Common recently opened up to the world about his childhood trauma, but before that happened, he was compelled to share the troubling news with family first.
The rapper, actor and activist born Lonnie Rashid Lynn, 47, sat down with PEOPLE in this week’s issue to discuss some of his life’s toughest moments, which he shares in his new memoir Let Love Have the Last Word. When it came to sharing details of the molestation he says he suffered from a family friend at around age 9, he spoke out to be a light for others.
“I wanted to go places where I feel like as a black man we don’t always go. It hasn’t been part of our culture. When I was talking about being molested, it was like man, you know what? I’m going to write about this,” he says.
“In black and brown communities we do deal with this. I’ve visited prisons where men are like, ‘I was sexually abused.’ A guy on my own team came to me and said, ‘It happened to me when I was younger.’ I’m not caring about the stigma. I’m going to speak it with the hope that other people heal from it.”
Common says he’d blocked the memory out of his head for years, and it only resurfaced recently, in 2017.
“I kind of wiped that out of my mind for a while. For a long time. I had a tendency to do that, to tuck things away in a corner. My journey back to it came with all the work I’ve been doing on myself, from prayer to meditation to therapy to art,” he says. “I didn’t even realize it happened unti I was doing a film called The Tale, which deals with that subject matter. I actually told my costar Laura Dern, ‘Yo, I think this happened to me.’ It just started coming back to me.”
Prior to including it in the book, he had to break the news to the woman he’s closest to, his mother Dr. Mahalia Hines.
Surprisingly, he says, the conversation “wasn’t as heavy as I thought it would be. She’s worked in Chicago public schools as a principal and teacher, so the stories she’s heard. . . . Obviously it’s different when it’s your child. But she said, ‘I hate that these things happened, and I know people that it’s happened to before. Are you okay?’ She checked on me.”
The star and his mom have been close since childhood, as she was a single mom following her divorce from his father. As for how she processed the information, he says “I guess she’s looking at the end result. She’s like, ‘You seem like a happy person.’ But that’s another reason why I talked about it. Some people that seem happy are not always happy.”
For more on Common’s new book and journey to happiness, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
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