The Yuckiness of Drugs Yokes Our Youngest

The ABCs of Opioids reveals the African-American community’s struggle with addiction.

It is horrifically ironic that painkillers, drugs created to ease suffering, are brutalizing our communities with addiction and overdose. Yet even prescription opioids have been eclipsed by more powerful rivals. Cheap and lethal fentanyl is now wreaking havoc across the country—from big cities to rural America to our very homes.

For the last 2 years, Russell Herder has partnered with the Minnesota Department of Health and the High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) to combat the effects opioids have on our communities. Our weapon of choice: knowledge. With KnowTheDangers.com, we created the go-to hub for all Minnesotans to find facts, resources, and recovery options for an ever-changing drug landscape. In keeping with recent trends, the website and a related advertising campaign were retooled, shifting the focus to fentanyl.

One of the most notable things about the KnowTheDangers effort is our co-creation approach. Much of the content is created in close collaboration with artists, students, and activists from the most affected communities. It introduces a perspective we can only offer with the help of people who share their everyday lived experiences. One of them is Benny Roberts.

Benny had previously worked with Russell Herder as a visual artist; when we approached him with the idea of a video addressing the impact of fentanyl and opioids on the African-American community, Benny dropped a lyrical masterpiece.

“The ABCs of Opioids” has one clear message: Opioids kill all of us – it’s as simple as ABC. Rapping through the reality of fentanyl in the African-American community, Benny leaves no stone unturned with his mind-boggling alliterations. From “Adolescents turned ancestors” to “Innocence intercepted by intentional ills” to “Kneeling on necks over nickles,” Benny’s deep and untarnished insights reveal the importance of co-creation: The true story doesn’t come out of a meeting room. It can only be told by people who are deeply rooted in their communities, living their realities every day. At Russell Herder, part of the creative process is to work with community members, helping them share their stories first-hand.

From its first line to the final cut, the creation of The ABCs of Opioids was developed in close collaboration with Russell Herder’s creative team and mixed in sound studios at Urban Ventures. Sound engineer Mike Brooks mixed the beats and recorded the track; photographer Roosevelt Mansfield shot the still images, and the black women-owned production company Dezzyz World captured all the video. The result of this powerful collaboration isn’t just another drug awareness video. It is an audio-visual vortex that pulls the viewer straight into the African-American community’s struggle with a drug epidemic unlike any other.

The ABCs of Opioids recently premiered at South Minneapolis High, one of the original filming locations—and you can watch it right here.

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