Boggs Center – Living For Change News Letter -July 25, 2017

Jimmy and Grace

We are the Children of Martin and Malcolm…

We are the children of Martin and Malcolm,       

Black, brown, red and white,

Our birthright is to be creators of history,

Our Right, Our Duty   

To shake the world with          

A new dream!

July 25th, 2017

Thinking for Ourselves
From Contempt to Love
Shea Howell

Throughout the city people are talking about the Detroit Rebellion, now 50 years in the past. The debate between riot and rebellion still surges, igniting energy and argument. The meaning of it all is still analyzed, the images still inspiring. In all of these conversations, fear lingers. Will it happen again?

Many people comfort themselves by narrowing the cause of the 1967 rebellion to police brutality.  The story goes something like this. Detroit was becoming a majority black city, but the police department was 95% white. Many white officers had been recruited from the south, specifically because they were good at intimidating African Americans. It was excessive force and harassment, used against people celebrating the return of two Viet Nam veterans in an after hours joint that sparked what was then the bloodiest urban uprising in US history. Now, after Coleman Young and his efforts to integrate the police department, we no longer face the problems of police hostility.  All may not be perfect, but it is much better.

Others acknowledge the complexity of racism, white supremacy, deindustrialization, and a host of local, regional and national policies that combined to oppress and dehumanize people of color. Many recognize that these forces are still distorting and destroying the lives of people throughout our city. School closing, pension seizures, unemployment, shut offs of heat and water, foreclosures and police harassment are part of daily life.

What rarely gets openly discussed, however, is the underlying logic driving much of the corporate elite and the choices they are making in the name of developing our city. That logic is the same as it was fifty years ago. It rests on a profound contempt for the lives of poor people, especially African Americans and other people of color. Their very presence has to be controlled. Their lives made invisible, their hopes and dreams diminished.

Public officials today reflect this same contempt. It is the foundation to all of their responses to the problems we face. For example, in a recent article in the New York Times discussing the blatant disregard for the law in the foreclosure crisis, Mayor Mike Duggan is quoted as saying he would not consider reimbursements to people who lost their home because of unconstitutional city actions. Duggan’s position is people had a chance to appeal their tax assessments. If people didn’t take advantage of the opportunity, it is just too bad for them. It is their own fault that they lost their homes, not the illegal actions of the city.

This contempt for people around the foreclosure crisis is the same attitude Duggan takes on water shut offs. He said people should just pay their bills. His attitude was echoed by the former radical, former city council person Sheila Cockrel. She was more direct, telling people who wanted “free water” to grab a bucket and head for the river. Comments from suburban leaders are no different. Most famously this contempt was expressed by L. Brook Patterson in Oakland County, suggesting putting a fence around Detroit and throwing in “blankets and corn.”

Contempt is essential to the protection of privilege. It justifies the inhuman and destructive practices necessary to maintain relationships based on injustice.

In sharp contrast to these corporate elites, people throughout the city are fostering relationships based on love and respect. They are growing food together, caring for children, creating new forms of education and developing local means of production for local needs. They are telling new stories of our past and opening new possibilities for our future. Whatever fires come next time, our best hope is in these community connections forged in love.


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Eyewitness to History: July 23rd, 1967
Carl R. Edwards (founding member of the Boggs Center and People’s lawyer).

Violence is the voice of the unheard.” – Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, July 23, 1967, I had just turned 20 years old.  I was born on Bastille Day, July 14, 1947, the date in 1789 that the French people rebelled and overthrew their economic and political rulers, the King and Queen of France and the French monarchy.  I had spent the day with my girlfriend at her parent’s home across the street from the old Olympia Stadium, home of Detroit’s professional hockey team, the Red Wings and its professional basketball team, the Detroit Pistons.

In the early afternoon, there was breaking news as we watched television: a disturbance had broken out in a lower west side neighborhood when the Detroit Police conducted a raid on an “after hours joint”.  As time passed there were additional television news flashes: violence and looting of stores and business spontaneously erupted all over the City of Detroit.  When I got ready to leave to return home, my girlfriend’s parents told me it was not safe to venture out and suggested that I spend the night and wait until the morning to return home.

I demurred.  I thanked them for their kindness and set off for home, a mere 2-3 miles north on Grand River Avenue.

However, nothing in my 20- year-old young life prepared me for what I was destined to encounter.  I was a witness to the apocalypse; a people’s primal scream for crimes committed by the white American and European race against African and African American humanity that shook the very foundations of the City of Detroit and the surrounding region, state and the nation.

