"Not a common experience"
This past September, I went to D.C.'s historic Lincoln Theater for an event, which honored Common with the Paul Robeson "Here I Stand" award. The event was presented by The Hung Tao Choy Mei Leadership Institute (HTCMLI).
I had high hopes to meet Common and get his memoir, One Day It'll All Make Sense, signed. Months prior to that evening, I completed the book in its entirety. I genuinely enjoyed the book. It was such a good read. Common poured a lot of himself into this book. I could feel that it was personal and that it wasn't easy giving out specifics about his private life, family, friends, career and so on.
Okay, about this story: There was a tornado watch that evening, it changed the course of the event. Common's plane flight to D.C. had been delayed. The show started on time at 6:30 p.m. and didn't end until something past 10:00p.m. In the meantime, astounding performances were put on by: The Malcolm X Drummers and Dancers, Hung Tao Choy Mei Lucky Dragons, Ivy Rose, Wrhatanla U.S.A., Dragon Princess Olivia Zhang, Urban Artistry and Kavon Ward, an award winning poet.
They all graced the stage before Common's arrival. Common did an on stage interview with Mr. Abdur-Rahim Muhammad, President of HTCMLI, for seventy five minutes. Once the interview was over, Mr. Abdur-Rahim Muhammad awarded Common. Common stood center stage momentarily, so that people could take photos of him. Afterwards, he made his last remarks, thanks, and well wishes. That's when it hit me, I saw an opportunity.
I waved my book at Common and shouted his name. I pointed to my book with a marker. Common spotted me, he knew I wanted him to sign the book. So, he motioned for me to meet him backstage. I was in awe. As I was about to make my way over to the stage door, it was closed shut before I could reach it. So I did what I had to do. I climbed up three stairs, which led to the stage, and cut through a curtain. There was so much going on backstage. It was hectic. At my arrival I was approached by Lincoln Theater personnel and asked to leave.
Everything changed when I told the personnel, that Common specifically told me to come backstage. In the midst of all of this Common saw me and spoke up for me. He backed me up, so did his agent and his assistant. They really looked out for me, they told the personnel that I was with them. I felt the sincerity. All types of excitement rushed throughout my body. By now I'm just waiting until after Common meets and takes photos with the performers. I was nervous. I kept asking Common's agent, to reassure me, that I would get to meet Common and have my book signed. No matter how antsy I was Common and his people were patient and level headed. They understood that I was excited. I was already backstage. What more was there to ask for, right?
Actually, Common asked if anyone had a marker before he began to sign autographs. I was the only person with a marker for a good minute, but the only thing was that it was purple. It was only acceptable for a short while. I let Common borrow my marker, he signed a couple of autographs with it, before he received a black sharpie. When the time came Common's agent and assistant motioned for me to meet Common. I asked Common's agent to take a photo of us together and he did. I was caught in the moment. Anytime I meet someone or people I admire for the first time, it's like I slip into shock. As Common, his assistant, and I flipped open the book we saw what was partially shown. It read, "Francies Stephenson 2012". I had written that in the book months ago.
But all that could only be seen was the year 2012. Common then jokingly asked, "What's that a number?" And again, all three of us took a closer look. We flipped back the book flap. Then Common said, "Oh, I thought that was a number." He saw my name and the year written. Common must've thought I was trying to drop digits on him. Well, when it came time for us to part, I thanked so many people. I thanked the personnel who asked me to leave. Yes, because, it was only a misunderstanding. I thanked people around me, who had acknowledged me. I thanked Common, his agent, and his assistant.
When I got home later that evening, I posted photos from the event on my Facebook page with well detailed captions. One of my friends commented on the photo, of Common and me, and wrote "Not a common experience. Yay." The comment stuck with me. It was inspiration for the title of my blog post.
Here's a link to my photos from the event: http://franciesstephenson.wix.com/handwritten#!gallery/cdrq