Boggs Center – Living For Change News Letter – July 3rd, 2018

July 3rd, 2018

grace and jimmy

Dear Friends of the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center,

We are writing to ask for your support during one of the most dangerous and turbulent times in recent memory. Internationally we are witnessing increasing brutality in defense of empire. The same disregard for life is a common experience everywhere in our own country.

At the same time, we know this violence cannot defeat the long push by human beings to create a more just, sustainable world.

Many of us know another world is possible because we see glimpses of it as people care for children, protect refugees, stand up to state violence and develop new ways of sharing and caring for one another and our planet.

We also know another world has never been more urgently needed.

For the past several years the Boggs Center has nurtured this new world’s emergence. From urban gardens to new ideas on education, we have fostered places and spaces that remind us of our capacity to create new centers of peace and power in the midst of a dying culture. Today, we recognize that we must move from emergence to convergence, connecting and deepening our abilities to advance toward a more just, sustainable future.

Over this past year we have emphasized creating tangible images of the future. Birwood House and Feedom Freedom Growers are vivid examples of efforts to create new community bonds.

The Center itself has hosted more than 30 tours and nearly 100 conversations, with well over 5,000 people moving through our doors. We have been humbled by the many visitors who have been strongly influenced by and even had their lives changed by the film American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, and the book The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activist for the 21st Century. Members of the Boggs Center Board are writing about critical issues, engaging with community and university audiences, and developing independent programs fostering new ways of thinking about justice in our city. We continue to produce our weekly newsletter, Living for Change, sharing ideas and practices from Detroit, and are actively supporting Riverwisemagazine as it enters its second year.

We recognize this moment demands more of us and are committed to strengthening our capacities. We are beginning a strategic planning process and are moving toward finding people who can assume responsibility for the Center as their daily work.

The physical space of the Center has benefited from a number of repairs. Our roof no longer leaks, our steps are now sturdy, and the fence is being restored to its original condition. Increasingly the Center is a hub for activists seeking to think in bold news ways about this moment and our responsibilities to create the next American revolution.

We need your support to continue expanding our work, carrying our charge from Grace and James Boggs to advance our humanity. Please consider supporting us over this next year. For current supporters, we ask you to consider becoming a monthly sustainer by clicking the DONATE button at the top of our home page.

Send checks to:
The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center
3061 Field St. Detroit, MI 48214
TAX ID: 38-3267875
In love and struggle,
The Boggs Board

Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Do it for Love

People rallied across the country to fiercely denounce the horrific immigration policies of Donald Trump and his administration. New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, and Detroit saw large rallies. Smaller towns gathered as well. Here in Maine, Portland saw so many people come to the steps of the City Hall that streets had to be closed down to traffic. I went with friends to the tourist town of Bar Harbor where about 250 gathered on the Village Green.

Organized by MDI Indivisible most of the signs were home made. They carried simple messages. “This is just wrong.” “Call it what it is, ethnic cleansing.” “You can’t have family values if you don’t value families.” “Stop caging children.” “Families belong together.”

The bandstand was surround by stick figure cut out chains, connecting people. Bo Greene who opened the event encouraged people to think together, to reflect, and to commit to actions. She acknowledged that we are at the beginning of a very long struggle.

As I imagine happened in most of the more than 750 gatherings, a series of speakers followed, each offering a different perspective on why we needed to act in this moment. A priest-geneticist talked of faith and DNA, emphasizing the long scope of our human need for connection. A social worker followed. She asked us all to remember a time when we as children had feared the loss of our parents and to use that memory to imagine what so many young people are experiencing at the hands of our government. She reminded us that the trauma of separation echoes through generations, as we have learned from the experiences shared by Indigenous people, from people whose families were separated in slavery, from people separated from loved ones in the name of making us safe. Real safety, she said, comes as we find ways to connect, to love, and protect one another. A young woman followed, talking of her work in migrant communities. The core of this policy, she emphasized, is racism, disguised by a claim to security. All children deserve places to play, to laugh, to delight in a world of safety and protection. She was followed by a new African American citizen, a lawyer, mother, and minister’s wife who talked of how complicated it is to have chosen to love a country that is violating the most fundamental human rights, the deepest dictates of faith.

The speeches concluded with Bo Greene asking us to find ways to recognize that we come to this moment from different perspectives. Some of us are people of faith, some are activists, some are supporting candidates, and some are concerned parents. She encouraged us to find ways to honor the truth that each of us brings, and to find ways to move forward together.

All of us know that rallies will not stop Trump and his forces. But these demonstrations are essential steps in finding ways to move toward a just future as we learn together to take responsibility for making a different kind of country. In the course of these efforts we are opening ourselves and each other to the possibilities of creating essential connections.

In a recent article Rebecca Solnit observed:

In the short term we are working to protect the rights of immigrants and to prevent families from being torn apart at the border—and to address the relationship between our greenhouse gas emissions and the global climate, between our economic systems and poverty, between what we do and what happens beyond us, because the ideology of isolation is in part a denial of cause and effect relations, and a demand to be unburdened even from scientific fact and the historical and linguistic structures governing truth. In the long term our work must be to connect and to bring a vision of connection as better than disconnection, for oneself and for the world, to those whose ideology is “I really don’t care”—whether or not it’s emblazoned on their jackets. Somewhere in there is the reality that what we do we do for love, if it’s worth doing.

Water Is A Right - Joe Brusky_0

WATCH: Legacies of Emergency Management: Looking Back and Moving Forward

SEMIS Comes to Town
Rich Feldman

On Tuesday, June 26, 40 teachers and friends of SEMIS visited the Boggs Center, Noble School and also met with Birwood House.

SEMIS mission is to “create community stewardship through student citizenship.”  

Community stewardship transforms education and our future.The Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition (SEMIS Coalition) nurtures partnerships between schools and innovative thinkers in the community. We build ties with visionary community practices so that students can grow into citizen-stewards of healthy ecological-social systems.

Place-based education drives student engagement. Place-based education is more than taking a fun field trip. It’s a transformative approach that makes learning real and empowers students to create positive changes in their communities while mastering an integrated array of skills.

Our discussion focused on the need for a paradigm shift in education acknowledging that listening to students is essential to practicing democracy in our class rooms and our school community.  Teachers came from schools across Detroit and the metro area.

