Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder Jay-Z has been an outspoken advocate for prison reform. Despite never having himself been incarcerated, he has made it clear that social justice is an important issue facing young, Black men in society today. That is why the rap mogul has collaborated with First Round Capital to invest $3 million dollars into Y-Combinator’s latest startup project, Promise.
The startup’s mission is to offer governments an alternative to holding non-violent prisoners in custody who can’t afford bail. They can instead then be released to the start-up project, which will individualize a plan for each participant based on their own personal risks and needs. This alternative allows the former convicts to return to their jobs, families, and communites—and will give them a much greater semblance of freedom with restrictions placed as necessary. They will remain in the custody of Promise until the law permits otherwise.
Jay-Z’s lyrics have always made his humble beginnings and equally troubled past the forefront of his message—which was ultimately about none other than the pursuit of a hustle.
Growing up in the Marcy Houses, located in the projects of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, Hov has never been a stranger to the presence of drugs and violence. Raised by his loving mother Gloria Carter, he still ended up dealing drugs to get by growing up in New York.
The life of a drug dealer doesn’t give many options to stay protected, and thus Jay-Z was known to be in possession of guns and involved in occasional gun-related violence. Therefore, it could have been easy for him to end up facing a life in-and-out of prison. However, he saw a brighter future for himself. One that rap enabled him to bring to fruition.
Some of Hov’s close friends and family such as Meek Mill and cousin Emory Jones have not been quite as diligent in staying out of jail. Jay-Z has repeatedly used his resources to inform the public about why a black male’s imprisonment is often not of their own accord alone—such as when he wrote an op-ed in the New York Times this past November.
It is no secret that the U.S. prison system is a façade for modern-day slavery, with African Americans being incarcerated at a rate of 5 times more than white people in America. According to statistics collected by the NAACP, while African Americans and Hispanics make up only 32 percent of the US population, they consist of roughly 56 percent of incarcerated people, as of 2015.
The Promise program will help bring the country closer to “liberty and justice for all,” as Jay-Z put it. With the slow rate of change happening to bring prison and bail reform to reality, a program like Promise is something many can get behind. It creates substantial steps towards bringing former prisoners to justice by allowing them to return to a life after prison. The program is undoubtedly a genius and morally backed project which is sure to improve lives with the help of someone like Jigga. Salute is in full support of this team effort and looking forward to seeing what comes from it.