Common Opens His Arms to Refugees Running Towards the Unknown (Video)

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June 20 marked World Refugee Day, a time for the globe’s citizens to collectively aim their thoughts and compassion towards the 65 million people who have been forced to flee their homes for various reasons. In much of the developing world, things like civil war, poverty, disease, and natural disasters have caused a need for an escape, generally to another country. But the world of political science offers up nothing if not complexity, and sometimes the refugees find themselves uninvited or even banned from crossing certain borders – which leads to even more strife, as the current Syrian refugee crisis has proven.

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Artists like Alicia Keys and Common have lent their voices to the humanitarian impasse, organizing fundraising efforts and creating music with the goal of raising awareness and spreading a message of love. Yesterday (June 20), Keys released a short film called “Let Me In” that placed Southern California and Mexico in the midst of a contentious refugee dilemma, forcing Americans to wonder what life would be like if they were the ones forced to separate from their families and take off for the unknown. On the same day, Common and some collaborators joined forces on “Running (Refugee Song),” another visual essay on the sociopolitical climate of global refugee crises. However rather than translate the issue into film form, actual footage of those suffering the catastrophe’s side effects are shared, really bringing the magnitude and gravity of the problem to life.

Featuring Grammy-winning Jazz vocalist Gregory Porter and frequent Hip-Hop collaborator/Jazz trumpeter Keyon Harrold, “Running” isn’t simply a song meant to educate and elicit emotion. By downloading the song, listeners can donate money to organizations such as Refugees International (RI), Human Rights First (HRF), and the International Rescue Committee (IRC). According to its website, the song came together when “singer and social entrepreneur Andrea Pizziconi, Harrold, and businessman and political strategist Jonathan Reynaga were moved to create awareness and raise funds to support the urgent needs of the over 60 million people who have been displaced worldwide.” Far from a passive creation, those involved with the songwriting first shared its sentiments with recently resettled refugees in an effort to put out something that truly captured the thoughts and feelings of the forcibly exiled.

Common has used his music for social awareness often in the past, including working with People’s Climate Music on “Trouble in the Water” as a means to educate the world about global warming.