SEMIS is another expression of the growing movement to redefine education for the 21 Century.  Living for Change and Riverwise Magazine have shared the emerging visionary organizing and institution building that is emerging throughout Detroit. Examples include the James and Grace Lee Boggs School, the Detroit Independent Freedom Schools, the Birwood Block Club and the Community Lens program, Noble School, and Detroit Summer 2018.

Incite focus has an apprenticeship program for folks to learn advanced technology to create community, Feedom Freedom Growers on the east side of Detroit has another full summer program with young folks emphasizing garderns, art and community housing.

Some will say Detroit is coming back and point to Downtown, we say Detroit is birthing a new epoch based upon the need for a radical revolution in values and a commitment to be solutionaries in our neighborhoods where every individual has the opportunity to reach his and her potential.

This Tuesday visit to the Center and Birwood, ends an amazing month of more than 750 folks visiting the center and asking deeper questions about the future of our city and our country.



The Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History will bid farewell to its long-time President & CEO Juanita Moore with a tribute at The Wright Museum on Tuesday, July 10, 2018 from 5 PM – 7 PM.

Remarks at 6:15 PM.

Join us for a reception in honor of Ms. Moore’s retirement as we come together to offer our best wishes and thank her for her 12 years of hard work and dedicated service to The Wright and metropolitan Detroit’s arts and cultural community.

This is a free event, but you must register by July 5th.

Space is limited.

For more information please contact 313-494-5851

Boggs Center New Letter – June 26, 2018

June 26th, 2018

grace and jimmy


Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
The Cries of Children

Many of us hold a vision of a world without borders. We do this in the face of a reality where everything we call sacred is defiled. Only money and military might move freely. People and ideas are controlled and confined.  Our lives are distorted and disrupted by the effects of corporate money. People and places we love are desecrated and destroyed by bombs and guns.

This past week the brutality of these efforts to control people has been made vividly clear. The Trump administration policy to separate children from their parents has been carried on the cries of children, for all to hear. There is no evading this reality. But it is a great mistake to think this is only Trump, or his Attorney General, or his vice president, or his close advisors.  These cries have been echoing through the centuries. Only now they cannot be ignored.

They are the cries of the children wrapped in poison blankets by parents trying to protect them from the cold; of children stripped from their parents to be sold into slavery; of children watching parents go off to war, many never to return; of children learning their fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters have been killed by guns in the hands of police and guns in the hands of friends and lovers in moments of uncontrolled rage. These are the cries our culture has accepted as the price we are willing to pay to protect power, privilege, property, and the wealth of the few.

And these are the cries that some of us accept as part of our job. Of all of the recordings to come out during this past week, it is the conversation of the guards that is the most chilling. Moving through the cries of children, two men joke. “Quite the orchestra.” “Missing the conductor.” These casual comments in the face of the anguish of children reveal the deepest malady in the American soul. They reveal the bargain our culture struck long ago to place economic development above human and political progress.

Time and again some of us have handed out the blankets. Some of us have held the whip, pulled the switch, picked up the gun and pulled the trigger. In every era, confronted with the choices between keeping our jobs or protecting life, some of us have chosen our jobs. So now we have developed people no longer capable of hearing the cries of children.

These are the people we need to find ways to reach. They, not Donald Trump, are the most dangerous among us, for they, not Donald Trump, are the ones who power the death machines in our culture.

The great humanizing movements of the 20th century remind us that we are all capable of transformation. We are capable of looking at our history and choosing a more life affirming path. But these choices do not emerge spontaneously. They emerge as those of us still able to hear the cries of children organize to disrupt business as usual, to demand that everyone look at what we are doing and to consciously decide, what kind of people will we become? This is a defining moment.

Rebecca Solnit

Not Caring is a
Political Art Form

dont care

Detroit Performs

When Milwaukee becomes the Holy City of the Sweet Water Seas,
Perhaps only a generation or two from now,
Irish German Polish Italian American families
Will bike from the western suburbs through Washington Park,
Past the great bandshell, lagoon, and Urban Ecology outpost,
To the Juneteenth Day Celebration on MLK,
Some stopping on the way at the Highland Park Pies and Cafe,
Others at the wetland beneath the Wisconsin Ave. bridge,
For a picnic, to enjoy the ducks and wildflowers, and
A visit to the Humane Society’s precious kittens and puppies.

At the Amaranth Bakery and Cafe, near St. Michaels,
They will meet up with Hmong African Arab Indian American families,
For a feast of soups from the kitchens of the world,
With ingredients picked that morning in the Growing Power city farm across the street,
Where now stands an empty lot.

As they bike across Lisbon and Walnut
The sidewalks will be filled with families in their Sunday best
Walking a mile or two toward the festival,
Past family businesses and artist/artisan workshops that pay the bills.

At the LGBT Center the west and northwest throng
Will join some south and east side Mexican Cuban Jewish Bohemian American families
For last minute practice to prepare for the folk song, dance, and theatrical offerings
In honor of the day when freedom grew stronger, on Juneteenth Day,
Preparing the way for that great moment, when it dawned upon the people, that Milwaukee had made itself
The Holy City of the Sweet Water Seas.

And I, or my descendants, will not be judged chauvinistic for hoping that the dance choreographed
By the Kho Thi with the Trinity Dancers wins first prize! – 


Boggs Center Living for Change News Letter – June 11th 32018


June 11th, 2018

grace and jimmy



Black Bottom Archives, in partnership with MoGo is putting on a Pedal to Porch event for the area of Black Bottom. The purpose of this email is to provide information on our upcoming stakeholder meeting.


Check out the information below and let me know if you’re interested in getting involved! If you’re not able to take on a leadership role, we would still love to have you at our stakeholder’s meeting at Trinosophes (1464 Gratiot Ave)
June 11th from 5pm – 7pm. 


What is Pedal to Porch? 

Pedal to Porch is a neighborhood bike ride that includes stops along a route where residents use their front porch as a stage to tell their story. To give you a sense of what it looks like, check out the promo video: The impact of Black Bottom’s displacement and destruction requires us to get creative about where and how former Black Bottom residents share their stories.


What’s a stakeholder meeting?

