Rapper shares keys to success with pupils

Hip hop artist and actor Common speaks to students at Wheeless Road Elementary School.
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A Grammy Award-winning hip-hop artist surprised children at Wheeless Road Elementary School on Wednesday and encouraged them to believe in themselves, work hard and stay in school.

Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr., better known as Common, was in Augusta to promote the upcoming release of his new album, but he said it's important to take advantage of his fame to spread his message to children.

Common has built his reputation with messages that are generally positive, such as the ones he shared with schoolchildren on Wednesday.

"Whoever God created you to be is the best," he said. "God created you to be you, and you're special."

Common also encouraged them to work hard and achieve their dreams, citing President-Elect Obama as a good example to follow.

"Our new president is really a person who came from a place where they told him he couldn't be something, in a country where no one ever thought that we would see a black president, but now that we have a black president we understand that black people, white people, Asian people, Native Americans, Latinos, no matter what color you are, we all are one," he said. "Whatever you want to be you can be in this world. You just have to put your mind to it."

The key is staying in school, he said.

"The more you learn, the better you will be," he said. "Life is about learning."

Fourth-grader Jamedra Williams, 9, said it was cool seeing someone in real life whom she normally sees on TV.

Third-grader Jalon England, 9, said it was fun seeing the hip-hop artist, who made him think and encouraged him to believe in himself.

Principal Joe Moore said he was impressed with Common's message.

"When people think of rap, they think of the gangsta rap and stuff, but his messages are positive," Mr. Moore said. "I think the messages he had for the students were just what we wanted him to say to them."

Common has written children's books and established the Common Ground Foundation, which is dedicated to the education of urban youth.

Wheeless Road's Students of the Month were allowed to attend Common's talk on Wednesday.

The children could also ask questions and get his autograph.

"As children, it's good for them to see good examples of people that not only are successful, but are good people and can set a good example," he told reporters afterward.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

Comments (23) Add comment
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realistineducation
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realistineducation 11/20/08 - 05:20 am
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not a good role model,

not a good role model, rapper? give me a break.

lifelongresidient
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lifelongresidient 11/20/08 - 08:02 am
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let's see dropped out of

let's see dropped out of college and now stressing to young children to stay in school.....as a BLACK MAN, give me a friggin break!!!!

hmm
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hmm 11/20/08 - 08:23 am
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its good that he is trying to

its good that he is trying to help the community. the only problem is that the students who may have received the greatest benefit from his message were probably not "Students of the Month".

GSneed
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GSneed 11/20/08 - 09:11 am
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Common (short for Common

Common (short for Common Sense) is an American hip hop artist and actor. Since childhood, he was a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago led by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Common previously maintained a vegan diet and is a supporter of animal rights and PETA. He recently appeared in a print advertisement for PETA titled "Think Before You Eat". Common is also part of the "Knowing Is Beautiful" movement which supports HIV/AIDS awareness. He is featured in the video for "Yes We Can," a song in support of the candidacy of Barack Obama, which made its debut on the internet on February 2nd, 2008. Common stopped using "'n-word'" and he has pledged to stop using anti-gay lyrics in his music. In 2006, Common was a model for photos of The Gap's fall season collection, appearing on posters in stores. Later that year, he performed in The Gap's "Holiday In Your Hood" themed Peace Love Gap. In February 2007, Common signed a deal with New Era to promote their new line of Layers fitted caps. Common also stars in a television commercial for the 08 Lincoln Navigator.

lifelongresidient
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lifelongresidient 11/20/08 - 09:22 am
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jb, with all due respect i

jb, with all due respect i beg to differ, isn't it funny he now decides to speak to children when he is promoting an cd scheduled to be released next month? it just seems odd to me that's all, but my question is with all of the dr's, lawyers, college professors, leading educators, police or firemen available why a "rapper" what redeeming qualities can he show the children? how can he stress getting and education when he himself is a college drop-out??? what is he going to tell the children, be proud of yourself, but don't strive to finish college, "you can be an rapper like me?". there are non-verbal messages sent to impressionable black youths in this time of crisis in the black community and that is "the only way to be a success is to be a rapper"..chas. barkley spoke at a white and black school when he asked the children at the white school-most wanted to be dr's, atty's, teachers..etc/at the black school-pro atheletes, rappers and "divas"...so my question is why him???? with all the other positive role models we have to choose from. then we wonder why there is such a high drop-out rate in the black community..we as black people should be outraged and demand other speakers

KingJames
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KingJames 11/20/08 - 09:44 am
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Why a rapper? That's easy.

