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Dope is Death

By Lorry Kikta | November 18, 2020

DOC NYC 2020 FESTIVAL REVIEW! Oh wow, where do I even begin with the wonderful documentary Dope Is Death? I’m asking this question to myself as I begin to write this because it is tough to answer. The film starts with a simple subject and then spans out into decades worth of interrelated stories. I’m glad that I watched it because it has a lot to do with the history of the place I call home, New York City. It’s history that isn’t commonly known, especially for people who don’t live here or aren’t black or Latinx. Therefore I think it’s an exceptionally important film for Americans to see.

Dope is Death focuses on a clinic in the Bronx called the Lincoln Detox Clinic, which was started by the Black Panthers and the Young Lords in the early 1970s. It used a treatment that was novel at the time, and honestly still is. It’s the NADA protocol— a standardized 5-point ear acupuncture treatment for addiction, anxiety, stress, and trauma. The people working at the Lincoln Detox Clinic used it as a detox from heroin, which in case you didn’t know, is the hardest drug to stop doing.

“…focuses on a clinic in the Bronx called the Lincoln Detox Clinic, which was started by the Black Panthers and the Young Lords…”

The Nixon administration was gung-ho about targeting drugs as so-called “public enemy number one,” but their solution to the problem was getting former heroin addicts onto methadone, which is just another addictive substance. The Lincoln Detox Clinic used the NADA protocol to get people off dope for good. The clinic also specialized in political education as revolutionaries ran it. In fact, the clinic was essentially formed when a group of revolutionaries took over the hospital.

We meet some of the major players in the creation of the Lincoln Detox Clinic, who also happen to be political activists. Some of them had spent years in prison for different revolutionary acts. The person who was at the fore of all of this was Dr. Mutulu Shakur. If the last name looks familiar, Shakur was married to late rapper Tupac’s mother, Afeni. He, Juan Gonzalez, and others traveled to Montreal to be trained as doctors in acupuncture by Dr. Mario Waxu and his late father. When they returned, they started an acupuncture school within the clinic.

Why was my mind blown by Dope is Death? It’s because the police and politicians fought the people who brought such a wonderful opportunity to the underserved community at every opportunity. The New York Times implied that Marxists and Maoists ran the clinic. This caused Mayor Ed Koch to send out the riot squad to shut the place down. After that, it appeared that all of the people involved had targets on their backs.

Dope is Death (2020)

Directed and Written: Mia Donovan

Starring: Maliki Shakur Lattine, Cleo Silvers, Felipe Luciano, Juan Gonzalez, Carlos Alvarez, Aiysha Amed, Sekou Odinga, etc.

Movie score: 10/10

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"…heroin is essentially death in powdered form."

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