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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For the present, it is enough to affirm the equal manhood of the Negro race. Is it not astonishing that, while we are ploughing, planting, and reaping, using all kinds of mechanical tools, erecting houses, constructing bridges, building ships, working in metals of brass, iron, copper, silver and gold; that, while we are reading, writing and ciphering, acting as clerks, merchants and secretaries, having among us lawyers, doctors, ministers, poets, authors, editors, orators and teachers; that, while we are engaged in all manner of enterprises common to other men, digging gold in California, capturing the whale in the Pacific, feeding sheep and cattle on the hill-side, living, moving, acting, thinking, planning, living in families as husbands, wives and children, and, above all, confessing and worshipping the Christian's God, and looking hopefully for life and immortality beyond the grave, we are called upon to prove that we are men!
Frederick Douglass from his 1852 speech "The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro"

While neck-deep in a global pandemic and worldwide protests for Black lives, Americans prepare to recognize 244 years since the colonies created their Declaration of Independence. While we, as Frederick Douglass said in his speech “The Meaning of July Fourth to the Negro”, honor the founders of this country, “for the good they did, and the principles they contended for,” we also must confess that many Americans were willfully left out of it’s proclamations. Douglass asked his audience at Rochester’s Corinthian Hall this searing set of questions regarding the purpose of his invitation to speak on that day:

“What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? and am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to us?”

As the streets of our nation continue to swell with protestors demanding that their lives matter as much as their white counterparts — and that policies in the public and private sector codify this reality — may those of us that believe in the power of the communal sense of belonging consider what The Fourth of July means to our neighbors. What does Independence Day mean to the parolee? What does Independence Day mean to those who are houseless or fearing eviction? What does Independence Day mean to the immigrant day laborer? Read more

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Reclaiming Power Through Collective Ownership

The following article by Audrea Lim for Harper’s Magazine is about a Black farmers’ collective called New Communities, Inc. NCI was started in 1969 by leaders of the Civil Rights Movement in southwest Georgia to help secure economic independence for African American families. In 2016, producer Helen S. Cohen and director Mark Lipman created the documentary film “Arc of Justice: The Rise, Fall, and Rebirth of a Beloved Community” that brings the story of NCI to life on the screen.

Decton Hylton guided his tractor through a grove of pecan trees whose canopy of leaves filtered the sun. As we drove across the 1,638-acre farm near Albany, Georgia, on a scorching day last October, Hylton told me about the nut’s history in the South. In the nineteenth century, he said, an enslaved man known only as Antoine, who worked as a gardener on a Louisiana plantation, was one of the first people to experiment with grafting pecan trees. He was largely responsible for turning the nut into a commercial crop, and the variety he developed is called Centennial. “It’s like an heirloom variety of pecan,” Hylton said. “It’s one of the best.”

Back in Antoine’s day, black farmworkers would have climbed the trees and shaken the branches by hand, flinging the nuts to the ground. Now, Hylton showed me, a machine with rubber-lined arms embraces and shakes the trunks. He imitated how it works, stretching out his arms and convulsing with a smirk on his face. Once the pecans fall to the ground, he said, another mammoth machine vacuums them up.

Hylton hoisted himself back onto his tractor, and we drove beyond the orchard’s shade, past open fields of grass and rows of satsuma orange trees. Hylton, a fifty-nine-year-old Jamaican with dreadlocks and a rolling accent, belongs to a community organization that supports small black-owned farms like this one. Once part of the estate of General Hartwell Hill Tarver, one of Georgia’s wealthiest slave owners, the land was sold in 1912 to the farmers who planted the pecan grove. These days it belongs to New Communities, a black farming cooperative founded in the Sixties that is widely considered to be the country’s first community land trust. Read more

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God Speed The Year of Jubilee by William Lloyd Garrison

William Lloyd Garrison (December 10, 1805 – May 24, 1879), who signed and printed his name Wm. Lloyd Garrison, was a prominent American abolitionist, journalist, suffragist, and social reformer. He is best known for his widely-read anti-slavery newspaper The Liberator, which he founded in 1831 and published in Boston until slavery in the United States was abolished by Constitutional amendment in 1865. He was one of the founders of the American Anti-Slavery Society, and promoted immediate, as opposed to gradual, emancipation of slaves in the United States.

God speed the year of jubilee
The wide world o’er!
When from their galling chains set free,
Th’ oppress’d shall vilely bend the knee,
And wear the yoke of tyranny
Like brutes no more.
That year will come, and freedom’s reign,
To man his plundered rights again
Restore. Read more

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In A Regerative Economy, The Frontlines Take The Lead

The Frontline is a Force – Building Resilient, Regenerative and Equitable Economies from Climate Justice Alliance on Vimeo.

The Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) formed in 2013 to create a new center of gravity in the climate movement by uniting frontline communities and organizations into a formidable force. Our translocal organizing strategy and mobilizing capacity is building a Just Transition away from extractive systems of production, consumption and political oppression, and towards resilient, regenerative and equitable economies. We believe that the process of transition must place race, gender and class at the center of the solutions equation in order to make it a truly Just Transition. Read more

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If 2017 Was A Poem by Mahogany L. Browne

In her poem, “If 2017 was a poem title”, Browne reflects on the Black experience so that you feel stuck in a quagmire of mundane oppression. I am present in every one of the hundred scenes she creates. While she reflects on her hometown of Brooklyn, she weaves in events throughout America’s history that connects us with her experience.

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