Common Takes The Culture to Task with Black America Again

Short of the Day

Directed by Bradford Young, cinematographer of Selma.

Last week rapper, actor, activist and Academy-Award-winner Common dropped his 11th studio album, “Black America Again,” and it might be hip-hop’s most powerful contemporary call-to-action yet. African-Americans’ struggles both in the past and within modern society are Common’s inspiration, and he traces the institutional mistreatment and subjugation of his community from the era of slavery right up to the era of “Black Lives Matter,” poetically dipping beneath the headlines and exploring the emotional, spiritual, and communal undertones that fuel the movement as well as the individuals for whom it speaks.

For all the ills it confronts, however, hope is undeniably the lingering aftereffect of “Black America Again,” as is the conclusion that change doesn’t just happen, it is made to happen.

To help drive home the messages of his album, Common released a 21-minute, black-and-white film of the same name directed by Bradford Young, best known as Ava DuVernay’s cinematographer on Selma; DuVernay produced the film. The short is an abstract music video/social musing that pairs Common’s words (bridged by an unseen Stevie Wonder) with scenes from an urban landscape that include street corners, parks, and a memorial for Freddie Gray, the Baltimore youth who died from injuries to his spinal cord suffered while in police custody. It is a stark and necessary reminder – especially given the events of this week – that however far we think our culture has come, there will always be more ground to cover, more need to unite, and more voices to empower.