When Russell Simmons talks, people tend to listen. And these days the 55-year-old hip-hop impresario has much to say to those who might be his most ardent audience members.
Young black and minority men are being jailed for minor drug offenses at a rate at least six times higher than that of whites nabbed for the same offenses. It’s all made for a suspect system of mass incarceration in which men of color are now as likely to be imprisoned as employed, as likely to have their names printed on prison log sheets as voter ID cards.
To Simmons, who arguably figures as prominently as anyone over the last quarter-century in influencing the way most young people have come to live and define their lives, that’s simply a fact that he just can’t accept.
So Simmons, once saluted by Newsweek as “potentially the most credible and effective leader of the post-civil rights generation,” is teaming with the equally conscientious noted scholar Dr. Boyce Watkins in seeking to change the game.
Their scope, aimed at changing the way minor drug offenders have themselves come to be victimized, is wide and ambitious.
TSL recently spoke with Simmons to find out why this issue is of such concern to him.