Common: On Selma And The Link To Ferguson


In 1964, Black people were granted the right to vote in a desegregated South, but that didn’t prevent raging racists from stopping folk from taking it to the polls.  Selma, the Alabama city, became ground zero for the fight for freedom.  “Selma” examines the course that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., his family and friends took to battle through several layers of discrimination. The critically heralded , Ava DuVernay-directed movie stars David Oyelowo, Oprah Winfrey, and other celebrities like Common. AHH linked up with the Chi-town rapper-turned-thespian and got his take on the past and how it relates to the present.

“Selma” opens inn theaters January 9.

AllHipHop:  Selma, let’s talk about it.  Last night, I watched the screening last night….Compelling. 

Common:   Yeah.

AllHipHop:  And I think about all the MCs, who’ve came before you and now you’re a walking living breathing icon.

Common:   Thanks for that, and I appreciate that, and I don’t take that lightly for you to say that, and I know that it’s work to be done, as you’ve seen in the movie.  People, before us, people did so much work for us to be able to be here and do these things.  I feel that, I have to do along with the people that align with the same purpose do the work so that our kids, and our future can have new opportunity and have even more than we have accomplished because of the people before us.  So, you know, being called an icon…man, do I look in the mirror and say ‘yes, that feels good’…’yes’, but I also know that’s it’s a bigger purpose, and you know like, as long as I know I’m doing that purpose, then I know I’m doing the things that I want to do, and supposed to do and what God put me here to do.

AllHipHop:  I’ve watched you over the years as far as being an MC from Chicago, and you’re hopping on television, hopping in movies, and how did this role come about for you?

Common:   Well Eva DuVernay Director, she was interested in me in playing the role of James Bevel, she was really particular about the people she chose for each role, and she was particular about choosing people that she felt would bring the energy and would commit to it and give everything to the project.  And, you know, once she showed some interest, I got to read the script and I was like ‘Man, I want to be a part of this’, you know, with all I got.  You know what actually…I actually auditioned when the movie, back when the movie was happening 4 years ago.  I auditioned with David Oyelowo and he was Dr. King, I was auditioning for another part.  But the movie didn’t happen then, and I remember he and I just had a bonding moment and it came back 4 years later, and Eva was the right person to direct this movie.  She said last night, her father is from Montgomery, you know, some things just happen, it just, you know, make you know like, this is supposed to happen.  The way she approached it and included everybody and made everybody feel like they were part of some important and everybody mattered what they were doing, so being a part of this came about through her and she made me feel like it mattered that I was there.

AllHipHop:  Well, when the movie first came on, and the little girls walking down the steps, and that whole explosion happened, and then Dr. King came about and then, you came out of that room, out of the building, you walked, and you stepped down like this, “Hey, this town is ready.”

Common:   Yeah

AllHipHop:   I seen the explosiveness in your face…without you being explosive.  You just, “Hey, this town is ready.”

Common:   Well you know, to get to be a part of Selma is like one of the highlights, one of the best moments of my life, as an artist and just even as a human being…so…it’s like once you, you know you have that passion and love for what you doing it’s no way that I’m…you know, when I get up there and get in those scenes, that character is alive, I’m not trying to bring no Common to the table, I’m not trying to bring Rasheed, I’m not trying to bring like…well this dude got swag, it’s about whoever James Bevel is…

AllHipHop:  Right.

Common:  And that’s what you may be seeing coming through and I just live in those times, and live in those moments, and I don’t let anything distract me.  I just be present in what we’re doing.  I think that’s one of the biggest keys for me and I do take this very seriously. ..I take it..

AllHipHop:  I see you do.

Common:   Yeah, as I have to tell people sometimes, because I am an artist, I’m a Hip Hop artist, I’m an MC, because I’m an MC, I have to…reaffirm to them that I am also an actor too.  Because at one point for me, it was like…I couldn’t just say, ‘yeah I’m an actor’.  Because you know, I feel like I was still getting my legs strong.   And I’m always going to be learning and getting better and want to grow great, and I do strive to be an icon as an actor also.