It was both a riot and a rebellion. At that time, like so many other main streets in Detroit, Grand River was a beautiful avenue of retail stores, banks, grocery stores, gas stations, automobile sales lots, and all manner of large and small businesses.  I witnessed scores of African Americans, young and old, breaking windows and stealing the store contents: groceries and meat, furniture, refrigerators, washers and dryers, irons and ironing boards, mops brooms and buckets, clothing, and every imaginable consumer good, vividly comes to my mind. 

Although it was nearly midnight and the summer sun had gone to bed hours earlier, I recall the sky being “lit up” as if it were night and day at the same time. Bright red, yellow, orange, purple and black it was. Eerie. Flames danced up and up, higher and higher, to the heavens it seemed blotting out the dark night. To my young barely outside of mental adolescent mind, I said to myself: “This is what hell must look like”.

Why were people breaking into the stores and businesses stealing, and looting, I thought out loud. What my young, evolving mind could not yet piece together was the days and years of mistreatment, daily humiliations and myriad insults and degradations, heaped upon us all because of the color of our skin. I recall my father telling me that his stepfather was a dental school graduate but he could not practice in the dental profession because of the color of his skin.   He found work instead at the United States Post Office where he worked until retirement. These and other narratives that were worse occupied the daily lives of African American Detroiters. More, the white Detroit police force was tasked with the responsibility of instilling fear and control, especially for those African Americans who dared challenge the normal operation of the way “things just were”. On that fateful Sunday, a typical day of rest, quiet and peace, “All HELL BROKE OUT” and African American Detroiters, as had African Americans in other American cities, exploded, releasing pent up energy, for a trillion grievances, outrages and despairs.

Police cruisers, fire trucks and ambulances sped up and down Grand River Avenue.
For the hour or so that I walked up Grand River, I saw absolutely not a scintilla of activity that could be described as resistance to the suffocating reality of virulent white racism, white skin privilege, white supremacy and white control over every fiber of my existence as a young African American Detroiter born and raised locally, not yet legally an adult.  And it was white racism that caused this contagion.  The report of president Lyndon B. Johnson’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (The Kerner Commission) was unequivocal when it concluded, I am paraphrasing, that white racism caused the “Uprisings” in America’s cities, including Detroit.  The Kerner Commission further stated unless drastic actions were undertaken immediately America was moving toward two societies, one black and one white, separate and unequal.

Yes, there was spontaneous unorganized resistance to the white police department when a largely white, Detroit Police Department attempted to quell the uprising by African American Detroiters against the symbols of white privilege and control in our largely racially segregated communities in Detroit.  But the uprising also spread to Downtown Detroit’s political and economic power center and headquarters to most corporate businesses.  It was only years later that I discovered there was also organized resistance by politically developed activist and revolutionaries in a few sectors of the uprising. However, and let me be absolutely clear on this point, there was no large-scale involvement of the masses of Detroiters with the goal or objective of organizing to seize control of private corporate property or power or state (governmental) property or power nor any aspect of same and negotiate with the moneyed or economic and political class for relief from the structures of white racist political and economic power in this city and region.

This statement should not be read, however, to support in any manner those apologist for the status quo as it existed for my entire young 20-year-old life in 1967. There has been a wealth of research, studies and books written on the history of race and racism as well as segregation and economic class domination in the City of Detroit. It is often loss to history that there was also a terrible racial uprising in 1943 that has been aptly documented by the national NAACP. Moreover, professor Thomas Segrue has documented this history of racial segregation and Jim Crow in the City of Detroit with his masterfully researched and written: “The Origin of the Urban Crisis”.  Additionally, “Detroit: I Do Mind Dying, A Study in Urban Revolution” by Dan Georgakas and Marvin Surken, is also a riveting account of the organized resistance and struggle against “Apartheid Detroit”, post-July 23, 1967.

In July 1967, a trillion pent up grievances, outrages and despairs exploded into spontaneous violence on a massive scale.  Businesses and property, private and public, were targets for the most part.  This is the definition of a riot.  Indeed, $40-45 million dollars was the estimated cost in 1967 dollars ($325 million in 2013 dollars).  This was the most destructive uprising and insurrection in United States history until the 1992 uprising following the not guilty verdict of the white Los Angeles police officers after their savage beating of Rodney King.

