Rapper 21 Savage Donates $25,000 to Southern Poverty Law Center

Rapper 21 Savage donated $25,000 to a nonprofit civil rights organization that helped him when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrested him back in February.The rapper, whose real name is Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, donated $25,000 to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) on June 1, the rapper’s lawyer, Charles H. Kuck, wrote in a press release sent to The North Star.

“21 Savage is making this donation public because everyday Americans need to know that ICE is using civil immigration detention as a weapon against immigrants, many of whom, like 21 Savage, have relief from deportation and are able to fix their immigration status,” the statement read.“Creating oppressively adverse conditions of detention, like those in Irwin County, Georgia far away from family and legal counsel, causes despair and hopelessness, and forces these men and women to give up on their immigration claims.”

The Grammy-nominated rapper, who was born in the United Kingdom, was arrested on February 3 for overstaying his visa, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported. Kuck said the SPLC and other national organizations “came together to fight the injustice by forming a coalition to seek his release.” The rapper’s attorney said that the donation “will go to ensure that immigrants in detention centers in the deep south have access to legal representation.”

“The SPLC, through its Southeast Immigrant Freedom Initiative (SIFI) stands at the front line of this fight and supporting this effort lets all Americans know that the Constitution, which protects the least of us, protects all of us,” Kuck wrote. The rapper moved to the US with his family when he was seven years old and lived in Atlanta, CNN reported. He reportedly failed to renew his visa in 2006, but Kuck told the news station that he had filed for a U visa in 2017, which is a visa for victims of crimes, according to the ICE website. According to CNN, the 26-year-old was released from ICE custody 10 days after his arrest.

Willemijn Keizer, the SPLC’s director of institutional giving, told NBC News that Abraham-Joseph’s donation will give "vital resources" for immigrants who are currently detained."Only one in six immigrants detained in the Southeast has access to an attorney in removal proceedings. For an immigrant in detention, that legal representation can mean the difference between winning or losing their case — between staying with their family or being forced to return to a place that is no longer home," Keizer told the news station.

In an interview with Good Morning America after his release, the rapper, who is known for his hit single “Bank Account” and is featured in rapper Post Malone’s hit song “Rockstar,” said the ICE agency’s policies are “broken.”

"I've been here...19 years, this is all I know," the rapper said at the time. "I don't feel like you should be arrested and put in a place where a murderer would be, for just being in the country too long."

Abraham-Joseph explained during the interview that he was driving the day he was arrested.“I was just driving. And I just seen guns and blue lights. And, then, I was in the back of a car. And I was gone," he said during the Good Morning America interview. The rapper has made a name for himself in the US in recent years. The 26-year-old’s full-length debut album titled Issa Album earned the number two spot on the Billboard Top 200 when it was released in July 2017 and sold over 77,000 copies its first week. He also has collaborated with artists like Drake, Travis Scott, J Cole, and Childish Gambino.

Abraham-Joseph, who touts his Atlanta roots, is also known for giving back to his community. A month after releasing his album, he held his third annual back-to-school event in his hometown, Billboard previously reported.

"Giving back to where I grew up means a lot to me. These kids need it and I use to be one of those kids," the Atlanta artist told the publication at the time. "Being able to see someone from where [you] from make it and come back and genuine give back will motivate these kids to do the same for their kids and the community." Civil rights attorney Timothy Welbeck praised the Atlanta artist's actions: "21 Savage's generous donation to the SPLC is a continuation of his past philanthropic endeavors, and yet another illustration of his growth and maturation since he thundered onto the Atlanta's vibrant music scene five years ago." "Considering his detention by ICE earlier this spring," Welbeck added, "this donation signals he wants to make good on his promise to do what he can to prevent others from experiencing the injustices he has. Hopefully his peers follow suit."

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.