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Common Uses Celebrity To Help The Masses

By Cassiette West-Williams


Chicago, IL – A standing room only crowd started lining up four hours early, before the Academy Award winning artist Common, appeared at the Faith Community of Saint Sabina Catholic Church. A couple of thousand youth, families, dignitaries, politicians, and young artists packed the sanctuary, balcony, and aisles, as Common empowered his fans to consider their own legacy in life, by believing in themselves with faith, community service, and perseverance.

He said that his past relationship with singer-song writer Erykah Badu forced him to realize that he had to assert himself as his own man in society.

I wasn’t diming my light for somebody else… that right there is a sin. You have a light for the world,’ he said. “I didn’t know that I wanted to act. It is never too late to find your purpose. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us.”

Common, along with singer and composer John Legend, co-wrote the anthem “Glory” for the movie, Selma. The Spirit of David dancers performed a stirring routine to “Glory”, which set the tone spiritually for the evening.

Lonnie Lynn, which is Common’s birth name, has been rapping since he was 12 years old. He created raps with his cousin, while visiting him in Cincinnati, Ohio. “Little did I know that I had found my voice and my purpose,” he said.

Many years later, as a respected hip-hop artist with several albums under his belt, Common said he attended a Grammy-award program, assured that he would win several trophies. He had been nominated in four different categories and had written four varied acceptance speeches. After three awards had been given to other artists, Common assumed that he would win the final award. Instead, the Grammy went to his friend, Kanye West.

Common said he kept smiling for the cameras, but felt empty after the Grammys ended.

As he attended the family Grammy party with his mother, (who is a retired Chicago Public Schools principal and life-long educator) Dr. Mahalia Hines, he was disappointed, but not downtrodden.

I didn’t stop believing,” Common said. “There are many challenges we will face. Frederick Douglass said ‘without struggle, there is no progress.’ “He won a Grammy award the following year.

Reflecting on his own growth and progress, Common spoke fondly about his mother, who was seated in the audience with his step-father. He remembered how she questioned him about leaving college to pursue a rap career. “God gave us all a gift,” he said. Today he said she asks him, “When are you going to make a new album? I need a new car.”

Today Common seeks to use his celebrity to enhance the lives of children with his Common Ground Foundation. “The greatest in the kingdom are those who do more service,” he said. “Service is a way to greatness.” Senior Pastor Rev. Dr. Michael L. Pfleger applauded Common’s resolve to make his art meaningful. “He takes hip-hop and holds it to a standard. He stands as a role model to America.” Pastor Pfleger added, “ (Hip-Hop Rapper) Chief Keef didn’t win an Oscar. Common did. He draws the best in us. He uses music to change us and bring out the best in us.”

During the hour-long presentation, he shared several aspects about his life’s goals and aspirations.

Saint Sabina’s African American lecture series is held in the church, which is nestled in the heart of the Auburn Gresham neighborhood. Sponsors of the event include American Airlines and WVON (1690AM). The next free guest will be comedian and social activist Dick Gregory on May 1st.