Platinum-selling rapper Meek Mill appeared on "Good Morning America" Thursday and reflected on how the challenges he experienced with the U.S. criminal justice system over more than a decade have led him to embrace activism and fight for reform.
"This is my situation being on probation for 11 years and going back to prison three to four times without committing crimes for eleven years," the rapper told “GMA” co-host Michael Strahan. "This last time a lot of people stood up for me and came out and spoke out for me so I thought when I got out of my situation I'd use my platform to help some people...who don't really have a voice."
Meek, whose full name is Robert Rihmeek Williams, joined forces with leaders in music, sports and the business world to found REFORM Alliance, a criminal justice reform organization launched Wednesday that is chaired by Mill and his friend, Philadelphia 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin, who also appeared on "GMA."
In a passionate speech on Wednesday during REFORM's launch, Rubin said that he argued with Meek for years about the criminal justice reform system, but Meek had always told him that there are "two Americas" and the rapper's experience with the criminal justice system made Rubin realize that he "could not have been more wrong" to have thought that the system "worked great."
"What changed for us is I initially thought this was just a crazy situation for him and it was. What I didn't realize was how fundamentally broken the criminal justice system was," Rubin told "GMA."
"Meek got out [of prison] April 24th and every day since then we've been saying how do we help the millions of other people who are unfairly caught up in the system and by the way, doing this while keeping communities safe," he added.
In a passionate speech announcing the launch of @REFORM, @MichaelGRubin explains how @MeekMill taught him that there are "two Americas" and how Rubin was "dead wrong" for thinking the criminal justice system "worked great."— Deena Zeina Zaru ??????? (@Deena_Zaru) January 23, 2019
Meek showed him how badly it needs to be reformed pic.twitter.com/gFIU9LfnWz
The organization's high-powered executive board is made up of co-founders Shawn “JAY-Z” Carter, Kraft Group CEO and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Brooklyn Nets co-owner and philanthropic investor Clara Wu Tsai, Third Point LLC CEO and founder Daniel S. Loeb, Galaxy Digital CEO and founder Michael E. Novogratz and Vista Equity Partners chairman and CEO Robert F. Smith.
The Philadelphia rapper, who is signed to Jay-Z's label, Roc Nation, was sentenced to two to four years in prison last November after a pair of arrests that violated his probation from a 2008 gun and drug case. This sentence for technical violations, including popping a wheelie on a motorcycle, sparked outrage among criminal justice reform advocates and invigorated a national debate on probation laws and mass incarceration.
For activists, the issue was not whether Meek violated his probation but whether the now-31-year-old rapper, who had already served an 8-month prison sentence when he was convicted for drug and gun possession at 19, should still be on probation.
"My fans stood up, Jay-Z, Robert Kraft, Roc Nation stood behind me and spoke up on my behalf which I think sparked things on a national level to everybody to see what's going on," Meek told "GMA." "We used that situation to shed light on people who don't have a voice."
Jay-Z applauded Meek's activism on Wednesday and said that the rapper's story "sparked the match for the nation."
.@MeekMill and Jay-Z, joined by 76ers owner Michael Rubin Patriots owner Robert Kraft and others, announce the launch of criminal justice reform organization @REFORM.— Deena Zeina Zaru ??????? (@Deena_Zaru) January 23, 2019
"We're all prisoners to this because until everyone's free, no one's free," Jay-Z says
The REFORM Alliance, which will be led by longtime criminal justice reform advocate and CNN commentator Van Jones, aims to "drastically reduce the number of people who are under control of the criminal justice system by changing laws and public opinion," according to a press release shared with ABC News.
After he was imprisoned for probation violations, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered Mill's immediate release on "unsecured bail" in April, citing "credibility issues with a police officer who was a 'critical witness'" in Mill's case. But his request for a new trial was denied in June and he is still on probation.
And this is one of the issues that REFORM Alliance hopes to tackle.
"I got caught up in the system and every time I started to further my life with the music industry -- from traveling the world, performing worldwide and actually making money to be able to provide for my family and take them out of their ruthless environment, every year or two was something that always brought me back to ground zero and it was probation and I always wondered what happened to people in situations worse than mine," Meek said on Wednesday.
In the months leading up to the launch, Meek has quickly become one of the most visible advocates for criminal justice reform on the national stage and has joined PUMA’s #REFORM campaign as an ambassador for criminal justice reform.
Criminal justice reform is one of the rare issues that has some bipartisan support in Congress. In December, lawmakers passed "The First Step Act" -- the first criminal justice reform bill to clear Congress in years.