While Mumia languishes in prison, the reimagining of Mill is underway. The onetime gun-toting drug dealer is on the road to an apotheosis that will enable him to replace Mumia as a leading spokesman against racism, social injustice, judicial corruption, and police brutality.
Has there ever been a less likely messenger?
In the space of a couple of months, Mill has gone from an inmate to a man who has nudged Mumia out of the spotlight as the face of a movement.
After numerous probation violations, and dueling with a judge whose actions need some looking into, Mill was sentenced last November to two to four years. That kicked off a cacophony of protest by fans including 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin. When the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered Mill released, Rubin sent a helicopter to whisk the rapper to a Sixers game so he could ring a ceremonial bell, an honor reserved for people of achievement.
Mill's achievement was using celebrity as a Get Out of Jail Free card. Giving him the honor was a bit much for many Sixers fans, including me.
While I follow the Sixers, I am no Mill fan — I'm sure you are shocked to hear that — and I think the Eagles' playing his revolting, obscene, misogynistic "Dreams and Nightmares" in the locker room speaks poorly about their musical taste.
There's no question that Mill has acted stupidly when under the control of the courts. Still, I ask myself two things:
First, was he treated fairly by the criminal justice system, and specifically by Judge Genece Brinkley? Bad behavior by the defendant in the dock must not be answered by bad behavior by the judge. Brinkley heard an appeal from Mill for a new trial this week, but has not decided. One of Mill's original accusers is a cop found to be on the district attorney's infamous "do not call" list.
Second, has Mill become a true advocate for those who have been abused by the system?
Mumia gets to record diatribes from his cell, but once he was removed from Death Row he lost some of his cachet and became a day-old tuna sandwich.
If Mill is sincere, he could use his music to bring peace and understanding and tolerance to a much larger audience than Mumia ever reached.
If he is sincere, he could be a positive voice. And he appeals to a whole new generation: At 64, Mumia is more than twice as old as 31-year-old Meek.
I wanted to talk to Mill, to gauge his sincerity and ask what preparations he has made for his new role. His handlers politely declined.
Mill puts me in mind of quarterback Michael Vick. After prison on dogfighting charges, he had to do a lot to convince skeptics, including me, that he had reformed.
Over time, through his words and deeds, notably with the Humane Society of the United States, Vick convinced me of his sincerity and reformation.