WATCH: Behind the Scenes of the New Music Video “Come Together”

Can we find the inspiration to move past our country’s division? In this virtual discussion, former Christian Science Monitor politics editor Gail Russell Chaddock talks with Common Ground Committee co-founder Bruce Bond and musicians Adam Gussow and Rod Patterson about how a musical collaboration is inviting listeners to think differently and find hope for the future.

Learn more about the making of “Come Together,” a music video produced by Common Ground Committee and Sir Rod & The Blues Doctors that issues a rousing call to open our ears and our hearts – whether we wear red, or we wear blue.

Read the backstory: How a journey started in 1986 by a Black blues musician and a white Ivy League graduate continues to bridge divides.

Watch now to find out what inspired the music, enjoy a not-to-be-missed impromptu jam session, and see how we can each play a role in healing conflict, upholding the ideal of respect, discovering shared purpose and finding common ground.

Satan and Adam [Corey Pearson]

Come Together: A Musical Journey Bridges Divides

In 1986, a Black blues artist and a white Ivy League graduate made history. Today, their music lives on through a new generation – and has sparked a new call for hope & unity.

This spring, in the midst of the unfolding coronavirus crisis and national protests over police brutality and racial inequity, Common Ground Committee co-founder Bruce Bond opened his inbox to a message from his old college roommate, Adam Gussow.

Gussow, a well-known musician on the blues scene, had just gotten out of the studio after recording a new album by Sir Rod & The Blues Doctors. Its title song, “Come Together,” spoke to the mission of healing polarization in America. His offer: would Common Ground Committee like to use the music as an inspirational message to followers?

The answer, of course, would turn out to be yes. As a musician himself, Bond recognized the power of music to touch people’s souls. And as a friend watching Gussow’s life-changing odyssey through the blues, he had seen firsthand that it can be a truly transformational force.

Satan & Adam: an unlikely pair becomes a force in the blues world

When Bond and Gussow first met as students at Princeton University in the late 1970s, Bond couldn’t have predicted that Gussow would become an internationally recognized blues harmonica player.

“I had him pegged as a professor,” says Bond, recalling that Gussow was into literature. “He was always a very good thinker, and a very good writer.”

Bond and Gussow did, however, share an interest in playing the guitar. Eventually, they joined a pair of other students to rent an off-campus apartment; a maverick move, in those days. Although he had played blues harmonica back in high school, Gussow had gained a reputation as a funk guitar player for Spiral, a band Bond calls “the best jazz band on campus.”

It was later, in 1986, that a chance meeting changed the trajectory of Gussow’s life. By then, having dropped out of grad school at Columbia, Gussow was tutoring at Hostos Community College in the South Bronx. He had also started playing the harmonica again in the aftermath of a bad breakup. Gussow was wandering the city with his harp in his pocket when, busking on a Harlem sidewalk, he saw an older musician at work whose voice was reminiscent of the raw power of Muddy Waters, and his mastery of the guitar effortless.

In a city then brewing with racial tension, on a block just down from the Apollo Theatre, there were no white faces to be seen. But Gussow had to stop and listen to “Mr. Satan.” After a bit, he pulled his harmonica out of his pocket and asked if he could play along.

After Gussow’s promise that he wouldn’t embarrass him, Satan agreed. Soon, they found a natural groove together. Gussow asked if he could come back again the next day – and kept coming back.

Satan and Adam [Corey Pearson]

Satan and Adam: Adam Gussow with Sterling Magee on the streets of Harlem in the 1980s

It took some time to discover who Mr. Satan really was: a virtuoso of the 1960s music scene, Sterling Magee. Originally from Mississippi, Magee was a natural guitar prodigy who had recorded with Marvin Gaye, Etta James and more, as well as writing songs.

Despite his talent, Magee had failed to reach stardom himself. Suppression by record labels and unfair compensation for Black artists convinced him to leave the industry; and, by the 1980s, he had reinvented himself as a one-man band and street prophet, playing on the Harlem streets for “his people.”

