Boggs Center Detroit News – January15th, 2018

January 15th,  2018

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“In the first century BC, Cicero said: “Freedom is participation in power.” Negroes should never want all power because they would deprive others of their freedom. By the same token, Negroes can never be content without participation in power. America must be a nation in which its multiracial people are  partners in power. This is the essence of democracy toward which all Negro struggles have been directed since the distant past when he was transplanted here in chains.”

Dr. Martin Luther  King, Jr. Where do we go from here, Chaos or Community?
The Latest from Detroit People’s Platform

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Thinking for Ourselves Shea Howell Creative Turmoil
The celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. comes in the midst of a moment of national disgrace. It is not only that the words of the current administration are cruel, hateful, and dangerous. It is also that its policies are. The brutality of a dying empire is seeping into all of our relationships, poisoning us.
This is why it is important for us to revisit the challenges to America embodied in Dr. King’s life and words. This year, I have been thinking about Dr. King not only as an American visionary, but as a global citizen.
In December of 1964 Martin Luther King flew to Oslo Norway to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. He made clear that he was not accepting this as an individual, but “on behalf of the movement.” He characterized himself as “a trustee, inspired and with renewed dedication to humanity.”
Dr. King begins his speech with a list of the violent cruelties that happened one day before he spoke. In Birmingham Alabama children were attacked with dogs and fire hoses. In Philadelphia, Mississippi young people were brutalized and murdered. More than 40 churches were bombed on burned in Mississippi and people everywhere were in the “chains” of poverty.
Acknowledging this, King decided to speak to his belief that “Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace,” and we “must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”
He affirmed his “abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind,” saying:

I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the “isness” of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal “oughtness” that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.
I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today’s mortar bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive good will proclaim the rule of the land. “And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid.” I still believe that We Shall overcome!
This faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom. When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born.

Trump is neither the beginning nor the end of this long, creative struggle for a new world.
Notes from Midwestern Conversations Relando Thompkins-Jones

“This summer we are beginning anew, not with what we are against but what we are for; not rejections but projections. We are searching for the fundamentals, the elementals of the new…The solution is not in science, it is how we look at “we”. – (Excerpt from Conversations in Maine, 1978, James & Grace Lee Boggs; Freddy & Lyman Paine)

On November 16th-19th, 2017 I spent time at a retreat called Midwest Conversations: Nourishing our souls for {r}evolutionary living & work. The retreat was sponsored by the James and Grace Lee Bogs Center in Detroit, and hosted by the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College.
With other social justice workers engaged in education, community organizing, health, and other areas, the retreat was designed for us to take a time-out “to nourish relationships; engage with pressing questions, ideas, and practices of radical love, and develop “next steps” in our respective social justice living and work.”

The retreat had three guiding questions:

What kind of leaders are we being right now? What values define visions for living in cities today? What visionary work is called for in the times we’re living in?
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“WE HAVE JUST BEGUN TO FIGHT” Grace Lee Boggs

“WE HAVE JUST BEGUN TO FIGHT”
Grace Lee Boggs (August 18, 2013)

I‘ve been a Detroiter for 60 years and this is the first time in my experience that so many different organizations with different ideologies and personalities have recognized that the time has come when we must join together to resist and defeat the growing counter-revolution.

This counter-revolution is very unprincipled, very dangerous and taking many forms, Therefore its defeat will take a lot of cooperation, courage, and principled struggle.

Rooted in race, and the search for the American Dream, it began at the end of World War II when white people moved to the suburbs to escape blacks in cities like Detroit where whites were becoming the minority. Taking with them their schools, their businesses and their taxes, they impoverished the cities and attracted the attention and money of extreme right-wingers like the Koch brothers.

As a result, over the years the suburbs have become increasingly reactionary. They have elected governors like Scott Walker and Rick Snyder. They have passed anti-union right to work, anti-women, and anti-black “Stand your ground” laws, which have given men like George Zimmerman permission to kill teens like Trayvon Martin as if they were roaches.

It is also mushrooming on college campuses. Professors are writing books celebrating Senator Joe McCarthy, claiming that his red-baiting witchhunts were actually early warnings against the big government that Obama is trying to force on us. Every year the ultra-conservative Phyliss Schlafly hosts a nationally-telecast Collegians Summit at the Heritage Foundation to provide these professors with a youthful audience.

As a result, on some campuses white students warn black professors not to flunk them – or else. At UCLA’s medical school Dr. Christian Head, a black surgeon, was assaulted by a flyer depicting him with the body of a gorilla being sodomized by another professor. He sued and was awarded $4.5 million.

With growing unemployment, the crisis in the Mideast, and the decline in this country’s global dominance, we have come to the end of the American Dream. The situation reminds me of the 1930s when good Germans, demoralized by their defeat in WWI, unemployment and inflation, followed Hitler into the Holocaust.

These days, in our country, a growing number of white people feel that, as they are becoming the minority and a black man has been elected president, the country is no longer theirs. They are becoming increasingily desperate and dangerous.

