By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
The General Motors African Ancestry Network (GMAAN), an Employee Resource Group focused on attracting, developing, and retaining employees of African Ancestry while engaging communities to drive GM Business priorities and performance, held its 15th annual Black History Month Celebration.
The 2021 GMAAN Summit was held on Friday, Feb. 19. The annual event recognizes the sacrifices, contributions, and achievements of African Americans in the United States and worldwide, highlighting how our collective experience and unique perspectives have been catalysts for creativity and innovation within our communities.
National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. moderated the keynote conversation with Grammy and Academy Award-winning entertainer Common.
“This brother makes a difference,” Dr. Chavis declared as he introduced Common for a discussion that tackled a range of timely subjects centering on social justice.
Common explained how proud he is of the progress Black Americans have made, especially the younger generations.
“Black America is so dynamic and has so many dimensions to it,” declared Common, who has dedicated countless hours advocating for criminal justice reform and engaging with communities to instill hope in incarcerated men and women through his Imagine Justice nonprofit.
Common, whose name is Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr., also works to help inner-city youths through his Common Ground Foundation.
The entertainer told Dr. Chavis that today’s young African Americans are the most innovative and forward-thinking in history.
“I believe some of the biggest issues this generation is facing is the use of social media and technology in a balanced way, and understanding what life is beyond that,” Common stated.
“Your life is not being directed by social media. Because this generation has grown up with social media, they believe it to be always necessary, and I think it needs a balance. I think this generation is revolutionary in their ways and ahead of their time.”
Common offered that the GMAAN slogan for this year’s Black History Month gala – Seek Truth. Challenge Convention. Champion Change – inspired him.
“Those things are very important. I love those phrases because true artists express themselves in truth,” Common declared.
“I’ve gotten to find a lot of my truth through my art. You can find out a lot about yourself through art, and it became a life mission to seek truth. What did God put me on this planet to do? I live in the truth, the truth of my ancestors, and being truthful to who I am as a Black man in this world,” he added.
The icon continued:
“I continue to seek truth; As far as challenging things; once finding my truth, I didn’t succumb to what was popular, the moneymaker; I had to look myself in the mirror.
“I was able to challenge things just by being truthful to myself; I wasn’t chasing the numbers it was more about seeking the truth; and being that component of change, I felt like that took for me to be open to listening to others to continue to seek and find love. I come from the South Side of Chicago; being humble is important, and you must realize that you don’t know everything, and everything you are given is a blessing.”
In 2020, Common was on the frontlines fighting for voting rights and helping Democrats win the presidency and control the U.S. Senate.
“I feel like Black America has seen its power in effect,” Common asserted.
“Through voting, because it was Black Americans who came out allowed this new administration to listen to Black America and work for Black America,” he determined.
“Black America is so dynamic, and as a whole, I believe we do see our power more, and we know how valuable we are. We’ve been able to take control of our destiny in many ways.”
General Motors also honored several African American trailblazers at the gala while reaffirming its commitment to the community.
“As we aspire to be the most inclusive company in the world, we learn from our past, ensuring that we are continuing to cultivate inclusive environments where everyone feels valued and can bring their whole selves to work,” the company said in a statement.