By Grace Lee Boggs
March 31 – April 7, 2012
In the last year a growing number of individuals and groups has been visiting the Boggs Center to learn more about what we’re doing in Detroit to create the world anew and also share the story of their own efforts..
Until recently , these discussions were taking place about once or twice a month. Last weekend, however, we hosted three such meetings in two days.
Last Friday morning Maya Soetero Ng shared with the Boggs Educational Center — a Detroit group of parents and teachers preparing to open a community-based school — the principles and processes she has used for this purpose in New York City and Hawaii.
For example, she involved students, teachers and parents in community activities, As a result, the number of parents who attended PTA meetings more then doubled.
In Hawaii students whom she involved in the life of the community struggled to transform a site that developers wanted for a housing subdivision into a huge community garden so that, instead of importing their food at great cost, residents could grow their own.
The half-sister of President Barack Obama, Maya is very clear that this urgently-needed paradigm shift to community-based education can only come from the ground up.
Friday evening Dr. Frithjof Bergman, New Work, New Culture philosopher and activist, gave us a mind-blowing account of how he has been helping rural communities in Africa become self-reliant.
I was especially fascinated with the dry compost toilet he helped them build out of a material composed of soil and water. Using the same material, ten women built a house in one day.
Saturday morning we carried on a lively discussion with about 40 students and faculty from Ball State University, a university in Muncie, Indiana, which is redefining higher education to connect with communities.
After the meeting Rich Feldman took the BSU visitors on a tour of the city to give them a sense of not only of its devastation but the ongoing grassroots efforts to rebuild it.
The Saturday meeting was initiated by Dr Olon Dotson from the BSU architectural department. This was our second meeting with Dr. Dotson, an African American who is an inspiring example of BSU’s mission of redefining education by immersion in communities.
After the meeting, I had an opportunity to chat for a few minutes with Dr. Nihal Perara from Sri Lanka who is a professor in BSU’s Urban Planning department . I was surprised and delighted to learn that Dr. Perara views my old friend, historian Immanuel Wallerstein, as his mentor.
All this is taking place in Muncie, a city of about 70,000 residents in the east central part of Indiana. It is the home of the Ball Corporation, manufacturers of beverage cans.
For more about Dr.Bergmann’s ideas, go to www.boggs center.org