When it comes to our nation’s educators, Common has an undeniable soft spot.
That’s why the South Side Chicago rapper, along with his mother Dr. Ann Hines, has teamed up with Burlington stores and AdoptAClassroom.org for the second year, to raise money for students and classrooms around the country.
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The duo donated $10,000 to kick-off the campaign just ahead of the busy back-to-school season and is looking to Burlington shoppers to pitch in at the register through August 19th with additional funds.
“I just feel like one of the things that’s most important to me is giving kids opportunities and chances to explore and dream and learn and grow,” Common told ESSENCE during a school visit in New York City to promote the AdoptAClassroom initiative. “The teachers work hard and I respect teachers a lot because my mother was a teacher — a retired teacher now — but I always felt like if I wasn’t doing music or acting, I would be a teacher because I want to give to the kids.”
The Oscar winner candidly admitted that if he’d never made it in show biz, he would have put his lyrical talents to use as a creative writing teacher, likely working with 5th graders to cultivate their imaginations around the work of great writers and poets like Nikki Giovanni, James Baldwin and Richard Wright.
Amy Sussman/AP Images for Burlington
These days, the long-time entertainer is better known by his stage name than Mr. Lynn, but he’s still an educator in his own right. Last year, Common hit the road on a nationwide prison tour, speaking with incarcerated men and women about their background and sharing his light in an otherwise dark space.
“If we don’t reach out to our people and give them a chance to feel like they can be something, they have something to live for, work towards, because of what’s going on in their homes or in their neighborhoods, they end up in prison,” Common explained. “But the people you meet in prison—that I met in prison—are some of the most enlightened and inspired individuals I ever met.”
Statistics show that Black children are nearly four times as likely as white students to be suspended from school, aiding in what researchers call the “school-to-prison pipeline” and resulting in an over-indexing of Black bodies in the prison system. Like many who are familiar with the pipeline epidemic, Common believes it stifles young Black children before they even get a chance to make the best of their lives.
“Imagine being trapped in one act for the rest of your life,” he says. “We don’t give our kids a chance to just dream. Being able to dream is what made me feel like, you know, I’m on the South Side of Chicago around dudes gang-banging, but I’m also going to school tomorrow because I got something there for me and because I saw the light of day. First it was education, then art, then music.”
Common hopes that with the additional funds he’s helping to raise for classrooms, teachers and schools will be able to provide supplemental resources to help mold the next great leaders, entertainers, business professionals and social activists.
“If we tap into the pool of their well of what they have within them, I just feel like we’ll get our next Michelle Obama,” he added. “We get our next David Oyelowo, Ava DuVernay. You know, just all types of dope. Even people that we don’t know their names, but just out there doing really real work too. I mean, we gotta give the kids a good chance to do it.”
A portion of donations collected will be donated to a teacher’s school classroom within each retail store location’s respective community, up to $1,000 per location. The remaining donations collected will be used to fund school supplies for classrooms nationwide and will further AdoptAClassroom.org’s mission.