Common Launches A Progressive Charter School In Chicago’s South Side (Video)

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Less than two weeks ago, Common released his 12th album, Let Love. Featuring production from Karriem Riggins as well as the late J Dilla, the LP also involves Swizz Beatz, A-Trak, and BJ The Chicago Kid, among others.

The music campaign coincides with Common’s latest book, Let Love Have The Last Word. The album and the text both promote messages of self-love as well as taking better care of the people around us. Outside of his creative pursuits, Common is doing that in his hometown. This month begins the inaugural year at Art In Motion, a progressive charter school in Chicago’s South Side that Common co-created. According to WGN 9, 200 middle school students are currently enrolled at the institution that enriches arts programs. More grades are expected to be added in the future with 1,000 students expected at capacity.

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In a video interview with WGN 9’s Dean Richards, Common detailed the progressive school, and what makes it unique. The facility includes a wellness center, a peace room, and a music room. The music space is adorned with graffiti paying respect to artists including Mobb Deep and A Tribe Called Quest side-by-side with Miles Davis and Chaka Khan. “I grew up less than two miles from here. So for me to ride up to 74th and East End—which is like not far from my house—and see a school that I’m a part of creating and see students outside, registering and about to get backpacks, it moved my heart, and it touched me,” Common said.

It is a tuition-free partnership with Distinctive Schools. “We came and found this space. This space was just wide open; it was not much here,” he says of the former medical building and Solo cup factory. Common also credits his mother, Mahalia Hines, a principal and educator, with instilling the pursuits within him. According to AllHipHop, Hines presently sits on the Chicago Board Of Education.

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“To be able to come into a classroom where there’s graffiti, on purpose, it’s so welcoming. [I want the students to know] this is for you; this is created for you,” Common said. A dozen years ago, the MC dedicated a song from his chart-topping Finding Forever album to this neighborhood.

Five years ago, Common titled an album Nobody’s Smiling. It was an indictment on the violence in his city. At Art In Motion, the school features a peace room. “If somebody’s behavior is not right—they’re not doing the right thing, they’ll go to the peace room, and find a way—through our counselors—to meditate and try to center themselves to resolve [the anger] without it just being a punishment. [No more] ‘You’re wrong, and now you can’t come to school.’ This is [a way] to heal our community, and to build our community. The things our kids experience, some of that emotional trauma and the drama that our kids go through, it has to be resolved. It has to be healed, and it has to be treated. For them to be able to receive that at school is a gift.”

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Elaborating on providing this gift, Comm’ explained, “It’s my duty to not only reflect the times, but as Nina Simone says, but it’s my duty to give back to where I’ve come from. It’s my duty to allow the new generation to have greater opportunities than me. Like, they gotta have better opportunities than we had. We owe that to them; I owe it to ’em. The fact that I’ve been given a platform and been given a microphone and been given certain opportunities, I have to create those dreams for others—and those realities.”

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