The uproar over Common being invited to the White House’s poetry event tonight is not surprising. What is it that The New Jersey state police union is protesting the rapper and actor’s visit because of  one song: “A Song For Assata.”

Like many, Assata will always hold a special place in my heart and a reminder of the country we live in. Shakur and other Black Panthers were pulled over by Jersey police in 1973 and a shooting occurred, where she was shot twice and an officer was killed. She was acquitted of killing the cop three times before being convicted. Then escaped to exile in Cuba.

In 2006 I had the chance to meet her daughter, Kakuya, the same baby girl she carried and delivered in jail. Susan Taylor hosted a meet and greet at her beautiful penthouse and invited a few of the Essence interns over to join.

It was a powerful experience that has stayed with me. Assata’s daughter spoke of the reality of her and her mother’s life. Before then, I had fantasies of Assata coming back and forth to the states and living out loud, invisibly,  and her daughter brought me back to Earth. To a place where an exiled grandmother had seen one of her grandson’s only once and never met the other. To a place where President Bush was in no way trying to pardon a warrior for civil rights.

But along with the stark reality, was plenty of hope, as we discussed plans for a national celebration of Assata’s upcoming birthday and a card that would travel the globe for her. Now I am thinking again on the life of Assata and looking at the Common invite hoopla as an opportunity for more to learn of her story and sacrifice.

“A Song For Assata” by Common
Assata had been convicted of a murder she couldna done
Medical evidence shown she couldna shot the gun
It’s time for her to see the sun from the other side
Time for her daughter to be by her mother’s side
Time for this Beautiful Woman to become soft again
Time for her to breathe, and not be told how or when
She untangled the chains and escaped the pain

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