We are gathering family members, former residents, and community leaders to a stakeholder meeting to discuss the project more in depth, go over the timeline, confirm leadership roles, and set project goals. Even if you are not able to take on a leadership role, please plan to attend this meeting. We want as many folks possible who have familial and direct connections to Black Bottom to be present to help shape this event.


We will meet at Trinosophes (1464 Gratiot Ave) on June 11th from 5pm – 7pm.


Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Majority-Black Detroit Matters

There is a new sign about town sparking a lot of controversy. In bold white letters on a black background it proclaims “Majority-Black Detroit Matters.” For some this simple statement captures the growing concern that we are not only becoming two Detroits, but increasingly a Detroit dominated by and for white elites.

Much of the power structure dismisses these concerns about the white invasion of our city as paranoia. The current administration and their corporate supporters proclaim the increasingly whiter, wealthier population growth as the only path for development. A large part of the Detroit “Come Back” is the coming back into the city of people of white suburbanites.

“Majority-Black Detroit Matters” interrupts this thinking. It forces us to ask what kind of development matters? At whose expense? For whose benefit? For what reasons?

Such questioning about the direction of our city is essential. Detroit has the opportunity to demonstrate to ourselves and the country that it is possible to create entirely new ways of living in urban areas. We have the potential of being a self sufficient city, reflecting new relationships with one another and with the earth that sustains us.

Signs of this new kind of urban life are everywhere in the neighborhoods. Urban gardens flourish to feed neighbors, elders open garages to share skills and develop art with children, storytellers find bicycles to roam neighborhoods and evoke memory and enduring values. Creativity and critical thinking abound.

Most of this energy is unseen and undocumented by mainstream media, but increasingly people are coming to understand that these ways of surviving and thriving at the neighborhood level hold the best hope for our future.
With this new energy comes a resurgence of African American political power. And that is what the corporate power structure finds so threatening in the statement Majority-Black Detroit Matters.

In the spring of 1966 James Boggs published, “The City is the Black Man’s Land” in Monthly Review. He said:

“Population experts predict that by 1970 Afro-Americans will constitute the majority in fifty of the nation’s largest cities. In Washington, D.C., and Newark, N.J., Afro-Americans are already a majority. In Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland, and St. Louis they are one-third or more of the population and in a number of others-Chicago, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Oakland they constitute well over one-fourth.”
James Boggs went on to say these changes mean a new form of Black power. He wrote:
“In accordance with the general philosophy of majority rule and the specific American tradition of ethnic groupings (Irish, Polish, Italian) migrating en masse to the big cities and then taking over the leadership of municipal government, black Americans are next in line. Each previous ethnic grouping achieved first-class citizenship chiefly because its leaders became the cities’ leaders, but racism is so deeply imbedded in the American psyche from top to bottom, and from Right to Left, that it cannot even entertain the idea of black political power in the cities. The white power structure, which includes organized labor, resorts to every conceivable strategy to keep itself in power and the black man out: urban renewal or Negro removal; reorganization of local government on a metropolitan area basis; population (birth) control. Meanwhile, since their “taxation without representation” is so flagrant, safe Negroes are appointed to administrative posts or hand-picked to run for elective office.”
Over the next 40 years that white power structure struggled to reassert its political power in the urban centers of this land. By 2010 only 19 cities had majority black populations, and most of them are experiencing intense efforts at redevelopment. Detroit is the number one majority city, followed by Jackson, Mississippi.

The loss of African American political power in urban areas is no accident. The policies and processes to reassert white political power have been well documented.

We welcome Majority-Black Detroit Matters. It is a step in opening a critical conversation for all of us.


What Does it Mean to Live? Notes from the Zapatistas’ First International Gathering of Politics, Art, Sport, and Culture for Women in Struggle


Letter to the Activist Community: Thoughts on Ableism
gwi-seok (Peggy Kwisuk Hong)


Over the past year or so, I have been Baba Baxter Jones’s live-in caregiver, and have also had the privilege of being present as his friend, engaging in many in-depth conversations about activism, ableism, and much more. I’m writing this letter to share some of what I have learned, and hope it can be useful to y’all.


I was born in 1963 and have been an activist and organizer since the 1980s, working on campaigns to end wars, support women, dismantle racism, and much more. I moved to Detroit in 2013 from Milwaukee, WI, largely to be near Mama Grace Lee Boggs, and to join her caregiving team.


However, not until this past year did I really begin to understand and confront the depth of my ableism (bias against people who are differently-abled). Similar to my feminist and racial awakenings in my 20s and 30s, recognizing my inner ableist has been extremely uncomfortable and disconcerting, and, to be honest, I have fought it every step of the way. The very same way a racist person clings tightly to their prejudices, I clung tightly to my ableist way of seeing things.


It took 6 months of living day in and day out with Baba Baxter for me to begin recognizing how much I was imposing my ableist standards on him. For these first months, I constantly argued with him about why he did things the way he did. After all, I raised 3 kids, was married for 26 years, and ran households and organizations. I knew how to do things. Why did he want things done differently? Why couldn’t he see the logic and sense and efficiency of my methods, and comply?


What I failed to do was fully understand his experience as a Black man living with severe disabilities.


It took me months to understand the depth of his vulnerabilities and disabilities. Baba Baxter comes across as a robust, outspoken social justice warrior. He IS that person, but there is another side to him that he doesn’t indulge frequently, publicly nor privately, as a PSWD (person surviving with disabilities).


Baba lives with chronic pain, resulting from his 2005 car accident, and subsequent injuries since then. He doesn’t like to talk about his pain, because he says it makes it worse to focus on it. However, since I have been caring for him, I have been insisting that he tell me, so that I can take measures to help him alleviate the pain. Sometimes the pain is so bad he cannot get out of bed. He avoids taking pain meds because he hates the side effects, but is occasionally forced to. The chronic pain, which includes frequent headaches, prevents Baba from being as active as he would like to be, and can be preoccupying to the point that he cannot check anything off his to-do list. “Simple” things like returning phone calls sometimes cannot be completed. Disabilities can range from mental to physical, temporary or permanent, or severe or mild. Like others with chronic pain, he has good days and bad days, cannot predict what his condition will be, and must adjust daily.


