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A dose of Common sense

The multitalented artist — rapper, author and actor — shares thoughts on diversity and overcoming obstacles at UCI.

April 11, 2014|By Rhea Mahbubani
  • Common, Grammy Award-winning musician and actor, freestyles during New Narratives: Conversations on Identities & Culture at UC Irvine's Bren Events Center on Thursday.
Common, Grammy Award-winning musician and actor, freestyles… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

Lonnie Lynn led his son to believe that his middle name, Rashid, means childhood love.

Turns out, that's not true.

But that didn't stop Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr., better known by his stage name, Common, from running with it.

"I believe that love is the greatest gift we have, because if you love your creator and you love yourself, that start right there is amazing," said the 42-year-old hip-hop recording artist and actor, whose casual ensemble during a speaking engagement in Irvine on Thursday included a green track jacket and black high-tops. "If you really truly love yourself, then you're actually going to be able to love others."

Common told his audience at UC Irvine's Bren Events Center that respect and a quest for truth are other values that anchor and guide him.

Titled "Common Conversations," the event was part of "New Narratives: Conversations on Identities & Culture," a series introduced in 2013 by Thomas Parham, vice chancellor of student affairs.

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A longtime proponent of diversity, Parham added that recent observations have led him to believe that people of color are fully capable of oppressing others just like them. One such incident occurred last year when the university's largest Asian American fraternity, Lambda Theta Delta, made headlines for a YouTube video showing four brothers dancing to "Suit & Tie" by Justin Timberlake. A member portraying rapper Jay-Z was in blackface, drawing a swift backlash.

"This is my way of saying that the old narrative where racism, cultural insensitivity and discrimination are restricted to just dominant groups like white people, like men, like heterosexuals, had to give way to what I call a new narrative, which is designed to help everybody examine the biases and assumptions they bring with them into whatever spaces they occupy," he said in a phone interview.

Eventually, he added, the success of "New Narratives," which has featured film screenings and panel discussions, doesn't depend on the praise or criticism levied at it. Instead, the yardstick lies with those who dare to have conversations about topics, such as race, ethnicity, gender, disabilities and sexual orientation, that their peers might find discomfiting.

According to Parham, Common, who starred in "American Gangster," "The Odd Life of Timothy Green" and "Now You See Me," was the perfect fit because he has utilized the cultural relevance of hip-hop to communicate a "strong sense of faith, keen intellect and social consciousness."

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