21 Savage appears on the digital cover of this month’s PAPER Magazine. In the cover story, written by Stephanie Smith-Strickland, he talks about staying focused, his immigration situation, trying to create generational wealth, and more.
While his undocumented status might have cast the musician as an unlikely champion for immigration reform, there is value in the fact that his life has not been a case study in the model immigrant narrative. All too often, the mentality around immigration hinges on whether a newcomer lives life as a “model citizen.” For instance, the story of Emmanuel Mensah, a Ghanaian immigrant who died saving his neighbors during a fire in the Bronx last year, sparked conversation about how valuable immigrants are to America.
Mensah’s actions were heroic, but his worth as a human being should never have been tied into the sacrifice of his life. That we see stories from people like 21 Savage — who is fortunate enough to have amassed the wealth and platform to fight deportation — is important. For thousands of others, who lack the financial ability to hire lawyers who can navigate the murky waters of immigration law, their lot falls to the mercy of a historically biased system.