Soulquarian and Chi-town native Common was in his hometown last Friday for a performance at the Chicago Cultural Center, where he was confronted with the brutal reality that has dominated Chicago the last few years – gang violence. Specifically, thirteen people - including a three year old boy - were wounded last Thursday night when local gang members opened fire at a local park. The incident prompted Common to remind us once again where our priorities should be (and that doesn’t include bashing rap music.) Hip-hop has been the longtime scapegoat for gang violence but Common suggests that blaming a rap song is taking the easy way out – “we need to do more.” However, to his credit, he’s not being unrealistic, admitting that fans of certain rappers who promote violence are “influenced by that energy and take it the wrong way.” Therein lies the issue of education, or lack thereof. The conscious rapper suggests getting the whole community involved as well as – and especially – rappers to end the consistent violence in urban cities by starting a “peace summer” and creating more educational programs.
“There has to be a consistent follow through,” he said. “Young people … some of them may not be in a place where they can say, `OK, I’m going to stop (violent behavior)’” he said. “It may be a process. You have to deal with that.”
The passion that Common’s expressed for education and creating a more positive atmosphere than he grew up in is evident through his extracurriculars. Recently, Common performed at the Ajile L. Turner Scholarship Foundation‘s annual Farewell Summer event – a foundation dedicated to youth music education. He also runs his own global foundation - The Common Ground – based in San Francisco that focuses on using creative arts to bring light to problems that face both our local and global community. Here’s what the rapper hopes the organization will accomplish:
“I started the Common Ground Foundation because I wanted to help. Most of all help people to help themselves. I always believed that if we started with the youth then we would be planting the seeds for our future to blossom. Give the children a sense of hope, self-esteem, and love that will better the world…I think making a difference in the lives of others is life’s greatest purpose. I walk this path with faith knowing that the Common Ground Foundation will Change the World.”
Common’s mission is honorable and is proof that rappers and rap music can indeed “do more.”