Gary Chambers Jr. has the right idea. He’s inhaling for all the world to see. None of this I did not inhale. Obama was more open about it and honest enough to admit inhaling was the point. I’m a Clinton fan and Obama is on my hashtag hero list but my newest hero is truly Gary Chambers!
The Democratic U.S. Senate candidate got bold and beautiful in his first 37-second campaign ad where he is seen sitting impressively in a club chair situated in a grass field wearing a suit and tie smoking one enviable blunt. The scene might make one wish they could join him with blankets, drums, guitars, picnic baskets, bongs and joints of their own for a covid-friendly drum circle or festival of sorts. But that’s not the point of the video. Not yet, at least. And therein we come to the point of the video.
This Louisiana – of all states – U.S. Senate candidate shared this video in an effort to “destigmatize” the use of weed and raise awareness about cannabis and racial justice. Chambers is looking to unseat Republican Senator John Neely Kennedy.
“Although cannabis use is roughly equal among blacks and whites, African Americans are over three times more likely to be arrested or cited for cannabis possession as compared to whites, according to an ACLU review of government data.”
Chambers, a social justice advocate, took his video to Twitter with the hashtag #JustLikeMe. In the video he cites real data reminding people that black Americans are four times more likely to be arrested for pot laws than white people. Most of the people police are arresting are not dealers, just people with small amounts of pot – just like him. Or, “just like me” , as he says.
“Every 37 seconds, someone is arrested for possession of marijuana. Since 2010, police have arrested an estimated 7.3 million Americans for violating marijuana laws,” Chambers says, to the sound effect of a ticking clock. “Black people are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana laws than white people.”
According to an ACLU research report, A Tale of Two Countries: Racially Targeted Arrests in the Era of Marijuana Reform, more than 6 million arrests have occurred between 2010 and 2018, and Black people are still more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people in every state, including those that have legalized marijuana.
“As the ACLU recommended in our original report in 2013, the most effective way to eliminate arrests for marijuana use and possession, and the racial disparities that plague such arrests, is through marijuana legalization.”
Chamber later went on to say he hopes the campaign video not only works to help destigmatize the use of cannabis but that it forces a new conversation about a pathway towards legalization.
“I hope this ad works not only to destigmatize the use of marijuana, but also forces a new conversation that creates the pathway to legalize this beneficial drug, and forgive those who were arrested due to outdated ideology.”
Who is the man behind the perfectly rolled blunt that was able to release a now-viral campaign video? Since it dropped the video has gotten over “5 million views on Twitter and over 1 million on Instagram”. And he strikes a serious tone – he’s not just blazing in the field for fun. Chambers is no stranger to activism. This is his life’s work. And so he knew what he was doing, creating a stir.
“We chose to use me smoking to talk about these glaring statistics and the need to do something about those statistics,” he said.
“We knew it would create conversation, but we had no idea that it would be to this degree,” Chambers said. “Which shows not that we are so brilliant, but that so many people care about this issue and that we should do something about it.”
He has used the video tactic before and so knew it would raise attention. In June 2020 he called out a school board member for shopping online while a discussion was going on about renaming a school after Robert E. Lee. The video made it to Instagram – need I say more?
Chambers is a Baton Rouge native who believes that Lousisana’s low ranking in the nation is more a reflection of its leadership than its people. Louisiana ranks near the bottom “of the 50 states in education, crime, environmental degradation, health, and economy”.
For a state that is 33 percent Black , there has not been a Black person elected to statewide office since Reconstruction. Although Louisiana has a Democratic governor, perhaps Red is turning Purple with demographics similar to Georgia “where Democrats flipped two Senate seats a year ago”.
So it might just be that Gary Chambers is the man to break that record. For as his story goes he grew up in “North Baton Rouge on the Black side of town, and as he says it — watching his middle class community slowly bleed resources”, surely he is not out of touch with what the people need. Moving into activism and public service was a natural segue and perhaps an ultimate calling because as an ordained minister, Chambers says he has a “God given ability to speak truth to power,” so he decided to do something about it.
This is not Chamber’s first time running for Congress. In 2021 he ran in a special election for Louisiana’s Second Congressional Seat to fill Rep. Cedric Richmond’s seat when Richmond left to work in the Biden administration. He got over 20,000 votes in the primary, narrowly missing the runoff by 1500 votes.
Chambers also founded a non-profit, Bigger Than Me, whose mission is to “bring the citizens of the South progressive candidates that represent the diverse ideology of the people from Louisiana to North Carolina and every in between”.
“Bigger Than Me is dedicated to finding, recruiting and supporting progressive candidates across the South for every office from local elections to Senate runs to give people the opportunity to vote for someone who’s ideology matches their own. Bigger Than Me’s priority is to create a team of candidates across the South, who are all supporting one another’s candidacy and working with one another to get elected.”
Gary Chamber’s mission in life is “Do Good, Seek Justice”.. That is what he has dedicated his life to. He is not afraid to push the envelope in the name of leading progressive values across Louisiana and the South. He is an entrepreneur having co-founded a media outlet, The Rouge Collection, and has been featured in media outlets such as “225 Magazine (2017 People to Watch edition), Wired Magazine, The New York Times, CNN, Morning Joe, and Roland Martin Unfiltered for his tireless efforts in advancing the most disenfranchised communities in Baton Rouge and as a champion of systemic change”.HHe has worked to advance healthcare access for the people of Baton Rouge, contributed to changes in police policies, and worked to advance an increase in minority owned business.
Chambers might just be the knight in blunt shining armor that the Democrats need in the mid-terms to save us from total “shellacking”. If you feel that this man is the real deal, although this article is not intended as an endorsement, should any reader feel inclined feel free to visit Gary Chambers for U.S. Senate here.
Author: Sherri Margolin (Dark Matters)