Baba Baxter also is a survivor of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Even though he seems cognitively capable in many ways, there are gaps that show up regularly. He has been diagnosed with early onset dementia, and he has short term memory issues. He also can become quite frustrated, irritable, and confused, and has lost some of the coping skills he used to have before his injuries.


For these reasons, expecting Baba Baxter to do what able-bodied folks take for granted, like keep track of several calendars, keep up with emails and texts, return phone calls, meet deadlines, and other organizing tasks, without assistance, is unrealistic. Baba’s POV as a disabled person is invaluable and absolutely necessary to the community, but to ask him to function independently instead of INTERdependently is ableist and unreasonable.


In this day and age, we are rightly expected to ask for what we need. Baba Baxter is very experienced at asking for accommodations, but it becomes extremely tiresome, and sometimes he simply does not have the energy. It’s the same way POC get fed up trying to educate white people. Baba gets tired of painting himself as a “victim” and talking about what he has difficulty doing and what he needs, only to experience the same responses over and over. He gets frustrated because people apply ableist standards, about how and when things should get done, and fail to adapt plans to make accessibility a priority.


Furthermore, there’s a way in which we consciously or unconsciously attack PSWD, even in our movement spaces. Just the way the Nazis found PSWD threatening to society, we feel irritated by the presence, participation, and inclusion of PSWD. The accommodations they need are cumbersome, and their struggles come across as shortcomings, that resemble incompetence, weakness, inferiority, selfishness, or laziness. We have been trained in the culture and language of “equal rights” without necessarily being steeped in building equity. We don’t want to give someone extra help, and actually we could use some ourselves. In a culture that emphasizes INdependence instead of healthy INTERdependence, it makes us wriggle to see someone who is “needy.”


Sometimes we regard Baba Baxter as a thorn in our sides, because he’s always challenging us to do better, and be more inclusive, accommodating, and accessible. It’s human to react with defensiveness when we’re asked to go beyond what we perceive as reasonable, or what we’re used to. Sometimes in such situations, Baba Baxter ends up being a target of conscious or unconscious antagonism and hostility. When we antagonize PSWD, we deflect attention from a lack of accommodations to victim-blaming. Instead of taking responsibility for adapting conditions for greater accessibility, we may want to blame PSWD, for creating difficulties themselves.


I ask everyone receiving this to read this with an open mind and heart to uncover your inner ableist (no one in the world is exempt, including PSWD themselves), and be utterly honest about the range of feelings you experience in the presence of PSWD, and how your actions are shaped by these feelings. This is NOT to shame nor blame, but to help us understand how ableism works, so that we can dismantle it together.


I am aware that in Detroit, we have heard some of Baba Baxter’s requests many, many times, and some of us have become inured to them. Sometimes Baba Baxter’s requests are regarded as bothersome, or too much to ask, too difficult to fulfill. I understand this completely, and often feel overwhelmed myself. Yet, I have come to realize that Baba’s requests are not unreasonable; it’s the way our society and systems are set up that are unreasonable. For instance, it’s not at all unreasonable to request accessible transportation. Yet, the ableist society we live in makes it extremely difficult and costly to arrange this. Why do we allow bus and van companies to charge more money for accessible vehicles? If demand continually exceeds supply, shouldn’t transportation companies purchase more accessible vans? Aren’t these ableist policies? As activists, we must be the change we wish to see in the world. If we do not demand transportation for all, who will?


Creating an anti-ableist society requires creating a new culture of inclusion. To wait for PSWD to come forward and demand accommodations before we take the trouble to arrange it, is an ableist practice. That’s like a university saying, “We will create a Black Studies Department only when we have enough Black students who are interested.” No, the university should create the Black Studies Department anyway, because it’s the right thing to do, and very likely, will eventually attract the Black students to support it. Instead of saying, “we will have ASL interpreters if hearing-impaired attenders pre-register,” we should have ASL regardless, because it’s the right thing to do in creating a culture of inclusion. If our organizations provide accommodations, it sends the signal to PSWD that they are welcome. Why do so few people in wheelchairs show up at rallies, demonstrations, and direct actions? It’s not because they are disinterested. It’s because they don’t feel welcome, supported, or included. It may not have even occurred to them that they could come. Baba Baxter keeps showing up only because he is a born fighter, too stubborn to be deterred.


All of this is to say that I believe ableism is the deepest and most difficult to uproot of the “–isms,” because it addresses our most basic issues of survival and dependency regarding life and death. Being with Baba Baxter means confronting our own fears of dependency, pain, and disability. If we are lucky enough to live long lives, we will all face some level of disability. Officially 20% of us in the USA are disabled, but I believe this is a low estimate, due to our ableist shame that prevents us from admitting we have a disability, which could include mental illness, chronic illness, and more. If we can come to terms with our own disabililties, we can begin to dismantle the inner ableist, become more welcoming of other PSWD, and demand the accommodations that we each need and deserve.


I hope this gives y’all some food for thought. Ultimately, this letter is not about Baba Baxter, but about all PSWD, and making our movements stronger for all. I offer this in love and struggle,



(Peggy Kwisuk Hong)


PS here are some excellent resources for recognizing and dismantling ableism:
Craving Self-Care?

Join author Naomi Ortiz for a reading and conversation
Source Booksellers in Detroit

June 20th


Naomi Ortiz is a facilitator, writer, poet, and visual artist. She is a Disabled, Mestiza (Latina, Indigenous, White), raised in Latinx culture, living in the U.S./Mexico borderlands.



By Grace Lee Boggs

18th Annual Conference, Association for Community-Based Education

Alexandria, Va. November 11, 1993

It is an honor to be the keynote speaker at your 18th Annual Conference which is focusing on the issue of Community-based Economic Development. I have been a Movement activist for more than 50 years, but it is only in the last few years that I have made the struggle for community-based economic develop-

ment a priority. Since you have been organized around community-based education for so many years, I am sure I have a great deal to learn from your experiences.

Originally I was scheduled to make the Closing Address. So I was planning to listen carefully and base . what I had to say on what I learned from the actual proceedings. I am still planning to listen and learn over the next two days. But now that I have been asked to make the opening keynote, my responsibility is to provide a framework for your deliberations. So, after a telephone discussion with Chris Zachariadis, your Executive Director, we agreed that I should give you some idea of the movement towards commu­nity-based economic development which I see emerging and which I believe will, like NAFr A, require each of us to take a fresh look at who we are and where we stand.