Enthralled by Magee’s hard, deep blues, Gussow committed himself to the duo. For his part, Magee recognized the harmonica and the unlikely pairing of the two musicians on the streets of Harlem made the act a greater success. Inevitably, a white Jewish Ivy League student & black Misississippi blues man playing music in the streets began to attract attention. Documentary makers began filming footage of their story. Perhaps their biggest break came in 1987 when the Irish band U2 saw them playing in the streets and included a 30-second clip of Magee’s song “Freedom for My People” on their Rattle & Hum album.

By 1990, with the release of their first demo cassette, they officially became Satan & Adam, a musical duo who would help shape the New York blues renaissance of the 1990s. It was the beginning of what felt like a meteoric rise. Satan & Adam started getting bigger bookings for bigger crowds. They recorded several albums and began touring internationally.

That came to a halt in 1998 when Magee, who had moved South with his wife, disappeared. It would take years for filmmakers to track him down again. After suffering a nervous breakdown, and eventually a stroke, Magee had lost his ability to play guitar and had entered a nursing home.

For Gussow, who still recalled the master musician who was his blues apprentice and idol, his first visit to Magee in the nursing home was both shocking and saddening. Yet that was not to be the end of the music.

Satan and Adam: Sterling Magee and Adam Gussow on a festival stage, 2012

A staff member at Magee’s nursing home, after discovering Magee’s story on the internet, invited a local blues musician to come in and play. Immediately, the music brought Magee to life. After a few visits, he took the guitar off his wall and began strumming along – and with every session, he was restored.

Before long, Gussow and Magee reunited and the unlikely duo was playing gigs again. From local bars to the New Orleans Jazz Festival, Satan & Adam played a second verse in their act, recording several albums and touring.

Their remarkable journey has been captured by Gussow, who, as a Professor of English and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi, has written several books about the history of the blues and their story as “blues survivors.”

And, after decades in the making, filmmakers released the documentary Satan & Adam through Netflix in 2019. Gussow often hears from people that the film made them cry, and he has his own theory on what brings the tears.

“The concept of ‘beloved community’ was a civil rights dream in the era of Martin Luther King, Jr.,” says Gussow. “For a variety of reasons, that dream went away. But I think seeing the story of us making music together reminds people what’s possible.”

A new generation reprises the music

This remarkable second act was, once again, not the end of the story. In the summer of 2019, Magee’s nephew Rod Patterson watched the documentary Satan & Adam and realized both he and Gussow had learned the blues from Magee.

Patterson’s mother, Ollie Mae, was Magee’s sister. Before moving to Harlem and pairing up with Gussow, Magee had spent some time living with the family. As a young boy, Patterson’s first exposure to live music was watching his uncle play guitar and sing in Ollie Mae’s living room.

“He would jam in the living room, and it made a big impression on me,” recalls Patterson. “I remember him smiling while performing.”

Patterson himself has experimented with many art forms over the years. As a teen, inspired by Michael Jackson, he fell in love with dance and beat hundreds of other performers at his first dance competition at age 15. As an adult, he built on his love of dance and music to engage students with an anti-bullying message he brought into Atlanta schools, preventing several teens from committing suicide. And as a graphic designer, he worked on the music scene and began to explore photography.

For most of his life, however, Patterson’s most intense vocal performances had been reserved for karaoke Motown tunes after a long day of work – truth be told, he says with a laugh, a habit not strongly encouraged by his wife.

That changed one day when Patterson was taking photos at a nursing home full of Black residents, where a performer was singing John Denver songs to polite acclaim. Patterson, invited to take his turn at the mic, pulled up a Sam Cooke karaoke number on his phone. Suddenly, the audience came to life.

“It went from a sleepy affair to a full-fledged celebration,” he remembers.

When doctors and nurses started coming out to listen to the number, both Patterson and the management realized his vocal performances had real star appeal. Administrators asked him to come back, and began sending him out to sing at other nursing homes.

Along the way, Patterson saw for himself how powerful music can be as a healing force. Once, after singing to a woman with dementia and touching her hand, her aide excitedly reported that for the first time in years the woman was responsive.

“Miss Agnes came back!” she told Patterson.

It was a few years later that Patterson, singing along to some recordings of his uncle’s music, found his voice twinning with Magee’s.

