New Jersey college drops rapper Common as commencement speaker

Reuters News
Posted: Apr 01, 2015 3:35 PM

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New Jersey university that said this week hip-hop artist Common would deliver a commencement speech to its graduating class reversed course on Wednesday after complaints from local police about one of his songs.

Kean University in Union said on its website it had dropped Common as a speaker after receiving complaints from police about the rapper's song "A Song for Assata" that supports convicted cop killer Joanne Chesimard, also known as Assata Shakur, The Record newspaper reported.

Kean posted on Twitter earlier in the week that the 41-year-old rapper and actor, who grew up as Lonnie Lynn but took the stage name Common, would speak to its graduating class of seniors on May 21.

"Common will not be the commencement speaker this year," the university then posted on its website. "We apologize for the premature announcement."

A university spokeswoman did not respond to requests for further comment.

Chesimard was convicted in the 1973 killing of a New Jersey state trooper, escaped from prison and fled to Cuba. U.S. authorities have long attempted to extradite Chesimard, who was the first woman added to the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorist list.

As relations between the United States and Cuba warm under the Obama administration, its unclear what will become of the case against her.

(Reporting by Laila Kearney; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Eric Walsh)