Meek Mill draws huge crowd talking about his time in prison and criminal justice reform at CBC conference

Rev. Al Sharpton and Meek Mill attend the 2018 Essence Festival presented by Coca-Cola at Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on July 7, 2018 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images for Essence)

It was standing room only when rapper Meek Mill stepped into the room to headline a  panel at the 2018 Congressional Black Caucus conference in Washington D.C. to discuss an issue he knows all too well: injustice in the criminal justice system.

In his first-ever visit to CBC’s Annual Legislative Conference, Meek, whose real name is Robert Rihmeek Williams, joined Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Jeffrey Harleston and Michelle Scott in a discussion moderated by CNN commentator Van Jones, to tackle the intersection of music, criminal justice and racial equality.

The rapper opened up by recalling each technical infraction placed against him, which ultimately sent him back to jail on parole violations. Meek Mill pointed out that he had not been convicted of actually committing a criminal activity, but instead was suffering from an opioid addiction and desperately needed help.

“I wanted to hide the addiction,” he said, “I wasn’t actually being open and every time I had dirty urine, I was sent to prison.”

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“I come from a small household, a single mother household, and we never really had a lot of support. Seeing people and the way they supported me…being on that side of the fence when I’ve seen a lot of other young men in prison for small technical violations… seeing that and getting support from people, I just thought ‘when I get out..’ I felt like I owed a part of my platform to help change the world, help change some of these things and bring light to the situation.”

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His battles with Judge Genece Brinkley earned Meek new supporters, after Brinkley sentenced Meek to two to four years in prison on a probation violation from 2007 arrest. This past April, the rapper turned activist was released after the Philadelphia District Attorney’s office reported performance issues with the arresting officer in the case.

Prior to today’s panel, Meek had been flanked by a camera crew throughout the day, shooting a special interview (to be aired at a later date) between Jones and the rapper.

TheGrio was able to briefly intercept their conversation to ask Meek how it feels becoming an inspiration to his generation and being able to mobilize communities across the country in criminal justice reform.

“I feel great – It’s my life now, so I gotta take it on.”