“That was the first time I thought, ‘I think I could sing his stuff,’” Patterson recalls.

Moving to the blues began to seem like the next step. In November 2019, after seeing the Satan & Adam documentary, Patterson emailed Gussow to explore performing some of Magee’s music together.

“It’s a shame that his music has to stop,” says Patterson. “I don’t want to take over the music, but I do want to pay tribute to it.”

Sir Rod & The Blues Doctors: (left to right) Adam Gussow, Rod Patterson & Alan Gross

Together, Gussow and Patterson devised a plan for Patterson to travel to Oxford, Mississippi in February 2020 and record a demo album of Satan & Adam tunes with Gussow’s current band, The Blues Doctors.

Knowing it’s not always easy for a new artist to jump in with band musicians, Gussow wasn’t sure the sessions would be a success. But Patterson fit right in – in more ways than one. On a personal level, Gussow and Patterson shared similar recollections of Magee’s habits and philosophy on the blues.

“As we started talking, we realized we often had the same story,” recalls Gussow.

Musically, too, things quickly fell into place. On his first day in the studio, Patterson recorded six to eight songs with The Blues Doctors.

“It was uncanny – familiar and strange at the same time,” says Gussow. “We knew an act had been born.”

A rallying call for hope and humanity

While the plan was to stick to material from the Satan & Adam songbook, at the eleventh hour, a new song was born that both Patterson and Gussow immediately saw held special power.

In 2017, in a band “woodshed session,” The Blues Doctors recorded an instrumental track called “Yes We Do.” A euphoric blues rock song that strayed into jam band territory, Gussow realized the music was striking a chord with The Blues Doctor’s YouTube following.

At 4 PM the day before he was scheduled to drive to Mississippi for the final recording session, Patterson opened his email to find a message from Gussow inviting him to check out the tune and possibly write some lyrics. With so little time left in the studio, Patterson’s first reaction was to hope he wouldn’t like the music.

That was not to be.

“The second I clicked on it, I fell in love,” Patterson recalls. “It spoke to my soul.”

Inspired by the hippie vibe of Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart,” he poured out a set of lyrics with a rousing call to overcome difference, see the humanity in others and unite to make positive change.

“I love people, and I hate division,” says Patterson, of the song. “We need to come together. We have bigger fish to fry than this black & white thing.”

Written in mid-February, Patterson’s lyrics were penned at a time when COVID-19 was not yet an American crisis and the killing of George Floyd, on the heels of other incidents of racial violence, had not yet sparked nationwide demonstrations and friction. Just a few weeks later, the music would seem even more prescient.

“It’s prophetic,” says Gussow. “It speaks to where we are today, with this pandemic and also the virus of racism.”

Knowing Bond to be a fellow musician, and appreciating the work Common Ground Committee is doing to overcome division and move toward progress, it was a natural inspiration for Gussow to reach out with an offer to share the song and its message of hope.

“We so much need organizations like Common Ground Committee that speak to the liberal center,” says Gussow. “We need to do something to heal the polarization in this country. Like the song says, ‘You wear red, I wear blue. We’ve got to heal our vision.’”

For his part, Bond recognizes in Gussow the essence of what it means to be a Common Grounder.

“He is constantly checking the way he thinks about things, and seeking to understand rather than demonize,” says Bond.

In the words of “Come Together,” Bond hears a message that is spot on. It was a natural fit to put together a video that marries the song’s stirring music and lyrics with imagery of Common Ground Committee guests – including some of today’s luminaries in the world of politics, foreign policy and more – finding agreement on some of today’s most divisive issues.

“Coming together is what we need to do in this country, and the lyrics are exactly what we preach,” Bond says.” Open your eyes, and open your heart. It takes real humility, a willingness to be vulnerable and to listen to what others have to say.”

Watch: Adam Gussow and Rod Patterson talk with Common Ground Committee about the making of “Come Together” and how we can all play a role in healing conflict. 

At a time when people are missing the connection of live performances and surrounded by division among neighbors, Bond hopes the song will leave listeners with a renewed sense of joy and possibility.