We need to address their fears, and at the same time invite and challenge them to join with us in creating a new American Dream.

It will not be easy. It will take the willingness to risk arrest that North Carolinians are demonstrating in the Moral Mondays movement.

It will take the kind of militancy that students are exhibiting in sit-ins against ‘’Stand your ground” legislation.

It will take the kind of courage and persistence that Texas State Senator Wendy Davis demonstrated when she carried out a 13 hour filibuster against a bill that would have denied women the right to choose.

We have just begun to fight….

(Note: Grace wrote this column under the heading “In Detroit, We Have Just Begun to Fight” after Detroit was taken over by an emergency manager and plunged into a corporate-styled bankruptcy.)

View American Revolutionary GraceLee PBS

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American Revolutionary

Grace Lee Boggs, 99, is a Chinese American philosopher, writer, and activist in Detroit with a thick FBI file and a surprising vision of what an American revolution can be. Rooted for 75 years in the labor, civil rights and Black Power movements, she challenges a new generation to throw off old assumptions, think creatively and redefine revolution for our times.

More about: American Revolutionary

Boggs Center Living for Change News January 9th, 2017

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James Boggs, What Does the African American Experience Teach us About Democracy and Equality? 1980

The question is not how to make other non-black Americans less racist while we become more like them every day. As long as we continue to think that this is the main question, our social, economic, and political relationships will get worse instead of getting better. In fact, they will be getting worse even when they seem to be getting better. As we go towards the 21st century, blacks more than any other group in our country—because of our historical role in this country and also because we will always remain at the bottom of this society as long as it remains capitalist—need to recognize that we must give leadership to the entire nation by projecting new concepts of social and political relationships that go as far beyond Democracy and Equality that were created 200 years ago as those concepts went beyond the aristocratic and feudal relationships and concepts of Europe.

 

Living for Change News January 9th, 2017

It wasn’t all unrelenting doom and gloom in 2017.

Thinking for Ourselves Shea Howell EM Shadows
It is easy to think democracy has been restored to Michigan. The faces of Emergency Managers no longer loom out at us in the daily news. Kevyn Orr has disappeared from Detroit. He is now partner in charge of Jones Day’s Washington D.C. office.
Darnell Earley is gone from Flint and Detroit.  Although in early February he is expected return to view as he is likely to be charged with involuntary manslaughter for his role in the poisoning of Flint water.
Detroit has an elected school board. They selected a new superintendent and reports are that some stability has returned. The governor’s office reported that for the first time in more than a decade, “there are no emergency managers in any cities statewide.”
Rarely reported, however, is that standing in the shadows are financial review boards, limiting the scope and nature of decisions elected officials can make. From water rates and school closing to merit pay, local democratic controls remain out of the hands of local officials, and voters.
Financial management continues as both a theory and practice of the right wing republican dominated state legislature. At the close of the state legislature in December, Democrats and a few bold republicans offered legislation to repeal emergency management legislation. In response, the governor’s office reiterated that the state has a “legitimate purpose in intervening” in local governments. Likewise the proposed legislation dealing with pension funds originally depended on establishing authoritarian emergency management boards.
It is hard to imagine a more clearly failed policy. The role of unchecked, unilateral authority given to emergency managers in the name of financial responsibility is clearly to blame for the devastation of Flint. Two decades of emergency managers left Detroit Public Schools with greater debt, more chaos, and less support for students and teachers than when elected boards were in charge. The New York Times assessed the experience of emergency management saying:
In Flint, emergency managers not only oversaw the city — effectively seizing legal authority from the mayor and City Council — but also pressed to switch the source of the financially troubled city’s water supply to save money.
In Detroit, the schools are on the brink of insolvency after a series of emergency managers dating to 2009 repeatedly failed to grapple with its financial troubles, while also falling short on maintaining school buildings and addressing academic deficiencies.
Supporters of Emergency Management often point to the Detroit bankruptcy process as a sign of the success of the policy. This success is embedded the corporate narrative that Detroit is “coming back.” For these supporters this means Detroit is becoming whiter, wealthier, and more supportive of corporate take-overs of public assets and responsibilities.
In the midst of the Detroit bankruptcy process, the fundamental problem of emergency management thinking emerged in the water shut off crisis. In order to make city assets valuable on the open market, Orr ordered a crack down on overdue residential water bills. This set off an assault on our communities that brought universal condemnation to the city and those who backed the shut off policy.  It revealed the essence of emergency management bottom line thinking that overshadows the essential interests of people.  In his ruling refusing a moratorium on water shut offs, Judge Steven Rhodes, later emergency manager of Detroit Public Schools explained, “Detroit cannot afford any revenue slippages.” Thus he denied a moratorium on shut offs, even as he acknowledged the irreparable harms being done to people. Economics, not people, matter.
The current legislation enabling emergency managers needs to be repealed. Statewide, voters have already said this law is undemocratic. Our task is to create local governments as essential places for people to practice meaningful democracy.  This possibility is what frightens those in authority.

 

An evening of music, food, solidarity, and strategy hosted by the Long Hairz Collective!
January 11th 

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