However, this eruption in mass violence by African American Detroiters was at the same time a rebellion, because although there was mass anger and revolt, the white owned businesses and property were the symbols of everything that was regarded as normal: the Detroit Public School system was racially segregated, with certain schools closed to African Americans; certain Detroit neighborhoods and homes were closed to African American Detroiters; the colleges and universities were also largely closed to African Americans, including those located in the City of Detroit and throughout the State of Michigan.

Jobs and employment, especially the skilled trades and white collar, salary, supervision and management, and all professional categories, also found it normal to exclude persons of color from their ranks.  Banking, home ownership, business ownership, the legal and political process and even the downtown Detroit restaurants were off limits to African American Detroiters.  In a word, whites reserved the “good stuff” and the “good life” to and for themselves.

African American Detroiters revolted and rebelled against this normal relationship of whites over blacks.  From July 23-28, 1967 “…the world was turned upside down”.

Tragically, the decisions of the economic and political dominant class and their handpicked African American Detroit junior partners and comprador leaders created the storm that has created the legitimate grievances of African American Detroiters.

All too often these African American Detroit economic and political educated leaders and junior partners to white economic and political power elite served their individual interest first and the interest of their family members, friends and peers, rather than the interest of ordinary African American Detroiters, the people.

In a similar context in Africa, the iconic Dr. Kwame Nkrumah has referred to these individuals as “neocolonialist”: Africans whom serve the interest of white European and American economic rulers in power and not the interest of ordinary Africans.  See “Kwame Nkrumah, The Conakry Years”, his life in exile in Guinea, Africa, after he was removed from office as President, Ghana, Africa, by his then Ghana Africa educated and military elite in collaboration with the United States and European powers; see also “The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born” by Ayi Kweiarmah, for a description of the lives of ordinary Ghanians under the rule of black Ghana, Africa, Junior partners to the United States and England economic powers, after independence when Britain was thrown out of Ghana.  The replacement Ghana Junior partners treated ordinary Africans no better than their white former colonial masters, the English; and the values of these black African Ghanians remained fundamentally as they had been under British rule: worshipping at the altar of extreme materialism.

Martial law was declared in Detroit. The Constitutional protections and the Bill of Rights were locked away and placed in cold storage and the counter-revolution was unleashed with full fury and effect on African American Detroiters, men women, teenagers and, yes, even children. 

In 1967, I was working as a janitor at Fred Sanders Bakery in the City of Highland Park, just outside Detroit on the afternoon shift. I was a sophomore at Michigan Lutheran College in Detroit attending day classes. I recall having to walk miles in order to make it home after my work shift ended at 10:00pm. An 8:00 pm curfew was in effect so we asked our supervisor if we could leave work in time to avoid being in violation of the curfew. We were told by our boss that as long as we possessed a permission slip from our job we could be out after the curfew went into effect. I decided to move back into my parents’ home located near Livernois and Warren Avenues because there was less public and private property destruction than there was in the Grand River Avenue area where my apartment was located. On day one after martial law was declared a coworker dropped me off on Livernois. As I walked passed the Detroit Police Department 10th precinct at Elmhurst and Livernois I saw a stunning spectacle that literally rattled me from my head to my soul. Scores of public buses were parked stuffed with African American Detroiters. No restroom there to relieve one’s self. No privacy whatsoever. No food, water, ability to buy a bag of potato chips or a soda pop. And this was the circumstance all over the City of Detroit. Every Detroit Police Department precinct mirrored what I witnessed at the 10th precinct. More, Detroit Public Schools football and baseball fields were converted into “ slave holding pens” and “concentration camps”. Later when the 82nd and 101st Airborne United States Army divisions and tanks moved into Detroit some of these playgrounds were also converted into military commands and stations. Even Detroit’s beautiful Belle Isle Park, at the time called the 8th wonder of the world, had its historic Bath House commandeered and converted into a modern day “slave holding pen”. 