“The world is in need of hope, and there’s reason to have hope,” says Bond. “At our forums, we are seeing people put aside their differences and work together. So we hope the spirit of this song and video will remind people what’s possible. You know, when you see Condi Rice and John Kerry laughing together and agreeing on things, it makes you stop and think.”

For Gussow and Patterson, amongst the joy of renewing the magic of Satan & Adam and creating new art that speaks to what the nation needs, there is a bittersweet note.

Magee, now 84 years old, hasn’t yet heard “Come Together.” Last week, he was admitted to intensive care with a diagnosis of coronavirus. While he can’t receive visitors, they are hoping a kind nurse and the power of technology will let him hear the album and how his nephew is carrying on his legacy.

And with the power of music…who knows?

UPDATE: Since this story was written, Sterling Magee has recovered from coronavirus and has been discharged from the hospital. As Gussow says…you can’t kill Mr. Satan.

WATCH: Donna Brazile and Michael Steele on Race and Governance

In April 2018, eight months after white supremacist protests in the city ended in tragedy, Donna Brazile and Michael Steele came together in Charlottesville for a Common Ground Committee forum. As the first Black chairs of the Democratic National Committee and Republican National Committee, respectively, their views represented different ends of the political spectrum. But in tackling essential questions of race and governance, they found many points of agreement.

On Dealing With Hate Speech

On the Role of Policing in Communities

On Profiling as a Law Enforcement Tool

Navigating these questions is more important than ever to move our country forward. And Brazile and Steele’s discussion remains a master class in the art of making connections through personal stories and listening to understand, so we can find a common path to progress in this polarized time.

Want to Help Heal Racial Inequity? Start With These 5 Questions

Our series of monthly actions invite Common Grounders to bring light, not heat, to the work of leading progress on America’s most pressing issues. This month: reach out to a local leader to ask how their organization is addressing racial justice and equity – and how you can help.

July 2020 Action: Talk to a Local Leader About Race & Equity

As protests for racial justice and equity continue across the nation, how is our own community leading change? To move beyond the status quo, citizens need to be at the forefront of calling for progress. And to become an effective force for transformation in our own neighborhoods, the first step is listening to understand.

This month, reach out to ask one local leader how their organization is taking action to address racism in this moment of crisis and opportunity.

5 questions to spur action & gain insight

Asking local leaders what they are doing to address racism demonstrates a desire for action in the the community, while giving you valuable insights on how to serve as a more effective advocate. Here are five questions to help start the conversation:

  1. What is your organization’s stance on racial justice and equity, and the current protests?
  2. How has this been communicated to the public and discussed with your team?
  3. How is your organization taking steps to support people of color in our community during this difficult time?
  4. How are people of color represented in leadership roles at your organization?
  5. What action can I take to help your organization move this issue forward?

Making connections to influence change

Race is entwined through all aspects of our society. And leaders across all sectors can play a role in influencing change – from educating and legislating, to innovating and networking.

Consider reaching out to a leader in a sector where you can offer valuable insights, or where you feel passionate about the opportunity to make progress. Leaders who are positioned to influence change can include:

  • Chief of Police
  • Mayor or Town Supervisor
  • State representative
  • School or university administrator  
  • Local business leader
  • Pastor or faith leader

Reaching out to board chairs and board members can help ensure your communication is considered at an organizational level.

And, don’t forget the critical piece of asking for the opportunity to connect and talk personally about your inquiry. One-on-one conversation is the best path to find common ground and opportunities to take action. Be prepared to learn about other perspectives and experiences, and to ask questions to clarify rather than assuming you know the other person’s intentions.

No matter who you are or where you live, your voice and participation is vital to help heal racial tension and inequities. Let’s start by reaching out – and listening to understand – in our own communities.

Black Lives Matter: 5 Tips For Holding Better Conversations on Racial Justice

Our series of monthly actions invite Common Grounders to bring light, not heat, to the work of leading progress on America’s most pressing issues. This month: commit to holding a conversation on the importance of making progress toward racial justice.

June 2020 Action: Hold a Conversation on Racial Justice

In this watershed moment for modern civil rights, support for the Black Lives Matter movement has reached new levels and opened up an opportunity for lasting change. Achieving such change will require many engaged citizens – especially white allies – to boldly acknowledge the need for progress, and bring light not heat to the national exploration of a common path forward.

