For over two decades, Chicago native Common has proven himself as one of the most respected MCs in rap time and time again. He’s been awarded Grammys, Golden Globes and Oscars for his work, crossed over into Hollywood as an actor and achieved new levels of fame that allowed him to transcend rap as a worldwide celebrity. Even with all of that on his resume, Common is still working, and now at 45 years old he’s found a new cause to support and a new battle to fight. Common has dedicated himself to helping reform the criminal justice system and combat the mass incarceration that’s plagued people of color in this country.
The latest effort in that fight for Common was the Imagine Justice concert at Capital Mall in Sacramento, California last night, a free show for the estimated 25,000 who signed up for free tickets. Common was the headliner, but he brought along guests like local legend Goapele, CNN host Van Jones, special guest J. Cole and more.
This comes on the heels of his Hope and Redemption Tour a few months back, where he performed in four prisons in four days and wrote an op-ed for the USA Today about his new mission to reform the criminal justice system. “Redemption and rehabilitation are possible only when we as Americans make sure that people in prison are inspired by what they can do, not reminded of what they can’t,” he wrote in the USA Today. Common was clear, he is seeking “a criminal justice reform that eliminates life without parole sentences for juveniles and includes bail reform and reductions in harsh sentences for juveniles, and gives kids the chance to expunge their criminal records.”
That mission for change led him to California’s state capital, where change does seem to be underway. Three Senate bills in California that would completely alter the justice system for juveniles are gaining steam. According to The Sacramento Bee, Senate Bill 394 “would give juveniles sentenced to life without parole a chance to be released after 25 years of incarceration.” Senate Bill 395 would “require minors to consult with legal counsel before waiving their Miranda rights during interrogations with police.” And Senate Bill 10 would alter bail rules in California, “allowing more people to be released without the requirement of a money-backed bond,” a common hinderance for lower income families as they seek to free their family members.