Kean University announced on Twitter on Monday that Common would be this year’s commencement speaker. A day later, the institution is at the center of controversy thanks to the New Jersey Police and a 15-year-old song.
The university rescinded its announcement because of complaints from the police. Susan Kayne, vice president of university relations at Kean, claimed that the announcement was released “prematurely.”
However, Capt. Steve Jones, the spokesman for New Jersey State Police pointed at a more specific reason:
We can’t control who the university invites to speak. However, we will continue our efforts to make the public aware of Joanne Chesimard’s escape and life on the lam and continue to seek her return to New Jersey and justice.
Joanne Chesimard is the born name of Assata Shakur, the civil rights activist who was convicted of the murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster. After mistreatment from law enforcement during years of trials, Shakur escaped prison and fled from the United States to Cuba, where she lives in political asylum.
Common dedicated a song to her titled “A Song for Assata,” which landed on his breakthrough album Like Water for Chocolate (2000).
Common hasn’t commented, but regardless, it’s Kean’s loss.