Army tanks randomly machine-gunned apartment buildings all over the city including in the areas where the uprising occurred. The “Dogs of War” were unleashed on a largely compliant African American Detroit citizenry. Legal murder and death were savagely committed against African American Detroit citizens by the United States military and local Detroit Police Department. Both were populated by white Americans raised on the toxic brew that we were their “inferiors”. Like their ancestors before them society gave these white citizens the privilege and powers and the right to control their darker brethren in any manner that they chose, including murder and death, including my death.   A bestselling book was written by noted author, John Hersey, entitled: “The Algiers Motel Incident”, concerning the savage, cold-blooded death of three African American teenagers at the hands of white Detroit police officers.  It was an open secret that Detroit’s economic and political power brokers went to the southern states and recruited white males to become police officers.  So too, the United States military has been historically disproportionately comprised of white males from the south.  These “good old boys” were born and raised with the powerful ideas that their darker citizens were “inferior” and it was their solemn, sacred duty “…to put and keep the “niggras” in their place”.  Unlike their white northern brethren who dressed up, disguised and prettified this same system and personal white supremacy feeling and mental thinking, including the northern educated “liberal racist” socioeconomic class.  For many years I have wondered why the towering Frederick Douglas sought personal independence from the white northern liberal abolitionist of his day, including establishing his own anti-slavery newspaper, “The North Star”.

For two nights, I trekked along Livernois Avenue the several miles to my destination, my parents’ home. During those harrowing nights, each step I made and each breath I took was anxiety filled as countless police cruisers and military vehicles sped by me. I carried the obligatory pass in my right pants pocket. But the fear of the “slave catchers” occupied my every young, innocent thoughts. 

On night three my luck ran out. A police cruiser occupied by four Detroit Police Department officers, (nicknamed “The Big 4”), pulled alongside me as I walked home.  I was ordered to stop. I froze in fear for what seemed like eternity. The first officer to exit his vehicle was particularly aggressive: “Nigger what are you doing out here. There is a curfew? Niggers are not to be on the streets”. In a nanosecond before I could provide an answer I see his right-hand move and he pulled out what appeared to my unschooled mind in weapons the biggest hand gun I had ever seen. Before I could say a word the barrel of this big, black pistol was pressed hard to my temple. I told the white officers I was heading home from work and I had a pass from my employer to be outside after the curfew. I reflectively went to reach into my right side of my pants pocket to show the white police officer my pass. I took a quick look out of the side of my eyes and saw and heard him pull the hammer back and hold it to the side of my head. My mind thought also reflexively this is my last seconds on this earth. I felt my heart racing, I was sweating profusely, a cold sweat on an extraordinary hot, Detroit, July summer day.

The white police officer holding the gun to my head grabbed my right hand and removed my paper pass from my pocket. He read it out loud and said words, I am now paraphrasing because of time and distance: “Nigger, this is just a piece of paper.  It don’t mean shit. If we catch your black ass out again after the curfew we will kill you”. I watched as the crumpled paper pass was picked up by the wind and blown a half block distance.  My hand still shakes as I recount this unspeakable experience 50 years later.  I still suffer from the “guilt of the survivor” syndrome.

I was one of the fortunate young black men that July day and of that time. Many African American young men faced the wrath of the modern-day police state and it cost them permanently, with their life or their freedom, as it had cost millions of our ancestors. Our creator had her arms wrapped around me. She had a different purpose for my earthly life. I am certain that the seeds of what I was later to become were clearly planted with that harrowing life and death encounter with the modern day “slave catchers”: A trial lawyer, activist, humanitarian and freedom fighter.

July 23, 1967 was both a riot and a rebellion. Tens of thousands of young men and women of my generation heard and headed Malcolm’s call and challenge, a challenge that is just as urgent today:

“Wake up, from your oppressed status at the bottom of the economic, social pyramid; Clean up, mentally, spiritually and physically from your woeful miseducation concerning your history;  you are not an inferior person or people; we are all exceedingly flawed and imperfect human beings but we have this incredible power that lies within, the power of choice and redemption; to choose to become a responsible citizen and purpose driven human being; and Standup; be a ‘man’ not a permanent ‘boy’, a woman, not an adult girl and stop being complacent to injustice in the face of what seems like an impossible challenge and odds.”

July 23-28, 1967 also confirms the enduring principle of the towering titan Frederick Douglass when he intoned: “Power concedes nothing without a demand; and that demand will be by words or sometimes by blows or both; the limits of tyrants are governed by the degree endurance tolerated by the person or persons they oppress and deprive of basic natural rights”. 

July 23-28, 1967 was an insurrection. African American Detroit and African Americans in other sister cities both rioted and rebelled against the status quo and system of African American and black inferiority in every aspect of American and European life, imposed by white supremacy, white skin privilege and white control, circumstances which were considered normal by white Detroiters, white Americans and indeed white Europeans.  Sadly, this normalcy fundamentally still persists today, 50 years later.

