About 10,000 people from all over the world gathered last week in Poland for the annual March of the Living, a 3-kilometer walk from Auschwitz to Birkenau, where the Nazis killed more than a million civilians, mostly Jews, during World War II.
One of the most famous marchers was Meek Mill, a 35-year-old African-American rapper from Philadelphia with nothing to do with the atrocities that took place there.
But at a time of rising anti-Semitism in the US, his presence spoke volumes, and it made sense.
“I’ve always stood for anything that condemns racism, but now that I’ve been educated, I’ll be sure to tell people in my culture about what I saw and felt today in that concentration camp,” Mill told CNN. during the march.
Mill is a friend of New England Patriots owner and philanthropist Robert Kraft, whose Anti-Semitism Foundation runs a $25 million national #StandUpToJewishHate campaign. The effort, represented by a blue square emoji, includes a paid television ad that highlights alarming numbers of anti-Semitic incidents in the US.
Anti-Defamation League data traces a surge in recent incidents against Jews due to repeated hate comments by rapper Kanye West, now known as Ye, who makes no apologies for his pro-Hitler, anti-Jewish language.
“We are two different artists. We represent two different things,” Mill said.
Mill said that he “wasn’t educated to even tell right from wrong” when Ye made his remarks.
“But I know a lot of what he said was wrong because it sounded like hate,” Mill said. “Now that I’m a bit educated, because I’m at the starting point, just, you know, spreading the word about humanity. push things.”
Kraft met Mill during the rap artist’s 12-year legal battle over his arrest on gun and drug charges when he was 19.
According to a Kraft spokesperson, they were introduced by a mutual friend, and Mick occasionally turned to the Patriots owner for friendly advice. When Mick was put in jail, Kraft visited him in jail and they stayed in touch and remained friends.
The Mill case spurred the activism of many prominent figures, including Kraft, on the issue of criminal justice.
“It is important for me to study the history of mankind,” Mill said. “But I think it’s also important for me to support Robert, all my Jewish friends, everyone who has always supported me. Robert supported me at a very high level. As I went through what I was going through, he recognized my lifestyle. He got to know my culture, where I come from, my past.”
Mill said he went to Auschwitz to “see it for yourself and learn about it for yourself”, describing what he saw there as “horror, pain, something you can’t explain”.
“He’s a very caring person and it’s very important to him to build bridges between people of Jewish faith and people of color in America,” Kraft said of Mill.
“He is a sensitive person who went through several difficult situations where he was treated unfairly. And I think that for him you need to understand the culture of our people, what we went through and how many experiences are similar – when people just stand up and hate for no good reason, ”Kraft added.
Mill not only visited Auschwitz and took part in the March of the Living, but also participated in events marking the 80th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in Poland. The popular artist has almost 25 million followers on Instagram and said he now intends to use his bullhorn to make sure his fans understand that all hate — be it anti-black racism or anti-Semitism — is rooted in the same ignorance and cannot be tolerated.
“In my music, I always use my platforms. I come from the ghettos of America – from the streets. I started talking about it because it was my lifestyle,” Mill said.
“But through education, more knowledge and more vision, I think I can convey some of the things that will touch those moments and be able to express and tell the story of what I have witnessed and what I have seen.”