His daughter is named after Assata Shakur, a black panther formerly known as Joanne Chesimard. Shakur was sentenced to life for her role in the execution-style murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster. Shakur broke out of prison and fled to Cuba, where she still lives under political asylum. Congress passed a resolution demanding that Fidel Castro return her to the States. The FBI calls her a "domestic terrorist" and offers $1 million for her capture.
Now it's possible that Common named his daughter after Shakur because he likes the name. On the other hand, he did write a poem in which he calls Shakur an innocent woman wrongly convicted by the racist criminal justice system.
This would be the same racist criminal justice system that the socially conscious rapper insists unjustly convicted Mumia Abu-Jamal, currently serving a life sentence for the execution-style murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. But let us not single out Common. Abu-Jamal defenders include Hollywoodies Ed Asner, the late Paul Newman, Susan Sarandon, Ossie Davis, Mike Farrell, Tim Robbins and Whoopi Goldberg, as well as the French. Not all of the French, just the ones like the then-mayor of Paris who made Abu-Jamal an honorary citizen and the Parisian suburbanites who named a street after him.
Common does not personally advocate violence. He merely adopts a character, and becomes a tool through which urban angst of the streets is given voice. Does actor Anthony Hopkins actually eat people with some fava beans and a nice Chianti?
Middle-agers, who grew up on Motown, are hopelessly out-of-touch. Why if it were today, Smokey Robinson would be doing drive-bys on Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. Stax and Motown would trade lead over which label was "keepin' it real." Otis Redding would be sitting on the dock of the bay, recovering from gunshots fired by the Temptations -- strapped, cruising the streets in a tinted SUV, searching for respect. It's hard out there for a pimp.
When not rapping, Common stays in touch with his inner Klansman. Like the Klan, Common condemns interracial dating. Sticklers might recall the heat then-presidential candidate George W. Bush took when he agreed to speak at Bob Jones University, which, at the time, forbade interracial dating among students without parental permission.
When asked about "mixed-race relationships," Common explained: "I disagree with them. ... Sometimes to get back up to the level of respect and love, you've gotta stick with your own for a minute and build a certain amount of strength and community within yours so that other people can respect and honor your traditions." Unlike the Klan, Common approves of interracial sex, in which he admits having indulged. He opposes only interracial relationships, like the kind that produced ... President Obama.
Maybe Common will rap about that at next year's poetry night. Until then, peace out.