Yesterday (April 24), Reverend Al Sharpton was alerted early in the morning that Meek Mill should be getting out of prison. But the iconic civil rights leader didn't get his hopes up too high. The Reverend said he had been monitoring the news all day to see If Meek would indeed be coming home.
"When you've been in enough of these cases, you don't believe it until you see them walk out the door," Sharpton said today in the offices of his National Action Network. "When I saw the video of him headed out and headed to the helicopter, I knew we were good."
Meek Mill was released from State Correctional Institution Chester in Philadelphia this week after serving five months of a two to four-year sentence for parole violation. While incarcerated, people of influence such as Sharpton, Rick Ross, JAY-Z and Beyonce, Philadelphia Eagles Owner Jeffrey Laurie, New England Patriots Owner Robert Kraft, basketball legend Julius Irving, Kevin Hart and Philadelphia 76ers Owner Michael Rubin visited Meek and publicly spoken out on his Meek's behalf. Athletes, rappers, fans all joined in for the #FreeMeek cause.
When the superstar MC left prison and went straight to the Wells Fargo Center to support the 76ers as they eliminated the Miami Heat in the NBA playoffs yesterday evening, it made national news. Not just hip-hop news, not just sporting news, but national news across the country.
"Because of the issue of how we are discriminated against as blacks in the parole and probation areas," Sharpton explained of the widespread interest in Meek's case. "He started talking about it from jail. When I went to see him in November, that's all he talked about. I spent an hour talking to him in jail. We came back and I did a rally with his mother and lawyer at University of Pennsylvania. The issue was bigger than him and he helped make it bigger because he kept talking about the issue. People weighed in on it.
"This was a civil rights issues" Sharpton added. "This is just not about Roc Nation and an artist, this is about this brother that stood up and said 'y'all make me a symbol for everybody.' If we can do that with him, we can do that with the tens of thousands of other young black people, particularly young black men who are getting parole violations on nothing."
On Wednesday night during his interview on Dateline NBC, Meek said it was time to retire the hashtag #FreeMeek and start galvanizing towards #JusticeReform.
"That's exactly what we need to do and and that's the attitude he had when he was in jail," Sharpton agreed. "He realizes he has significant role to play. God knows his music career is a focus of his. But he has a wider mission and I think from what he said on Facebook yesterday and what she's saying in Interviews, I think he's gonna step up and play that role.
"My expectations are that he's going to be a symbol of those people in our community that became different people," The Reverend continued. "He said to me in jail, 'Reverend, I did wrong when I was a kid. That was 10 years ago. But I'm an example that you can grow and change. I have people on payroll. I hire people. I take care of my mother. Take care of my kid.' I think he can be an example. When I was growing up, James Brown had been to jail as a kid. That was an example. I think Meek can be a powerful force."