Hip-hop artist Meek Mill with Sixers center Joel Embiid after the Sixers beat the Miami Heat in game five of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals on April 24, 2018 in Philadelphia. (Yong Kim/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

Hip-hop artist Meek Mill with Sixers center Joel Embiid after the Sixers beat the Miami Heat in game five of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals on April 24, 2018 in Philadelphia. (Yong Kim/Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

Retire #FreeMeekMill and focus on #JusticeReform, rapper says in ‘Dateline’ interview

Philly rapper Meek Mill hopes to shift attention from his personal story to justice reform overall, as he told NBC’s Lester Holt in “Dreams and Nightmares: The Meek Mill Story,” a “Dateline” special that aired on Sunday — Mill’s 31st birthday.

“At this point, it’s not all about me having the light to shine on my situation,” Mill told Holt about 18 hours after being released from prison on bail last month. “It’s about the thousands of others that’s caught up in that situation…Let’s continue, let’s retire the free Meek Mill hashtag and make it hashtag justice reform.”

The special focuses on Mill’s decade-old legal drama, which started in 2008 after the rapper was convicted of gun and drug offenses. Last year, Judge Genece Brinkley controversially sentenced Mill, real name Robert Rihmeek Williams, to two to four years in prison for probation violations in connection with his conviction.

Following his imprisonment, Michael Rubin rallied support around the rapper under a #FreeMeekMill hashtag that included protests in Philadelphia. Celebrity supporters including rap mogul Jay-Z and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, as well as fellow Philadelphians Kevin Hart and Roots drummer Questlove, also got involved to draw attention to the case.
Mill ultimately was freed on bail following an order from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court last month due in part to “credibility issues” with Mill’s arresting officer, Reginald Graham.
Now, as Rubin told Dateline, he believes Mill can leverage the attention his case has gotten to affect a larger change, similar to the #MeToo movement.

Currently, the rapper is at work in an untitled, six-part docuseries in partnership with Amazon Studios. The series, which will also focus on Mill’s legal saga, is scheduled to be released some time in 2019. Mill hopes to use his story to inspire others in similar situations.

“This is the same thing that thousands of other minorities are going through on a daily basis,” he said. “They just don’t have the platform to have anybody speak out on their behalf… Now they do. At this point, I feel like I’m a sacrifice for a better cause.”

ORINDA INTELLECTS

Orinda resident and chess grandmaster Sam Shankland, 26, won the 2018 U.S. Chess Championship and $50,000 prize in April, upsetting some of the world’s top players, including Wesley So, Hikaru Nakamura and Fabiano Caruana, who became the first American to challenge for a World Chess Championship since Bobby Fischer in 1972.

Katherine Saxby, an Alameda resident and high school French and English teacher at Orinda Academy in Orinda, is among the contestants in the 2018 Teachers Tournament on “Jeopardy!” Her appearance on the game show is at 7 p.m. Thursday on KGO-Channel 7; she’ll be up against Indi Ekanayake, a science teacher from Seattle, Wash., and Beth Binder, a sixth-grade teacher in Fort Collins, Colo.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

Actress Rosario Dawson is 39 … Rapper Ghostface Killah of Wu-Tang Clan is 48 … Singer Billy Joel is 69 … Producer-director James L. Brooks is 81.

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