Our mission is to nurture the transformational leadership capacities of individuals and organizations committed to creating productive, sustainable, ecologically responsible, and just communities. Through local, national and international networks of activists, artists and intellectuals we foster new ways of living, being and thinking to face the challenges of the 21st century.
Living for Change News
March 27th, 2017
Thinking for Ourselves
World Water Day
World Water Day passed without a word from Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. Soon it will be three years since he got control of the Water Department and he has done almost nothing with this power. His direction has failed Detroiters and he is failing the future. His lack of leadership is stunning.
In July of 2014 when he was given control of the Water Department, Mayor Duggan said he welcomed “the responsibility for dealing with the Water Department issues.” He promised a plan to deal with the shut offs, to provide support for people unable to pay their bills and to improve services. None of this has happened. He has utterly failed to advocate for water as a human right and failed to address concerns for water as a public trust.
Instead, water shutoffs continue with one failed payment support scheme after another. The Mayor stubbornly refuses to make the Water Affordability Plan passed over a decade ago by the City Council a reality. Instead, he continues policies that enrich a private corporation, giving it what seems to be a blank check to go around the city shutting people off. The Homrich Wrecking Company has expanded its original $5.6 million dollar contract for water shut offs to $12.7 million as of last fall. That is as much as the City of Flint paid Detroit for its entire water usage prior to its own man made crisis.
Meanwhile, the Mayor ignores the public health consequences of these shutoffs and he has done little to address the real possibility that new sewerage costs threaten the very existence of hundreds of churches across the city.
Most disturbing is the Mayor’s refusal to provide leadership around the growing global crisis of safe, affordable drinking water. That is why the United Nations has asked people to participate in World Water Day. Since 1993, the UN General Assembly has understood it was essential to draw attention, thinking, and action to water. This year they have especially asked people to consider the implications of wastewater, as we poison the water we depend upon.
The UN declared, “This year, we focus on wastewater and ways to reduce and reuse as over 80% of all the wastewater from our homes, cities, industry and agriculture flows back to nature polluting the environment and losing valuable nutrients and other recoverable materials.” Currently, over 80% of the wastewater generated by society flows back into the ecosystem without being treated.
The Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, framed the issues we face clearly. She said, “Access to safe water and sanitation services is essential to the human rights and dignity, and the survival, of women and men across the world, especially the most disadvantaged.”
Rethinking our understanding of water is critical. She explains, “In the face of growing demand, wastewater can be a reliable alternative source of water – this calls for shifting the paradigm of wastewater management from ‘treatment and disposal’ to ‘reduce, reuse, recycle and resource recovery.’ Wastewater should no longer be seen as a problem, but as part of the solution to challenges that all societies are facing. Treated wastewater can be a cost-efficient, sustainable, safe and reliable alternative source of water for a variety of purposes – from irrigation and industrial uses to drinking water, particularly under conditions of water scarcity. For this, we need to change mind-sets, to raise awareness and redouble educational efforts to share the benefits of wastewater reuse.”
Thousands of people around Michigan understand we need to shift our thinking to see water as a human right and public trust. Many converged in Lansing on World Water Day under the leadership of The People’s Water Board of Detroit. They, not the Mayor, are thinking about the future of all of us.
History, Time, Ideas and Vision Matter!
March has been a month for several tours and visits to the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center. During the last few weeks of March, artists came from Indonesia & Morocco representing the Ghana Think Tank and students came from Williams College. We’ve welcomed art students from Stanford, spring semester visits from University of Massachusetts in Boston, Georgetown University in DC, Concordia College in Minnesota, educators from Pittsburgh and women from the League of Women Voters. They came with a curiosity to understand the past and to imagine the future.
Visitors come to both learn the story of Detroit, through the writings and organizing of James and Grace Lee Boggs as well as to begin to think differently about time & ideas. From our discussions which focus on the difference between riot & rebellion & between rebellion and revolution we engage in site visits emphasizing the need to think dialectically and the importance of reflecting on our practice and our dreams. The Tour titled: From Growing our Economy to Growing our Souls, (not growing our economy and growing our souls), provides a glimpse into changing space through historical discussions. While some visitors are more prepared reading articles, viewing videos, and watching We R Not Ghosts or the documentary of Grace Lee Boggs, American Revolutionary, we all engage in a serious conversation about the resilience of the land and the Anishinaabe indigenous presence which began more than 1,000 years ago and we emphasize the resistance which took place with The Battle of Bloody Run that was fought during Pontiac’s Rebellion on July 31, 1763 on what now is the site of Elmwood Cemetery.
