Before an audience of more than 1,000 people, Grammy, Emmy, and Oscar award-winner Common spoke about the importance of maintaining the health of the African American community, as well as empowering African American men and young boys, at this year’s 4th annual African-American Partnership (AAP) Leadership Luncheon, hosted by United Way of Greater Atlanta on March 2.
The rapper and actor began his talk by stressing the importance of Black leadership within the community; he also asked everyone in the audience to look within themselves as leaders. The actor-rapper also participated in a brief question and answer session moderated by Ryan Wilson, a co-owner of The Gathering Spot.
“I have to encourage you, leaders, to know that proximity is one of the most important things we can do,” Common said. “That’s a must, going out to help our own, but we have to be in tune with them. We have to be in touch with them. Proximity, as Brian Stevenson says, it’s one of the most important things we can do.”
“I believe that we must be each other’s leaders,” he added. “And I encourage every one of you as leaders to do it. We can do it. We will do it. We have to do it. We have to do for our people. We have to do it for our country. We have to do it for our youth.”
For boys growing up without a father, Common said that the young Black men would have to dig deep within themselves to feel worthy and with the power of a community, they can do just that.
“I think our goal as individuals and as people within our communities is to build self-worth,” Common said. “That means knowing that love takes over everything.”
During the Q&A, Common offered the captive audience his idea of leadership.
“I believe in operating in excellence like people who strive for the best, and they are looking to be the best,” Common said. “I also look for humility, a person open enough to be vulnerable and to be courageous and go out and go beyond just what the boundaries are.”
In a response to a question posed by Wilson regarding how Common was able to elevate African Americans through his music while still garnering success, he shared that his intentions as a musician have always been sincere.
“My intention is coming from a place of wanting to uplift our communities and create music that inspires people to bring the best out of individuals,” Common said. “That wasn’t always successful, but when it is successful, it’s (a) joy.”
He also commented on the setting messages to the youth on healthy relationships, the importance of mental health for Black people, and advised parents to listen to their children.
“That doesn’t mean we allow them to disrespect or make certain adult decisions, but to be heard, is very important,” Common said.
Before ending his visit, Common reminded the audience that through activism, we as a community must find spiritually, and remember that God is love.