In the late 1970s, when ACBE was founded, very few people had any idea how rapidly our cities and communities were being turned into wastelands by multinational corporations replacing human labor with robots and exporting jobs overseas where they could make more profit with cheaper labor. At the UN General Assembly in December 1972 Chile’s President Salvadore Allende had warned the world of the threat to the nation-state posed by transnational corporations. “The entire political structure of the world is being undermined,” he said, because transnational corporations organizations are “not account­able to or regulated by any parliament or institution representing the collective interest.” At the same time, in cities like Detroit people were huddling behind barred doors and windows because crime had spread so rapidly in the wake of the urban rebellions which had given a certain legitimacy to looting as a

form of struggle. So in June 1972 we put out this statement entitled CRIME AMONG OUR PEOPLE – in which we called upon people at the grassroots to begin rebuilding community by pledging among ourselves not to buy “hot goods.”

In November 1976 in a speech at the University of Michigan Jimmy described the dangerous situation we are in because we have for so long believed that our social and human problems could be solved by economic growth and advancing technology and because we have left all the decisions with regard to our economy and the government to the professional politician. “Our cities are mushrooming at the expense of the countryside,” he said. “Our economy is run by monstrous multinational corporations headed by executives and specialists who have no loyalty to this country or to any community. With every year more and more of our old people and our young people, especially, the black, the uneducated and the unskilled, are reduced to parasites. And we have become more afraid of each other than we used to be of wild animals. Each person has become a lonely individualist, narrowed down to a cog in a machine, with no individuality and no sense of citizenship.”

Since then the economic, political and social disintegration of Detroit and other cities across our country has been beyond our worst forebodings. All around us in the inner city young blacks with no hope of factory jobs making enough to raise a family have become increasingly desperate. As a result, with the invention of Crack in the mid-80s the conditions were ripe for the creation of the drug economy which has turned our neighborhoods into war zones where it is no longer safe even for children to go to and from school.

For a while many people had the illusion that only the jobs of the unskilled and uneducated were being eliminated and that there would be plenty of work in the service and information industries for those who stayed in school and got their degrees. In other words, the inner cities might suffer but the suburbs would continue to prosper. However, in the last few years corporations like IBM, Xerox, Kodak, Ameritech et al have been laying off technicians and management personnel by the tens of thousands. Between 1979 and 1992 4.4 million employees of Fortune 500 companies received pink slips. This year, for the first time, white collar unemployed – mostly permanent job losers -outnumber blue collar unem­ployed. It is estimated that in the next decade 30-40% of the remaining 7 million middle management jobs will become obsolete. The New York Times regularly carries articles like these with the headline:

THE PHDS ARE HERE BUT THE LABS AREN’T HIRING.” And a cartoon last spring showed university graduates in cap and gown walking across the platform to receive posters saying “Will Work for Food” instead of diplomas.

All across the country there is a growing realization that we can no longer depend upon big corporations to provide us with jobs and that small local businesses not only provide more jobs but are more loyal to communities. The stubborn popular opposition to NAFrA despite tremendous pressures from eco­nomic and political elites is a sign of deep-rooted resentment of the role that multinational corporations and a global economy are playing in subjecting us to the untender mercies of the market place, robbing

us not only of jobs but of any control over our own destinies.

We have arrived at a new historical conjuncture. For the first time in human history ordinary people in all walks of life, men and women of all ethnic groups, the skilled and educated as well as the unskilled and uneducated, are facing the question “How do WE make our livings now that we can no longer depend upon ‘the Man’ for jobs?” At the same time because our families and our communities have been falling apart while we were making what we thought were good livings, we also face the question of how to rebuild our f arnilies and our communities. And because our addiction to consumerism is causing global warming, deterioration of our forest and arable soil and extinction of species, we face the challenge of making drastic changes in our way of life if we are to save our planet.

Meanwhile, because we accumulated a $4 trillion debt in order to defeat Russian Communism, we now need a daily injection of $18 billion from Saudi Arabia, Belgium, England and Japan just to maintain the status quo. Domestic programs are being eroded, not expanded. So we can no longer depend upon government to resolve these questions for us. We must rely on PEOPLE POWER. We must become more self-reliant.

Thus as we come to the end of the 20th century the conditions are ripe for creating a movement that goes beyond all the movements of the past. The issues we face are not just those of Class which led to the struggle for the dignity of labor and the creation of the labor movement in the 1930s. Class exploitation still exists but instead of Labor freeing itself from Capital, Capital is now using hitech and its mobility to free itself from Labor. Nor are the issues just those of Race which led to the creation of the civil rights and Black Power Movements in the 1950s and 1960s. Racism still exists and we are experiencing some very ugly manifestations of it. But it is no longer possible to build a movement against Racism (1) because it has already been delegtimized by the struggles of the 50s and 60s; (2) because the contradic­tions within the black community are now obvious; and (3) because the main questions being asked by blacks do not center around race but around economics. Equally important, because of the huge immi­gration from Asia, Latin America and the Middle East in recent years, it no longer makes sense to think of this country in terms of blacks and whites or in terms of majority and minorities. By the middle of the next century Euro-Americans and African Americans will be minorities like other minorities.

WHAT IS A MOVEMENT? We may not all have the same textbook or dictionary definition but most of us have a sense of what Movement is. Thus, when youth volunteers were asked “What is a Movement?” at the first session of DETROIT SUMMER this year, these are some of the answers they gave.

A Movement is  to change things. to make a better society for everyone.

dialoguing, coming up with a vision, and then fighting for it about changing values and learning to see different points of view. something we can take back home and spread around. Projects end, but Detroit Summer goes with us.

What all these comments have in common is the sense that a Movement is not just for the purpose of correcting particular injustices or inequities. A Movement advances Humanity to a new plateau of consciousness, self-consciousness, creativity and political and social responsiblity. It creates a new dream, a new sense or vision of what it means to be a human being, a new basis of unity between differ­ent groups. A Movement does not necessarily begin with this new vision, but in the course of struggle the vision has to become increasingly clear to the participants and be made increasingly clear to the rest of society both in actions and words. For example, in the 1770s we had both the Boston Tea Party and the Declaration of Independence. In the 1930s we had both the plant sit-ins and John L. Lewis’ speeches. In the 1969s we had both the boycotts and sit-ins and Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech.

