The crusade of New Jersey responding ignorantly to Assata Shakur continues; this week Kean University cancelled Common as their commencement speaker because of his 2000 song, “A Song for Assata,” detailing how Shakur was framed by New Jersey State Police and later found asylum in Cuba.
The powers that be didn’t tell whomever booked their speakers that Common was blacklisted until it was already too late. According to the Associated Press, Kean announced the Oscar winner as their graduation speaker on Monday and disinvited him by Tuesday. Then, when asked for an explanation, University spokeswoman Susan Kayne got all persnickety with the local paper The Record:
“The students expressed interest in Common because he composed the Oscar-winning song ‘Glory’ with our prior commencement speaker John Legend,” University spokeswoman Susan Kayne said. “While we respect his talent, Kean is pursuing other speaker options.”
Now Common, the rapper-actor who’s been making culturally and politically important music since 1994, is just that guy who’s friends with John Legend? Shade.
But then the real mean girls behind Common’s dismissal were revealed; the New Jersey State Police, aka the organization who allegedly framed Shakur as a criminal and forced her to flee to Cuba to escape trumped up charges in the Garden State in the 1970s.
Chris Burgos, president of the State Troopers Fraternal Association of New Jersey, called the choice a “slap in the face.”
“What is troubling here is that a state university that is subsidized with state taxpayer funds, is once again being questioned on their decision-making at the highest levels,” Burgos said in an emailed statement.
Sigh. At some point the NJ State Police has to let this go, it’s not the 1970s and they’ve got enough problems without a manufactured grudge from nearly forty years ago.
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