Hundreds of Philadelphia's needy families are enjoying Thanksgiving turkeys today courtesy of local rapper Meek Mill, whose annual turkey giveaway went on despite his being locked up in prison for probation violations.
For the fifth year, Mill and his team, Dream Chasers, and his record company, Roc Nation, partnered with a local non-profit anti-poverty group, Unity in the Community, to buy and give away 1,000 turkeys in poor neighborhoods of Philadelphia on Wednesday.
Local TV stations posted stories and videos of the giveaway, showing scores of people bundled up for the cold lining up to get turkeys handed out from the back of a truck at four locations, including a church and a recreation center.
Also on hand: A huge black bus with the words "Stand With Meek Mill" emblazoned on the side.
"It's a good cause, Meek Mill giving back to the community," Unity in the Community founder Anton Moore said as he handed out turkeys from the truck, according to NBC10 news station.
"It was a very big success," Moore told USA TODAY on Thursday. "I take my hat off to Meek Mill. Whether he was in jail or not, (the giveaway) was still going to happen...Now all these families have Thanksgiving (meals) they might not have had if he didn't give out those turkeys."
Mill's Instagram page promoted the giveaway as: "Meek Mill: A DreamChaser's Thanksgiving."
A post shared by Meek Mill (@meekmill) on
On Unity in the Community website, Moore praised Mill and his team, noting pointedly that the charity drive would take place despite Mill's circumstances.
"Salute to @meekmill and his team for committing to this Initiative, even though he’s incarcerated," Moore wrote.
Mill started the giveaway in 2013 but this year's event attracted more attention in part because Mill's supporters want to bolster his effort to appeal his prison sentence.
Mill was sentenced Nov. 6 to two to four years in prison by Common Pleas Judge Genece Brinkley, who scolded the hip-hop artist for wasting chances to clean up his act following a 2009 gun and drug case.
She sent him to jail despite his protests that it would end his musical career and despite the prosecutor's recommendation against locking him up. Since then, Mill's supporters in Philadelphia, plus celebrities, have protested the sentence as unjust.
"The sentence handed down by the Judge — against the recommendation of the Assistant District Attorney and Probation Officer — is unjust and heavy-handed," Jay-Z wrote in a Facebook post. "We will always stand by and support Meek Mill, both as he attempts to right this wrongful sentence and then in returning to his musical career."
Moore said Mill's case can help focus more attention on criminal justice reform.
"This is my hope: I hope we pay attention to criminal justice reform throughout America," Moore said. "That includes Meek's situation and what he's going through, but we need to look at reform across the board for everyone."