• Katlyn Cornelius

2020: COVID, The Government, & My Dying Community

"2020 is for Hindsight," I have been saying since March. I even imagined putting it on a t-shirt.

I am an artist, a story-teller, a wanderer... a vagabonding soul who has traveled the world only to return to North Carolina and lay roots in rural Downtown Concord. I have been to lands with beautiful ruins with ancient cultures, seas as blue as your dreams, and flew high on the winds of not having an agenda besides forward. It showed me what is possible. It all brought me back here.

Understanding Concord

In my travels, no matter which country or culture, one thing was always present: community. The system of how people interacted with each other may have differed from culture to culture but they each had a system of working together for the greater good of the group. It wasn't discussed, negotiated, or even denied... everyone already knew their role in the community as if they already knew their destiny. Where do they find that faith in each other to blindly carry their individual load?

These cultural experiences I am describing are from third-world countries: Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Costa Rica. In my experience, people in third-world, or "developing", countries lean more upon each other than people in first-world countries like South Korea or the United States. Third-world communities share the burdens. They divide the chores. Small groups move as one. They collaborate and compile their resources. Their goals are rooted in community and not in competition. If is was not this way, third-world communities would perish by the greed of the first-world's powerful agendas.

Currently, I live in first-world country United States, a country with fifty states and many different cultures sprouting from each crevasse coast to coast. If you zoom into the state where I live, you will find Concord just north east of major US city Charlotte. For whatever reason, Concord has managed to stay strictly "Concord" even with its proximity to an international-hub city. The community in Concord grew up in and stayed in "old-school" Concord with little influence from surrounding communities. Therefore, Concord is what I like to quote as being "Just far enough away" to produce its own brand. The Concord brand.

Choosing Concord

I chose Concord for it's small town appeal. I enjoy learning about and experiencing the history of this Mill Town when I walk into the Old Courthouse, Gibson Mill and Clearwater Art Studios. Even the stamped indigo glass in the old mills has personality. The business owners of Concord either grew up here or brought their business to Concord from a neighboring town as rent is always cheaper here.

Concord's food and night-life offerings are slim with a palatable potential for creative growth. We've got authentic Cuban, Thai & Italian restaurants, which is wonderfully eclectic for a small town in the South. We have our own hole-in-the-wall watering hole (Lil Robert's Place) that led this town to alcoholic freedom all but ten years ago! The old Courthouse was preserved and turned into an Art Museum - bringing exposure of art to the community.

I chose this place because I was always looking fora fertile community like Concord to plant seeds and grow something amazing. Just as Concord was growing, I was growing! I received an artist residency at Concord's Clearwater Artist Studios. I met my Husband at my Concord job and we got married by the Concord Magistrate. I visited local Concord shops, cafes, breweries, and restaurants to learn names, hear stories, be seen and become a part of this community. I volunteered at the Cabarrus Arts Council every Thursday where I rubbed shoulders with more important players in our community. It took me less than one year to establish TuxedoKat's presence in Downtown Concord. I was here to stay and everyone got the sticker.

Concord during COVID

It has certainly been a challenge to support many businesses in Downtown Concord during this COVID time due to me not being sure if I should stay in the house or continue taking a chance living my life in my own back yard. When the businesses closed in mid-March, everyone could feel the truth in the air: this is going to break many of us. It's one thing to consider how COVID might effect the entire world... and a completely different perspective to consider the 3 mile radius of our rural city Concord and the people building and holding it up from the inside.

I understand that severe issues like the COVID pandemic effects the entire world, but after several months of quarantining and watching helplessly as many of Concord's businesses are on the brink of collapse, I am questioning the appropriateness of our nation's and states' collective response. I have started formulating opinions behind the thought that what's happening in New York City, or any other city in the world, should only be the direct concern of THOSE community members and leaders in that area. What is good for North Carolina's citizens should still be considered but not mandated upon the citizens of our small town. I feel we need smaller community organizations to help unite the people and businesses of Concord so that we may use our community to save the community.

One way to Save our Small Businesses

I realize that there are many people out there with many different opinions on how their communities should be run - and I'm all for that if we can find a common ground quickly. Just like how capitalism gives a community's businesses healthy competition for growth, why not create chapters of organized community support groups that would be responsible for the protection of businesses and organizations within that group?

For example: The "Downtown Concord Business Unity Group", a made-up arbitrary name for example purposes, would be a non-government, locally organized group of business owners that communicate each business's COVID struggles and collect efforts from the entire group to assist one/several struggling businesses within the group. Why can't we give something like this a shot on a small level... see if it works? What have we got to lose? I am just sitting here helpless while my community's business owners are unable to open, create an income and pay their employees, members of our community at large! Doesn't it make sense for OUR COMMUNITY to step in and help OUR businesses? Because everyone already knows that these "small businesses" are NOT on the National OR State government's radar and won't be fought for by anyone other than the patron/community member who lives in this community.

So it is up to us to organize, outside of any official government agency, to help our community from going under. If WE, the community members, don't help the businesses of Concord, best believe that no one else will. Why would they help us? They have their own community to save.

Community is the Answer

COVID has dumped unprecedented chaos onto collectively every man, woman and child on this planet. The governments of the world, we hope, are doing what they can to help their people overcome this global crisis but even government's scope is too wide for the sheer amount of people in need to assistance. Many, many bright and undeserving people will suffer due to this human disadvantage of understanding and handling this crisis. I believe it is the destiny of smaller communities to form many bonds of support, like many tiny threads in one large security blanket to use their combined resources to protect small groups of people at once.

We have what we need to create these community security blankets. We do not need permission or blessings from any local, state or national governing agencies to assemble in this manner. It is our first amendment right as Americans and god bless that.

We do need, however:

1. ETHICALLY-FIT LEADERS to bear the burden of leadership by giving their time and mental capacity while being the face of the group's collective ideas

2. COMMITTED MEETING SPACES & TIMES that respect the group's availability and social-distance practices. Not everyone can make every meeting, but routine is key for establishing inception, motivation, and group unity.

3. CAPABILITIES TO SPREAD ACCURATE INFORMATION to the community members and businesses within the group

...this is where I will end this thought blog...

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