These tours in 2017 emphasize the historical significance of the 50th anniversary of the Detroit Rebellion and the 50th Anniversary of MLK’s Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence and provide an important discussion of the need to create new values and a new American Dream. We need a new dream not a return to the past. The tours are about counter-revolution and revolution. Through our site visits to Heidelberg, the Boggs School, Can Arts, Avalon, and Feedom Freedom Growers we, witness the emerging commitment to create structures of hope, transformation and vision.
Our friends from the Ghana Art program were also engaged in creating a community art initiative in the North End, visited Incite Focus while our visitors from Pittsburgh were here to learn from and work with the Allied Media Project. People come to understand and learn about history and see/experience the future. One of the Moroccan artists did a wood-craft of Grace Boggs.
Everyone visiting leaves wondering how they can gain an understanding to challenge the current media-Gilbert-Illich narrative that downtown gentrification will be the resurrection of Detroit? Is gentrification anything more than displacement, ethnic cleansing and a renewed attempt to renew and continue the self-destructive and dying values of individualism, greed, materialism & racism?
The tour takes on the tough discussions of the pains of capitalism and acknowledges that “Taking back Detroit” for Hockey, Restaurants and the fun of a few at the expense of water shut-offs, foreclosures and “blight ticketing” will not create a Detroit we can all be proud to call our own. Another Detroit is Happening and it is happening in the communities, not downtown.
While Donald Trump’s election has been a wake-up call and the removal of the veil of our nation’s history of exclusion, with a constitution that accepted slavery, our tour provides a narrative to see that we are movement city creating ideas, institutions, and structures based upon a call for the “beloved community” and a radical revolution in values.
What We’re Watching
Love & (R)evolution
Jane Addams Hull House Museum hosts activist and writer Grace Lee Boggs in a discussion about the connection between evolution and revolution. This program was produced by Chicago Access Network Television (CAN TV).
Living for Change News
March 20th, 2017
Thinking for Ourselves
Beyond Toxic Talk
Shea HowellHow we talk is intimately connected to how we think. Words define our world and give meaning to our lives. Thus, one of the many dangers of this moment is the deterioration of our capacities for political thought. When public values are reduced to single words, blasted in all capital letters on Twitter, we are all diminished. BAD, SAD, FAKE, LIES are judgments devoid of substance, but they infiltrate our consciousness and erode our conversations.
In sharp contrast to this dismal use of language, people around the country are consciously moving to deepen our capacity for reflection, conversation, strategic thinking, and powerful action. There is a growing recognition that actions must be enriched by reflection, that the path to a better future requires collective efforts to create a new vision.
Movement for Black Lives provides a thoughtful agenda about the kind of future we can create. They invite everyone to join in the conversation and study of their platform saying, “We have created this platform to articulate and support the ambitions and work of Black people. We also seek to intervene in the current political climate and assert a clear vision, particularly for those who claim to be our allies, of the world we want them to help us create. We reject false solutions and believe we can achieve a complete transformation of the current systems, which place profit over people and make it impossible for many of us to breathe.” They invite us to study, think, argue and act in relation to these broad, visionary projections.Recently,
Movement Generation offered a new Just Transition Zine in both English and Spanish. The Zine “offers a framework for a fair shift to an economy that is ecologically sustainable, equitable and just for all its members.”They explain, “A Just Transition requires us to build a visionary economy for life in a way that is very different than the economy we are in now. Constructing this visionary economy calls for strategies that democratize, decentralize and diversify economic activity while we damper down consumption, and (re)distribute resources and power. This zine is our offering towards that end – it is a humble point of departure for folks interested in building collective vision and action towards Ecological Justice that does not separate humans from nature, or social equity from ecological integrity.”
