Rapper Common calls on Starbucks to do more than talk about recent example of 'how black people have been dehumanized'

The rapper-actor spoke with Starbucks before the company's racial bias training.

May 29, 2018, 10:14 AM

Common is best known for his rapping and acting, but he's now lending his voice – literally – to the recent conversations around the treatment of black people in America.

"Starbucks was just a microcosm of how black people have been dehumanized and I wanted to be a part of that conversation," he said today on "Good Morning America" in reference to the recent incident in which two young black men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks.

The coffee chain is closing more than 8,000 company-owned stores across the country this afternoon to train staff on how to avoid "racial bias" and prevent discrimination.

Common, who’s serving as a voice of narration for the coffee chain's day of training, said it's important to "have a black man standing up and saying what we need."

PHOTO: Common talks to "Good Morning America" about his new movie "The Tale."
Common talks to "Good Morning America" about his new movie "The Tale."
ABC News

The rapper and producer, 46, said he and Starbucks' executive chairman Howard Schultz have had a relationship since police killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.

"After Michael Brown was killed, he [Schultz] was really trying to figure out how to get police and the communities together. And one of the things, one of the initiatives, I worked with him on was getting jobs for people in underserved communities," Common said.

"His heart is in the right place but it has to be more than just the conversation; which I think the conversation today is a step but, for me as a black man, we want to see action and want to see you going to the communities and … team up with people who are doing things in the community and figure out from these communities how can you really serve them.

“We've got to hold Starbucks accountable and we hold our political officials accountable, any businesses that we support and we hold ourselves accountable. So that's why I'm a part of this conversation."

The Emmy, Oscar and three-time Grammy-winner is also staring in a new HBO original movie "The Tale" alongside Laura Dern, who portrays director Jennifer Fox's real-life story.

"The film is very powerful and it's a story of a woman who as a child at 13, was in a relationship with a 40-year-old man, which she considered a relationship but it was child sexual abuse and her coming to grips with that as an adult," Common said. "For me playing her lover and her fiance is really just as a character, as a human being, as a man; I'm there to support her and try to help, as she goes through this healing process."

PHOTO: "The Tale" director Jennifer Fox appears on "Good Morning America" with Common, May 29, 2018.
"The Tale" director Jennifer Fox appears on "Good Morning America" with Common, May 29, 2018.
ABC News

Fox, who also joined "Good Morning America" for the conversation today, said she decided to tell the story based on her life largely because of recent events.

"I just started hearing every second woman had a story of abuse or, frankly, rape and I was shocked, you know, that I was hearing all this and suddenly, as Common said, what I'd always called a relationship did a seismic shift in my mind and realized it was sexual abuse. But I wasn't able to tolerate calling it that as a child," the director explained.

"So the film is really about the stories we tell ourselves to survive and how the mind and memory can be protective to take care of yourself with trauma until you're ready to face it."

As for Common, this role is vastly different from others in his career but he welcomes it, he said.

PHOTO: Common in a scene from "The Tale," 2018.
Common in a scene from "The Tale," 2018.
Kyle Kaplan/HBO

"It's a new role for me but I love it because, as a man, I got to show a loving man that's like, 'OK, this woman is my lady, is healing herself and I'm not trying to, like, lead the way,” he said. “I'm just trying to be there to support her and give her anything I can give her ... I really enjoyed playing that character because usually my characters, I'm shooting somebody in a movie."