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Johann Hari @ 5x15 - The Killing of Billie Holiday & How Addicts Can Be Heroes

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Published on Jan 23, 2015

Johann Hari is a British journalist who has written for the New York Times, the LA Times, the Guardian, Le Monde, Slate, the New Republic and The Nation amongst others. He was a columnist on the Independent for nine years and was twice named Newspaper Journalist of the Year by Amnesty International UK. He has also been named Cultural Commentator of the Year by the Editorial Intelligence awards and Gay Journalist of the Year by Stonewall. Chasing the Scream: the first and last days of the War on Drugs is Johann Hari’s first book.

He has spent three years researching and writing the book, travelling to 9 countries and interviewing countless people whose lives have been transformed by the war on drugs. It is 100 years since drugs were made illegal and Hari’s book will challenge and change how you think about the most controversial question of our time. The Guardian called it a ‘powerful contribution to an urgent debate’ and The Times said it is ‘Thoughtful, thorough and questing, and full of fresh and genuine reportage about aspects of the drug economy.

In this talk, Hari tells the stories of two drug addicts, in the hope that we rethink our attitudes towards drug users, as well as our own ability to make a difference. The first is of African American singer, Billie Holiday, who was led down the road of drug use after a life enduring racism, sexual abuse and incarceration. Billie fell ill and died in her forties, after being turned away by many hospitals who refused to treat her because of her addiction. However, the song she sang defiantly throughout her life has helped many feel empowered over the decades since.

The second story takes us forty years after Billie's death, where homeless street addict, Budd Osbourne made a huge impact on the lives of the underprivileged in Vancouver. Budd gathered other addicts in his area, where they attended meetings and pressured the Mayor of Vancouver, Phillip Owen, in the hope of giving people a safer and better life. Using their voice, these drug users were able to help introduce safe injecting rooms into the community, and saw overdose rates fall 80%. With this, Johann Hari tells us to rethink our powerlessness, and shows that whatever our situation may be, we can use our voice to make change for the better.

5x15 brings together five outstanding individuals to tell of their lives, passions and inspirations. There are only two rules - no scripts and only 15 minutes each.

Learn more about 5x15 events: http://5x15stories.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/5x15stories
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/5x15stories
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/5x15stories

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