Hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons is taking on police reform. Simmons’ media company, All Things Def, will host a town hall tonight in Los Angeles featuring high-profile lawyers, professors, activists and celebrities discussing recent civilian deaths at the hands of police officers and the need for revised law enforcement procedures and policies, reports the National Law Journal. It is to be the first in a series of public conversations about criminal justice reform, focused on issues impacting youth, urban communities and minorities. “There are few topics more pressing in American society, in particular for minorities and youth, than policing and criminal justice reform,” Simmons said in announcing the event.
Former MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry will moderate a panel that features actor and TV host Nick Cannon; National Bar Association President Benjamin Crump, who represented the family of Trayvon Martin; National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives President Gregory Thomas; and New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman. Also on the panel is Jonathan Rapping, a professor at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School and the founder of Gideon’s Promise, an organization that trains public defenders. Simmons is best known as the co-founder of the influential hip-hop music label Def Jam Recordings. After Eric Garner’s 2014 choking death by a New York City policeman, Simmons and superstar rapper Jay-Z met with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to push for special prosecutors to handle cases of alleged police brutality.