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More Than A Rapper, Common Reminds Us Why A Father's Love Is So Important

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Common is easily regarded as one of the best lyricists and a hip-hop legend. Not to mention, for many women, he is consistently referred to as their #MCM. Although we constantly hear about his role as a rapper, an actor, and now an author, it's not every day that we get to hear about what is likely his most significant role -- a father.

Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity (thanks to my loving husband) to attend an up-close-and-personal, intimate conversation with Common, who was interviewed by the infamous DJ Drama.

Common was very transparent and forthcoming about his journey and experiences with hip-hop, his courage to go to therapy, his latest book and projects, and even his love life. He even shared snippets from some of his tracks off his upcoming album Let Love Have the Last Word (Sidenote: I was instantly hooked to every track he played. I can't wait!). The entire interview was so captivating, but there was a moment that almost moved me to tears.

Common shared one of his new songs titled "Show Me That You Love" which evokes the sentiments of a father-daughter healing session. The song recalls a revealing and heart-wrenching conversation between Common and his beautiful daughter.

A Father’s Perception, A Daughter’s Reality

John Lamparski/Getty Images

"Show Me That You Love" was like a love letter that a daughter like me, or any daughter for that matter, would appreciate from her father. As Common explained, it was actually inspired by a late-night call that he received from his daughter. Initially, he thought she was calling to tell him how "cool" of a dad he was, but he quickly realized that was not the case.

"She basically said , 'yo, you didn't even look out for me when I was younger. You didn't do certain things.' It jolted me back because I really thought I was a good father, but she was just like 'no, you weren't a good father.' It really challenged me. It shook me. I was hurt, I was mad, defensive…so eventually we had this discussion."

That discussion, the snippet we listened to, revealed some honest, unexpected, and transparent truths. I can't imagine how difficult it must've been for Common to hear the opposite of what he thought he was going to hear. Nevertheless, I know all too well from experience how much more difficult it likely was for his daughter to express herself to her father.

In his mind, Common thought he did everything he could to show her that he loved her. However, his daughter felt differently, and at times, she questioned if he really cared. In so many words, Common admitted that as she released her painful and sad reality, he too had to release the pride within himself.

The song was reminiscent of a recent conversation I had with my "dad," except their conversation was much more endearing and heartfelt. It was a friendly reminder that even the so-called best father-daughter relationships have room to grow.

Recently, my biological father (a term I use very loosely), for the first time in his life, actually admitted that he wasn't the best dad he could've been…by a longshot. Even though that particular conversation didn't change the reality of our distant relationship, it was at least comforting to hear him (thirty plus years later) own up to the fact that he wasn't the father I needed him to be. Through a lengthy back and forth text exchange, I realized his childhood experiences and family dynamics directly impacted his ability, and unwillingness, to be a father.

Of course, this is not to compare my dad to Common in any way because it's obvious that Common and his daughter share something that my father and I don't -- a beautiful, genuine, transparent, and loving relationship. I can easily count on one hand the number of times I've actually seen my father. I may not know everything about Common, but I know one thing's for certain -- he was way more active and he put forth a lot more effort than my so-called dad. Yet and still, this song really resonated with me because of Common's willingness to take responsibility for his actions.

At one point, the lyrics gave us insight into how his daughter must've felt and how hurtful it was when she saw him with another woman's child. I can say, from experience, that it's never easy when you're yearning for the love and attention from your father; only to see him providing that same love and attention to someone else's child.

Nonetheless, Common didn't allow his ego or his pride to overshadow or excuse the emotional truth of the situation. This wasn't just another review or a fan providing commentary about one of his latest projects; rather, this was an emotional outpour from his offspring - the daughter whom he admires and loves with all his heart.

As difficult as it was for him, he listened to his daughter. He allowed her the space and freedom to express what she was feeling. His willingness to open his heart allowed him to hear and receive what was inside of her heart.

Common Constantly Reminds His Daughter That She’s Valued

For Common, the discussion between him and his daughter was a personal declaration that "love in action is the new vision."

"Love is more than a feeling; rather, it's an action verb. It's a purpose. Whereas before, I looked at it [only] as a feeling." As a woman, no matter the relationship, we can hear "I love you" a thousand times, but if the actions don't align with the words, then it's meaningless.

As Common's daughter so eloquently put it: "Dad, let your actions be your loudest speaker."

Now, more than ever, Common is dedicated to showing his love through action, and making sure his daughter knows just how much she's valued.

"I make sure she knows that she's valued beyond anything…So, I know if I tell her 'you are valued, you're loved, you're cared for, you're incredible,' and these things, then she won't be chasing value from some dude."

That's not to say that his daughter will always make the best decisions about certain guys.

"She's going to make her own choices because things happen. But I just try to give her as much wisdom from myself and try to set the tone of basically 'love yourself.' I do my best to tell her what type of dude I was and what I've become."

And Common has definitely come a long way; much of which he credits to his relationship with God as well as therapy.

May his work and his relationship with his daughter remind and encourage us all to be more purposeful and committed to showing our love through action.

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

5 Black Fathers On What Fatherhood Means To Them

We've Said A Word About Toxic Fathers, But Who's Talking Mothers?

My Father Taught Me Love Is A Hell Of A Drug

Featured image by John Lamparski/Getty Images

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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