Jay Z’s Roc Nation Is Quietly Saving Lives

Published on March 13, 2019

In a world where people would rather worry about who is standing for the Pledge of Allegiance than what the President is up to, the philanthropic portion of Jay Z’s Roc Nation label is working hard to do what the justice system won’t. In a similar situation, the label has also provided extensive legal aid to rapper 21 Savage after he was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials earlier this year.


11-year-old Jabari Talbot was arrested last month for sitting down during the Pledge of Allegiance at his Florida middle school, Lawton Chiles Middle School. Talbot intended to quietly sit during the Pledge of Allegiance as a form of protest. Things escalated, and Talbot was eventually arrested and taken into police custody at the Lakeland Police Department. He was arrested on the grounds that he was being disruptive to the class and refused to obey orders. In the wake of the incident, Jay Z’s ROC Nation label decided to help out.

Team ROC is a division of the ROC Nation label. The division is dedicated to providing philanthropic aid to victims of racial injustices around the country. The label division caught wind of Talbot’s case and decided to lend a helping hand. In this instance it involved hiring Alex Spiro, a famed trial lawyer. Spiro is famous for providing legal aid to NBA stars like Thabo Sefolosha. The label offered legal help to Talbot and his family pro-bono, and the case was eventually dropped altogether. “Although Jabari’s case has been dismissed, I do want people to know this isn’t just about my son—this prejudice happens to African-American kids all across the country,” said Jabari’s mother, Dhakira Talbot.

21 Savage

Rapper 21 Savage was arrested and detained by ICE officials back in early February. After being detained, ROC Nation wanted to help in any way it could. Team ROC announced just a few days later that it would be enlisting the help of Alex Spiro once again. This time, to act as a legal aid for 21 Savage pro-bono.

21 Savage, who’s real name is Sheyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, was born in the UK. He was raised there until he was 7 when he went to the US for the first time. Later, Abraham-Joseph went back to the US when he was in his early teen years. When Abraham-Joseph moved to the US as a teen, he was granted a temporary visa. Regardless, Team ROC’s aid in the situation helped 21 Savage get out of detention just a few weeks later. “The arrest and detention of 21 Savage is an absolute travesty, his U visa petition has been pending for 4 years. In addition to being a successful recording artist, 21 deserves to be reunited with his children immediately,” said rapper Jay Z, the owner of ROC Nation and Team ROC in a public statement.

Even More

ROC Nation’s history of providing legal aid in criminal justice cases isn’t anything new. The label has been quietly helping people of color out for years now. In 2017, Team ROC announced that it would be helping bail out incarcerated fathers in celebration of Father’s Day. The decision to do this was inspired by Jay Z’s longstanding vocal history of denouncing the American prison system. A TIME Magazine essay—written by the rapper in 2017—highlighted his opinion of the unjust mass incarceration of people of color happening in America today. “Millions of people are separated from their families for months at a time — not because they are convicted of committing a crime, but because they are accused of committing a crime,” said Shawn Carter, who also goes by Jay Z, in the essay published by TIME.

Julia Sachs is a former Managing Editor at Grit Daily. She covers technology, social media and disinformation. She is based in Utah and before the pandemic she liked to travel.

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