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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Nathaniel Mackey’s Long Song

Nataniel Mackey, a Reynolds Price Professor of Creative Writing at Duke University and a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets, understands the intricate weaving of poetry and jazz. His work reflects both loves, and how they come together to create a new story.

Nathaniel Mackey’s Long Song
by Allison Jones

Not many poets can claim a three-decade stint as a DJ. For prize-winning writer Nathaniel Mackey, however, music and writing have always been deeply intertwined. In fact for Mackey, writing often starts with listening.

“Sometimes I will feel a line or phrase as a pulse before I have the words for it, and later I find the words,” Mackey said. Read more

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Cierra Hinton: Journalism, Community, and Power

Common Good Collective had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Cierra Hinton, Executive Director of Scalawag Magazine. We spoke with Cierra about the critical role journalism plays in building community and people power. We have included the inspiration for our conversation below — a speech Cierra gave at a local news conference that challenges the industry to de-center structural power and speak to the power of community.

It’s time we abolish the Fourth Estate
A letter from Scalawag’s Executive Director-Publisher
by Cierra Hinton January 15, 2021

Last week, as we watched white supremacists storm the Capitol, journalists across the country stated their disbelief in what they were seeing—as if journalism did not play a role in growing that chaos.
I’ve been watching The Crown lately. For those unfamiliar, it’s a TV drama that follows the political rivalries and romance of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II, and the events that shaped the second half of the Twentieth Century. For a history-loving millennial like myself, it’s solid entertainment.
Support anti-racist, people-driven Southern media.

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“Art for life’s sake”

“Art for life’s sake,” is how percussionist John Santos describes the jazz tradition and the many African and Indigenous musical traditions that inform it. The work of improvisation is no exercise. It runs much deeper than that. You can hear it in the shouts of a brass section, of the wails of a blues guitar, or the pulsing syncopations of an Afro-Cuban drummer. It is the longing for freedom, and at the same time a process for achieving that freedom, through reliance on a community, through the expression of gifts, through the refusal to be silent.

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When Ornette Coleman and his “free jazz” ethos arrived in New York’s jazz scene in the late 1950’s, he shook up one of the world’s great cultural hubs. He was attempting to throw off the constraints of Western harmonic and rhythmic systems. The results could be dizzying, or cacophonous, or plaintive, or just gorgeous. This track, from the album The Shape of Jazz to Come, captures that still captures that ethic more than 60 years later.

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Jazz meets Social Justice with SFJAZZ

“The western concept of art for art’s sake is something that doesn’t exist in African and Indigenous forms and culture,” explains percussionist John Santos. “The art itself is functional. It’s more like art for life’s sake; there’s always a deeper meaning.” In this post, several musicians seek to unravel how they build musical worlds informed by their political and neighborhood realities, and how they use music to try and alter re-create those worlds around justice and beauty.

A Message Behind the Music: Jazz and Social Justice
by Richard Scheinin

From the beginning, jazz has been a force for social change. You can feel it in the energy of the music, in its urgency, in the wailing of saxophones and in the pronouncements of trumpets – a crying out for justice. At the height of the civil rights movement in 1964, Martin Luther King, Jr., observed how “much of the power of our Freedom Movement in the United States has come from this music. It has strengthened us with its sweet rhythms when courage began to fail. It has calmed us with its rich harmonies when spirits were down.”

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