Common Comes Home: Chicago Native Talks New Book, Self-Care and Inspiration

About three hundred seats were filled in the Harold Washington Library on Monday evening for a Black History Month pre-kick-off with Southside Chicago native, artist, actor, activist and author Common.

The Chicago Public Library hosted Common for a conversation on his new book, “And Then We Rise: A Guide to Loving and Taking Care of Self.” Common is also the author of “One Day It’ll All Make Sense” and “Let Love Have the Last Word,” both New York Times bestsellers.

Award-winning Chicago-based author and journalist Natalie Moore was the moderator who facilitated the questions and kicked off the program, commenting, “We’re about to have a very Southside conversation tonight,” and proceeded to ask Common, “What was your home library branch growing up?

Avalon Chicago Public Library Branch

Common said that Avalon was the Branch on 81st and Stony Island Ave, right next to Harold’s Chicken, where he would hang out or complete his homework when his mother had to work or take care of business. 

“I would go in there and do my homework, and I appreciated the library. We had some good people and librarians there who embraced us and encouraged us. I love the Avalon library; it was dope.”

Maya Angelou’s Influence

Common discussed his new book with Natalie Moore at the Harold Washington Library
Common discussed his new book with Natalie Moore at the Harold Washington Library on Monday, Jan. 29 (Photo, Marshelle R. Sanders).

While writing this book, Common celebrated Maya Angelou’s influence because it was a part of his growth, and the title came from his perspective. 

Self-love and caring for oneself motivated this light read, and Common believes those two characteristics are revolutionary.

“When I thought about the title, ‘And Then We Rise,’ Maya Angelou’s tone always spoke about breaking through the system and rising like valuing yourself. It was like, hey, I value myself and love myself. I’m surely better in my community, and I’m going against the system that is targeted towards keeping us in one place, keeping us oppressed, keeping us not knowing what our power is. This was, for me, a title that was beautiful but also revolutionary.”

Common also opened up about Maya Angelou’s influence on the book and let everyone in on a little secret: they were good friends. Common met Dr. Angelou through his mother, who had contacted her about being a part of a foundation event they were having. Dr. Angelou didn’t know who Common was at the time, but her grandson did.”

“She allowed me to meet with her in Harlem, and we sat and talked. I was looking at all the art. She was talking to me about life, and it was one of those moments where I didn’t know how long our friendship would last. I just took that moment like, ‘I’m sitting here with Dr. Maya Angelou,'” he said. 

“We ended up being friends, and she would invite me to her birthday parties, and I would freestyle at the parties. We could joke, but at the same token, she allowed me to go speak with her at Riverside Church and in Harlem, and she just included me in a lot of things where she did a poem on one of my albums.”

What Self Care Is

Self-care has become a popularized motto on social media and a push for many entrepreneurs to promote the phrase into business. 

When we think of “self-care,” we think of bubble baths, spas, wine and all great things, but it is deeper than any product. Common mentions it is about a mindset and paying attention to who you are while taking it step-by-step with self-love/care.

“Where you are emotionally, physically, mentally, and being able to attend to those things, it has so many layers to it. I broke it down into mind, body, soul and food (in his book) because I realized if I’m exercising, I’m on it five days a week, killing it. Still, if my mind is not in the right space, then I’m not truly able to take care of myself fully, reach my highest potential, and, like, be at my best self.”

Common stated that even when we get our minds together, our souls are still carrying some of the weight of trauma we experienced. He mentioned therapy, meditation and other holistic alternatives that can help us all get on a good path to our self-care journey. And even if we have a setback, we can start right over and don’t beat ourselves up about it.

The Four Pillars of His New Book

The new book is a guide to address mental and physical health—and encourages communities to do the same. “And Then We Rise” has four sections, each with essential lessons. “The Food” focuses on nutrition. “The Body” focuses on fitness. “The Mind” focuses on mental health. And “The Soul” focuses on perhaps the most profound thing—spiritual well-being.

Common said, “I wanted to make this book to notify people. These are some of the things I did and some people who helped me get to this place. I also gave stories and anecdotes on why I knew vegetarianism.”

He was already working on spirituality, which he had been grounded in because his mother ensured he went to church. He also heard about other spiritual practices like Islam because of rap and being around the nation. But he didn’t know that sometimes, to get to the most straightforward part of my soul and the most transparent part of his mind, he had to clear his mind rather than his body. That meant eating healthier foods.

“I just wanted to put those four pillars because I knew I want us to have the holistic thing together, not just one aspect. But if we take one step, which is what I did, just took one step, then the other steps may start to come about. Vegan is not for everybody. Meditation might not even be for everybody, but you have to figure out how to nurture your mind, body, soul and food, no matter what, across the board so that you can get on your path towards your elevation.”

Moderator Natalie Moore mentioned that what she got from reading the book is that Common is incredibly disciplined. Before moving on to the next question, she asked a Southside question: Does he miss Harold’s Chicken?

“Of course, I miss Harold’s Chicken,” he laughed.

His Relationship with Jennifer Hudson

Before the event ended, the audience was waiting to know the status of Common and Southside Chicago EGOT legend (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) and television show host Jennifer Hudson.

“When we were on her show expressing who we were, we felt that it was like a sacred place. It’s a holy partnership. I never like to be like, let me put this out for display and talk about this because the purity and truth in that partnership is not based on public consumption. I try to keep things as sacred and private and respectful as possible, but in celebration of who she is, I always want to honor her and respect her.”

His New Album with Pete Rock

Common is in the studio with producer, DJ, and rapper Pete Rock and is excited about what they are cooking up to release shortly. The 50-year celebration of Hip-hop made Common recognize that the genre is still valuable. There is an audience out there that wants that Hip-hop they yearn for.

“It’s just about creating music with that love, spirit and energy of what that late 80s, 90s Hip Hop had to it. It’s about the innocence and love in the music that Pete Rock possesses. This music that we create, we’re doing it for the love of music and art, and we want to touch hearts and souls.”

Common still has a few more stops for his book tour, but the audience in attendance seemed grateful and excited to have this conversation on self-care, self-love and an approach to a healthier lifestyle, which is essential. 

For more information on Common’s new book “And Then We Rise: A Guide to Loving and Taking Care of Self,” check out his website at

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