In a new memoir, rapper and actor Common details how working on a Narberth-born filmmaker’s HBO film helped him uncover memories of being molested as a child.
As Common explains in the book, Let Love Have the Last Word, he was not consciously aware of the incident until about two years ago. At the time, he was working on a scene for Narberth native Jennifer Fox’s The Tale with star Laura Dern.
Released by HBO last year, The Tale examines the circumstances of Fox’s first sexual experience, which the veteran documentary filmmaker, 59, says happened with a much older man when she was 13. It was not until later in life that she was able to perceive this experience as non-consensual. “Talking through the script,” Common writes in his memoir, caused “old memories” of the molestation to come to mind.
“I caught my breath and just kept looping the memories over and over, like rewinding an old VHS tape,” Common writes in the memoir. “I said, ‘Laura, I think I was abused.’”
Common, 47, goes on to explain that his molestation occurred when he was about 9 or 10 years old while he was growing up in his hometown of Chicago. At the time of the alleged abuse, he was on a trip to his aunt’s home in Cleveland, and was made to sleep in a bed with a relative of his godbrother’s, whom he refers to as Brandon.
“At some point I felt Brandon’s hand on me. I pushed him away. I don’t remember saying a whole lot besides “No, no no,’” Common writes. He later adds that “I felt a deep and sudden shame for what happened.”
In order to cope with the abuse, Common writes that he “buried” the memory of the incident and “pushed the whole thing out of my head.” Prior to the release of Let Love Have the Last Word, he had not spoken about the incident, but says he has forgiven his accused abuser.
“I want to be a person who helps break cycles of violence,” Common writes. “This is love in action and I intend to practice it.”
As Fox told Inquirer television critic Ellen Gray last year, her experience with abuse was similarly difficult to discuss. Ordinarily a documentarian, Fox retold her story with HBO as a work of fiction.
“Because no one would ever talk. There’s no evidence. And also what the film really about is memory, and the construction of self. And that’s all imagination,” Fox said. “So I never, ever thought of making this a documentary.”
However, with the rise of the #MeToo movement and “what happened with [disgraced film executive] Harvey Weinstein,” who has faced allegations of abuse from dozens of women, in 2017, Fox said she felt “people were ready to have a deeper conversation about abuse."
“When they saw The Tale, they said, ‘This is tough, but we have to talk tough,’” Fox said. “A year before, I think it would be, ‘I think this is too tough.’”