Why a rapper? That's easy. Kids listen to people they see on TV. You all see a rapper. I see the author of children's books. That's easy for me because I don't listen to rap music at all, and I don't follow any of their escapades. Some of those kids will be encouraged by this meeting with Common, and stay in school. A doctor or a lawyer would have probably just seemed like another adult telling them to stay in school. That's something they hear everyday. But to have a rapper that they see on TV tell them to stay is school sounds more appealing. Even if he didn't graduate college, his story is still impressive. Given Common's resume posted by GSneed, I think he was promoting more than just a new CD. I do agree that the rest of the students should have been able to meet the guy though.

BarstoolDreamer
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BarstoolDreamer 11/20/08 - 09:55 am
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If I was a kid and a rapper

If I was a kid and a rapper came to school and told me I needed to stay in school and I could be whatever I wanted, I would probably think what most of these kids are thinking...."this guy is so cool, I need to quit school and become a rapper"

GSneed
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GSneed 11/20/08 - 10:01 am
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KingJames...keep at it and

KingJames...keep at it and dont give up. Maybe one day we will make a breakthrough with those that harp on such negativity. I bet it would hurt them so, to at least search for the good in this or any other situation associated the ethnic cultures.

Newsreader
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Newsreader 11/20/08 - 10:13 am
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jisomjr, just because he does

jisomjr, just because he does not have a college education does not mean that he does not see the need or benefit of a degree. I was 35 before I got my BA, and part of the pride was knowing my children saw the struggle in working and going to school. Two full time endeavors scheduled simulatiously! However, I too would have been leary of a rapper hip/hop artist visiting a school. Hopefully, the children could see his passion for good and equality. Coming from the streets and now making a name for himself within mainstream media. I would like to think I can keep an open mind.

KingJames
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KingJames 11/20/08 - 10:58 am
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Barstool, the reason you say

Barstool, the reason you say that is probably because you don't see the effects of rap like others do. Like I said, I don't listen to it at all, but I do know that kids listen and can repeat the lyrics word for word. They are impressionable, and listen to the adults that are cool. The fact that he can say he quit college, is still a success, but wants others to continue going to college is a very good thing. He can always say that his success was fortunate, but could have come easier with an education. He can always say that the deals he's made with record companies, stores, and book publishers were all with the help of college educated people. I don't think he's trying to be a role model, but just positive inluence. A wino on the street can be a positive influence by telling kids not to drink and to stay in school, and even sharing some of his bad experiences as a result of alcohol abuse. He can say not to go down the same road in life. Does it make the message anymore less true by coming from a rapper instead, or even a doctor of a lawyer? The big deal is the effectiveness of the message and how the kids receive it.

GSneed
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GSneed 11/20/08 - 11:07 am
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KingJames23...Very valid

KingJames23...Very valid points, but I dont think you can get most of these folks to acknowledge that. There was entirely too much positivity in your message for most of them.

KingJames
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KingJames 11/20/08 - 11:21 am
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GSneed, that was part of my

GSneed, that was part of my Sunday school lesson last Sunday. The kids in my class seem to get it. The adults who read the AC online don't though. I always say people in Augusta have long memories. They don't forget anything, even if someone's personal situation turns around for their betterment.

itiswhatitiz
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itiswhatitiz 11/20/08 - 12:19 pm
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Thank you KingJames and

Thank you KingJames and GSneed for doing your homework. So many negative remarks are because they do not feel that this college 'dropout' can encourage black kids to stay in school. I wonder how many of these people feel the same way about Bill Gates. I don't see them calling him a 'dropout' or insisting that this man (who never graduated from College) stop encouraging kids to finish school. By the way 10 of the 15 richest people in the world did not graduate from College.

voiceofconcern
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voiceofconcern 11/20/08 - 12:39 pm
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thanks gsneed. that was on

thanks gsneed. that was on the money.

and thanks augusta chronicle, good work, mr. gelpi.

those kids asked the finest questions. very intelligent children who represent their school and augusta very well. give props to their principal and teachers and parents too. south augusta, eh? i'm impressed.

jackfruitpaper833
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jackfruitpaper833 11/20/08 - 01:42 pm
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This was good for those

This was good for those students, thanks Common. I wish the BOE would do that once a year by bringing in someone from the music industry.

