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”.
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.
- Common and John Legend Win Best Original Song Oscar for “Glory” From Selma Pitchfork.com
- Kean University pulls back on choice of hip-hop artist Common as graduation speaker Newjersey.com
- Rapper Common Dropped from Giving Speech After Police Pressure TeleSUR
- Common Will Not Give Commencement Speech, Kean University Says Arts Beat New York Times