On 4 March, rapper Common took the 2018 Oscars by storm. For many people, he stole the show.
Style, soul and substance. The performance had it all.
No wonder everyone’s talking about it.
Fav performance of the night. Thank you for always speaking your truth and standing up. #Oscars
— TiffanyUllian (@TiffanyUllian) March 5, 2018
Hip-hop at its political best
Performing at the 90th Academy Awards, Common reminded the world of the political punch that music can pack – summarising the biggest fights in the US since the start of Donald Trump’s presidency.
The song Stand Up for Something is from Marshall, a film telling the story of the first African-American Supreme Court justice in the US.
Common placed emphasis on the following issues:
- ‘Dreamers’: “On Oscar night, this is the dream we tell. A land where Dreamers live, and freedom dwells. Immigrants get the benefits. We put up monuments for the feminists.” US lawmakers have yet again reached a deadline on finding a way to save hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the US as children (aka ‘Dreamers‘) from deportation.
- Women’s rights: Having called for feminist monuments (as opposed to the racist ones which have met increasing opposition since Trump became president), Common then said: “When they go low, we stay in the heights. I stand for peace, love and women’s rights.” This statement comes in the context of the sexual harassment whistleblowing movement going under the hashtag #MeToo.
- Gun violence: Common also took aim at the National Rifle Association (NRA) – gun lobbyists who have become one of the most powerful political groups in the US. “Tell the NRA they in God’s way,” the rapper said. Then, towards the end of the song, he clarified: “we stand up against gun violence”. This was a clear reference to the powerful public response since February’s Florida shooting.
- Black lives matter: Another target for Common was President Trump, whom he referred to as “a president that trolls with hate”. Trump has called National Football League (NFL) players ‘sons of bitches’ for kneeling during the US national anthem in protest over police murders of African-American citizens. At the Oscars, Common rallied, “a knee we take for our soul’s sake”.
Afterwards, the rapper tweeted:
Join Me + Take a Stand for What You Believe In. The People United will Never Be Defeated. #Oscars
— COMMON (@common) March 5, 2018
Joined on stage by “heroes”
The performance also put a spotlight on real-life “heroes”:
Much Love to all the heroes that joined Andra Day + I on stage. pic.twitter.com/k9RIVNhMe5
— COMMON (@common) March 5, 2018
Common and singer Andra Day asked the above activists to join the performance in order to highlight their inspiring work on the ground. The rapper revealed:
I thought, ‘What if we got people who really do the work?’ People who are true activists out in the world and on the front line. People whose lives, whether by circumstance, have become prime movers for change.
Many people quickly expressed their appreciation for the powerful performance:
Our liberation is bound in each other.
— Women's March (@womensmarch) March 5, 2018
“I stand for peace love and women’s rights.” – @Common
It has never been more important to stand up for something: for social and criminal and EQUAL justice, for women’s rights, for civil rights, for human rights. From Syria, to Puerto Rico, to #StandingRock. #Oscars #Oscars90
— Planned Parenthood Action (@PPact) March 5, 2018
"Tell the NRA, you’re in God’s way." –@common
Thank you for standing up and demanding more of our leaders. #Oscars
— Gavin Newsom (@GavinNewsom) March 5, 2018
— Ana Navarro (@ananavarro) March 5, 2018
Indeed, viewers are unlikely to forget this performance any time soon.
– Learn more about the activists from the performance here: Alice Brown Otter (Facebook: @alice.brownotter), Bana Alabed (Twitter: @AlabedBana), Bryan Stevenson (Facebook: @equaljusticeinitiative), Cecile Richards (Twitter: @CecileRichards), Dolores Huerta (Twitter: @DoloresHuerta), Janet Mock (Twitter: @janetmock), José Andrés (Twitter: @chefjoseandres), Nicole Hockley (Twitter: @NicoleHockley and @sandyhook), Patrisse Cullors (Twitter: @OsopePatrisse), Tarana Burke (Twitter: @TaranaBurke).
Featured image via screenshot