Last night, as part of Michelle Obama’s White House Music Series, rapper Common performed at an “Evening of Poetry” event. What? A rapper in the White House?! Apparently, anything other than countrified National Anthems at government events sound off Karl Rove and Sarah Palin’s “broken windows” theory of politics. As Palin told Fox News Wednesday night, “The judgment is just so lacking of class and decency and all that’s good about America with an invite like this,” Palin said. “They’re just inviting someone like me or someone else to ask, ‘C’mon Barack Obama who are you palling around with now?'”
Karl Rove gave his two cents on the Sean Hannity show on Tuesday when he repeatedly called Common a “thug.”
ABC News reports:
During Wednesday’s celebration, Common recited lyrics to a rap song in poem form, which tipped his hat to the nation’s first African American president and started and ended with words of Martin Luther King, Jr. playing over the loud speaker.”Thank you and God bless,” Common said at the end of his poem, without referring to the controversy. “I appreciate being here.”
The controversy, according to ABC News, stems from Common’s criticism of the Bush administration and “A Song for Assata,” a track Common released 11 years ago in which he honored Black Panther Assata Shakur—after she killed a New Jersey State Trooper and escaped to Cuba.
Common has won two Grammy awards, and is widely known as a rapper with a positive social agenda—he’s supported HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns, has taken a stance against homophobic rap lyrics and works to empower hip hop and African American communities, both in his activism and his criticism of gangster culture. In 2007, Common founded the Common Ground Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to leadership and empowerment programs for the youth in underserved communities.
Jon Stewart rapped in response to the ridiculousness on Wednesday night’s Daily Show, and he addressed his freestyle to the Republicans. Not too shabby, Mr. Stewart. And you can read the poem Common recited here, in which he is full of reverence for non-violence, the White House, God and Langston Hughes.