New Jersey School Cancels Common as Commencement Speaker
According to The Grio, just one day after announcing that the recent Academy Award-winning hip hop artist Common would be speaking at graduation, Kean University announced on Tuesday that it would be looking into “other speaker options.” The change comes after the outcry from law enforcement, who take issue with a 2000 song by the Glory composer called A Song for Assata. The song which is a tribute to Assata Shakur — also known as Joanne Chesimard — who was convicted in the 1973 death of Trooper Werner Foerster, has law enforcement officials upset. One union representative said that Common’s appearance at the graduation would be like a “slap in the face” to law enforcement.
Police say the 15-year-old song paints Shakur in a sympathetic light. The song’s lyrics include reference to Shakur’s “power and pride” as “beautiful” as well as the line “May God bless your soul.” Police say the song is offensive because it paints a “cop killer” in a sympathetic light. Although Assata Shakur has been living in Cuba for decades as a fugitive, she has been recently in the news because of the talks between the United States and Cuba leading toward thawing relations between the two countries. Several lawmakers as well as police officials have called for the president to make Cuba turn Shakur over to the United States as a condition of the agreement, but Cuba said in early March that it had no plans to do so.
Shakur has a strong base of supporters within the African-American community who believe that the former Black Panther member was framed. Many support Cuba’s decision to deny her extradition back to the U.S.