Ever since Trump got elected as President, the lines between politics and pop culture seem to have been blurred. It could be because the President was once a reality television host or because he hand-picked an inexperienced cabinet, or possibly because he’s currently being sued by a porn star — either way, Hollywood and Capitol Hill have a lot more to talk about these days and they can thank Trump for it.
Next month, on November 14th, these two worlds continue to merge as rapper Meek Mill and reality star Kim Kardashian are to be part of the panel at the LA Criminal Justice Reform Summit, Variety reports.
The summit is powered by both Variety and Rolling Stone and is focused to “bring together the entertainment, philanthropic, advocacy and policymaking communities to drive criminal justice reform.”
As good as all of this sounds, there have been questions raised as to why Kim K, Kanye, and Meek Mill get the types of meetings and discussion community activists and grassroots organizers have been trying to get for years.
Jokes aside, there are activists who’ve dedicated their entire lives to criminal justice reform/prison reform and know their stuff, but Kim Kardashian is the one going to the White House to talk about it with Trump and Kushner?
— Denizcan Grimes (@MrFilmkritik) May 31, 2018
Kim Kardashian and her legal team did something good for a woman who was going to be in jail had not she got involved but y'all still find a way to hate her when she's done more than your favorite activists & celebrities?
I'm not even a Kim K fan but y'all need to stop hating.
— Mo Buku (@LegendOfBuku) June 7, 2018
Please explain to the choir what you know about jails or the system. Don't you live in the lovely hills of Cali. You ain't never been to the hood. Thanks but no thanks, we not buying it.
— michelle matthews (@NailsbyChellz) May 31, 2018
Similarly, although Meek Mill has been a victim of a broken prison system, many have wondered why a celebrity and not someone who’s life-long dedicated.
And to be honest, the questions are fair. The activists, community organizers, and individuals who’ve committed their entire lives to social justice deserve answers as to why Meek Mill and Kim Kardashian gets access and privilege.
But the answer isn’t that complicated of one: they have access and privilege.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2018
Kim Kardashian and Meek Mill may not be ‘deserving’ by the standards of time put in but they certainly care to some extent. And if you’d make the argument that either of them doesn’t care, you couldn’t argue that they haven’t made progress.
According to Kathryn Cramer Brownell, author of the book Showbiz Politics, celebrities actually do produce results. The best outcomes are when they get involved in “issue-based” politics, says Brownell, commandeering the lights and cameras (and Twitter followers) that are typically attracted to that type of stuff.
There is no shortage of examples: Taylor on AIDS, Harry Belafonte on civil rights, Angelina Jolie on refugees. By redirecting their fans’ emotional attachment toward an issue, celebrities have “changed the conversation,” Brownell notes.
And dare I say, they’re actually invested. Kim Kardashian tweeted on Sept. 5, after her second White House meeting:
It started with Ms. Alice, but looking at her and seeing the faces and learning the stories of the men and women I’ve met inside prisons I knew I couldn’t stop at just one. It’s time for REAL systemic change pic.twitter.com/kdKr8s6lJW
— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) September 5, 2018
Following Alice’s release, she since said she wants to do the same for Chris Young, a 30-year-old serving a life sentence for drug possession.
Meek Mill, too, has vowed to share his story to shed light on such issues since his release from prison back in April and is even in the works of making a documentary confronting the topic.
Being in and out of jail since a teenager for petty crimes, he has found a new calling in representing those who would be more constructive outside of prison than inside of it.
Maybe the question shouldn’t be if they are deserving but if they will make a difference.
The summit will be hosted by CNN’s Van Jones and will tough on mass incarceration, wrongful convictions, and other problems surrounding the US justice system.