For an hour Thursday, rapper and activist Common – like he has done thousands of times -- commanded a stage in an airport ballroom. But the Oscar-winner didn’t rap one word. Instead, he captivated a room full of human resources and diversity and inclusion executives in a plea for more diversity in corporate America. Watch as AJC's Ernie Suggs talks with Common in this exclusive interview. Video by Ryon Horne / AJC

Common raps to corporate executives about workplace diversity

Rapper and activist was in Atlanta for CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion meeting

For an hour Thursday, rapper and activist Common – like he has done thousands of times -- commanded a stage in an airport ballroom.

But the Oscar-winner didn’t rap one word. Instead, he captivated a room full of human resources and diversity and inclusion officers in a plea for more diversity in corporate America.

Rapper and actor Common meets employees with CEO Action in Atlanta. The Academy Award winner was in Atlanta to talk about workplace diversity at the second annual Chief Human Resources Officers summit held at the Renaissance Concourse Atlanta Airport Hotel. RYON HORNE / RHORNE@AJC.COM

“I have a desire to do my part to make the world better and every human being can do it. You don’t have to be an athlete or have a million Twitter followers to make a difference,” Common told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “When things were going good for me, I like seeing people around me being happy too. I want to see other people fulfill their dreams. I want to be part of helping create that space and opportunities for other people.”

As far as rappers are concerned, Common may perhaps be the most uncommon. A native of Chicago, he debuted in 1992 with his album “Can I Borrow a Dollar?” and maintained an underground following. 

He would go on to win three Grammys for for his music, and in 2015 he won an Academy Award, along with John Legend for "Glory"from the “Selma” soundtrack.

Common also played James Bevel in the movie to beef up his acting resume. But he has also used his voice as an activist, particularly through his Common Ground Foundation, a non-profit that seeks to empower underprivileged youth to be strong citizens and citizens of the world.

He was in Atlanta this week at the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion conference, a gathering of more than 250 executives from Fortune 500 companies, academic institutions and nonprofits, working on strategies to advance diversity and inclusion within the workplace.

The CEO Action's "Check Your Blind Spots" tour bus gives guests the test of making sure they too are being inclusive in their everyday lives. Early next week, the bus will make stops at Spelman College and the Home Depot headquarters. RYON HORNE / RHORNE@AJC.COM

Part of the program also includes the “Check Your Blind Spots Unconscious Bias Mobile Tour,” an interactive bus, which allows people test their own biases and act toward driving more inclusive behaviors in their everyday lives. The bus is making 100 stops in 2019, including stops at Spelman College and the national headquarters of Home Depot this week.

“CEOs are saying we are ready, committed and putting our names on this we want to change,” said Shannon Schuyler, chief purpose officer for PricewaterhouseCoopers. “We need to change the inclusivity in our workplaces and diversity in our workplaces.”

To see the full conversation with Common and Shannon Schuyler, click the link above, or check out AJC Sepia on Facebook.

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