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HRC 2018 Drug User Union Report

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HRC 2018

Drug User Report

Hello HRC and Friends,

I am writing because I want to say thank you to  the Harm Reduction Coalition and every person who attended the 12th National HRC Conference.  I am writing as the Co- Chair of the National Us

ers Union, the Director of NC Survivors Union, and as a person who uses drugs. First and foremost thank you HRC, for your dedication to centering the voices of people who use drugs.  Monique, your leadership is amazing and your love for this work has not gone unnoticed.  This was so clear to me and the group we brought to New Orleans.  I have never felt more love than I did at this conference.  Thank you for helping me make it through with my disability.  Having one leg and having to face everyone scared me and made me feel so unhappy prior to coming.  In fact, I called Jess at one point and said

“FUCK THIS… I CAN’T DO THIS”.  She quickly made it clear  that I had no choice and we had to keep moving forward, together. HRC, only you guys could make having one leg more fun than having two!  I loved the scooter, wrecked the scooter, and finally learned to drive the damn scooter. I might need to get one for home!!!

Dan Bigg was most certainly with us in spirit, as was my daughter Selena and all the other beautiful souls who we dedicated the First National Action: Light Up the Night.  For those of you that were unaware; we were up against so much.  Right as we were getting ready for the action we received word that nationally known hate group  called the “Proud Boys”  were in the French Quarter and had made specific threats to our action.  In a moments notice HRC brought this news to our attention and began to help us think about how to serve the entire community.  We knew we needed to go on, but how?  We were hearing from members that they did not feel safe and we wanted to honor this relevant fear. Thank you specifically to Erica Poullet who worked with us over and over again and helped us make good decisions.  My feelings were so hurt initially. It was difficult for me to think straight.  I wanted to just say another BIG FUCK IT!  Sam Kerr, only you could help me calm down and think straight.  I love you for this.  We began engaging in emergent organizing at this moment and we made decisions to hold two actions.  One inside the hotel and one outside the hotel.  None of our banners showed up in the mail. We were struggling with supplies, struggling with the threat of violence and communication with 20 minutes to spare.  This was no easy task, in fact it was pretty damn difficult.


So, on the 41 floor we placed an alter and folks were able to share and love one another.  I was not here at this action, but I know folks were able to show love to one another and honor our dead.

The National User Union Alter created by the hands of Crow.

I am so excited to hear from folks about this experience.  Now, for the action.  Light the Night….it was not the action we planned.  It was not exactly what we thought it would be, but you know what…it was exactly what I needed!  It was exactly what so many of us needed.  Thank you old timers, new timers, and all timers for being with us.  Families for Sensible Drug Policy, thank you for attending and being such a force.  YOUR ORGANIZATION SHOWS SUCH LOVE TO DRUG USERS. WE CAN’T THANK YOU ENOUGH.  Marilyn and Erica,the name calling ceremony was so beautiful. I have never been more proud to be part of our group of self identified drug users.  My heart was 100% full.  For anyone who remembers what I said when I accepted the Dan Bigg award, I mentioned that harm reduction sustains me continuously.  It saved my life not once, not twice, but over and over.  For anyone that does not believe this, I post this picture to show a woman who is sustained and full of healing. The smile on my face is a smile that comes from love, life and a movement that I am so proud of….the genuine smile on my face says it all. 

My partner Don laughed with me that he had tangible proof that I was happy!  He has been through so much helping me and loving me. It was a night for us to remember.  I love you Don.

Now, the Dan Bigg award.  What can I even say? This is too much. Karen, you were so gracious and beautiful. Your speech was touching and love filled. I have nothing but love and admiration for you.  I do know loss, but I also know the other side. For everything I have lost there is beauty to be found … not immediate. Not anything that can replace our loved ones, but new and different; lovely and kind. There is more than hell on earth. I love you.

I did not win this award alone. We won it.  All of us who fight. All of us who love. I will carry this honor, knowing I have so much to live up to. I will be a better woman because of this. There is no greater honor in my mind. There is no award I could win that would fill my heart the way this one has. I am embarrassed really, I feel too small( Editors note: you deserve it and are not too small!! *Jess) The harm reduction community is the best family one could ever ask for.  Dysfunctional? Yes!! But would I change it? NEVER!!!

I have been flying all day as my flight was cancelled last night. I am more than tired, but I could not rest until I wrote this. I could not let another moment pass where I did not speak about this wonderful adventure. There was laughing, crying, tender moments, angry moments and memories made that I will never forget.  There is nothing more important than relationships, people and love.  I met some wonderful people native to New Orleans that I hope will find TryStereo and get involved. I know this group to be amazing.

#REFRAMETHEBLAME was another amazing success.  We educated so many people about the importance of this action.  I have not had time to sit with Jess and count the new Do Not Prosecute Orders.  If you have not signed a DNP order I am attaching the links for this action.  Thank you Becki Brooks, Jess Tilley, and Colin Miller this could not have happened without your hard work!!!

If you have NOT signed a DNP please sign and send to

DNP Order:  Please sign and send to reframe@urbansurvivorsunion

YOU CAN ORDER a DNP Dog Tag that signifies that you have signed a DNP Order:

You can recieve your very own DNP Dog Tags that have (WWDD) on the back to remind us What Would Dan Do!