This month, commit to taking action by holding at least one conversation about racial justice with a friend, neighbor or family member. Much of the work of holding a productive discussion happens before we start talking. Here are five quick tips to help prepare you for a better conversation.

1.) Get comfortable with being uncomfortable

Our country’s painful history of racial injustice and varying world views we all bring to the table can make conversations on race emotionally fraught. Fear of “saying something wrong” also dissuades many from engaging in conversations on race. Be prepared for moments of discomfort, and stay committed to the importance of continuing to talk about the issues.

2.) Prepare by doing your own work.

We all bring personal experiences and opinions to conversations on race. Take some time to reflect and identify your own biases, and how your assumptions have been shaped by education and personal experiences. Explore, too, how these experiences may vary for people of color. Get started with the Race and Ethnicity series from our partner, Living Room Conversations.

3.) Reframe your end goal.

One essential key to holding a more productive conversation? Let go of the end goal of winning an argument. Instead, focus on making progress toward solutions. Seek areas of common ground using a “let’s work it out” attitude.

4.) Listen to understand.

Each person brings unique concerns, hopes and fears to conversations on race. Some may fear the police; others may fear defunding the police. Some may be focused on social justice; others on law and order. Active listening to understand motivations and intentions – and to show that you hear and acknowledge those concerns – is the first step to create an opportunity for solutions to be considered.

5.) Seek common ground, but don’t compromise principles.

Be prepared to be flexible in your conversations and work to find an approach that addresses the concerns of all parties. But don’t feel obligated to go along with something that violates your principles. Finding common ground isn’t about “being nice” or losing values. It’s about holding conversations that lead to understanding.

Individual Action is Needed to Improve Race Relations in America. I Should Know.

In this piece written for Newsweek, Common Ground Committee panelist and podcast guest Dr. Brian Williams talks about why he has committed to stepping out of his comfort zone to talk about race, and the first step we all must take to help heal racial injustices.


by Brian Williams, M.D.

In numb silence, I watched footage of protests in Minneapolis escalating to violence. Another Black man dead, another cop on video, and a city ablaze. Mentally replaying a prior tragedy, I was worried because I have a perspective on the death of George Floyd unlike anyone else. 

Just four years ago, there were nationwide protests against police brutality after the death of Philandro Castile, less than six miles from where Mr. Floyd was killed. The protest in Dallas, TX, on July 7, 2016 turned deadly. I am the trauma surgeon who cared for seven of the twelve ambushed police officers. It was the only time in my career I crumbled to the floor crying about strangers I could not save. The shooter was Black. I am Black. His targets, my patients, were cops. 

At a press conference days later, my public display of empathy for the murdered officers struck a nerve. Some called me a traitor to my race. A retired police chief said I should not be allowed to treat white people. Both saw the same video clip but came to disparate conclusions about my role as a Black man in that tragedy. 

Over the next year I struggled with that role. I wanted to regain a sense of normalcy. At the same time I felt I could do more. One opportunity came when the Mayor of Dallas appointed me to become Chair of the Citizens Police Review Board.

Education Brings Impact

As Chair of the Board, I learned about 21st Century Policing and community outreach. About police procedures and civil rights. About politics and public safety. And how some communities celebrated the police as protectors while others, a few miles away, reviled them as killers. But my most important lesson was about people – those who wore the uniform and those who did not. 

A turning point for me came when I spoke at a Common Ground Committee event about race, violence and medicine. I didn’t go in to change people’s minds, just to share my experience and hopefully inspire some to action. I remember sitting down in that intimate setting, in a room full of attentive white people with eyes locked on me, wondering how it would go. I received very thoughtful questions. Some people came up to me after the event, and even had tears in their eyes. I realized I could have an impact. 

In order to have impact, I chose to step out of my zone of comfort and safety to speak out. I focus on my singular goal: eliminating systemic racism and its deadly consequences. It is not a zero-sum game. It is about service to humanity. In order to move forward, we need to understand each other. That requires the courage to share our experiences, biases, and expectations. 

