July 18, 2017: SACRAMENTO BEE - Rapper Common plans free Sacramento concert to promote criminal justice reform

July 18, 2017

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By Anita Chabria

Rapper, actor and activist Common will perform a free concert on Capitol Mall next month to raise awareness about criminal justice reform and push for the passage of three bills in the California Legislature that would give more rights to juvenile offenders and revamp the state’s bail system.

The show is scheduled for 5 p.m. Aug. 21 and up to 10,000 people are expected, said Michael Latt, who handles Common’s social impact initiatives. Billboards for the “Imagine Justice” event will go up around Sacramento on Monday.

“As an artist, I believe it is my duty to fight injustice wherever it appears and take a stand for my fellow brothers and sisters. I believe it is my responsibility to use my platform to amplify the courageous voices of the movement and support the most marginalized members of our society,” Common said in a statement to The Sacramento Bee.

The concert is the start of a three-day Sacramento campaign that includes a day of lobbying at the Capitol and a second concert for inmates inside a nearby prison, possibly Folsom State, said Latt.

Common has been involved in social justice projects including animal rights and AIDS/HIV measures in the past, but his work on criminal justice reform is new. Beginning this year, he connected with former Hollywood producer-turned-activist Scott Budnick, said Latt.

Budnick was the executive producer on “The Hangover” trilogy of movies, the top-grossing R-rated franchise in domestic box office history, raking in $643 million in U.S. ticket sales. Inspired by volunteer work teaching writing classes inside a juvenile detention facility in Los Angeles, Budnick left his Hollywood career and founded the Anti Recidivism Coalition in 2013 to help young kids in the criminal justice system.

Since then, he has become one of the most powerful voices in California’s criminal justice reform movement, and was instrumental in writing and helping to pass Proposition 57 in 2016, which curtailed prosecutor’s discretion in charging juveniles as adults, increased parole opportunities for nonviolent felons, and gave all inmates greater access to education and rehabilitation programs to earn time credits on their sentences.

Budnick also considers himself a “super fan” of Common, he said. Budnick said Common became interested in criminal justice reform after working on the 2014 film “Selma,” the story of the 1965 voting rights marches in Alabama from Selma to Montgomery. Common co-wrote the Oscar and Grammy-winning song “Glory” for the movie and played civil rights leader James Bevel.

“When (Common) was doing ‘Selma’ he kind of … dove deeply into MLK and John Lewis and those in the civil rights movement, and he saw that it was really something that they did every day,” said Budnick.