This week the Women’s March named its 5th action of the first 100 days
Reflect and Resist. Organizers say the action, “is designed to educate some, and refresh others, through study, reflection, and courageous conversations, so that we can all be empowered by, and learn from, the work of activists who came before us while being mindful not to perpetuate the mistakes of the past. Community is key to activism, so bring your huddles, neighbors, and your march partners back together, collectively choose a book or article to read, or film to watch. Take time to reflect and, together, discuss the topics that they highlight and the issues that women experiencing multiple forms of oppression have faced and continue to face”.The
National Council of Elders is asking us to organize public readings of Dr. Martin Luther King’s Breaking the Silence speech, to reinvigorate his call for a radical revolution of values against racism, materialism and militarism. They ask us to hold conversations following the reading about what his ideas mean for us today.These are just a few of the efforts emerging around our country. They are essential to counter the toxic talk flowing from those in authority. They are acts of resistance and of vision. All of us need to join in creating these spaces for collective reflection. They are the sources of our best hopes.
What We’re Reading
Giving Up Toxic Masculinity To Build Real Resistance
Fifty years ago the times were tumultuous, as they are now. Activists were fragmented by gender, race, tactics and issue silos then too. The machinery of surveillance and repression by local, state and federal government was intense and about to become more so.
Despite knowing the risk of speaking out, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King stepped forward to offer clarity and direction. His speech, Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break Silence  was delivered on April 4, 1967, to an overflow crowd at Riverside Church in New York City.
Now the speech is receiving new attention, not for reasons of wistful nostalgia but as a vision even more relevant to our times than it was then. To learn more about events already organized to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s “A Time to Break Silence” speech or how to help initiate one yourself, go here .
In his speech, Dr. King identified the triplets of racism, militarism and materialism as the legacy we must overcome. Why triplets? Rabbi Arthur Waskow, a peace movement veteran, explains : “Why did Dr. King use the word ‘triplets’ when ‘three’ or ‘triad’ would have been enough? Perhaps because biological triplets share a great deal of their DNA. What DNA do these triplets share? The DNA of subjugation, of top-down power.”
To be clear, Dr. King’s remarks did not incorporate the possibility of ecocatastrophe or the structures of patriarchy and sexism into his analysis and call. Can there be any doubt that today he would?
contact or summit material firstname.lastname@example.org
Living for Change News
March 13th, 2017
Water Stories of District 7
Living for Change News
March 6th, 2017
HELP SAVE THE CASS COMMONSAn Appeal to the Social Justice Advocacy Community in Detroit
From the Eastern Michigan Environmental Action Council
In 2011, the Eastern Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC) received as a gift the property of the First Unitarian-Universalist Church (First UU), located at the corner of Cass Avenue and Forest Street. This property consists of the august church building and sanctuary, as well as the adjoining elegant parish house, which has a spacious vestibule and parlor, a very large social hall, a kitchen, and several floors of multipurpose rooms. Constructed in 1916, the structure has been awarded an historic designation, and occupies a prime site in midtown Detroit, a central hub of corporate gentrification.
Protecting and Securing a Vital Base
Given this synergy of organizational activities over the years, the property has become a true “commons” for social justice advocacy and cultural development. However, the care and maintenance of an aging, 44,000 – square feet facility involves heavy financial responsibilities. Though EMEAC has succeeded in securing grants, a few major rental contracts, and intermittent income from rentals for events such as weddings, workshops and conferences, these strategies have not generated the volume and regular flow of funds required to cover operational costs.
An Immediate Goal of $60,000
As major corporations appropriate the heart of the City, dislocating and dispossessing working class neighborhoods, people of color and the poor, we social justice activists who are current EMEAC board members want to secure this valuable, strategically located community center. We are convinced that this base is indeed treasured by many community members. Therefore, we are inviting those organizations and individuals who have created projects and relationships here — relationships and mutual efforts which, in fact, constitute the commons, to join us in implementing a program that will secure this property while advancing our capacities to build movement unity. Our immediate goal is to raise $60,000. Then we will work to generate an income of $10,000 each month.
Thinking for Ourselves
Silence of the Good
Every year, on March 2, I listen to the speech Dr. Martin Luther King gave at my college in 1967. This year marks the 50th since I first heard him there. A month after he was in Marietta, Ohio, he would speak at Riverside Church in New York, “Breaking the Silence” on Vietnam. There he would proclaim that America was the “greatest purveyor of violence” in the world and that we needed a “radical revolution in values against racism, materialism, and militarism.” A year later, he would be killed.