As cities enter another week of protests, I again field questions. I understand the anger and frustration because it dwells within me, continually bubbling to the surface. So I answer, without reservation, that I know exactly how they feel. Yet I remain hopeful that we may be at the tipping point I expected in 1991, when Rodney King was beaten by police.

The collective outcry of individual Americans makes the response this time feel different. Across the board, from the left and the right, individuals condemn the actions of the police officers who caused George Floyd’s death. President Trump said “it was a terrible thing. It should never have happened”, while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi described it as “a murder right before our eyes”. Chiefs of police across the country, from Minneapolis to Honolulu, have explicitly said that this was wrong and should not have happened. All four officers involved have now been arrested and charged.

Finding Common Ground

But there also needs to be a change at the cultural level, and for that to happen individuals must listen to others’ experiences. I’m the only Black person in my neighborhood, so if I’m going to walk in my neighborhood I always take my dog, a golden doodle. I’m intentional about this. I assume a Black man walking a dog is less threatening than a Black man walking alone.

In We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For, Peter Levine demonstrated that 3.5% of a population must take action to achieve social change. In America, that means between 11 and 12 million of us must act. Listening is not enough. We need action.

Once we understand the experiences of those who are not like us, we must work to build a culture in which all police officers do what an officer did in Seattle on May 30th: force other officers to stop violent arrest tactics, like putting their knee on a person’s neck. Likewise, while anger is understandable, many rightfully angry protesters still stood in the way of violence and looting, like the young men in this viral TikTok video.

Start by listening, introspection, and education to understand your biases about race. Then take action. Even small acts can have tremendous impact. Extraordinary times require action from ordinary people. Anyone can make a difference, and that person can be you.

Dr. Brian Williams is the immediate past-Chair of the City of Dallas Citizens Police Review Board and an Associate Professor of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery at the University of Chicago.

 

– This article was published in Newsweek on June 15, 2020.

Introducing Our New Podcast: Let’s Find Common Ground

In these unprecedented times of crisis and division, can we find a healing path for moving forward? If you haven’t yet tuned in, check out our new podcast Let’s Find Common Ground to explore how we can seek points of agreement and make progress on critical and timely issues. Our hosts talk with smart thinkers with different points of view to examine ways we can bring light, not heat, to issues that matter including:

  • What racism means to two of our distinguished guests: professor, community activist and lawyer Ilyasah Shabazz, and trauma care surgeon Brian Williams, MD
  • How we can effectively dismantle racism with Daryl Davis, a Black musician and race reconciliator who helped more than 200 KKK members renounce their ideology.
  • What history can teach us about creative strategies for emerging from a global pandemic with Admiral James Stavridis, (Ret.).
  • How we can all rise to the challenge of a shared national sacrifice with Dr. Paul C. Light, Professor of Public Service.
  • How emerging models of leadership in times of crisis hold lessons for America’s future with General Wesley K. Clark, (Ret.).
  • How we can save both lives and the economy with Jared Bernstein, economic advisor to Vice President Joe Biden, and Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

With society’s future in the balance, come along as we shine a light on how to solve the challenges of incivility and polarization. Subscribe now to get new episodes as they are released, and hear from top leaders in policy, finance, academe and more as they provide illuminating insights on today’s most vital issues.

Subscribe to the Podcast

  
Listen on Google Podcasts

What Good Looks Like, Part 3: Sharing Messages of Hope & Caring

By Erik Olsen, Co-Founder

At Common Ground Committee, one of our objectives is to show what good looks like. As we navigate our way through a global pandemic that is impacting our economy, healthcare system and social structures, we’ve been heartened to hear how leaders and everyday citizens are showing kindness and thinking of neighbors.

Thank you for sharing your experiences and observations of how people are caring for others. During this uncertain time, your stories are bringing hope, inspiring others to reach out to those in need, and showing the world we are #InThisTogether.


