On Common Ground: A Place where Hip-Hop is not Hard At All!

By Evangelia Biddy

A socially-conscience message from a modern day hip-hop artist; a foundation dedicated to empowering youth in urban neighborhoods and providing life skills to underserved communities brought to you by rap music; a program that provides life, career and educational mentoring as a means for youth participants to achieve confidence and self respect from a hip-hop icon? No, you are not in never-never land, but on “Common Ground” with Lonnie Rashid Lynn!

Doesn’t sound familiar? Perhaps because he is best known as the critically acclaimed actor appearing in such films as American Gangster, opposite Denzel Washington, Smokin’ Aces with Ben Affleck or Wanted with co-stars Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman. I had the pleasure of connecting with hip-hop’s leading gentleman, poet, actor, children’s book author and activist, Common, to discuss a project close to his heart, The Common Ground Foundation.

I have always believed that giving to others is a God given duty of humanity.”

– –Common

EB: What’s the inspiration behind the foundation?

LRL: A socially-conscience message is the cornerstone of the Foundation’s vision and serves as an inspiration for equality, opportunity and hope among youth in underserved communities.

EB: What are the goals of Common Ground?

LRL: To empower urban youth to believe in their own potential and to provide the life tools needed to achieve their personal successes. We also want to promote The Corner Book Club as a resource for teens, parents and educators. Our program is designed to provide life, career and educational mentoring as a means for youth participants to achieve self-reflection, confidence and self-respect. The program is focused on helping young people discover the power of their own voice, learn creative self-expression, develop business skills and understand the importance of an overall mind/body wellbeing.

EB: What is The Corner Book Club?

LRL: The Corner is a national online book club providing an interactive platform for youth across the country to discuss reading selections of our chosen books. It fosters the development of critical thinking skills. Although the program is national, we do have an after school program supported throughout the Chicago school system.

EB: What books should be on the reading lists of boys now?

LRL: Street Love by Walter Dean Myers, Yes We Can by Garen Thomas and War Child by Emmanuel Jal are some titles we have included in The Corner. We want young readers to visit and sign up for The Corner Book Club to see books we have read over the past year and new books we are reading now. www.commongroundfoundation.org/thecorner.

EB: What life skills are young people in urban communities not being taught?

LRL: Children, especially boys, in urban communities are faced with a lack of educational resources and inspiration, lack of dual parent emotional supports, healthy lifestyles and more importantly the streets are raising too many young men without positive examples of giving back or getting ahead with integrity.

EB: Why are these life skills so important?

LRL: Life skills are important, but a true vision for your life is even more so. Youth from any background should be able to understand their potential, their place in the world and see the opportunities in the world that is before them now. They need help in developing truly attainable goals and believing that they are capable of achieving their dreams.

EB: Who are some of your partners in this endeavor?

LRL: Best Buy has provided funding support for The Corner Book Club. Other partners include: Chicago White Sox, American Airlines, Cartier, Luster Products, Lincoln, NASCAR, and The Coca-Cola Company.

EB: As a man nurtured by a strong female influence in your mother, Dr. Mahalia Hines, what did you get from the experience that stands out to you now?

LRL: Being raised by a beautiful and powerful mother allowed me to view women and female energy in a positive way. It helped me to respectfully relate to women because of how I feel about my mother and my grandmother, and in turn other women as well. It gave me a foundation to understand how valuable women are in society and in a man’s life.

EB: What advice can you give young people now? What kinds of resources should they seek out?

LRL: I would encourage youth in today’s society to find themselves, to love themselves, and to be themselves. I believe the root of that comes from one’s relationship with God. I think that when you find resources to enhance your life, you have to find things that interest you, whether its music, arts, sports, spirituality, education or travel or maybe even all of them, because life is about balance. So seek the resources that best fit you.

Evangelia Biddy, Editor-in-Chief of Junior, The Magazine about Bringing up Successful Boys, is also a contributor to Raising Boys World, an expert for Bizymoms.com,  and an educational consultant. She can be reached at ebiddy@juniorthemagazine.com






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