Racial Equity

Common Explains “Black America Again”

September 30, 2016  • Aaron Myers

During a recent visit to Colorado, Common performed his new song, “Black America Again.” He described the ideas, the tragedies, the political environment, and the American stories that informed his lyrics.

Discussing inspirations for this latest project, the Oscar and Grammy Award-winning musician cited Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book, Between the World and Me, and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical, Hamilton.

Racially motivated violence, inequality, and American accountability are themes visited in the piece. Common nods to Ralph Ellison’s 1952 novel, Invisible Man, the 1991 beating of Rodney King, and the 2015 death of Sandra Bland.

“The story repeats itself and has repeated itself through many decades and centuries now. But it’s our time to rewrite the story.”
— Common

The final verse of Common’s rap adds an inclusive note to America’s founding document, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, all men and women are created equal, including black Americans.”

The performance above was recorded live at the Aspen Institute’s Aspen Meadows campus on August 6, 2016. In a video released last week, Common added powerful imagery to his music. Footage of Alton Sterling’s shooting by police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, opens the video. Common’s lyrics are accompanied by Stevie Wonder, Esperanza Spalding, Chuck D, and MC Lyte.

Common attended the Aspen Institute’s 23rd Annual Summer Celebration. The event recognized Howard Schultz, Chairman and CEO of Starbucks, and Sheri Schultz, Co-Founder of the Schultz Family Foundation, with the Institute’s 2016 Public Service Award. The Schultzes were honored for their philanthropic work to connect veterans and youth with job opportunities and resources.