved with a dangerous South American cartel. She stopped working legally and began hanging out on Willis Avenue in the Bronx, one of the most notorious drug havens in the country, according to Ferebee.
“The drugs were recreational at first, but when things got worse, we became our best customers. That’s when the bottom fell out,” she said.
A couple of arrests for shoplifting later, Ferebee faced herself and did not like what she saw.
“I lost my dignity and respect and was brought in to the dark side of drugs,” Ferebee said. “It was not who I was and not how I grew up.”
Her mother gave her an ultimatum. Ferebee went through a treatment center in Maryland and on to Argyle Terrace Oxford House, an addiction recovery residence.
After Ferebee went through treatment, her life started to change and she “got the glow back.” Ferebee soon found a job, got a counselor and, eventually, a divorce. She then began restoring the dignity, self-worth, and self-respect she lost from being on the wrong path.
After she came into recovery, she graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a masters in social work. She later founded Ferebee Enterprises International, LLC and authored the popular “Got It Goin’ On” personal development handbook series for girls of color.
Ferebee has become a living testament that recovery works and is excited to bring awareness to the health crisis of drug addiction through the upcoming rally.
UNITE to Face Addiction Campaign Director Greg Williams told TheFix.com that the rally will not only create awareness around the addiction crisis, but — similar to the AIDS Quilt, or The People’s Climate March — it will bring together a grassroots constituency to demand action from policymakers.
On Monday, October 5, UNITE to Face Addiction volunteers will spend the day lobbying congress in order to get a health response to addiction and to protect the civil liberties of those seeking recovery.
“Standing united we can at last end the silence around the public health solutions to addiction, and shift perceptions about addiction to help the country realize that we can no longer passively ignore this massive issue tearing millions of families and communities apart,” Williams said.