Before Christmas last year, rapper and activist Meek Mill shot some hoops on the Philadelphia 76ers Basketball court, in a show of compassion for those affected by the criminal justice system, The Associated Press reports.
Stooping down, Mill grabbed the hand of a timid 7-year-old boy and had a quiet chat with the youngster before other kids hovered around him. “I am one of those kids, so I know what it means to be in those types of situations. I make sure I cater to it the way I just did it out there. It’s fun to me too,” Mill told AP.
A Philadelphia native, Mill is a part of an organization called Reform Alliance. It consists of multi-millionaires and entrepreneurs, including rapper Jay-Z and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Fanatics CEO and 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin helped organize the event.
“We want to give them (the kids) the day of a lifetime. At the same time, to be frank, we want to bring attention to this issue,” said Rubin. The lucky 25 kids that made it into the arena got the opportunity to meet with head coach Doc Rivers.
The mid-30s-year-old rapper and activist Mill reverted to his child-like self when he was playing with the kids on the court. In a five-on-five pick-up game and by competing in a “knockout” competition, Mill raised awareness of the mission of Reform Alliance.
The organization’s mission also included bringing issues to the attention of those who can make laws for the betterment of those affected by the judicial system. Pennsylvania’s state Senate approved legislation to overhaul how probation is handled when it comes to those stuck in endless probation cycles.
LaTonya Myers spent nine months in jail because she couldn’t afford bail. Since her release, she joined Mill in advocating for justice reform.
‘’I think this is breaking generational curses,’’ she said. ‘’I think this is a memory that these kids are always going to remember because they’ll have a connection with something positive instead of something that’s negative in regards to their situation. They won’t be ashamed of what their parents went through, but also can be proud that they preserved and overcame the challenges the system has put on certain individuals.’’
Mill also had a brush with the system and probation. He got the attention of criminal justice reform advocates, after a Pennsylvania judge sentenced him to two to four years in prison for violations of his probation conditions for a decade-old gun-and-drug possession case. He was incarcerated for months before a court ordered his release in 2018. When he was released, Rubin arranged for a helicopter to take Mill from prison to a Sixers playoff game.
‘’I ain’t really have anyone to change my life at a young age,’’ Mill said. ‘’I’m just one of the lucky ones. If I could help one person, they ask me about helping a million people at Reform, but if I could help one person that’s enough for me.’’
Mill survived a rough Philadelphia upbringing and prison to become a Grammy-nominated rapper and now seeks change in the same type of neighborhoods he grew up in. “We can make some kids smile in Philadelphia,” he said.