Emmett Till

Amadou Diallo

Sean Bell

Trayvon Martin

Michael Brown

The aforementioned names are just a few victims that have lost their lives from violence against men of color.

In a time when the country ponders the criminalization of African-American males, voices still cry out for equality and justice.

Last night the Harvey B. Gantt Center featured one of those voices when they presented hip-hop artist, actor, and philanthropist Common as the 2014 Gantt Symposium speaker.

Held at the Knight Theater at the Levine Center for the Arts, Common spoke to a sold out audience on Greatness.

(Photo by Jennifer Hall)
(Photo by Jennifer Hall)

Through conscious lyricism, bold cinematic statements, empowering literature, and his Common Ground Foundation, Common continues to up-lift and inspire.

A consummate MC, he even performed freestyle, on the spot, in front of a packed auditorium.

Common began his lecture recounting his years as a young boy in Chicago, a young boy touched by the spirit of Emmett Till.

From that tender age he realized that his “greatness” was preordained by the sacrifices of those who had gone before him.

The key, he says, is to find your passion and therefore your path. Regardless of the naysayers, your journey is a gift from God and the beginning of your greatness.

Common went on to note the importance of aligning yourself with others who believe in themselves, speaking your beliefs into existence, and “turning obstacles in possibles.”

(Photo by Jennifer Hall)
(Photo by Jennifer Hall)

Belief is contagious. Common recited this quote from Marianne Williamson:

“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? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.”

Whether financial struggles, health problems, low self-esteem, or the loss of a relationship or a family member, it all comes back to our perspective. How we look at the situation and therefore how we handle it.

The Grammy nominated star candidly mentioned overcoming the pain of career disappointments that included losing roles in blockbusters like The Green Lantern and The Hunger Games. Going on to say, that through those disappointments he found hope and unexpected blessings.

“Find your Path. Believe in Your Path. Live Your Path.”

(Photo by Jennifer Hall)
(Photo by Jennifer Hall)

Following Common’s lecture former Charlotte Mayor, Harvey Gantt, sat down with the talented star for a brief Q&A, and President & CEO, David Taylor, and Director of Education Jonell Logan presented Common with artwork from the Gantt Center.


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