PHILADELPHIA – Security will be tight at the Super Bowl, but nothing compared to what Kempis Songster is used to.
Songster was released from a maximum-security prison less than a month ago, but in two weeks, he’s heading to Minneapolis for the big game, courtesy of Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins.
Jenkins, an outspoken social activist and a finalist for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for volunteer and charity work, met Songster last year during a visit to Graterford Prison as he educated himself to better understand the criminal justice system and mass incarceration.
As a Payton Award finalist for his work leading the Players’ Coalition that influenced an almost $100 million pledge by the NFL to assist community groups and social justice organizations, Jenkins receives two tickets to the Super Bowl.
He’s playing in the Feb. 4 game, so he doesn’t need the seats for himself, so he decided to do something notable with them.
“A few weeks ago, I saw an article come across my text that he was getting out, and I wanted to do something special for him,” Jenkins told the Daily News. “I didn’t know what, but I knew I wanted to do something to celebrate him coming home because I understood he really dedicated himself to a life of service and he’s trying to repay what he’s taken from society. I know he has some great ideas and we’re trying to accomplish the same thing when we talk about reform and healing our communities.”
Jenkins has been heavily involved in social issues the last two years. He and teammates like Chris Long have attended bail hearings to see how the criminal justice system works (or doesn’t) and have met with lawmakers to discuss reforms and new legislation.
“In October, we played in a Monday night game that finished around 1 a.m. and 7 a.m., Malcolm is rallying us to go get on a train and go to Harrisburg to meet with legislators, where we got to see a lot of the folks who are pushing these bills across the floor,” Long said this week. “There’s a lot of work to do in Pennsylvania.”
Songster, 45, was locked up for 30 years for a murder he committed when he was a teenager. He and another runaway, Dameon Brome, both originally from Brooklyn, received mandatory life sentences in 1988 for killing 17-year-old Anjo Pryce in a Philadelphia crack house.
His lengthy sentence was cut short following the Supreme Court ruling two years ago that found automatic life sentences for juveniles to be unconstitutional. Songster was released Dec. 28 and met Jenkins again the following day.
“Once I got the opportunity to get those tickets through the Man of the Year, he was the first person that popped in my mind,” Jenkins said. “I know normally, people give those to kids or people who may be sick or who are well deserving, but I wanted to have an example that sometimes we can think outside the box and we can listen and hear from one another, so what better platform than the Super Bowl to show those examples?
“Because he’s someone I’m going to lean on for insight of what’s going on, who has been through the process, knows what’s going on, how people are being affected,” he said. “Those are the voices I want to amplify when we talk about trying to change it. You have to be able to engage and Kempis is a great example of that.”