JUST 10 Questions for Common

1. What - or who - was the strongest influence on you when you were growing up and what did you learn from them?

Answer: "My mother...to work hard and put God first in all that I do."

2. When did it become clear to you that you wanted to give back, or that you could, or that you had to?

Answer: "I looked at my mother as a teacher and as an educator, and also seeing the struggles of people around me. I thought to myself 'how could I not help'"

3. Celebrity culture has a huge impact on our youth, how can we use the power of media to help our youth find their own power, and use it to make a better world?

Answer: " First we as celebrities should lead by example...and hopefully that example is inspiring the youth toward a positive direction."

4. The Common Ground Foundation has a program called The Corner that works with kids to develop the critical reasoning skills that are often ignored in traditional literacy programs. What is it that you are trying to address beyond the simple ABC's of literacy?

Answer: " I think that reading is a way to educate one's self to many things, and to even learn about yourself. I've read many books that have reminded me of who I am, and have helped me to discover my purpose in life."

5. Do you think that it's possible to express anger and frustration in a way that is powerful and artistic, but still focuses on creating change for the future rather than anger at the past?

Answer: "I believe the energy of anger and frustration may be channeled in a positive way. We all need to release, but to be able to do it in art is the healthy way...the most productive way."

6. I used to teach creative writing in the juvenile detention system in Saint Louis, and I always started my semesters with a line from Shakespeare's The Tempest in which a servant says to his master, "You taught me language, my profit on it is I know how to curse you." In this day and age, why does it matter that kids know how to express themselves, and how can we teach them to do so eloquently, powerfully, and creatively?

Answer: "Kids are dealing with heavy issues, and sometimes they build up into the spirit of anger and angst...or even anxiety. In order for that to not become something destructive to themselves or to other people, we should provide them with the Arts as an alternative. This would give them a better chance to know themselves."

7. My daughter thinks I'm crazy for crying (with joy) when Obama was elected. In her 10 year-old mind, there was no reason why a black man couldn't be president, so I was silly. What do you think we can do with our youth to make things like racism seem like ridiculous throwbacks from a past that they can't relate to?

Answer: "I don't think that it's necessary to do that. We can't act like racism didn't exist or like it was a small part of the past. It's great to educate them on it so they can know the history and respect other peoples' culture."

8. You've been an open supporter of PETA, what's your take on animal rights in our modern and very diverse world?

Answer: "I worked with PETA as part of their vegetarian campaign, and I do respect the protection of animals."

9. It has been reported that you've stopped using any anti-gay lyrics in your music. We applaud that, and would love you to explain your reasoning.

Answer: "After growing and maturing, I recognized that I'm no one to judge other peoples' preference or beliefs, and I have had dialogue with homosexual fans who have expressed to me that they were just people too...and I second that."

10. We have to ask the magic-wand question - if you had a magic wand and could solve one problem in the world, what would it be?

Answer: " It would be to heal sickness in this world."

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This article was written for the July / August 2009 Issue of JUST CAUSE Magazine. Get a FREE subscription to the digital magazine!