On April 4, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King spoke to the violence that was occurring all over America in her cities shortly before Detroit exploded July 23, 1967.  In a riveting passionate speech against the Vietnam War, delivered at Riverside Church in New York, Dr. King reminded America that violence is the language of the unheard and the poor.  More, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated America urgently needed a revolution in values.  He challenged America to shift from a “thing” oriented society to a “person” oriented society.  Dr. King stated that “machines and profits cannot be more important than the people”.  He warned America that it was headed for spiritual death unless it reversed course from worshiping at the altar of “…racism, extreme materialism and militarism”.

Finally, James and Grace Lee Boggs followed the words and example of Dr. King.  They repeatedly called on us to struggle and fight to save the soul of America, not because we hate America, but because we love her so.


WHAT WE’RE READING

No water for poor people:
the nine Americans who risked jail to seek justice

Drew Phillip

4500 2

(Marian Kramer and Rev Bill Wylie-Kellermann stand beneath Transcending, the monument built to honor Detroit’s Labor Movement. Photograph: Garrett MacLean for the Guardian)

KEEP READING

Please Support the Boggs Center

With each day we are reminded of the legacy of James and Grace Lee
Boggs as we see the seeds of their work across Detroit, our nation
and the globe, and in the work that you are doing to bring to life
beloved communities.

This year we are thinking about centuries as we commemorated the 98th
birthday of James Boggs in May and Grace’s 102nd birthday in June.
Where will we be in 2117? What do we long for our world to become?

These questions are at the root of the work of resisting the
dehumanization of this present moment and our efforts to accelerate
visionary organizing throughout the country.

Over the next few months we plan to raise  $100,000 for the
initiatives below.

Place-based organizing of Feedom Freedom Growers, Birwood
–Fullerton and Field street initiatives: ($50,000)

Riverwise Magazine publication: ($40,000)

Boggs Center repairs. Archiving and meeting space improvements:
($10,000)

You can contribute directly at our website:  –
www.boggscenter.org  or mail a check  to Boggs Center, 3061 Field
Street, Detroit, MI 48214.

Please consider becoming a sustaining member of the Center.
Your ongoing support is critical to us.


The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership

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3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214
US

98th Birthday – James Boggs May 27, 1919 July 22, 1993

Our comrade friend mentor and fellow Revolutionary Jimmy Boggs Passed Away 24 years ago 1993.

James Boggs (activist)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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For other people with this name, see James Boggs
James Boggs
James Boggs and Grace Lee Boggs.jpg

James Boggs and his wife Grace Lee Boggs
Born May 27, 1919
Marion Junction, Alabama[1]
Died July 22, 1993(1993-07-22) (aged 74)
Detroit, Michigan
Occupation political activist
Spouse(s) Annie McKinley (1938)
Grace Lee Boggs (1953–93, his death)[1]

James Boggs (May 27, 1919 – July 22, 1993) was an American political activist, auto worker and author. He was married to philosopher activist Grace Lee Boggs for forty years until his death.

Biography[edit]

Born in 1919 in Marion Junction, Alabama,[1] James “Jimmy” Boggs was an African-American activist, perhaps best known for authoring The American Revolution: Pages from a Negro Worker’s Notebook in 1963. He was also an auto worker at Chrysler from 1940 until 1968.

Boggs was active in the far left organization, Correspondence Publishing Committee, led by C. L. R. James from around the time it left the Trotskyist movement in the early 1950s, until Boggs and Grace Lee Boggs led a split in 1962, breaking with C. L. R. James. When Correspondence Publishing Committee earlier suffered a split in 1955, led by Raya Dunayevskaya, and lost nearly half its membership, James and Grace Lee Boggs remained loyal to Correspondence Publishing Committee. The group was advised by C. L. R. James, who was at that time exiled in Britain. In 1955, James Boggs became the editor of their bi-monthly publication, called Correspondence. However, political differences with C. L. R. James over time would eventually lead Boggs to take control over Correspondence Publishing Committee in 1962 and continue publication independently for a couple of years. James Boggs expressed the reasons for the 1962 split in his 1963 book, The American Revolution: Pages from a Negro Worker’s Notebook.

In later years, he would play an influential role in the radical wing of the civil rights movement and interacted with many of the most important civil rights activists of the day including Malcolm X, Ossie Davis and many others.

