The day following the announcement (Mar. 31) that Academy Award-winning rapper Common would speak at New Jersey’s Kean University’s commencement ceremony, the university stated that they would be looking into “other speaker options,” according to NBC New York.
The decision was made because of a song the Chicago-native released in 2000 titled “A Song For Assata,” which is a tribute to Assata Shakur (Joanne Chesimard) who was convicted for the 1973 death of New Jersey Trooper Werner Foerster.
Law enforcement officials took the selection of Common personally, claiming that if the rapper were to speak at the graduation, it would be a “slap in the face,” according to one union representative. Officials stated that the 15-year-old song sheds a sympathetic light on Shakur. Including lyrics referring to Shakur like “power and pride, ” “May God bless your soul, ” and “beautiful,” they deemed the song offensive because it gives the her sympathy.
Shakur has been living in Cuba for decades as a fugitive. She recently reappeared on the radar after conversations between the US and Cuba have turned amicable. Lawmakers have called on Cuba to return Shakur to the USA, to which the Cuban government has refused.
It is worth noting that many in the African-American community support Shakur—who is a former Black Panther—and say she was set up. – Richy Rosario