In order for a Movement to be built, large numbers of people who are critical to the functioning of the society must have reached the point where they feel they can’t take the way things are any more. So if you have your ear close to the grassroots you begin to hear people asking “WHY” and “How” questions which are not easily answerable. For example, after World War II which was supposed to have been fought for Democracy black folks began asking “Why do white folks treat us this way?” with a new urgency. In the 1960s in Detroit black folks began asking why white folks should hold political power since blacks were fast becoming the majority in the city, And these days in Detroit and other cities across the country the main questions being asked at the community level are “What is happening to our young people? Why are they killing each other so mindlessly? How can we begin creating jobs for ourselves?”

These were not the questions being asked 20 years ago in Detroit when the Black Power Movement culminated in the election of Coleman Young. Detroiters were full of hope and pride because through struggle we had achieved what was right and just in a city which was majority black – our first black Mayor. Little did we suspect that we would soon be faced with new, much more difficult contradictions because we had entered a new economic era in which jobs would be exported overseas or done by robots. Changing the color of the Mayor did not, could not reverse this de-industrialization. Over the last 20 years, like other Mayors, Mayor Young has tried to bring back jobs by offering tax abatements

to corporations, sponsoring megaprojects which mainly enriched the developers whose contributions swelled his campaign chest; and offering Casino Gambling as a new industry that would create 50,000 jobs. But corporations and jobs have continued to leave Detroit.

But at the same time, step by step, year by year, in response to reality and through struggle over local issues, a new movement has been in the making. The first sign of this new movement was the founding of SOSAD (SA VE OUR SONS AND DAUGHTERS) in 1987 by Clementine Barfield and other moth­ers who had lost their children to street violence. Some of these mothers had been teenagers in the South in the 60s. Now they were ready to go beyond mourning to organize programs for positive change with the goal of creating a movement which would do for our time what the civil rights movement had done for the 50s and 60s.

Then, in 1988 when Mayor Young began urging Casino Gambling as the means for economic develop­ment of the city, a broad coalition of clergy, political leaders and community activists came together and organized UNITED DETROITERS AGAINST GAMBLING (UDAG), among other reasons be­cause we realized that Casino Gambling would increase the fast-buck, quick-fix mentality which was already destroying our young people. After we won the referendum we stayed together as

DETROITERS UNITING to explore alternatives. “Our concern,” we said, “is with how our city has been disintegrating socially, economically, politically,morally and ethically. We are convinced that we cannot depend upon one industry or any large corporation to provide us with jobs. It is now up to us – the citizens of Detroit – to put our hearts, our imaginations, our minds and our hands together to create a vision and project concrete programs for developing the kinds of local enterprises that will provide meaningful jobs and income for all citizens.” In 1989 members of community groups from all across the city came together to carry on weekly anti-crackhouse marches in different neigh-horhoods. Calling ourselves WE-PROS (WE THE PEOPLE RECLAIM OUR STREETS) we warned drug dealers they had “better run and hide, ’cause people are uniting on the other side.”

In the summer of 1990 Mayor Young announced his decision to tear down Ford Auditorium so that Comerica Bank could build a new high rise office building. DETROITERS UNITING again rose to the challenge and under the slogan “Civic Pride, not Corporate Greed” mobilized tens of thousands of Detroiters from all across the city to demand a referendum on whether or not to re-zone a public center for commercial development. On April 23, 1991 a majority of citizens voted a resounding NO! “Detroiters send the Mayor a message on DEvelopment,” the Free Press editorialized. “It was a good week for Democracy,” according to Free Press Development columnist John Gallagher.

In November 1991 to reinforce the new public spirit emerging in the city a group of community organi­zations and activists organized the Peoples Festival, “a multi-generational, multicultural celebration of Detroits, putting our hearts, minds, hands and imaginations together to redefine and recreate a city of Community, Compassion, Cooperation, Participation and Enterprise in harmony with the earth.”

In 1992 DETROITERS UNITING, along with about a dozen other local community organizations, including ACBE member, the WARREN CONNER DEVELOPMENT COALITION, issued a Call for DETROIT SUMMER inviting young people to come to our city from all over the country to work with local youth on community projects, e.g. creating community parks out of vacant lots, planting commu­nity gardens, painting murals and rehabbing homes. We were confident that just as the young people who joined MISSISSIPPI FREEDOM SUMMER in 1964 had taken the civil rights movement to a new plateau, youth volunteers working with grassroots community groups could now create a new spirit and

__         a new sense of direction for Detroit and other cities across the country which have been devastated by multinational capitalism.



Through DETROIT SUMMER, we have discovered that there is a new generation of young people who are very different from the 30 and 40 somethings who came out of the movements of the 60s and 70s. They are more ready to work with and learn from the various ethnic groups who represent the rich cultural diversity of the modem city. For them the main challenge is to make the cities where they live livable. It is not racism. They are also eager to create new bonds between the generations and especially with their elders. They also seem eager to break with the elitist, one-dimensional educational philoso­phy which divorces cognitive learning from practical work and prepares young people for individual upward mobility – and to embrace a new philosophy best expressed by Gandhi who believed that educa­tion has to be of the Heart, Head and Hands and that the three main resources for education are the Community, the Natural Environment and the Work Environment. In other words, they are ready to create a Multicultural, Multigenera-tional Movement to ReBuild, ReDefine and ReSpirit the city from the ground up.

Unlike the young people who pick up litter lackadaisically as a summer job, DETROIT SUMMER youth are volunteers. As 15 year old Tracey Hollins put it in her article on DETROIT SUMMER, “A paycheck continues to cloud the minds of young adults who have been taught that money is everything. Teens continuously walk the streets, not noticing the trash and not caring about the graffiti. Most don’t realize the importance of putting a paper in its right place. Detroit Summer had a special way of making you forget the fact that you weren’t getting paid. It filled your head with answers to questions that you’d

had all of your life and questions that no one can answer. It made you feel that you were an important part of the changing molding of future generations. It made you see that the hole you dug, the garden you watered or the swing set you painted made a difference.”