Boggs and Grace Lee Boggs, who were married from 1953 until his death in 1993, “built a durable partnership that was at once marital, intellectual, and political. It was a genuine partnership of equals, remarkable not only for its unique pairing or for its longevity, but also for its capacity to continually generate theoretical reflection and modes of activist engagement.”[2]

Works[edit]

  • The American Revolution: Pages from a Negro Worker’s Notebook (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1963).
  • Book Manifesto for a Black revolutionary party (Philadelphia, Pacesetters Pub. House, 1969).
  • Racism and the Class Struggle: Further Pages from a Black Worker’s Notebook (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1970).
  • Lenin Today; Eight essays on the hundredth anniversary of Lenin’s birth (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1970). (with Paul Sweezy and Harry Magdoff)
  • The awesome responsibilities of revolutionary leadership (Detroit, Mich: Committee for Political Development, 1970). (with Grace Lee Boggs)
  • But what about the workers? (Detroit: Advocators, 1973). (with James Hocker)
  • Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1974). (with Grace Lee Boggs)
  • Issues in race and ethnic relations: theory, research, and action (Itasca, Ill: F. E. Peacock Publishers, 1977). (with Jack Rothman)
  • Conversations in Maine: exploring our nation’s future (Boston: South End Press, 1978). (with Grace Lee Boggs, Freddy Paine and Lyman Paine)
  • Towards a new concept of citizenship (Detroit: National Organization for an American Revolution, 1979).
  • Liberation or Revolution? (Detroit: National Organization for an American Revolution, 1980).
  • These are the times that try our souls: the questions we have yet to ask ourselves (Detroit: National Organization for an American Revolution, 1981).(with Grace Lee Boggs and James Hocker)
  • Historical development of our social forces (Detroit: National Organization for an American Revolution, 1982) “Cadre Training School, Dec. 1-5, 1982.”
  • Our American Reality (Detroit: National Organization for an American Revolution, 1982) “Cadre Training School, Dec. 1-5, 1982.”
  • The urgent plea: a call for Black leadership (Philadelphia: National Organization for an American Revolution, 1985).
  • What can we be that our children see? (Detroit: New Life Publishers, 1994).

 

REBUILDING DETROIT: AN ALTERNATIVE TO CASINO GAMBLING

By James Boggs

Public Speakout, 1st Unitarian-Universalist Church

Friday, June 24, 1988

Monday night I went to the graduation for one of my grandsons in Ford Auditorium at which Mayor Young was the main speaker. The student who introduced Young said, with a smile, that he was the only Mayor she had ever known. Young then said in the same joking vein that maybe some students should come back in ten years and run for Mayor because by then he would probably have retired. Everyone laughed, but it is no joking matter. The sad truth is that his honor has been Mayor for so long he thinks he owns the town and seems to have forgotten that the people elected him and may one day retire him before his vision of Detroit leads us into even deeper chaos.

Coleman Young was elected Mayor of Detroit fifteen years ago because the city was majority black and the time had come for a black mayor. Also blacks were furious with STRESS, the decoy system that the Gribbs administration had created to catch street criminals. When he was elected, Young had no program for stopping crime. All he could propose in his inaugural speech was that the criminals should hit 8 Mile road. But he did have a dream, the dream that he could get the corporations to stay in Detroit by bribing them with tax abatements.

Today Young’s dream has turned into a nightmare. Crime has not hit 8 Mile road, but industry has. Parke-Davis, Strohs, the Mack Ave. Chrysler plant are all gone. Young promised us 6000 jobs if we allowed him to bulldoze 1500 homes, 600 businesses and 6 churches for a new GM plant in Poletown. Today our taxes are still going to pay for Poletown, but there have never been more than 2500 workers at the Poletown plant and most of those are from GM plants which have been closed down in other parts of the city, creating a wasteland in once thriving communities, especially on the southwest side of the city. At the same time the east side around the Chrysler Jefferson plants has been bulldozed so that it looks like a moonscape. Despite protests small businesses have been forced to leave, as in Poletown.

The reason Coleman Young’s dream has turned into a nightmare is that it was based on the illusion that we can bring back the good old days when Detroit was the auto capital of the world and hundreds of thousands of workers came to the city to do manufacturing jobs at the decent pay which had been won though the organization of the union. But today cars are being built all over the world, not only in Japan and West Germany but in South Korea and Yugoslavia, and multinational corporations have exported manufacturing jobs to the Third World where they can make more profit through cheaper labor. Coleman Young knows, as we all do, that large-scale industry is not coming back to Detroit. That’s why he is now calling casinos gambling an “industry” and trying to force it down our throats, promising us it will bring 50,000 to 80,000 jobs as the auto industry once did.

