Rappers Lil Wayne and Kodak Black are individuals who typically would not receive clemency based on their criminal history as well as alleged violent pasts; however, it is undeniable that as young black men that they have both been adversely impacted by the biases of the criminal justice system.

The prior commutation and subsequent pardon of Alice Marie Johnson, a name now synonymous with Kim Kardashian, married to rapper Kanye West, reveals how it has had to take black rappers and celebrity endorsements for clemency to be granted. In Ms. Johnson's case, weekly staff meetings were held where we discussed how her case would be recommended to President Obama. After three attempts, President Obama denied her requests in 2011, 2013, and 2017. Not until Trump took office did she receive clemency after Ms. Kardashian's public plea for assistance. Michael "Harry O" Harris, co-founder of rapper Snoop Dogg's former label, Death Row Records, received a pardon after the rapper's pleas. The rapper also successfully advocated for his former producer, Weldon Angelos, who received a pardon this past December. It is an extraordinary, life-changing gift to receive clemency. Even if it appears that in the final hours of his Presidency Trump is using black rappers, their celebrity influence, and their culture to selfishly attempt to show that he is not racist, the focus should be less on him and more on them. These black rappers and a black rapper's wife, were able to use their influence to achieve something that has never been done before by black people--obtain clemency directly from a President for this many black and brown people.


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