There are other signs of the growing movement in Detroit. For example, the Detroit-Windsor Labor Community Anti-Nafta Coalition is taking advantage of the Anti-Nafta Struggle to project the creation of a new community-based economy in which we produce for our own needs by growing food, creating fish farms, producing glass and new light-rail and micro-bus transport. As this leaflet says, NAFf A DEMANDS THAT WE WAKE UP AND BEGIN TO CREATE THE FUTURE. WE CAN’T DEPEND ON THE GOVERNMENT OR ON THE CORPORA TIO NS TO PROVIDE WORK OR HOPE FOR OUR YOUNG PEOPLE.

On November 30 Channel 56, our local public broadcasting station, and the Wayne State University College of Urban, Labor and Metropolitan Affairs are sponsoring a community forum to make Detroiters aware of how hi-tech is eliminating traditional jobs and therefore the need for us to develop new forms of work and new strategies of Self-Reliance. Throughout the month of January 1994 Channel 56 will be broadcasting programs on this theme, including programs on DETROIT SUMMER.

And it is not only Detroit. Over the last few years I have collected hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles on community rebuilding efforts all over the country. Here is one from the September 22 Lex­ington, Ky Herald-Leader. The headline reads: IN OREGON TIIE FUTURE LIES IN REBUILDING COMMUNITIES. The article tells the story of how the people of Burns, Oregon, a little rural town of 3000, having concluded in 1990 that recruiting businesses, the dominant form of economic development in Kentucky and Oregon, is a failed policy, decided to write their own community plan. In the three years since then, some of their projects have succeeded and others have not. But every Monday at 7 a.m. 20-30 people still meet in a local restaurant to continue the job of creating and recreating Burns’ future.

The article also lists 20 clues to rural community survival which are used by the Heartland Center for Leadership Development, a Nebraska organization. They include:

Evidence of Community Pride

Emphasis on quality in business and community life.

Deliberate transition of power to a younger generation of leaders. Acceptance of women in leadership roles.

Strong multigenerational family orientation. Careful use of fiscal resources.

Conviction that in the long run, you have to do it yourself.

I hope I have said enough to give you a sense of a growing movement towards community-based economic development so that you are asking yourselves the question “How do we as ACBE members relate to this movement?”

Let me give you a couple of examples. All over the country a bitter political struggle is developing between developers who are projecting Casino Gambling as the cure-all for the economic survival of particular cities and local community people who instinctively recognize that this quick-fix solution will destroy what they treasure most about their home towns but who are not yet clear that the only alterna­tive is putting our hands, hearts, minds and imaginations together to build community-based enterprises. How much energy  heart of everything you and we stand for?

Another example. In Detroit I live on the east side very close to the offices of the Warren-Conner Devel­opment Coalition. I own a share in their development corporation and I helped campaign for Deputy Director Angela Brown in her recent bid for a position on City Council. Warren-Conner, like other community development organizations, signed up as a local co-sponsor of DETROIT SUMMER. But its participation was minimal because it apparently had too much invested in its own agenda and because it is not a volunteer organization. Yet I feel that everyone – DETROIT SUMMER, Warren Conner and our community and city – would have much to gain if Warren Conner caught the Movement spirit of DETROIT SUMMER and helped to spread it. Should that be? Can it be? I hope that you will explore these questions with the seriousness that I believe they deserve.


Boggs Center – Living for Change News Letter – May 22nd, 2018

May 22nd, 2018

grace and jimmy

Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Urgent Transitions

This week Eastern Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC) hosted a conference of activists concerned about creating a future based on regenerative principles of a just economy. People from around the country and several First Nations gathered to share ideas and practices. This was the gathering that Siwatu-salama Ra worked tirelessly to bring to Detroit. It was the gathering she could not see from her prison cell. She is serving two years in prison for pointing an empty gun at a person who threatened to run over her mother and child. Those of us who came together to think about a different future were reminded how urgently we need to change our ways of living, how much pain and destruction we have come to accept as normal in our daily lives.

I was part of panel giving participants an overview of the struggles unfolding in Detroit around Air, Water, Land and Education. Lila Cabill of the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute opened the conversation talking about the importance of making a transition from “me oriented people” to “we oriented people.” She emphasized that all of us are affected by the assaults on people and the planet.  She invoked the story of Rosa Parks and Charity Hicks to help people understand that in the face of injustice and racism, “silence is violence.”

Monica Lewis Patrick of We the People of Detroit challenged the idea that Detroit was bankrupt. She emphasizing that no elected officials in the city had agreed to this. Rather, the city had been taken over by the State and its appointed Emergency Manager. She invited people to think about the key roles Emergency Managers had played, not only in the poisoning of Flint, but in the destruction of the Detroit Water Department, removing it from city control. A key part of the process was unprecedented water shut offs, creating a widespread community response to protect people and advance policies that establish water as a human right and public trust.  

Both Monica and Lila made clear that this take over was a reflection of the twin forces of racism and capitalist advancement. The Great Lakes contain 22% of the worlds surface water and the drive to turn this life giving element into private a profit center depends upon demonizing the people of our city as incapable of governing, as less than human.

Emma Lockridge built on the theme of racialized capitalism and its devastation of our communities. As an activist in 48217, the most polluted zip code in the US, Emma shared her struggles against Marathon Oil. She emphasized how much the current power structure reflects the idea that some people are disposable, that their lives do not matter.

For my part, I talked of Detroit as a movement city, where people have always resisted the assaults on our shared humanity. From the earliest encounters with Europeans, we have seen resistance and resilience. Chief Pontiac lead one of the largest anti-colonial struggles on the banks of the Detroit River. Over the centuries we this spirit has continued.

In the 1960s the call of Black Liberation attracted many of us to Detroit. And it was the success of these efforts to challenge the power structure of this country based on values that moved us from “a thing oriented society” to a “people oriented society” that ultimately lead to the take-over by white, right wing state legislatures of centers of African American political power in Michigan. Using legal tricks, 55% of African Americans were denied the right to effective local representation and nearly 75% of all African American elected officials were essentially removed from office.

