JAY-Z & Meek Mill Discuss Their Newly Launched Criminal Justice Reform Organization
by RK Jackson
With the tagline ‘#FightDifferent’, REFORM is seemingly attempting to take a unique approach to the system, bridging the access of corporate business leaders with the brevity of opinion and thought leaders in entertainment. “Reforming the criminal justice system by changing laws and policies while changing hearts and minds #REFORM #FightDifferent“
The press conference held in New York Wednesday afternoon, outlined the organization’s objects for this movement, highlighted individual cases that embody the problems in the criminal justice system, and discussed why such a partnership was created through several industries.
At REFORM, we #FightDifferent. Our collective disgust with the current state of the American criminal justice system is creating a powerful, growing alliance that spans different backgrounds, industries and political beliefs. pic.twitter.com/wg1uAZlbJ8— REFORM ALLIANCE (@REFORM) January 23, 2019
The press conference helmed speeches from the founding partners, who unveiled the organization’s CEO Van Jones, and appearances by Philadelphia 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Third Point LLC CEO
This initiative was inspired by Meek Mill’s controversial two-to-four-year prison sentence for technical probation violations in 2017 (popping wheelies on an illegal dirt bike and getting into a fight at a St. Louis airport, but the charges were dropped), which fueled the #FreeMeek campaign until he was released on bail in April 2018.
Meek Mill was the first to step up to the podium, sharing that his newfound purpose is to give a voice to the voiceless and give back to the people who stood by him.
Robert Kraft said after meeting Meek in jail through 76ers co-owner Rubin three years ago, he felt an affection for him and developed a relationship. “I never been to jail before,” Kraft admitted. “And going there and seeing him, I didn’t sleep the rest of the night when I got home ’cause here I am thinking how out of touch someone like myself is with what’s really going on. I mean, we give to charitable things and we try to do good. But here, you have a young man whose creative, whose productive, whose innovative, whose inspiring young people, and through riding a motorcycle and doing a wheelie, he’s put in jail where taxpayers are paying to keep in going. And he’s not employing all the people he could employ and generating all the tax dollars he could do. It’s just a cuckoo system.”
Today I was announced as the CEO of the @REFORM Alliance. This is the opportunity of a lifetime. I’ve spent more than 25 years working to fix the criminal justice system, and with partners like these I know we can make a real difference. pic.twitter.com/riQUWR7Ys5— Van Jones (@VanJones68) January 23, 2019
JAY-Z took the opportunity to speak on his involvement in creating REFORM Alliance, and you can read his response below:
“I think the attention Meek brought to this issue because of his celebrity, and the egregious of the crime—poppin’ the wheelie and breaking up the fight is what sparked the match for the nation. But for me, I’m from Marcy Projects, I’m from Brooklyn, and this has been a part of my life. This is communities that we grow up in, friends that I have, people around me, so I have grown up with this issue. People way worse off than Meek. He has an opportunity, and he had to work hard. And we have to applaud him because every setback he came out stronger, and that takes a really dedicated person. I want to pride you for that.
But with us, this is how we grew up. I think Van said something really poignant when he was saying that we are all prisoners to this because until everyone is free, no one is free. You think about the idea of growing up in a single-parent house, which I grew up in, which Meek grew up in. And having the adverse feeling for authority, right? Your father is gone, so you’re like, ‘I hate my dad. Don’t nobody tell me what to do. I am the man of the house.’ And then you hit the street, and you run into a police officer. And his first thing is put your hands up, freeze. Shut up. And you’re like, ‘Fuck you.’ Right? That interaction causes people to lose lives. We don’t want people that’s in charge to police areas to be in danger either. We want to be very clear—someone commits a crime, they should go to jail.
But these things are just disproportionate, and the whole world knows it. A lot of these issues are in place now ’cause they’re political issues. People run on this and got elected to office. And it’s no disrespect, I don’t want anyone to feel defensive by what I am saying. I am just saying the honest truth. And the people that are here today, and the politicians that are here today, know it is the truth. That’s why they are here. And it’s a humane issue. If we are broken, the family structure in one culture, it affects everyone. It affects the police officer who has to go home to their kids, it affects people who are raising kids and working really hard and have to pay taxes. And we are housing people in jail for incredible amounts of time and this money is coming from hard working people. It affects everyone in some sort of way and it is an important issue. I think that for me, me being very specific, that and education are the two most important issues for us right now.”