Why was Philly rapper Meek Mill honored with a day from Atlanta?

Rapper Meek Mill looks on before the game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Sept. 6, 2018, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Credit: Mitchell Leff

Credit: Mitchell Leff

Rapper Meek Mill looks on before the game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on Sept. 6, 2018, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Philadelphia rapper Meek Mill was honored with his own day by the city of Atlanta on Monday. But the proclamation left many wondering: With so many celebrities from Atlanta, why honor him?

City officials honored Meek Mill, whose real name is Robert Rihmeek Williams, at Dunbar Recreational Center as part of its Cure Violence program launch in Atlanta. The program teaches youth about stopping the spread of violence.

Many Twitter users questioned why the city would honor a Philadelphia rapper before the countless Atlanta artists who have contributed so much to music. His strongest ties to Atlanta’s rap scene were about a decade ago when he was signed to rapper T.I.’s label Grand Hustle.

Atlanta proclaimed March 25, 2019, as Robert "Meek Mill" Williams Day due to his prison reform efforts, said City Council President Felicia Moore. Williams' latest efforts came after his 2017 arrest for a parole violation for which he was sentenced two to four years in prison. Williams was released in April 2018 after Philadelphia prosecutors argued his conviction should be vacated because there were concerns about the arresting officer in his case. Earlier this year, Williams became co-chairman of The Reform Alliance which advocates for criminal justice reform.

Atlanta-based nonprofit the Music Education Group requested Williams be recognized by the city.

“I believe they were asking me as a result of his work,” Moore said, adding she had not been familiar with Williams. She presented Williams with the award on behalf of the city. “The kids seem to be excited about him coming and listened to what he had to say.”

James Caldwell, executive director of the Music Education Group, reached out to Williams a few weeks ago when he realized the rapper had a tour stop at the Coca-Cola Roxy near the Atlanta Braves’ stadium.

“Right now, he is the international face for prison reform in the United States beyond his music,” Caldwell said. “We’re celebrating Meek Mill for the fact that he’s using his past incarceration to raise awareness about prison reform and keeping young people safe in our streets.”

Williams has been recognized for his efforts in other cities, most recently Houston where he was also given a Meek Mill Day.

A spokesman with the Mayor's Office confirmed Williams did not receive the "Phoenix Award," the highest honor given by the city, despite numerous reports. The award is given to those who have made significant contributions to Atlanta. The distinction is given to a small number of people, often reserved for dignitaries, prominent figures and celebrities, including Atlanta Hawks player Kent Bazemore and famed television writer and producer Norman Lear.

As for the online criticism, Caldwell urged naysayers to reach out to Moore’s office and put in a request to honor those deserving.

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Moore said there have been “an untold number” of Atlanta acts that have been honored by the city and that her office receives many requests to honor different people. In 2016, Atlanta-based production team Organized Noize — which includes Rico Wade, Ray Murray and Patrick Brown (who goes by the stage name Sleepy Brown) — was reportedly honored with a day.

June 17, 2017, was proclaimed Killer Mike Day in honor of the rapper’s music, entrepreneurship and for being an ambassador of Atlanta. “Driller Mike,” a tunnel-boring machine used to create a reservoir at the former Bellwood Quarry, is also named after the rapper, whose real name is Michael Render.

Outkast was given their day Sept. 27, 2014, when they performed a series of concerts, dubbed "Outkast ATLast," at Centennial Olympic Park.

Still Moore acknowledged the complaints on social media and said she plans to take them into consideration.

“We try to honor requests that people make,” she said. “But we appreciate people making them (the complaints) and will take the comments into consideration when we consider honoring people doing positive things in the community.”

It is not unusual for celebrities to be honored in cities they do not live in or are originally from. In 2014, Rapper T.I., whose real name is Clifford Harris, was given a key to Jackson, Mississippi, after he spoke to students at Forest Hill High School urging them to avoid a life of crime.


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