Jay Z is the father of at least one child. If you believe the Internet rumors that Beyoncé has indeed given birth to the couple’s long-awaited twins, then he might be the father of three.
Yet the rapper ushered in Father’s Day in an unusual way: by writing an essay in Time magazine about the “injustice of the profitable bail bond industry.”
Writing under his given name, Shawn Carter, Jay Z lamented the many fathers who spent Sunday’s holiday away from their children because they couldn’t afford bail.
“If you’re from neighborhoods like the Brooklyn one I grew up in, if you’re unable to afford a private attorney, then you can be disappeared into our jail system simply because you can’t afford bail,” Jay Z wrote. “Millions of people are separated from their families for months at a time — not because they are convicted of committing a crime, but because they are accused of committing a crime.”
He said he became “obsessed” with the topic after helping produce the Spike docu-series “TIME: The Kalief Browder Story.”
Browder was arrested in the Bronx on May 15, 2010, just 10 days before his 17th birthday, by police who accused him of stealing a backpack, the New Yorker reported. He remained in jail for three years, awaiting trial. He refused numerous plea deals, insisting on his innocence.
“Kalief’s family was too poor to post bond. … He was sentenced to a kind of purgatory before he ever went to trial,” Jay Z wrote. “The three years he spent in solitary confinement on Rikers ultimately created irreversible damage that lead to his death at 22.”
One night in prison, Browder “tore his bedsheet into strips, tied them together to make a noose, attached it to the light fixture, and tried to hang himself,” the New Yorker reported. When he finally was released because the state could not meet the necessary burden of proof, Browder was 20 years old.
He killed himself two years later.
In his essay, Jay Z claimed the bail bond industry was partially to blame. He noted the only option for Browder’s family would have been taking out a loan, which can be financially devastating.
“When black and brown people are over-policed and arrested and accused of crimes at higher rates than others, and then forced to pay for their freedom before they ever see trial, big bail companies prosper,” he wrote. “… Families are forced to take on more debt, often in predatory lending schemes created by bail bond insurers. Or their loved ones linger in jails, sometimes for months — a consequence of nationwide backlogs.”
For his part, Jay Z said, “This Father’s Day, I’m supporting” Southerners on New Ground and Color of Change “to bail out fathers who can’t afford the due process our democracy promises.” These are two nonprofits that held a fundraiser to help bail out 100 imprisoned mothers on Mother’s Day.
“As a father with a growing family, it’s the least I can do, but philanthropy is not a long fix, we have to get rid of these inhumane practices altogether,” Jay Z wrote. “We can’t fix our broken criminal justice system until we take on the exploitative bail industry.”
Jay Z has long been vocal, generally through his music, about the criminal justice system and its inadequacies. As he wrote, 17 years ago he released a song titled “Guilty Until Proven Innocent.”
This essay, and the promised donation, was in keeping with Jay Z’s late-career activism, much of which flourished during the Obama administration.
Along with his wife, Beyoncé, Jay Z hosted a fundraiser for Obama’s second presidential campaign. The two formed a friendship, and in 2016, Jay Z was among several musicians who visited the White House to discuss criminal justice reform.
Obama seemed moved by Jay Z’s activism. Just days ago, Obama helped induct the rapper into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In a prerecorded video, he said, “Jay, you have been inspiring, making me want to be active in my retirement just as you have been in yours.”
It should be noted, though, that Jay Z is far from retired. He recently announced a new studio album titled “4:44.” And, in fact, he released a snippet of a new song from it titled “Adnis” on the same weekend his op-ed published in Time, Pitchfork reported.
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