King’s subject was the future of integration and, while acknowledging progress in civil rights, he explained that “the murder of civil rights workers is still a popular pastime in the south.”
He chronicled, “In the state of Mississippi alone over the last eighteen months more than fifty-six Negro churches have been burned to the ground…Since 1951 over the southland more than eighty-six deaths have occurred of Negroes and whites who have been involved in civil rights.”
This violence was directly related to a “white backlash.” He says, “We have to discuss this problem very honestly. People tend to think of the so-called white backlash as a new phenomenon and I always say that it is a new name for a very old phenomenon because the fact is that there has never been a solid, monistic, determined commitment to the question of racial justice on the part of the vast majority of the white Americans.”
“America, King says, “Has constantly taken one step forward but at the same time it took a step backwards on the question of racial justice.”
Today, with the ascendancy of Donald Trump, the forces of white supremacy have again pulled us backward. King recognized such moments as times for action.
He says, “I am absolutely convinced that the forces of ill will in our nation, the extreme rightists of our nation, the forces committed to negative ends of our nation, have used time much more effectively than the forces of good will. And it may well be that we will have to repent in this generation not merely for the violence of the bad people but for the silence of the good people. Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be co-workers with God; and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation. And so it is necessary to help time and to realize that the time is always right to do right. Edmund Burke said some time ago, “When evil men combine good men must unite.” This is a great challenge facing America. When evil men plot, good men must plan. When evil men burn and bomb, good men must build and bind. When evil men shout ugly words of hatred, good men must commit themselves to the glories of love. When evil men would seek to perpetuate an unjust status quo, good men must seek to bring into being a real order of justice. This is the great challenge facing America.”
Moonlight: Masculinity, Sexism & Misogyny on Trial in the Pursuit to Dismantling Patriarchy
Moonlight is an incredible movie that dismantles masculinity without dismantling
As a result of the relationship Chiron and the drug dealer develop; the drug dealer begins to undergo a social transformation. One-day Chiron experiences being humiliated by his mother, who is losing her battle with her drug addiction, when she calls Chiron a faggot! He is hurt and confused by his mother’s actions and words. He immediately runs to the drug dealer’s house for comfort. During dinner Chiron drops a bombshell at the dinner table and asks, “What is a faggot?” As the drug dealer and his girl friend absorb what he just asked Chiron follows up with another question. “Am I a faggot?” The drug dealer looks at his girlfriend before he responds, and chooses his words carefully. “No you are not a faggot,” he says in a comforting voice, and he also goes on to say something to the effect of “a faggot is a degrading term used to describe some people.”
At that moment during that discussion Chiron begins to question his gender identity, and at that moment for the drug dealer what was at stake wasn’t Chiron’s gender identity buthis humanity. In all actuality the drug dealer had become the father Chiron didn’t have, and the defining moment of the conversation was how the drug dealer had dismantled a twisted version of manhood wrapped up in being overly masculine by basically telling Chiron that his gender identity is not a concern right now because he is just a kid and whatever it becomes down the road it will be. The social norm of the “hood mentality” that governs the drug dealer’s social identity normally would dictate to him that the relationship he builds with Chiron is rooted in their masculinity. As most men growing up in the “hood” as boys, we grow up fast and hard. Searching for our manhood on street corners occupied by men, who are haunted by broken dreams and hearts fueled by pain and hurt. This pain and hurt is hidden behind our masculinity, where it dictates of us to be hard and never to appear soft because to appear soft is to be weak and weakness is associated with the feminine. This social indoctrination that most boys undergo, and that we carry with us into our manhood, ultimately socially handicaps us because of our need to overcompensate for being masculine.
Sexism & Misogyny
Chiron’s mother in a single parent home raises him by societies definition. But society fails to see it as a social crime for a mother to be raising her son by herself. Therefore the domino effect from this social crime is that Chiron’s mother’s worth as a woman becomes in question in association with her social status. She, like many women, becomes socially stigmatized as a result of being a single parent. This is the ramification of sexism and misogyny. These social norms of sexism and misogyny by oppressing, exploiting and degrading women are the children of patriarchy. They take on an invisible and visible form in the lives of women in our society. The invisible form is patriarchy itself, which is at the core of this society and interacts with women in every way fashionable. The visible form is sexism and misogyny in the physical form of men who are the agents of patriarchy, which plays itself out by how men interact with women.