Louise Vincent MPH Thank you so much for everything!

Hello everyone….

Given our classic approach, Louise starts and I finish ( one of the multitude of reasons that we work so well together), so we decided to stick to our method as we wrote this letter of gratitude and thanks for HRC. I am at a loss for words to express how much your endless support meant to us throughout this whole planning process, even down to the final hours when I am sure Maria wanted to throttle us! Erica, you have a special place in my heart for graciously inviting us to take part in your pre-conference planning. The outcome may have been a bit different than we had anticipated but was thoroughly enjoyed by all of our union members. One NEUU

member stated that it was his most cherished day in New Orleans. To me, that represents success!

The March! A true testament to our commitment and our desire to create something that allowed our community to really express our anguish and and to allow ourselves the permission to let go and heal. This action was born out of loss and love. We poured months of work into making it a reality and HRC supported us every step of the way, despite all the last minute barriers and hiccups. Because you believed in us and truly centered  the conference on the voices of our community, we were able to ensure that over twenty of our union members were able to not only attend the march, but the entire conference. Members of DPA, OSF, FFSP and many others marched in solidarity alongside of us. Bystanders cheered us on. I truly felt proud to be a member of this crazy family. Lastly, massive thanks to the team of individuals that I was able to gather last minute who all volunteered to be our safety team. I was floored and so impressed how quickly you sprung into action and o

rganized your group. While the march was unaware, we had a team of bad ass activists patrolling the borders of our march and communicating amongst one another, keeping watch for Proud Boys or unusual activity. These brave warriors kept watch throughout the remainder of the conference. I do not want to out anyone but you know who you are. Thank you!

Special thanks to Trystereo and Nora Fuller for being our New Orleans coordinator. And for making my pipe dream of a prison cell on wheels ( which enabled Louise to lead the march!!!) a reality! Jonah, you were the perfect peddler! And Crow for the breathtakingly pure alter. Hannah for all your help, above and beyond! And Sophia ( and Nora again!) for making sure supplies were delivered and picked up. We could not have had the hospitality suite without your generous donations and support.

Finally, the hospitality suite. I am not sure if anyone is aware of this, but during the final hours, I was tasked to set this up alone. I apologize for the last minute scheduling. It is very difficult to do a schedule as so many of our regular shift runners were presenting and the program came out right before the conference. However, it ran smoothly and, asides from individual not attending the conference who kept entering the room, we did not experience any drama. Even this individual was offered supplies and Narcan.

Yes, we did experience multiple overdoses, all of which were reversed quickly and without issue. This is the frightening reality we are facing daily now as people who use drugs…OUR DRUG SUPPLY IS POISONED. I think the amount of  opiate related overdose we experienced in such a short span of days speaks volumes to this fact. The most crucial and frigging phenomenal factor in making the room a success was Kacey. Girl, you are magic! I love you dearly. HRC, you have a rockstar in your midst. Never forget that…

And Johanna for helping with the clear out! Your pants are nifty! Eliza, just because you are a dork like me.

Lastly, Monique….what can I say? If you had told me 22 years ago that this would be our place in this world? I probably would have laughed if I was not too busy nodding out! I love you. I truly love you. You have no idea the intensity of  the gift you bestowed on that little lost girl so many moons ago…you gave me harm reduction. I do not know how I can ever repay you except to keep loving and to never stop fighting the good fight…

Oh! And to Daniel Raymond…never forget that you are my favorite. Just because…

To our harm reduction family…I love you all! Thank you to everyone that helped us along the way to making this happen….

Special shout out to Bekki Brooks. You are a true warrior. Never forget that. To Sam, thank you for being the voice of reason when we needed it most. Holly for leading the first wave of drug user organizers and for being my hero. Caty Simon for all the  awe inspiring work you for survival sex workers and the fierce determination to ensure their voices are included in our movement. You created magic in the midst of our action. Marilyn, your words are in my heart. WE LOVE YOU!! Angela Mae, for the manifesto. It was perfection. Welcome

home. Mikey Gee, for holding it down at the Air bnbs, keeping watch over our union members and for driving folx everywhere. And special thanks to Aubri and myself  for letting go of resentment and disagreement. Now we work together and bury the past! Big doofus hug for Don and the support and love he selflessly provides to Louise. The bond between the two of them is unbreakable and real. For members of NEUU who put up with my mood swings and for Urban Survivors National for allowing me the honor to be the co-chair.

And for you, Louise. You helped me find my.voice when I thought it had been lost forever. When I believed that I had no worth because a certain agency would not let me work for them, you refused to let me doubt myself for another second. Thank you for believing in me when I could not believe in myself. I will always do the same for you. You are the froot loop to my soggy milk. I love you.

Enough of this lovefest! Let’s do this and do it right! Boots to the floor and moving forward in solidarity!

Jess Tilley


If you are interested in learning from Jess Tilley and Louise Vincent we will be hosting a webinar on November 7th, at 12-1:30 Pacific, 2-3:30 Central and 3-4:30 Eastern

To Register E-Mail Nicole Carter (

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