I'd never heard people referred to as "j's" until I came to Atlanta. We had straightforward terms like "crackhead" and "fiend" where I'm from. They call them j's here. It sounds innocuous but "j" is for junkie. In a new documentary by that title, artist and filmmaker Corey Davis exposes an oft-ignored epidemic and gives voice to those afflicted.
It's almost impossible to miss the homeless and drug-addicted on Atlanta's streets but somehow we do. I've worked, lived and studied for years in neighborhoods characterized by the presence of roaming homeless. Sometimes I see them. I shamefully admit that often I don't. After moving to the city from Columbus, Ohio - coincidentally the hometown of Davis as well - I can distinctly remember the initial shock of seeing so many bodies, Black bodies scattered through Atlanta's streets. Being a buckeye, I'm sure that some of Davis' impetus for the film was shock at the scale of the homeless problem in Atlanta is compared to Columbus. But J Is For Junkie is also personal for Corey Davis. Of the project, he's said,
“Growing up I never had a father, because he was out running the streets getting high… Right around the time I was born, the mid 80′s, African-American communities across the country was struck by the crack epidemic. Which robbed us our prideful culture and instantly perverted it into a counter-culture where playgrounds became warzones and families were destroyed.”
To illustrate that point, Davis has put together 40 minutes of truly compelling and deeply affecting images. Through interviews, particularly with the documentary's main subject Judy, the damaging effects of crack cocaine take shape in the broken lives of people not too different from you and I. Watch the film in full after the jump.