AllHipHop: But you are an icon.  Don’t sell yourself short because I’ve watched you in “American Gangster,” I’ve watched you in “Hell on Wheels,” I’ve watched you in “Street Kings,” I’ve watched you.

Common:   Yeah

AllHipHop: You made me believe in you….as an individual, that you can hold your own.

Common:   Well…you know me I know it’s a long way to go.  You know, I want you to see me, like playing these different characters, as maybe a different character with these different accents , and different human beings, so, I’m glad that you feel that way but I know it’s some things I want to accomplish.  I always, you know, I always want to grow.  I can get better as an MC.  I can get better as an actor.  I can get better as a father.  Get better as a human being.  You know, you know what I mean.

AllHipHop:  I feel you.

Common:   But, I am grateful for where I am right now.  And I’m like, I’m glad to hear those words.  Cuz, you know, it just reaffirms and shows support, and we were talking earlier, the community is important man…and supporting each other and reaffirming each other and inspiring each other…Man, that’s what got us here.  And it’s important, and I take it, I value what you said.

AllHipHop:  Man, I think, right now, when this movie actually drops, its going to explode.

Common:   Yeah

AllHipHop: Because my emotion in the movie, if I was 21 again, I would walk out so angry and pissed off.

Common:   I mean to be a part of Dr. King, and his people, and the brothers and sisters that were…that fought, that marched, that took off from work that brought  their kids, that died….to be a part of that legacy, like I said is one of the most monumental times in my life.  It’s one of those times you think…you know, because Dr. King was the person that as a kid that was the first hero I saw.  That was the first hero I had in my life, was Dr. King.  And…you know to be like now part of that legacy just in the film, you know, art lives forever…and you know, now hopefully when people think of what Dr. King has done, they will also think about this film.  And you know, it’s like…at the end of the day when you think of Ray Charles, you think of Jaime Foxx…you know what I’m saying.  So maybe we will think of David Oyelowo and then at the same token think about how this film impacted and brought to light.   Because, you know it’s part of a legacy that not only Dr. King, it like Ralph Abernathy, it’s James Bevel, it’s Diane Nash, it’s Annie Lee Cooper, it’s Amelia Boynton, it’s people like Otis Moss, like Otis Moss Jr. This guy, I go to church in Chicago, at a place called Trinity….Trinity United Church of Christ, Otis Moss III is the pastor there, his father was one of the people part of SCLC that we all, everybody in the world don’t know, but he was  there part of the movement, there’s people like, that whose names are not written in the history books that we represent, and I’m part of that…just that legacy of getting those people exposed, and I think, you know, it’s just an honor to be there.

AllHipHop:  I think you’re doing a great job of bringing Chicago out to California, and around the world.  Your legacy is solidified already.  And you’re just making it bigger and bigger and bigger and better…for your family and for yourself.

Common: Thanks.  Chi Town, man that’s where, that birth me and raised me that place.  So it’s like, I’m always going bring that no matter where I go, I understand, that’s the foundation.  Point blank.  You know, I think there’s a world out there to see and to conquer, but it’s good for me to know, where I’ve come from, and also if I could be a light for people that come from Chicago, people that come from South Central, come from Atlanta, people that come from Alabama, you know what I’m saying….people who come from Cleveland, to be like, man ….’we can achieve whatever we dream of’.  I just want to be one of those lights that let people see that they get anything they want in life.  You know if they envision it, and work towards it, and you know, put the work into it, their gifts into it, you know, make sure you praying.

AllHipHop:  Man, I thank you so much for your time brother.  I applaud you on your great success, this is a great movie for you, for everyone to watch.

Common: One last thing I want to make sure we talk about it, is that we did a song for the film, it’s called “Glory.” It’s me and John Legend.

AllHipHop:  Oh, at the end of the movie.

Common:  So, we really excited about that, and that song really was really dealing with, how, we really, discussed….and with the orchestra in the song…we really, was discussing how Selma is now, like Selma is right now, like when we look at the TV, and today I saw…they’re waiting on the verdict for Ferguson…these are things that, you know, they are happening right now.  We seen it happening in the 60s, some things have changed, some have not.  And it just reaffirms that we got a lot of work to do.

AllHipHop:   We do.  We’ve come so far, but we have so much further to go.

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