For many women being left as a single parent they become stigmatized for not having a man around to help them raise their children as if it is their fault the father left. Chiron’s mother equally feels this stigmatization because she is socially degraded; as if it is solely her fault her son’s father is missing in action. Societies sexist and misogynist expectations magnify her struggles. As a result the ramifications leads to depression and being dehumanized. Depression takes root as the pressure of being both parents begins to mount on her shoulders. She sacrifices her dreams and goals for the sake of fighting to secure a future for Chiron with little resources. Because of poor employment and poverty, she is forced to seek assistances from the state, which is another degrading and dehumanizing process for women. Her social life is either non-existent or she is just deemed as a good fuck by men, but not a woman that is worthy of being committed to building a long standing relationship with that can end up in a life long commitment.
Under these social conditions drugs or alcohol easily becomes a coping mechanism for many women, and sometimes are introduced by the men they find themselves being entertained by. Sexism and misogyny is a social disease that all men suffer from in some form or fashion, and ultimately perpetuate its ramifications differently that all men take with them with their interactions with women. But what remains the same is the oppression and exploitation that women experience from it. In Chiron’s mother’s life you can see vividly how sexism and misogyny socially abused her and left her to fend for herself the best way she can by adopting a survival of the fittest mentality. The works of sexism and misogyny is the evidence necessary to put patriarchy on trial as it has dismantled the humanity of women for years and left children suffering as a result.
Most men think in dismantling patriarchy they will dismantle their manhood, and as a result it prevents us from truly overstanding the oppressive ramifications of patriarchy towards women, LGBTQ people and even against ourselves. As a result of not having a clear overstanding of patriarchy, we as men become agents of its destruction.
Feminism shouldn’t be a threat to the welfare of men. LGBTQ identities shouldn’t be viewed as a threat the welfare of men. As a man to be pro-feminism, is basically to be pro-women. As a man to be pro-LBGTQ, is basically to be pro-human. Our sexuality shouldn’t define our humanity, but our humanity should define our sexuality. Our values and principles is the anchor of our humanity, and our values and principles shouldn’t be dictating of us oppressing each other but ultimately working for the liberation of us all.
Patriarchy in association with capitalism and white supremacy is a threat to us all. As a Black man in a capitalist society, I find myself negotiating my manhood in some form or fashion. As result of white supremacy and patriarchy this is the same way women and LGBTQ people may find themselves. The key differences not only are women and LGBTQ people become forced to negotiate their humanity, but also forced to surrender their humanity to appease patriarchy. For liberation to be manifested not only must white supremacy and capitalism be destroyed, but also patriarchy the primary architect.
By no means do I consider myself an expert on this subject, but because of my experience of being an agent of patriarchy through acting out sexist and misogynistic behavior towards women helps me overstand the need for the dismantling of patriarchy. The first blow of defeating patriarchy is by deconstructing our sexist and misogynistic thinking. Hyper masculinity, sexism and misogynistic behaviors are the creations of patriarchy. This is the root of the oppression of women, children and LGBTQ people. By putting patriarchy on trial, we put ourselves on trail to become agents of its destruction. The verdict becomes to dismantle patriarchy is to dismantle ourselves.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Revolution! The word means different things to different people. It has been made seductive by the work of artists like Lin-Manuel Miranda, in his groundbreaking musical, Hamilton. Perhaps a more palatable “call for revolution” is Bernie Sanders’ new organization, Our Revolution, which asks Americans to “reclaim democracy for the working people of our country by harnessing the transformative energy of the ‘political revolution.’”
Invocations of revolution have long held a special place in the radical imagination of Black freedom struggles all over the world. KEEP READING
Up against the White House’s “alternative facts” and attempts to hide climate data, can new allies—citizens and science—prevail against politicians and corporations? Climate science is looking like a new front line, and scientists are increasingly its freedom fighters. Citizens need to support them by engaging in daily research, demanding truth, and forcing government and industry to use research for the common good.