The 2018 edition of the Jay-Z-curated Made in America Festival on Philly’s Ben Franklin Parkway included performances from world-famous musical artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Nicki Minaj, Meek Mill, Pusha-T, Janelle Monáe and more. Some of those performers also shared their thoughts on the U.S.’s high incarceration rate and their ideas for criminal justice reform.
For the second year, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU) partnered with The Shawn Carter Foundation and Roc Nation to benefit from a percentage of the Made In America Festival (MIA) ticket sales to support its local outreach work. As a 100 year-old nonprofit, the ACLU has worked to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States.
To get the most out of the partnership, the local ACLU team, with the help of volunteers, organizes a two-day activation around the festival. The first location, the Cause Village, invites attendees to engage with nonprofits through various activities. The second location, backstage, allowed for interviews with the performing artists and celebrities to amplify the ACLU’s Campaign for Smart Justice, which aims to reduce the United States’ prison and jail population by 50 percent and “combat racial disparities in the criminal justice system.”
One data point of note: Though U.S. citizens make up only 5 percent of the global population, it holds over one-fifth of the world’s prison population.
In 2017 and 2018, the ACLU brought on my company, Stimulus, to amplify the Campaign for Smart Justice. As a technology company, Stimulus accelerates opportunities for diversification in corporate activity by creating a platform to include procurement, CSR and corporate messaging initiatives. We also offer customer success services that are delivered on a project-fee basis focused on community engagement.
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Working alongside the ACLU’s director of the Campaign of Smart Justice, Nick Pressley, we curated content through interviews with performing artists and celebrities about their experience with and knowledge of mass incarceration. With thousands of people attending the two-day festival, ranging in age, culture and background, it was a great place to obtain diverse opinions.
During our interviews with actor and musician Nick Cannon, rapper Pusha T, San Antonio Spurs forward Rudy Gay, Roc Nation SVP of A&R Lenny S. and more, we had quick but in-depth conversations about how imprisonment is a brutal and costly response to crime that traumatizes incarcerated people and hurts families and communities. It should be the last option, not the first. Yet the U.S. incarcerates more people, in both absolute numbers and per capita, than any other nation in the world.
When you’re in a casual environment and especially during a holiday weekend, you must think of the best way to discuss an important topic with a time limit. Thankfully, with celebs such as Meek Mill, Lebron James, Common, Viola Davis and Ava Duvernay speaking publicly on important issues like prison reform, people know the conversation needs to be had in order for action to occur. Once again during MIA, the activation team received great responses and support for the ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice.
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