Common join NYC leaders, students to paint Juneteenth mural at elementary school in Queens

ELMHURST, Queens (WABC) -- Emmy and Grammy-winning actor and rapper Common joined New York City leaders and students to commemorate Juneteenth at a middle school Monday.

Common, who is also an artist, author and activist and who founded the Common Ground Foundation, was at the Forte Prep Academy in Queens to help paint a Juneteenth mural.

It was a special moment for all involved, as Common joined the students in a rendition of his song, "Glory."

"We have been dealing with a lot of conflict," Common said. "We need healing, and the healing starts with us acknowledging the things that have happened in our country."

Known for his moving and thought provoking lyrics, Common is hoping to inspire the next generation of leaders through art.

"If I didn't have art, I don't know where I would be in my life," he said.

The academy partnered with Common and the Walton Family Foundation, an organization that aims to improve education, to host the day of service.

"We partnered with a muralist, Danielle, and she developed this beautiful mural anchored on the quote by Toni Morrison, 'The function of freedom is to free someone else,'" school founder and Executive Director Graham Browne said. "We believe each person has a responsibility to lift up the next person."

The students were glad to participate.

"A lot of people don't know what Juneteenth is," one said. "And I feel like if people knew what Juneteenth was, it would be a bigger celebration."

And to have a voice like Common alongside them meant the world to them.

The mural now shines in the second floor cafeteria.

Walton Family Foundation Executive Director Caryl Stern and Education Program Director Romy Drucker were also on hand for the event.

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Celebrations in New York City and across the country will commemorate Juneteenth, the day in 1865 that enslaved African Americans in Galveston, Texas learned they were free. Johny Fernandez has more.

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