Just as President Barack Obama celebrates the killing of Osama bin Laden and the closing of the book on the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, he may also be opening up old wounds from a sidebar story from that era that haunted him during his 2008 presidential campaign.
According to the Associated Press, Obama “will celebrate American poetry and prose with a gathering of poets, musicians and artists at the White House next Wednesday night.” One of the poets who will attend is Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr. who goes by the name “Common.”
It is likely Obama met Common at the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s Trinity United Church of Christ were both men were members. Several of Wright’s sermons caused a firestorm of controversy during the 2008 presidential campaign due to their caustic, racially charged, anti-American tones. One sermon in particular caused Obama a severe headache – the one in which he blamed America for Osama bin Laden’s terrorist attacks. “America’s chickens are coming home to roost,” he said.
Obama at first tried to defend Wright. But when that strategy became untenable, he disavowed him. Not so Common. In fact, Common defended his minister.
“What I picked up from the pews…was messages of love,” Common said at the time. “Anything that was going on against that love he would acknowledge and expose. He’s been a preacher that’s helped raise one of the greatest political figures in the world, and hopefully, the next President. He’s also raised one of the greatest rappers in the world [meaning Common himself].”
In fact, Common rapped at the 2008 New Year celebration at Wright’s church. “I’m gonna let you know / No people want drama / We gonna vote for my man / What’s his name? Obama … Revolution is here,” he sang, and the Rev. Wright danced in the background.
Some of Common’s poetry could also raise some eyebrows among those who might find cop-killing and racially-tinged or misogynist language beneath the Office of the Presidency.
“Tell the law my Uzi weighs a ton … I hold up a peace sign but I carry a gun,” raps Common in one appearance that was posted onto YouTube.
“Flyer say Free Mumia on my freezer,” he raps in another. Mumia Abu-Jamal is an incarcerated former member of the Black Panther Party who was convicted in 1981 for killing a Philadelphia police officer. Agitating for his release from prison has become a cause for many leftwing activists.
Common named his daughter after Assata Shakur, a Black Panther who was convicted of first-degree murder 1977. She escaped from prison and exiled to Cuba. The FBI recognizes her as a domestic terrorist.
Common has also been a vocal opponent of mixed race relationships and believes black men and white women should not date. In one rap he says, “I don’t know what it is / but white girls gettin’ ass / I know what it is / It’s cash.”
Interestingly, Jill Scott, who will also join the White House celebration, opposes interracial relationships, as well.
White House partisans will no doubt argue that poetry and art is supposed to push boundaries by confronting controversial topics. But cop killing and interracial marriage seem to be settled matters with the vast majority of Americans.