By Leah Harris
Hip-hop Icon Common Writes Memoir of Resilience after Childhood Trauma
Content Warning: The following material includes discussion of childhood sexual abuse.
The hip-hop artist Common was working on a 2018 film with Laura Dern called “The Tale,” which chronicled the story of a reporter who films a documentary about childhood sexual abuse, as she begins to recover repressed memories from her own life. While reviewing the script with Dern, Common experienced what he called “flashes—” memories of sexual abuse from his childhood.
Common writes, “I just pushed the whole thing out of my head. Maybe it’s a matter of survival — even now, two years after that flash resurgence of memories, as I’m writing, I’m still working through all of this in myself and with my therapist.” Common’s experience is not unusual – survivors may sometimes forget or repress the memories of terrible things that happened to them when they were young, as a coping skill.
Common’s initial response to the traumatic recollections was to feel shame. With support, not only did he conquer his own shame to find freedom, he is on a mission to do the same for others. His new memoir, Let Love Have the Last Word, is doing just that.
“As a Black man, I felt like I need to tell the story for other people — specifically for men who’ve experienced some form of molestation and are afraid to talk about it,” he said in an interview with MTV. “Our culture doesn’t give us the opportunity to talk about these kind of things, or to be vulnerable.”
Common sees his book as a way to help address the mental health stigma that lingers in Black communities. In an interview with The View, he said, “People experience so much trauma. Even when things are good, you still have things that you’ve experienced in life that that you may not know you’re carrying with you. I really know from going to communities how much trauma young people go through, and with some of the depression and anxiety, just get some help. Just get some support. We all need it.”
- If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673.
- Bay Area Women Against Rape (BAWAR): (501) 845-7273 – Alameda County only
- Male Sexual Assault: The Road to Recovery (RAINN)
- 1in6.org: Resources for male survivors of sexual abuse and assault
- LoveWITHAccountability project: Building and creating space for diasporic Black child sexual abuse survivors and advocates to use their lived experiences, testimonies, and work as the foundation to co-envision how we can eradicate child sexual abuse.
Learn more about Common’s new book:
- Common’s Metaphor About Recalling Childhood Trauma Is Spot On (The Mighty)
- Exclusive: Common on why he reveals his childhood trauma in new memoir (Entertainment Weekly)
- Rapper Common talks family, heartbreak and abuse he suffered as a child (GMA)
In His Vulnerable New Memoir, Common Examines Cycles of Violence and Trauma (MTV News)