THEATER “Dope is Death” –

March 6, 2020 – “You don’t want to fight on drugs,” says Felipe Luciano, the founder of the Young Lords, in “Dope is Death.” “[After getting off of them] I found out I was political.”

His epiphany contributes to a greater one in Mia Donovan’s incredibly absorbing chronicle of how the underserved African-American and Puerto Rican communities in Harlem took their fate into their own hands to combat the drug addiction that was holding them back from organizing towards a better quality of life and breaking free of the system that had so thoroughly failed them. At a time when the streets were flooded with $3 bags of heroin and suffering wasn’t in short supply, the film details how the Black Panthers and the Young Ones not only seized a local hospital – Lincoln Memorial – to turn into their own detox center, but how Dr. Mutulu Shakur, the leader they installed to run it, came across a novel solution to treating all of the addicts in the community, learning of an alternative to costly government-issued methadone in acupuncture.