“Recently, John and I got to go to Selma and perform ‘Glory’ on the same bridge Dr. [Martin Luther] King and the people of the civil rights movement marched on 50 years ago,” said Common, 42, whose real name is Lonnie Lynn. “This bridge was once the landmark of a divided nation but now is a symbol for change.”
“Glory,” too, seems to be a symbol for change; the song has swept awards season so far, having also won best song at the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards and best original song at the Golden Globes, among others.
“The spirit of this bridge transcends race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and social status,” Common continued onstage at the Dolby Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center. “The spirit of this bridge connects the kid from the south side of the Chicago dreaming of a better life to those in France standing up for their freedom of expression to the people in Hong Kong protesting for democracy.
“This bridge was built on hope, welded with compassion and elevated with love for all human beings,” Common finished.
As hopeful as Common’s speech was, Legend’s was far more sobering.
“Nina Simone said it’s an artists duty to reflect the times in which we live,” said Legend, 36. “We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that were 50 years ago, but we say that Selma is now, because the struggle for justice is right now. We know that the Voting Rights Act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised now in this country today. Right now the struggle for freedom and justice is real.
“We live in the most incarcerated country in the world,” Legend continued. “There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850.
“When people are marching with our song, we want to tell you we are with you, we see you, we love you, and march on. God bless you.”