What Good Looks Like During COVID-19

Taking Care of Neighbors in Need
I need to take my 14-year old cat, Miss Hissy, to the vet to see if the new diet she’s been on for the past three months has helped deal with kidney and thyroid issues. The vet is now only allowing “curbside” drop-off of pets – they’ll come out and get them, but won’t allow owners inside. Then they bring the animal out when they’re done. Which is fine if you have a car…since I don’t, I was planning on getting a cab and just having it wait for the time it takes for the exam. ThenI was told that our building’s “neighbor to neighbor” volunteer service had found a volunteer who would drive me down then and wait with me. The coordinator said that when they found out the need, there were several people who stepped up to see what they could do to help. At least that’s one less worry. ~ Boston, MA

Sharing a Smile
I wasn’t wearing a mask while out and about, and I saw another woman not wearing a mask (both of us maintaining social distance). She commented that it was so nice to see a smile! ~ New Milford, CT

Looking for a Silver Lining
Thanks to technology, so many people are working from home now rather than doing the drudge to NYC or Stamford or wherever they might have spent an hour on the road both ways. Hopefully they are finding out what the OLD WAY of life was, to be home with your family and enjoy your home. There’s going to be a huge adjustment, and it’s a very scary time. But maybe in certain ways we will find out HOW to live again, and not just be slaves to making a living. The earth is getting a breath of fresh air, and maybe there will be a way to actually go back to less stressful and better ways of life. Some good always seems to come out of bad. I hope and pray the good eventually surpasses the bad. ~ Camden CT

Giving Away Masks Made With Love
There is a store two towns up that loves everything flannel, and makes a lot of items themselves. They posted on a local Facebook group that if anybody needed masks, to please let them know as they are making them and giving them away free of charge. I asked for two, and a few days later two flannel masks showed up in my mailbox. This happened the day my N-95 mask broke. ~ Salisbury, MA

Uplifting Others With a Message of Hope
Seen on my walk today. ~ Salisbury MA

Monthly Action: Make Your Plan for Voting Now – May 2020

Though social distancing might have you staying at home, you’re still empowered to make change. We’re excited to introduce a new series of monthly actions that invite Common Grounders to bring light, not heat, to the work of leading progress on America’s most pressing issues. First up: get educated on your options for voting during COVID-19.

May 2020 Action: Make a Plan for Voting

As the global pandemic impacts America’s economy, education system, healthcare and more, the stakes are high for voters to make their voices heard to reimagine our collective future. But with states making varying decisions on how to conduct elections during an unpredictable health crisis, it’s key for voters to act well in advance to understand how they can weigh in – not just in November, but in any primaries and special elections.

This month, make a plan for voting by visiting your state’s election office website and answering five quick questions:

1.) What is your state’s vote-by-mail policy for COVID-19?
Every state has some method of voting by mail, but some state’s laws require a voter to meet eligibility criteria to receive an absentee ballot. See if your state requires an excuse, and/or has made temporary procedural changes to increase access to voting by mail. 

2.) What do you need to do to get an absentee ballot?
Some states will automatically send ballots to registered voters. Others will send voters an application to request an official ballot. Or, voters may need to reach out to request a ballot for voting by mail. Do your research now to determine the process, and keep an eye out for changes between now and November.

3.) Is there a primary or special election coming up?
Though the general election may still seem far off, some states rescheduled their primaries and special elections from the spring to early summer – so your next opportunity to vote may be just around the corner. Find out what state and local elections may be coming up, and when.

4.) What is your deadline to act?
Often, absentee ballots must be requested well in advance. They may also need to be received or postmarked by a specific date in advance of Election Day. Find out these dates – then make a reminder on your calendar well in advance.

5.) And make sure you’re registered to vote!
Not yet registered? Act now to give yourself enough time to complete the process. (Some state’s deadlines are up to 30 days before an election.) Haven’t voted recently? Check your registration status to ensure your name has not been purged. If you are no longer showing as an active voter or have moved to another state, it’s time to re-register. It’s always a good idea to check your registration to ensure it’s current, even if you’ve voted recently.

What does it take to lead in times of crisis?

In times of social turmoil and economic uncertainty, the American people have looked to elected officials for both hope and leadership. Here’s what presidents throughout history have shared as a common message in times of crisis – and why it’s so essential to our work in the present moment, as we seek to navigate a shared path through the COVID-19 pandemic.