JAY-Z and Meek Mill‘s justice reform organization, the REFORM Alliance, has scored a major legislative victory that will reshape California's probation system. The new law, which was pushed forward in a campaign led by REFORM, will limit adult probation sentence maximums to one year for misdemeanors and two years for felonies across California.
Once the law passed, JAY described it as "the most transformative probation bill in this country to date" — proof that celebrity-driven lobbying and social activism can bring about meaningful change. It's time to start taking that seriously.
The Assembly Bill 1950 was signed by California Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday, CBS News reports. It's one of several bills ratified in the sunshine state in response to calls for police and criminal justice reform. “Americans across the country took to the streets this summer rightfully demanding more and better of our criminal justice system–and of ourselves,” Newsom said in a statement. “Still, we can and must do more.”
While celebrities supporting worthwhile causes and issues is in no way a new phenomenon, the increase in activism this year is often met with resounding criticism.
Cardi B, for example, is leading the way in terms of engaging her followers in vital discourses and has used her Instagram platform on countless occasions over the last year to draw attention to pressing issues — even going as far as to host a Q&A with Bernie Sanders. Her unfaltering dedication is applaudable but has been met time and time again with pushback, much of which is rooted in sexist, racist, classist bullshit.
Kylie Jenner has also started flexing her political influence and did so this week in the most Kardashian-Jenner way: by posting a bikini photo to Instagram. She captioned the post with, "but are you registered to vote? click the link in my bio.. let’s make a plan to vote together."
You might roll your eyes, but following this thirst trap, Vote.org gained nearly 50,000 new registered voters, equaling a 1500 percent boost in traffic for the nonprofit. Fifty thousand voter sign-ups from one selfie.
Kylie isn't the only member of the Kardashian-clan associated with politics: Kim has demonstrated just how celebrity and activism can coexist for years, yet her work on social justice reform tends to be coupled with public ridicule. Though you may chastise her, she's proved better than anyone that yes, you can go from selling body makeup one day to freeing wrongfully convicted inmates the next.
After this week's Presidential "debate," even the reclusive Frank Ocean joined the conversation, urging his fans to vote. The singer surfaced to launch a new campaign on his website to get people to register and vote Trump out of office. “Debates are on. It all feels fake. The problem’s that it’s not,” he wrote in an Instagram story. "If you’re not registered swipe up to BLONDED.CO. The form just takes two minutes to fill out. Goodnight.”
We could go on, but the Tl;dr here is that expecting celebrities to "stick to rapping" – or whatever profession we associate them with – is extremely facile. It detracts from their many valuable contributions to social conversations. Of course, fame alone can’t make someone best prepared to address socio-political issues for the world, but it equips them with the power to make people sit up and take notice. And to downplay their role in bringing important issues to our attention, in the end, does us all a disservice.