Meek Mill Is Using His New Platform To Be An Advocate For Criminal Justice Reform (Video)
Meek Mill was released from prison late last month, and he has been on a mission ever since. The platinum, #1-charting Philadelphia MC was the focus of an NBC special Dateline episode that aired Sunday (May 6). Filmed just 18 hours after his April 24 release from a prison cell, Meek’s testimony in his first post-incarceration interview focuses on the need to reform a deeply flawed criminal justice system for others. The 30-year-old Maybach Music Group star was sentenced last November to two-to-four years in prison for multiple probation violations. That probation stems from a legal battle that began when the man born Robert Rihmeek Williams was a teenager. The details of the arrest and how his case was tried have come under investigation, which is ongoing.
“This is the same thing that thousands of minorities are going through on a daily basis,” Meek told Lester Hold at the top of the 42-minute special report. “They just don’t have [the] platform to have anybody speak on their behalf…now they do,” Meek says when Holt suggests that the rapper has become an advocate for criminal justice reform. “I feel like I’m the sacrifice for the better cause.”
Even when he was inside a prison in Chester, Pennsylvania and rarely speaking to media, the #FreeMeekMill movement carried on in the streets of Philly, around the music industry, and elsewhere. It was not just his crew wearing #FreeMeekMill t-shirts, or marches and demonstrations. Throughout the last five months, Meek seemingly became a poster-child for an oppressed underdog, including a New York Times op-ed by JAY-Z, whose Roc Nation manages Meek. Now on the outside, and arguably more popular than any point in his 10-plus-year career, Meek Mill is out for more than just himself. “I feel like God put me in a position to be a voice for the voiceless,” he tells Holt. Later, he shifts a movement in the streets to help others. “Let’s retire the #FreeMeekMill hashtag and make it hashtag #JusticeReform,” he declares.
Throughout the interview, the artist maintains that there is a system that can trap offenders with punishments that do not fit the crimes. He details that, with the probation that he violated, he was required to seek permission to cross state lines. Speaking to Lester Holt in Philadelphia, just four blocks from the Benjamin Franklin Bridge to New Jersey, the rapper expresses how that restriction made it difficult to be a parent or a son. “I shouldn’t have to call [another] person to go pick my son up from school,” he says, noting that his son attends a New Jersey school, the same state where the rapper’s mother now resides.
Although he’s at high-profile sporting events and seemingly returning to a career that’s been on ice since mid-2017’s Wins & Losses, Meek says he’s not feeling like a man with his liberty. “I haven’t felt since I caught this case, at the age of 19. I’m 30 now. Me, I just…I pray. I believe God is my first lawyer; I always believed that. I don’t feel free at all.” The rapper says, “I haven’t slept one minute since I got out of prison. It’s actually like a culture shock, coming from a small cell back into the real world.” He breaks down that Dreamchasers, his label and brand, is built to inspire people of all races and backgrounds.
In addition to figures including The Roots’ Black Thought and Questlove as well as Philadelphia 76ers owner Michael Rubin, Holt speaks with Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner. The official took office after Meek’s 2017 sentencing and advocated for no sentencing for the rapper. “There are a lot of Meek Mill’s, who are not privileged and do not have access to the resources,” Krasner says when asked if Meek is a symbol for the justice reform he hopes to see. “I salute that guy with all my heart,” Meek says in a separate conversation with Holt, moments later. “[He is] trying to put a stop to mass incarceration.”
“We’ve always been divided in America, where it’s always been Black and white. I don’t really call it ‘Black and white.’ A lot of Black people are in prison; a lot of Spanish men are in prison. A lot of these laws and policies are made to keep most of these minorities trapped forever. I’m still doing time for that  case,” Meek says, as a man on the outside in 2018. “At this point, it’s not about me having a light to shine on my situation. It’s about thousands of others that’s caught up in that situation. How can we fix a young Black man going to jail for frivolous reasons and other young children growing up without fathers in their homes and the cycle continuing, of [those eventual] young Black men going to prison?”
Next month, Meek Mill will face same judge (Judge Genece Brinkley) that handed him his sentences, including the most recent one. Despite asking for a new presiding judge, those requests by Meek’s legal team have been denied.