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Anthony Papa is an artist, writer, freedom fighter, noted advocate against the war on drugs and co-founder of the Mothers of the New York Disappeared. Mr. Papa’s stinging opinion pieces about the drug war have appeared in news sources across the country. He is a frequent public speaker and college lecturer on his art and criminal justice issues. Currently he is Manager of Media Relations for the Drug Policy Alliance. From the Huffington Post:
After a first-time, nonviolent drug offense under New York
state's strict Rockefeller Drug Laws,
Papa was sentenced to 15 years in the Sing Sing Correctional Facility. In
2004, he published his memoir
15 to Life: How I Painted My Way to Freedom, a memoir about his experience
of being sentenced to state prison for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense
under New York’s draconian Rockefeller Drug Laws. In 2016 he published his
This Side of Freedom: Life After Clemency, about his 18 years of freedom and the struggles he had with life after imprisonment
His experience prompted him to become an activist for drug decriminalization. The activist, of Puerto Rican descent, is currently the Manager of Media Relations for the Drug Policy Alliance, an organization that promotes alternatives to the drug war. Papa has been featured on several platforms, including the Brazilian drug war documentary "Breaking the Taboo" and the TV news program "Democracy Now." "If you can't control drugs in a maximum security prison, then how can you control drugs in a free society?" Papa says at the end of the Brazilian documentary, which included commentary from figures like Mexican actor Gael García Bernal and former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter.
Papa has appeared in film and TV such as Lock Down USA and Sixty Spins Around the Sun and HBO's "OZ". He has been interviewed by a wide range of national print and broadcast media, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Nation, National Public Radio, “Democracy Now,” Court TV, “Extra,” C-Span, WPIX, RNN among others. His art has been exhibited widely from the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York to many cultural centers and he has appeared on nationally syndicated talk shows such as HollyScoop, CNNs Your Money , MSNBC Live withTamron Hall.“Charles Grodin,” “Geraldo Rivera,” and “Catherine Crier Live.”
Juan Gonzalez of the New York Daily News has said "Papa is practically a Ph.D. on the Rockefeller Drug Laws". By using knowledge gained from his experience and acclaim as an artist as vehicles of protest Mr. Papa has been able to bring drug war reform to main stream America by reaching out to others and getting them involved like Def Jam Founder "Russell Simmons" who staged the largest drug war rally in the history of New York State. This lead to the first Rockefeller Drug Law reforms in 2004 which Papa argued were not enough which led to later reforms which occurred in 2005 and 2009.
Maybe you recently heard him when Roger Stone Interviewed Papa on "The Stone Cold Truth"
Maybe you heard him on StepinoutRadio
Maybe you heard him on KBOO Radio
Maybe you heard him on Cultural Baggage
Maybe you saw him on "Let them Talk"
Maybe your saw him on "BRIC TV"
Maybe you saw him give the closing line in the feature drug war documentary titled Quebrando o Tabu (Breaking the Taboo)
Or read about him putting pressure on politicians to change the Rockefeller Drug Laws and grant clemency to those who have fallen through the cracks of reform.
Or maybe you saw him on Capital 9 News when the historic changes in the Rockefeller Drug Laws occurred in 2009 .
The name Anthony Papa might sound familiar. He has been profiled in hundreds of stories. Recently he appeared with singer Sting, Montel Williams and billionaire financier George Soros in a very moving PSA about the drug war . The Huffington Post describes him as
Maybe you were one of the millions of New Yorkers who saw him in a political television commercial about the Rockefeller Drug laws for billionaire Tom Golisano in his race for governor of New York . You could have read The New York Times’ moving profile of Papa after he was granted clemency by Governor George Pataki in 1997. (Click Here to See the Authentic Clemency Document that Set Papa Free) Or perhaps you saw him speak as the keynote speaker at the largest Rockefeller Drug Law (RDL) reform rally ever held in Albany NY or in NYC where 50,000 people turned out for "Countdown for Fairness", a unprecedented national coalition to repeal the RDLs.
Maybe you have seen Papa on national television smacking down opponents like Americas toughest sheriff .
Maybe you saw him on "Democracy Now" talking about injustice of the RDLs. and his book "15 to Life"
Maybe you saw his celebrated painting, "15 Years to Life: Self Portrait," exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art or saw his political art installations or his body cavity search series which depicts the dehumanizing nature of the prison experience. Or maybe you heard him tell his story on Clocktower Gallery Art on Air Radio or Initiative Radio
Whether you’re art lover or not, chances are you’ve heard of Anthony Papa. His powerful message comes from the twelve years he spent in a maximum-security prison for passing an envelope containing 4 ½ ounces of cocaine. His story is all too familiar to the 100's of thousands of individuals in prison today for drug offenses and to the 500,000 plus Americans in State and Federal prisons for drug-related crimes. His articulate advocacy for drug law reform has informed countless journalists about America’s war on drugs and the country’s burgeoning prison population. Papa’s story speaks the message of the blockbuster movie, Traffic, and award-winning prison dramas such as Dead Man Walking that reveal the injustices of America’s criminal justice system.
Follow Anthony Papa on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AnthonyPapa
Endorsements for "15 To Life" : How I Painted My Way To Freedom
"Anthony Papa has written a riveting account of how he courageously painted his way to freedom from prison after unnecessarily serving twelve years. His story puts a human face on the nearly one million nonviolent drug offenders confined in prisons throughout the country" --Susan Sarandon -Actor/Activist
"A powerful memoir of one
man's struggle for freedom, 15 To Life tells in vivid prose the story of Anthony
Papa, a painter and a casualty of the War on Drugs. This journey of a soul shows
the power of art to transcend the violence of prison, and all that is possible
when the human spirit refuses to be contained. Papa's account should be required
reading for New York lawmakers and all Americans who care about civil
--Sister Helen Prejean - Author of Dead Man Walking
"Papa's story gives me the chills. He's been through so much you won't believe it 'till you read it." Jack Black -Actor (School of Rock)
"Anthony Papa's "15 To Life" tells of a heroic escape from a brutal system by a man who refused to give up. A thrilling, unforgettable read! -- Tim Robbins - Actor (Mystic River)
"Anthony Papa's "15 To Life" is a must read for the hip-hop community. Over 94% of the 17,000 people locked up under New York's drug laws, the harshest drug laws in the country, are black or Hispanic. Like Papa, I am trying to end these racist laws. We need your voice. You can start by reading this book -- Russell Simmons - Chairman Hip-Hop Summit Action Network"
" "Papa is a true American hero whose ingenuity and never say die attiude conquered frightful adversity " -- Jason Flom -President Atlantic/Lava Records
"Anthony Papa's "15 To Life" is a gripping story of justice gone wrong and an inspiring tale of personal triumph. It is a scathing indictment of the antiquated Rockefeller drug laws that have imprisoned thousands of nonviolent offenders and wasted billions of dollars of taxpayer money" --Former US HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo--author of Crossroads
"There have been a lot of books over the years about men in prison, but Anthony Papa's "15 To Life" is unique. This is a wrenching, compelling, and darkly ironic story of a man discovering his artistic soul behind bars and using his talent to gain his freedom. It will provoke you, it might enrage you, and it could even inspire you. But it won't easily let you forget it." Peter Blauner --Best selling Author of the Intruder and The Last Good Day
"The Rockefeller Drug Laws must change and Papa's "15 To Life" is a good reason why!" -- Frank Serpico Legionary Former NYC Police Officer
"15 To Life" is an unbelievable story about one man's journey through a living hell and how he survived and now is fighting to change the most racist drug laws in America. Read this book - learn something! -- Al "Grandpa Munster" Lewis - Actor/Activist