Common Good Collective


This Reader is an expression of Common Good Collective, a vision for an alternative way, rooted in the act of eliminating economic isolation, the significance of place, and the structure of belonging. Whether you come at this from a place of economics, social good, or faith, we hope these reflections help orient your day in fresh, provocative, courageous ways. And most importantly, we hope these lead you into the sharing of gifts in particular communities—into co-creating a common good.

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Lost Cause, Lost Opportunity

History books are filled with narrow misses. Such was the case in North Carolina, when one white farmer with huge political power missed the opportunity to join a multi-racial movement for democracy. Had he heard the cries of his neighbors, who knows what possibility could have been born?

A lesson from 19th century North Carolina: Lost cause, lost opportunity
By: Greg Jarrell

Sid Alexander had the option to choose against racism. He lived in a crucial moment. He had meaningful power. He had opportunity to break decisively and publicly with a resurgent white supremacy movement. But Sid could not rise to the occasion.

The year was 1888. The memories of Reconstruction were still fresh, although the country had taken numerous steps back toward entrenched white supremacy since those days. Sid had participated in the armed insurrection in defense of slavery and, as a Confederate officer, had paid a small price for his participation. By 1888, he had seen a new chapter in economic exploitation.

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The Work of the People

The religious word “liturgy” means, in its root sense, “the work of the people.” Contra the idea that liturgies are practiced by priests in robes uttering ancient rites, the term more closely points to something participatory. However important the priest or cleric, the liturgies are enacted by the participation of the mass of people who enact them in small and meaningful ways. The most consistent manner of enacting a liturgy is through telling stories. Over the next several weeks, we offer you stories of “pain and possibility” – the voicing of lament, the courage to name the tender places, the boldness to step into a future distinct from the past.

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Nightmares Released, Dreams Held

To live with consciousness is to always know ourselves poised between dreams and nightmares. In this reflection, Josina Guess joins one ancestor, Langston Hughes, and one future ancestor, her daughter, to hold fast to dreams and to release the nightmares.

Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021

The day after a historic Georgia victory and an attempted coup on the U.S. Capitol, I walk into the kitchen in a fog. My youngest daughter, Phoebe, perched at the messy counter, licking peanut butter from her fingers, tells me she needs help understanding a poem in her fifth-grade online class:

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die,
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

This one, by Langston Hughes, I know by heart. I memorized it as a student at Alexander Shepherd Elementary school in Washington, D.C. I’m thankful that it is included in her Georgia public school curriculum. She listens to a recording of him reading “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” while I slice bread, make toast, try not to let my spirit drown. Read more

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Steve McQueen’s Ethos of Generosity

Steve McQueen says that he makes films about rituals. The rituals are ones of everyday people, doing the things that comprise daily life. Through his eyes, daily life captures both the rage of injustice and the hopes of possibility.

Steve McQueen has an eye for the tiniest of details. The British director’s first short film, Bear, depicts how a series of looks exchanged between two men builds into a physical showdown. His debut feature, Hunger, tells the real-life story of an Irish nationalist who died on a hunger strike through jarring bits of minutiae about his physical deterioration. And though McQueen’s Oscar-winning 12 Years a Slave has a broader scope, adapting Solomon Northup’s memoir of enslavement, the film’s most indelible scenes are the ones that bear silent witness. At one point, Northup is hanged from a tree and survives only by stretching his toes to the ground; McQueen’s camera shows life going on around him, with people doing their chores in the background of a ghastly tableau. Even when making a Hollywood blockbuster—his last film was the heist thriller Widows—McQueen can coax powerful political commentary from a banal sequence.

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Stalling ‘Til Another Sleep…

“Were we ever one tribe?” the poet Jacob Melvin asks. This question of lament gets at the reckoning upon communities around the country right now. It calls for telling stories of the ways our communities have been broken, have sometimes done the breaking, and for imagining how we might leap together toward wholeness.

Stalling ‘Til Another Sleep, Standing For Another Leap

By Jacob “Seven Feet” Melvin

Now I know no one knows who decides wars.
We can pick sides and pack up our mortars.
With all the gunpowder ground from foreigners,
Armed with less than enough to feed their daughters.

We can point fingers and pin tails on animals meant for slaughter.
Crying out that we are the fairer, freer, former.
Constantly touting false flags of honor.
This the harbinger of a New World Order.
A pall bearer for the world’s disorder.
The restorer of pieces of peace.
Fragmented by the very greed that we feast.

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