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Filmmaker highlights language barriers fueling overdose crisis in Philly’s Black communities

From Metro Philly, by Brandon Dorfman, September 1, 2021

In the new short film “OPIOIDS: A Breakdown of the Invisible Overdose Crisis in the Black Community,” artist and filmmaker Richard Patterson, Jr. recalls Philadelphia’s transition from crack cocaine to Percocets and the language barriers that separated the Black community. Everyone talked about percs, Patterson said in a matter-of-fact voice-over, noting that hip-hop artists like Future and Travis Scott name-dropped the drug in their lyrics. One person in the film estimated that around three-fifths of the people living in Philadelphia’s Black neighborhoods use Percocets as their drug of choice.

As the film progresses, Patterson takes viewers to a statewide conference of the Pennsylvania Reentry Coalition, where the majority-white attendees use one word in their discussions — opioids. The conference focuses on programs for opioids, housing for opioids, recovery from opioids, and more, all of which Patterson admits in a voice-over, confuses him. Media portrayals of opioids show images of white people in tents living under bridges, he said in the film, as he questions why these drugs would be an issue for people in the Black community.

So Patterson asked his colleagues something simple and straightforward — What are opioids?

“Now back during the crack epidemic, people were called dope fiends, crackheads, junkies, crack babies,” Patterson said in the film. “Today we call them people with opioid abuse disorder. But people in my neighborhood don’t even know what opioids mean. How are they going to get help if they need it?”

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View short film on Vimeo

OPIOIDS – A Breakdown of the Invisible Overdose Crisis in the Black Community. from Seven Halsema on Vimeo.