Meek Mill's probation violation sentencing sent rumbling across the music industry, with celebrities speaking up against the injustices of mass incarceration against black people. On Tuesday, TIDAL decided to hold a forum and panel at University of Pennsylvania's Irvine Auditorium as part of an initiative entitled, "Reform: Bringing Justice To Light."
Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) Brian Stevenson opened the series of speeches with a talk that shed light on the current criminal justice situation. Stevenson cited grim statistics such as, "there has been a 646 percent increase of women in prisons," "the Bureau of Justice states that one in three of black boys is expected to go to jail and one in six for Latino boys," and that there are "2.3 million people currently in jail/prison."
The american criminal justice system holds more than 2.3 million people in confinement #freemeekmill #reformphilly #justice4meek
Tune in at 5 pm on @TIDAL !!!— Justice League NYC (@NYjusticeleague) March 13, 2018
Stevenson added that Meek Mill's case points out that the intersection of race and criminal justice affects people across economic boundaries. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a rapper or rich, if you are black and brown you will be presumed guilty and dangerous,” said Stevenson.
While Stevenson noted the problems, the bulk of his speech was centered on solutions, and he listed four major points to hit in trying to create a fairer, more just criminal justice system:
1. Have proximity to the poor and actually go into the communities to build relationships.
2. Change the narratives that have sustained inequality in the U.S., such as deeming drugs as a criminal issue instead of a public health issue.
3. Stay hopeful. “Hopelessness is the enemy of justice,” noted Stevenson.
"Your hope is your superpower...hope is what gets you to stand up when others say sit down..." — Bryan Stevenson@TIDAL @NYjusticeleague #FreeMeekMill pic.twitter.com/4C3SbnD9Xv— Jennifer Flores (@xojennflores) March 13, 2018
4. Be willing to do uncomfortable things and have uncomfortable conversations.
The Philadelphia rapper's attorney, Joe Tacopina, his mother Kathy Williams and Reverend Al Sharpton also appeared on the panel where they discussed corrupt cops, the Judge Brinkley's alleged bias against the musician and how this relates to the overarching mass incarceration issue.
"Its a shame that national civil right groups are not supporting the young students in Philly standing up for Meek Mill ....and the system that is racist and has a class problem" @TheRevAl #FreeMeekMill #justice4meek #reformphilly @TIDAL— Justice League NYC (@NYjusticeleague) March 13, 2018
Meek even called in from prison and thanked attendees for their love and support.
Although Tacopina obviously would prefer that his client be free, he was hopeful that Meek's case will lead to systematic change. "Meek will come home and the system will be better for it," said Tacopina.
Stevenson made it clear that he hopes for the same, saying, “I’m not interested in punishment, I’m interested in liberation."