Actor and Musician Common on Erica Garner, Colin Kaepernick, Dreamers, Trump and Standing Up for Justice

We speak with Oscar-winning musician and actor Common, who was nominated again for an Oscar on Tuesday for his song “Stand Up for Something” from the film Marshall about former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. Common is also starring in The Tale, a film about child sexual abuse. On Saturday, Common also performed at the Respect Rally in Park City. He discusses civil and voting rights, Colin Kaepernick, the late anti-police brutality activist Erica Garner and President Trump.

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: “The Day Women Took Over” by Common. This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman. We’re broadcasting from Park City, Utah, at the Sundance Film Festival. And that’s who we’re ending with: Common. Yes, the Oscar-winning musician and actor, nominated again for an Oscar on Tuesday, this time for his song “Stand Up for Something” from the film Marshall about Thurgood Marshall. Common is also starring in The Tale, which premiered here at Sundance, a film about child sexual abuse.

Well, on Saturday, Common performed at the Respect Rally here in Park City, shared some verses from one of his songs.

COMMON: The day women took over, let it continue
Now women get paid as much as men do
Dr. Angelou lookin’ from Heaven’s window
Tellin’ young girls phenomenal woman is in you
Body is a temple, men don’t pray
Mother Earth’s arms around you sayin’ it’s OK
Toilet seats down, that’s a no-brainer
Monuments in Washington of Fanny Lou Hamer

AMY GOODMAN: After Common addressed the crowd in the snowstorm at the Respect Rally in Park City, I caught up with him next to the stage and asked him about his thoughts on President Trump.

COMMON: I try not to pay attention to a lot of ignorant comments and ignorant things. I mean, I just — it just fueled me more to know that we got to keep spreading that love and empowering each other. I mean, of course, you know, Africa is the home of creation, you know, like where the first people were found. And Haiti is a beautiful country. So, for anybody to generalize, or for Trump to talk about Africa and Haiti in that way, is just — you know, I don’t want to play into that. I don’t get into those games. I’m focusing on like: Really, what can we do to better each other? How can we better empower each other and change the system and go out and vote and go out and do things on the ground level that changes our community and changes the way the world is, and a better place. So that’s what I thought, really. It just gave me more fuel.

AMY GOODMAN: Common, I saw you up in Harlem at Erica Garner’s funeral.

COMMON: Yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Erica Garner, who fought so hard for her father, Eric Garner —

COMMON: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: — who died, gasping, “I can’t breathe.” Your thoughts?

COMMON: Well, I mean, you know, obviously, it’s — first of all, I have thoughts and condolences for her family. I mean, that’s why I really wanted to show up, because I had been at a march and a rally for her father, and I saw how passionate she is and was about standing up for justice and justice for all people, but for black and brown people, we know that, you know, it’s just an imbalance. So, seeing what she did, I just wanted to be there to support her family. My thoughts is, it’s a painful situation that she lost her father for no reason, and then, out of whatever things that she had to deal with, her life is gone. But I believe that we’ve got to fight for them, and we’ve got to go out and do things for them. We keep their energy and spirits alive by going out and doing the work, so…

AMY GOODMAN: She fought so hard against police brutality. Your thoughts on black athletes taking the knee against police brutality?

COMMON: Well, I think any form of peaceful protest and speaking out against injustices is necessary, it’s valued, and I applaud it. And it’s peaceful, you know, so I think — I love the athletes that are taking their stance. And I really salute Colin Kaepernick, because he is a leader of the movement in many ways — not in many ways. He is. And he sacrificed so much and, because of it, does not have a job right now. But that’s the type of sacrifice he made, and he knew what he was talking about and stood on what he believed in. And I think those athletes are showing that it’s not just only about sports, or it’s just not about me rapping or being in a film. It’s about: What we can do to help other people in tougher situations, or even we are in tough situations, so how can we help each other?

AMY GOODMAN: Trump and Sessions ramping up now the war — the so-called war on drugs?

COMMON: I mean, it’s another attack on black and brown people. We know that the war on drugs, throughout history, has imprisoned more, you know, black and brown people than — than I don’t know what thing in world history, but it’s a bad situation. And it’s targeted. Why not put more money into building schools and building up educational programs, so that we can stay, on a global level, excellent, you know?

AMY GOODMAN: President Trump has shut down the government rather than allow DREAMers to stay in this country, close to 800,000 young people.

COMMON: My thing is like, when you’re in power and you’re a leader, what is the purpose of taking away somebody else’s dream or stomping on the people who don’t have, like the people who are either in difficult economic situations or are looking for — to be able to follow a dream and pursue something, you know, in their lives that means something? Why? What is the core intention behind that? Why would you want to stop individuals from just pursuing their dreams? I don’t see where that — how that helps humanity or helps our country.

So, you know, those ideas are things that I don’t subscribe to or believe in. And I’m glad to be here at this Respect Rally. And more than anything, I’m standing with our women, standing for our people. I stand for black and brown justice, and I stand for God.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Oscar-winning actor, now nominated once again for an Oscar, musician and actor Common.

Does it for our show. I’ll be speaking here at the Sundance Film Festival at 1 p.m. The free event is at the Park City Museum, 528 Main Street, next to Dolly’s.

Special thanks to our crew here: Mike Burke, John Hamilton, Denis Moynihan, Charina Nadura, Nicole Salazar, Nermeen Shaikh, Carla Wills, Erin Dooley. And to Park City TV: Brendan O’Leary, Robby Johnson, Shannon Runyan, Diego Romo, Yurivia Barrios, Jaclyn Daly, Danielle Turner, Stanton Jones.