His endorsement of Meek has brought another wave of attention to the movement, and if you happen to be one of the people who don’t know who Meek Mill is or why his incarceration has become such a touch point, now’s the time to learn.
Meek Mill (full name: Robert Rihmeek Williams) is a 30-year-old rapper from Philadelphia. He’s best known for his debut LP, ‘Dreams and Nightmares.’ He also made headlines for numerous artistic and personal feuds with other performers, most notably Canadian rapper Drake. He also had a long relationship with Nicki Minaj.
This is a complicated question. You know how in Les Miserables, Jean Valjean is sent to prison for stealing a loaf of bread, and ends up being there for 19 years because he tried to escape a few times and fought some guards, thus extending his incarceration and rendering it extremely disproportionate to the original crime? Meek’s supporters would kind of liken it to that.
In 2008, Meek was convicted on gun and drug charges after he was arrested for illegally carrying a gun while walking to a corner store. He was sentenced to several months in prison, and was released early with five years’ parole.
During those five years, Meek was convicted of several parole violations, most of which came when he failed to report his travel plans to the judge presiding over his case (he was actively working as an entertainer during those years).
In 2014, he went back to prison for five months for such a violation, after which his judge reinstated his probation.
In March 2017, he was arrested after being involved in a fight at a St. Louis airport. In August of 2017, he was arrested again in New York for “reckless endangerment” for popping wheelies on his dirt bike and not wearing a helmet.
Why are people upset about it?
His incarceration has garnered criticism from fellow artists, athletes, and racial justice activists. In their eyes, Meek’s case is more about comparative justice than it is about his actual sentence or criminal history.
It represents the intersection of several stress points related to race: Tolerance of police violence, mass incarceration and subjectivity in the criminal justice system.
On top of it all, there are some pieces of evidence that suggest his case — all nine years of it — hasn’t been handled properly.
In 2017, Mill’s attorney Joe Tacopina spoke to CNN and accused the judge who has overseen Mill’s case for years, of being “enamored” with the rapper and taking “a personal interest in the case.”
“(Meek’s) frustrated, really frustrated and knows he’s being treated different than anyone else,” Tacopina said in a phone interview. “If his name was John Smith, he wouldn’t be in jail and he certainly wouldn’t be on probation.”
In November, 2017, Jay-Z, who is very close to the rapper, penned an op-ed for the New York Times summing up the issues advocates have with Meek’s case.
“On the surface, this may look like the story of yet another criminal rapper who didn’t smarten up and is back where he started,” he wrote. “But consider this: Meek was around 19 when he was convicted on charges relating to drug and gun possession, and he served an eight-month sentence…Now he’s 30, so he has been on probation for basically his entire adult life. For about a decade, he’s been stalked by a system that considers the slightest infraction a justification for locking him back inside.”
What are people saying about it?
“[He’s an] amazing young man,” Kraft said at a news conference after his visit. “I know how I’d feel if I was in the situation he is. Every time I see him, I just come away more impressed. He’s very intelligent. And makes it clear to me we have to do something with criminal justice reform.
Kraft added that Meek “shouldn’t be [in prison].”
Here is what other artists, athletes and activists have said about Meek’s situation:
- “Sadly there are Black folks going through the same radicalized injustice(s) within the justice system that Meek Mill has experienced for over a decade EVERY SINGLE DAY. This requires more than just gradual reform in laws—It requires a swift overhaul.” — Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick
- “It’s like this double standard justice system man is just…. i don’t even have the words now y’all.” — Questlove
- “We aren’t going to act like Meek Mill is an angel or that he’s perfect. He’s a man. A man who has made some mistakes and for 10 years has paid for those mistakes.” — Philadelphia Eagles player Malcom Jenkins
“I see you got the ‘Free Meek Mill’ t-shirt,” he said. “Free Meek Mill too man, for real. You right.”
What happens next?
“I say don’t show me no pity because this is my life,” he told Holt. “This is what I’m going through and I think God put me in this position to be able to do a show with Lester Holt and open up eyes for other young black men.”
On April 16, advocates will rally at the Philadelphia Criminal Justice Center in a call for criminal justice reform.
News credit : Cnn