University Cancels Common’s Commencement Speech After Police Complain

Kean University has retracted its announcement that the socially conscious and Oscar-winning rapper Common would give the commencement speech at the school’s graduation ceremony in May. 


(Photo:  Common and John Legend Win Best Original Song Oscar for “Glory” From Selma

The exclusion of the rapper,whose critically acclaimed single “Glory” was penned for the 2014 civil rights film “Selma”, follows objections to a previous song on his 2000 album titled “A Song for Assata”.

Assata-ShakurThat track was written in honor of Black Panther Joanne Chesimard, aka Assata Shakur, who was convicted of killing of a New Jersey trooper in 1973 and wounding another.

Shakur, escaped prison and is currently living in political asylum in Cuba. Yielding to the pressure from New Jersey State Police and the State Troopers Fraternal Association of New Jersey, the university made the decision to cancel Common’s appearance.

On Monday, Kean University in Union, N.J., said on Twitter and its official website that Common, the musician and actor, would deliver the address. But Chris Burgos, president of the State Troopers Fraternal Association of New Jersey, told The Record, a local newspaper, that the selection was a “slap in the face” to law enforcement officers.

He pointed to Common’s 2000 track “A Song for Assata,” which, Mr. Burgos said, was sympathetic to Joanne D. Chesimard, also known as Assata Shakur, who in 1977 was convicted of killing Werner Foerster, a New Jersey state trooper.

The students expressed interest in Common

Susan Kayne, vice president of university relations at Kean, said on Wednesday that the announcement had been “released prematurely.” She added, “The students expressed interest in Common because he composed the Oscar-winning song ‘Glory’ with John Legend, our commencement speaker in 2011. While we respect Common’s talent, Kean is pursuing other speaker options.”

In an email on Wednesday, Mr. Burgos said, “It appears Kean University has taken our concerns into consideration once brought to light.”

The New Jersey State Police and its unions had previously spoken out against Common after he was invited to the White House for an arts event in 2011.

Through his representatives, the rapper declined to comment.


2 thoughts on “University Cancels Common’s Commencement Speech After Police Complain

  1. Pingback: Film Selma on civil rights movement in the USA | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Where is the surprise? That is free speech in the US. That is liberty in the US. Free speech and the fist amendment are limited to the powers that be whenever they dislike whatever free speech such as Common’s song “A Song for Assata”.

    The officials at Kean University should be ashamed of themselves for having bowed to the pressure of the New Jersey Police Union who have been waging a war against Assata Shakur since she escaped their inferno for allegedly killing one police officer and wounding another.

    Kean University should be promoting free speech instead of censoring it. The idea of free speech is not solely to promote ideas that one supports or is loyal to but equally promote a support ideas and beliefs that one staunchly disagrees with at any time and anywhere. This principle of free speech should be safe and sacred in all societies though it should be particularly so at a university like Kean.

    That is even more reason for the administrators of Kean University owes not only Common an explanation but more importantly it owes all artistes, intellectuals and all Americans an explanation for its reason to censor free speech in a supposedly “free society”.

    Here is another example of the limit of “free speech” in the ” land of the free and the home of the brave.”

    This case of denying Common his “free speech” is not the first and will not be the last. It is only another manifestation of the restrictions of ” free speech” in capitalist society. If you support capitalist freedoms, you have free speech , if you don’t you loose it. This is the same capitalism in America that allows the KKK and RUSH Limbaugh and other bigots, the freedom to hate speech.

    Free speech for Common is not that common in America!

    Until the next denial of free speech, freedom is fighting for free speech!

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