BarstoolDreamer
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BarstoolDreamer 11/20/08 - 02:32 pm
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Kingjames...I appreciate you

Kingjames...I appreciate you thinking you know anything about me or what I understand. I can tell you (and I hope you can understand) that the "do as I say and not as I do" discussion does not work on even the youngest of minds.....I don't care if he, Bill Gates or 10 of the 15 richest people did not finish school....don't say you need to, but I didn't.

KingJames
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KingJames 11/20/08 - 04:00 pm
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Barstool, take note of the

Barstool, take note of the fact that I said "PROBABLY" in my statement to you. Let me put it to you this way, I just prefer to be more optimistic than others. I have kids and know that even though I don't like rap music, they listen to it and follow what rappers do closely. That being the case, I understand that rappers have an influence on kids. So then why is there such a problem when he decides to not just rap, but also clean up his lyrics, write children's books, and visit schools? With all the bad influences out there, I don't understand why some folks would look down on someone for trying to use his status as a rapper for something positive. These kids may actually dream of becoming a rapper someday, but maybe never think of becoming a doctor or a lawyer, not because the goal is unreachable, but because they don't equate them with the good that they do. Some of them may only see doctos when someone is sicck, or only think of lawyers when someone is about to go to jail. So why would they listen to that at this age when there is a good possibility that it doesn't interest them anyway?

DoubleD
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DoubleD 11/20/08 - 04:03 pm
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I don't consider Common to be

I don't consider Common to be so much a rapper as I consider him a poet. He doesn't talk about drugs, guns, women, cars, jewelry, and other material things. He's pretty positive with a smooth delivery.

whitescorpion
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whitescorpion 11/20/08 - 04:19 pm
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I hate so called rap music

I hate so called rap music (to me rap has never been about music) but I do love a positive message. The chances of his message actually producing any long lasting effects or have any impact is probably close to zero, considering how much negative crap kids are exposed to in the media. Still... a positive message is better than a negative one.

lifelongresidient
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lifelongresidient 11/20/08 - 05:11 pm
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king you just made my point.

king you just made my point. because kids listen to t. v. when they see him they don't see a "poet" or an "author" they see a "rapper" and they think that "hey i can be one also", but what they nor most of the black community realizes is the odds of becoming a successful "rapper". all children of that age see is someone famous and believes he makes lots of money, and in turn cam buy lots of "bling". the fact of the matter is we already have in the black community shkyrocketing dorp-out rates so the question that could be asked and be difficult for "common" to explain is if school is so important and ncessary for success in life the why did he drop out??? then follow that up with why should i stay in school if you didn't???. these is why we in the black community need to demand other role models to speak to our children from fields that can be reached with both college degrees and non-college degress.

wise
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wise 11/21/08 - 07:10 am
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Common are you serious. I

Common are you serious. I think that you all are just upset that an sucessful some what educated black man spoke with your children. Once again speak about something you know about. Open your closed minds. Stop The Hate Its 2008.

Talkatoast
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Talkatoast 11/21/08 - 11:20 am
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Although I dislike rap for

Although I dislike rap for various reasons, I applaud Common for trying to send a positive message to children. I think having dropouts tell children why they should stay in school is a great idea because only dropouts truly know why you should stay in school. Yes, Common makes a lot of money, but I'm pretty sure that wasn't happening when he dropped out of school.

The message Common is delivering should be the center of attention--not the stereotypes of rap. Some rap does have messages, despite my disliking it.

KingJames
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KingJames 11/21/08 - 12:47 pm
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Jisomjr, so you would not

Jisomjr, so you would not like to hear anything positive from Common at all? So by what standard do you define a role model? By what standard do you define a positive influence? I would have to agree with Charles Barkley when he said athletes shouldn't be role models, but that parents should be. But I do say that anyone can have a positive influence on someone else. That's the point behind Common's visit. I also think that you are way too critical of him for not finishing college. Oprah Winfrey was a millionare and had been on TV for years before she dropped back into college and finished her degree. I don't see you criticizing her or saying she isn't/wasn't a role model. The point is you are attempting to validate a positive influence on children based on him having, or not having a degree. I am all for education. I have two degrees of my own. But I determined that I needed those degrees by listening to successful people who didn't have much education tell me how important it was for me to get mine.

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