For the next three months, we at Common Good Collective will be reflecting on those in the United States, and around the world, who have dedicated their lives to the liberation of all. Brave people from every race, ethnicity, gender, orientation, and ability have struggled to obtain the freedoms we enjoy today, and they continue to do so. We draw inspiration from their lives and stories. We also join the struggle, in small and large ways, knowing that great change only happens by the power of the collective.
Among the many creatives, thinkers, and other heroic figures that have transitioned this winter is the incomparable bell hooks. hooks was a love evangelist, preaching the iron-clad beauty of compassion in the form of poetry and prose. Below is a gorgeous dedication to her home state and community of Kentucky.
Appalachian Elegy (Sections 1-6)
By bell hooks
hear them cry
the long dead
the long gone
speak to us
from beyond the grave
that we may learn
all the ways
to hold tender this land
hard clay direct
rock upon rock
strong green growth
will rise here
trees back to life
pushing the fragrance of hope
the promise of resurrection
Journalism is a powerful tool in the American Experiment. When used for ill, there are catastrophic consequences. Yet, many times, our fiercest liberators reside in the newsroom. Louis Lomax is one such man that writer Thomas Aiello has brought out of obscurity to shed light on the trials and tribulations of those who wielded the power of the pen for the common good.
The Journalist and the Movement: On The Life and Times of Louis Lomax
By Elias Rodriques
There was a time when journalists played some of the most consequential supporting roles in histories of the Civil Rights Movement. Consider the often-told story of the Voting Rights Act: On March 7, 1965, six hundred protesters demonstrated for the right to vote in Selma, Alabama. Local and state police assaulted them. Journalists photographed and videotaped the cops’ attacks, broadcasting their brutality to the nation. After seeing the footage, then President Lyndon B. Johnson convened a special session of Congress to urge the representatives to pass the Voting Rights Act, which they did that summer. In this canonical narrative, the protestors may be the protagonist, but journalists play a pivotal role. Their heroic documenting, the story goes, made possible the federal government’s intervention in defending the right to vote.
As we explore the work of liberation in American and throughout the world, it is only right that we start with one of the earliest American liberators: President Abraham Lincoln. In this thoughtful post, friend and theologian Walter Brueggemann looks to the accomplishments of Lincoln to illuminate Psalm 72:1-4 and 12-14 and this important question: what is the role of the government?
The Role of Government
By Walter Brueggemann
Give the king our justice, O God,
and righteousness to a king’s son.
May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice.
May the mountains yield prosperity for the people,
and the hills, in righteousness.
May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the needy,
and crush the oppressor…
For he delivers the needy when they call,
the poor and those who have no helper.
He has pity on the weak and needy,
and saves the lives of the needy.
From oppression and violence he redeems their life;
and precious is their blood in his sight (Psalm 72:1-4, 12-14).
If you, dear reader, skipped over the biblical text cited above in order to get to this exposition, please go back and pay close attention to those verses. These remarkable verses are a part of a Psalm that was likely read (or performed) at high occasions of royal liturgy. It is an articulation of the deepest claims of neighborly covenant to which the king (the government!) was answerable. If we notice the other verses of this Psalm, it becomes clear that the prosperity, abundance, and wellbeing of the regime depended upon attentiveness to the most vulnerable neighbors. This claim intends to contradict any illusion the king might entertain that his prosperity and wellbeing depended otherwise upon the amassing of wealth, power, arms, or wisdom.
This week, we hear from an introvert who finds support and happiness through multi-generational living. We hear a song from a property manager who awaken to the cruelty of his industry. And we hear from many poets about the experience of homesickness, isolation, exile, and the words that bring them closer to home. We hope these pieces do the same for you.
By Devin Bustin