The struggle over the education of our children exemplifies this assault on our cities. The Detroit Independent Freedom Schools Movement reflects our continued effortto not only resist dehumanization, but to consciously and collectively build new, more loving and caring ways of life.


Last week we received a communication from Nestle in response to our article.

We appreciated Nestle’s effort to offer two corrections of fact. We have reproduced their email in its entirety below.
We do not think these bear on our essential analysis, however. Moreover, we continue our concern about their perception of science. In an article discussing the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality decision to allow increased water extraction we find this: “different hydrologists can look at the same data and come up with different conclusions.”  The article continues noting Nestle’s assessment “raises a lot of fundamental questions about who is monitoring.”

Later the article reports:

“The Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, which originally sued Nestle and won a 2009 settlement that limited the company’s withdrawal in Mecosta County, issued a statement expressing disappointment at the ruling, saying “the public trust has been broken once again.”

Not only has the DEQ “ignored the scientific evidence that environmental damage has occurred already at 150-gpm, they have ignored the clear opposition of tens of thousands of Michigan citizens who have opposed this giveaway of the water of the commons to a multinational corporation,” said MCWC president Peggy Case.

It is particularly difficult to understand how the DEQ could grant a permit before completing a serious monitoring of the streams by independent scientists, before resolving the issues with the township over the booster station, and before approving a new monitoring protocol for the aquifers and streams in Evart that is not under the control of Nestle,” she said.”

Nestle Communication Correction


“Its head spokesperson is Deb Muchmore, the wife of the Governor’s Chief of Staff.”

CORRECTION:  Deb Muchmore was a consultant who has not worked for the company for nearly two years.

“The science behind the decision to allow increased pumping of water is based on questionable science, especially given the information gathered in a court case in 2003 when Nestle was ordered to stop operations due to “ecological harm and massive reduction in water levels.”

CORRECTION: The court case did not cause a stoppage of operations as an out-of-court settlement was reached that allowed an average withdrawal of 218 gallons per minute at that spring site. 

Nestlé’s recently approved permit is for our White Pines Springs source, a completely different site than the one in 2003. We have been studying the White Pine Springs site for over 16 years and it is important to understand that the wells are different depths and different geology. The science is clear – there is no link between the two.   

We have over 100 environmental monitoring sites and conducted many scientific assessments near the White Pine Springs well. This monitoring network allows us to verify that the groundwater is being naturally replenished and that our water use is managed for long-term sustainability. 

This is supported by the MDEQ’s review of our permit, which itself called “the most extensive analysis of any water withdrawal in Michigan history.”

Glenn Oswald

Vice President 
Marx Layne & Company
31420 Northwestern Highway, Suite 100
Farmington Hills, MI 48334

piper 2

Bhai Delegation to Detroit
Myrtle Thompson Curtis


This past week in Detroit kicked off the first of many visits to happen at the Feedom Freedom Growers Garden and the Boggs Center. FFG hosted a group of 25 young university students from Ontario and around the globe. A smaller group went to the Center.  They were all under 24 years of age and of the B’hai faith. The visit was part of a series of conversations that had taken place at the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center over the last two years.
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Once at the garden, arriving by tour bus, we were ready for a day of critical conversation, lunch and garden work, introduction to the staff of FFG and our work here in Detroit.  The students came with very little context of Detroit but were quite eager to learn about our challenges and opportunities here.

We gave them copies of the Riverwise magazine to read to gather context about Detroit. The magazine gave them insight into grassroots efforts happening here and nationwide.  We started the day off by asking what are the pressing questions they may be facing in their path to service. Our goal was to create a conversation that would dive deep in our time allotted. It was important to get to know them, to get a sense of how to build trust, and have transformational conversation. We let them know that in Detroit we are engaged in struggle for a revolution of values, learning through our own experience that just changing political leadership will not end the devastation of our neighborhoods, or the school closings, the water shutoffs, the gentrification, or the rising depression and loneliness among young people.  We work in community to change ourselves to change the conditions, and engaging university students in thought provoking conversation and hands on work in the garden.

As one of the FFG’s members Ebony summarizes her day with the group; “I was like many of the students who worked beside me on Tuesday. Their questions about navigating the social justice world or their later professional field resonated with me. I shared my story with them, discussing the various times I had to choose between being a student and an activist.  There were many die-ins, marches, and round table discussions I longed for, but briefly watched in the distance because I had midterms or a lecturer I couldn’t afford to miss. I understood how many of them felt; wanting to be on fire with a megaphone, chanting “no justice no peace” through the lecture halls, I wanted to assure them that it’s possible to find serenity in a place where they feel foreign.”

“We all can be inspired by others even if the person who inspires us doesn’t see themselves as this kind of activism.  During a discussion with one of the students, I shared my community organizer infant status with him. Letting him know that my friends and family see me as Angela Davis, but in the grassroots revolutionary work I’m and infant, a babbling baby who’s still learning and developing.  We all are infants in new realms. During my time spent with the students, I realized that I was not too far removed from where they are currently. Time spent with them allowed me to see that I too am still learning and being nurtured by those who care and desire to see me succeed in all that I do.  I enjoyed their enthusiasm to not use gloves while working in the garden because they wanted to feel the soil. They embraced the connection we have with it and were willing to fully immerse themselves into unknown territory.”

Aalia, another member notes the conversation was full of young people deciding how to go from thinking about their ideas to putting their ideas into practice.  She saw them even thinking about how to make that decision as a reflection of many young people today. Many having ideas about their lives or what they want their communities to be like, but not really knowing where to start or having any guidance as to what are the next steps in implementing and bringing ideas into fruition.

By the end of our time together we gathered back into a circle and sought the answers to earlier questions. I am prone to believe that most of the answers are inside of us and I encouraged them to go inside and speak truth to power. Our guests were encouraged and spoke in new found ways and to become engaged in service to community.

We concluded thinking about James Boggs (1919-93), Grace’s life partner, intellectual collaborator, and political comrade for forty years who urged us to recognize the role creative thinking and responsible action play in advancing humanity.

“The Latin term “Civitas” is traditionally defined as the social body of the citizens united by law.2 Yet, who gets to be a citizen, and who gets to decide on the law? If the civitas is based on inclusion, who does it exclude?” On Spaces of Liberation