On November 6, 2017, Philadelphia native Robert “Meek Mill” Williams was sentenced to 2-4 years in state prison for a probation violation. Throughout the last decade, Williams has been on probation for a charge he received at the age of 19 on drug and gun possession. His judge, Genece Brinkley, refused to release him from prison due to him popping a wheelie in New York.
The latest arrest warranted a massive response, on both a local and national level, from those who wanted a criminal justice reform due to the unfairness of his treatment. Due to the possibility of landing in jail for 4 years over what was perceived as a minor incident, he received support from multiple of his peers in hip-hop. The most notable of who was Jay-Z, who shouted him out in a track titled “Top Off” alongside Beyonce and Dj Khaled. Jay-z said, “Free my n*gga Meek Mill, n*ggas can’t wheelie in this free world,”. Aside from support from the music industry he was also supported by comedian Kevin Hart who visited him while in prison.
However, one of the most memorable moments came from The Philadelphia Eagles. During Meek’s incarceration, the Eagles played his song “Dreams and Nightmares” during the warm-up for their NFC Championship game against the Minnesota Vikings. Two weeks later, the Eagles played the same track as the entrance for the Super Bowl. This became one of the most iconic moments in Meek Mill’s career, despite the fact that he was in prison at the time.
Fast forward to April 16, 2018, there was a rally on 1301 Filbert Street to support Meek’s case. Shortly thereafter, the court ordered a retrial to decide the fate of his freedom, and Philadephia District Attorney Larry Krasner called for his release. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf supported Krasner’s call for release said, “. Our criminal justice system is in need of repair. That’s why my admin has made efforts to invest in programs that divert individuals from the system, improve public safety, and promote fairness.”
Eight days later, Meek Mill was released from prison on bail after the retrial was announced. He made headlines again by appearing at the Sixers playoff game the same night of his release. At the game, he rang the ceremonial bell before the national anthem and was greeted by several players on the Sixers team, most notably Joel Embiid.
Since his release, Mill has stated that he wants to “To be a voice for the voiceless in the criminal justice reform.” This is a reference to the many people who are facing harsh sentences overall parole violations that are minor offenses such as popping a wheelie. Meek also desires to be a role model to the youth of Philadelphia, and this message has resonated with SLA students. Junior Tyreek Speedwell spoke on Meek Mill’s influence by stating, “I think he creates an inspiring image for the youth. He gives them a reason to make it from nothing. I feel like I could relate to him and his story of coming up from struggles in a city that hasn’t always been great since I’m also from it too.”
Meek Mill’s relationship with his native city Philadelphia has been proven as powerful since his most recent stint in prison. There were billboards throughout the city advocating for his freedom during the time of his incarceration. He also made statements about those who are in similar situations as him in the criminal system. Meek showed empathy to them as many of those individuals stating that he was only granted freedom in large part due to his wealthy financial status.