“Peace” was his first word upon taking center stage.
Talk about somebody that has something to say. Common, the world renown Hip-Hop artist has an a capella message out of this world. I am not sure if it was because it was my first time hearing him speak for an extended time (about an hour), or if it is because he is such a handsome man, or if it was the crowd’s energy pouring into me, but Commons address to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (also known simply as Illinois) lit a fire I greatly needed rekindled.
With the release of his new book “One Day It Will All Make Sense”, Common is making his way across territories to promote a message that encourages people to FIND, BELIEVE, and LIVE their path. Common’s word of the day for the standing room only crowd of mixed- age, ethnicity, income, and educational attainment, at Illinois was GREATNESS.
Throughout his speech I fought back tears. Common opened the evening with a freestyle about the hot spots on campus and immediately began to talk about the influence Emmett Till had on his life. Although I have known about this tragedy for many years, I felt like I was learning about it for the first time as Common connected the tale of Emmett Till to his life journey. Since the age of 12, Emmett Till has been an omnipresent spirit in Common’s life reminding him, “It’s greatness inside of you”.
Humorous, passionate, and sincere, Common provided the crowd with uplifting quotes and revealed vulnerable moments from his life that continue to build his greatness. The freestyle flow was an example of how Common could take an experience he had in a few hours (touring the campus community) and formed words, turned sentences, turned lyrics, into a gift that Fighting Illini would never forget.
Common reminded us that greatness does not exist purely because we do, but instead, we exist to find greatness in what we do and who we are. Focused on the importance of affirmations, “turning obstacles into possibles”, and the famous quote,
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
(Quote source varies- originated by Marianne WIllimson, made famous by Nelson Mandela)
Common’s speech was not a dreamy one, but one that provided tangible solutions for listeners to be “greater than what you think right now”.
Common stated, “Greatness is contagious; on your path to greatness you will help others become great as well”. Along with this, he admitted that for years, he dimmed his greatness, as not to offend others. THIS IS WHAT STRUCK ME MOST. Probably because I am beginning to see and accept my greatness, but have yet to put it into third gear. I am now inspired to examine my hesitancy.
One of Common’s motivations to act in greatness and conviction of his path is Kanye West. Common has observed how Kanye West promotes his music and product with so much enthusiasm and belief that he realized, “when you believe in yourself people can smell it on you, and it resonates”. And maybe that is why his speech to a receptive crowd at Illinois on Wednesday September 21, 2011 at Foellinger Hall will resonate with me forever- because HE BELIEVES IN HIS GREATNESS and I do as well.
Now, I have to believe in mine.
Hosted by W.O.R.D. (Writers Organizing Realistic Dialect) and IUB (Illini Union Board), Common was a great addition to the repertoire of speakers that have presented at one of the top public Universities in the nation.
THANK YOU W.O.R.D. AND IUB- Deuces!