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Hip-hop tycoons Jay Z and Russell Simmons met with Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York State, to discuss criminal justice reform relative to police brutality and the Eric Garner case. These moguls are seeking to advocate change in the wake of the racial disturbance in America. Jay Z, Simmons and Cuomo discussed acquiring special prosecutors for cases of alleged police brutality as one option to change the justice system.
Jay Z has been vocal since the killing of unarmed teen Trayvon Martin. He and Beyoncé joined the protests which led to a trial. Simmons, who has long been an advocate of justice for minorities, supported the 2011 Occupy Wall Street protests. Both men took time out of their busy schedules to meet with and advise the Queens native on methods for change.
Although Cuomo did not promise to appoint a special prosecutor for cases relative to police brutality, he did discuss it, along with other options for change. Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo’s spokesperson, confirmed the meeting was held at the governor’s office in Manhattan. She also stated the meeting led to a productive conversation on a complete review of the criminal justice system and what it will take to pass a reform package that “guarantees” equality in the eyes of the law.
Following the Michael Brown case which allowed former officer Darren Wilson to go without an indictment coupled with the grand jury’s decision not to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo in Eric Garner’s death has caused an uprising of civil unrest. Hundreds and thousands of protesters have launched demonstrations across the nation to contest these controversial decisions. In the heat of those episodes of alleged police brutality a 12-year-old African-American kid from Cleveland was killed by the hands of law enforcement.
Executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, Donna Lieberman, has called for an end of the policing tactics which unfairly target black and Hispanic men. She called the current strategy developed by Bill Bratton, NYPD commissioner, “broken windows.” Lieberman added, “Things have to change.”
After the meeting with the governor Simmons, accompanied by rappers Common, Nas and Immortal Technique, held an “Eric Garner” rally outside of city hall. The crowd refused to let the weather stop their efforts as they came together and chanted “I can’t breathe” and “black lives matter” in hopes of encouraging change within the judicial system. Simmons spoke these words to the cheering crowd:
We know the police cannot police the police. The future is bright and we are not going anywhere. Our numbers will only grow. The movement is here.
The business mogul believes utilizing celebrities like Jay Z will further electrify the movement. Getting high-profile people like Mr. Carter and their mega-followings on social media has the power to propel a revolution which this country has yet to see. Simmons believes the Garner family will eventually see justice. The Deaf Jam label creator does not feel it is possible that Garner’s murderer will avoid court nor does he feel it is possible for the judicial system to continue “business as usual.” He is confident that change is on the horizon.
Common, founder of the Common Ground Foundation, also encouraged the crowd. The South Chicago native stated:
We need everyone here to support and I appreciate each and every race coming out to support us, but we have been having this problem for a long time. We are here together, and we’re going to stand together and do everything it takes to change this system.
The rapper is also a long-time supporter of equality in America. His non-profit foundation was established to empower underprivileged young people to be strong citizens. Programs instituted within the foundation are dedicated to educational and leadership development, creative expression, empowerment and includes a book club.
Simmons and Common are excited about the movement and encouraged to see things progress. It has been a long fight for racial equality but neither of these businessmen has given up the hope for a better future. Jay Z and Simmons met with New York governor Andrew Cuomo for possibilities to jump-start a better tomorrow.
by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Featured Image Credit: Shinya Suzuki (Flickr)