Common on Putting His Money Where the Government Won't

Rapper and actor Common is investing in black children across the country by donating money to public schools. He and his mother, Mahalia Hines, Ph.D., teamed up with Burlington Stores and to fund school supplies for students nationwide, including Puerto Rico.


“Instead of educate, they’d rather convict the kids,” Common rapped, in front of a group of wide-eyed students from Manhattan’s P.S. 111.

He wasn’t the only one in the room who was socially conscious. Elementary and middle school students shared their poetry and artwork with Common, and their projects shared one “common” thread: social justice. One student, Dynasty, shared a song she and her friends wrote about Junior Guzman-Feliz, a teenager who was recently stabbed to death at a Bronx, N.Y., bodega. She nervously handed the sheet of paper to Common as he stared at Junior’s photo, reciting the lyrics to the rest of classroom.

“They say ‘stay down,’ but we stand up,” read Common. “Stabs were all over him, the camera panned up.”

This moment reminded Common of the importance of supporting black and brown students who are victims of consistently underfunded public schooling.

“For someone to write something so powerful and it still be beautiful and still capture the toughness of it, just imagine when we expose them to more things and give them more opportunities,” Common told The Root.

With public schools facing budget cuts, educators must often reach into their own pockets in order to provide classroom supplies to students. According to, teachers spend an average of $600 every year on such expenditures. Common’s initiative will allow educators to keep their money in their wallets by providing funding for classroom needs.


“In a lot of our schools, you can go around any city in America and see that where there are black and brown children, there will be some resources lacking,” says Common. “They don’t value our children as much.”

Watch our interview with Common above.

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