The rapper has involved himself, and his legal team, in a string of legal cases involving black men mistreated by law enforcement
On an early Monday morning in February, 11-year-old Jabari Talbot, who is African American, decided not to stand for the pledge of allegiance in his classroom at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy. Another classmate, who is not African American, joined him, a civil rights complaint obtained by the Guardian claims, but the child was not questioned by the substitute teacher.
Equality in this country is not fair … black people are not treated fairly, he answered the teacher when asked why he would not stand, adding, [and] police dont treat black people fairly.
Within minutes, as if to prove his point, Jabari was escorted out of the room and by the time his mother arrived, she was told by the resource officer her son had been arrested. Handcuffed and placed in a cell, he was released hours later after being charged.
Within a month, the sixth-grader has had the help of not only his local legal counsel in Florida, the attorney Roderick Ford, but also the rapper Jay-Z; Team Roc, the philanthropic arm of Jay-Zs organization Roc Nation; and one of his famed attorneys, Alex Spiro, who has worked on dozens of civil rights and social justice-related cases at the request of the hip-hop mogul.
I do think there is a common thread to [Jay-Zs] work and to ensure that all people are treated equally, said Spiro, the 36-year-old New York-based attorney for a number of celebrities, who, at the request of Team Roc, stepped in to assist the sixth grader. If we can get involved in a young persons life early before someone is convicted, before they are sidetracked by the criminal justice system or detained, you have a better chance to affect change or create progress, Spiro added.
Days after Team Roc collaborated with Ford in Florida, Talbots case was dismissed.
My son and I are grateful for all the athletes, entertainers, Roc Nation and community of supporters that have raised awareness about this injustice and showed their support both publicly and privately during our time of need, Talbots mother, Dhakira, said in a statement released to the Guardian. Although Jabaris case has been dismissed, I do want people to know this isnt just about my son this prejudice happens to African American kids all across the country.
Many of the cases Jay-Z has been involved with, with the help of Spiro, have mirrored the issues plaguing America in recent years: the debate around the former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick refusing to stand for the pledge of allegiance and as a result, no longer playing professionally; the absence of accountability for police actions; and the ever-expanding, albeit inherited, system of immigrant detention under the Trump administration.
You always want to be on the right side of the issue, Spiro explained, discussing why he has worked with Jay-Z on many of these cases in recent years. For example, right before Jay-Z rushed in to help Jabari, he was advocating for the release of the Atlanta-based rapper 21 Savage after he was detained by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) and threatened with deportation back to the UK on Super Bowl Sunday this year.