The workers, who came to Detroit during World War II, particularly from the South, had a lot of hope. They also brought with them a sense of family and a sense of community or of people living in harmony with one another. Working in the plant, they developed a sense of solidarity, at the same time earning enough money to buy homes and raise their families. As a result, Detroit became known as one of the best organized and disciplined cities in the United States, with the highest percent of working class homeowners north of the Mason Dixon line.

Today, however, the great majority of Detroiters no longer have any hope or solidarity with one another. Born and raised in the city, they have no experience of the culture which was second nature to those who had lived close to the land in small Southern communities. At the same time, they can no longer look forward to the well-paying manufacturing jobs which enabled their parents and grandparents to buy their own homes and raise their families. So rather than accept the minimum wage jobs which offer no hope for the future, an increasing number of our youth are attracted to the fast money and big bucks which come from selling dope. The result is that instead of being the auto capital of the world, Detroit has become the murder capital of the world.

However, instead of calling upon Detroiters to embark on a collective reassessment and exploration of how to rebuild Detroit, Young is becoming more arrogant and more stubborn every day. We, the people, he is convinced are too dumb to know what’s good for us. So he set up a commission stacked with his friends and appointees to study casino gambling. Unable to win a majority in the city for casino gambling, he created his own majority.

Today a person has to be really socially-conscious and farsighted to care about the people of Detroit or for that matter the people of any of our big cities. I emphasize this because we are living today in a society where most people only care about the here and now. To rebuild Detroit we need a long-range perspective and not just a quick-fix solution. We need to think of human beings as more than just bodies to be clothed and housed or bellies to be filled. Most of all, we need a philosophy which gives young people the basis for the kind of hope that their grandparents had: the philosophy that people and the relationships between people are more important than material things and instant self-gratification and the confidence that we can create a better tomorrow if we live by this philosophy. We know that the welfare state has failed to give them this perspective. We also know that big industry is not coming back, and that from now on, large-scale industrial jobs will be done in the developing countries or the Third World.

Historically, capitalism has always made sure that the people on the bottom get the leavings, and in this day and age the large-scale industrial jobs are the leavings and the people in the Third World are at the bottom. We also know that a free marketplace economy only serves the interests of the capitalists and that the capitalists are in business not to serve the human needs of working people but to make profit. Therefore when we think about rebuilding Detroit, we have to think of a new model of production which is based upon serving human needs and the needs of the community and not any get-rich-quick schemes.

The question which Detroit and other industrial cities are now facing is “What is the purpose of a city?” Up to now, because it has been our historical experience for the last 75 years, most Americans have thought of the city as a place to which you go for a job after you have been driven off the land by mechanization. But now we know that the large industrial corporations are not going to provide those jobs in our cities.

What then is going to happen to the one million people who still live in Detroit, half of them on some form of public assistance; not only blacks but Chicanos, Arab-Americans, Asian and poor whites? For most of them, Detroit is the end of the rainbow. They can’t go back to the farms from which their parents and grandparents came because these have been wiped out by agribusiness. There are no new industries coming for Detroiters. So if we are going to create hope especially for our young people, we are going to have to break with most of the ideas about cities that we have accepted in the past and start with new basic principles.

To begin with, we have to stop seeing the city as just a place to which you come to get a job or to make a living, and start seeing it as the place where the humanity of people is enriched because they have the opportunity to live with people of many different ethnic and social backgrounds. In other words, we have to see that our capital is in the people and not see people as existing to make capital for production or dependent on capital to live.

The foundation of our city has to be people living in communities who realize that their human identity or their love and respect for self is based on love and respect for others and who have also learned from experiences that they can no longer leave the decision as to their present and their future to the market place, to corporations or to capitalist politicians, regardless of ethnic background. We, the people, have to see ourselves as responsible for our city and for each other, and especially for making sure that our children are raised to place more value on social ties than on material wealth.

We have to get rid of the myth that there is something sacred about large-scale production for the national and international market. Actually, our experiences over the last 75 years has demonstrated that large-scale production, because it is based on a huge separation between production and consumption, makes both producer and consumer into faceless masses who are alienated from one another and at the mercy of economic forces and the mass media. Instead, we have to begin thinking of creating small enterprises which produce food, goods, and services for the local market, that is, for our communities and for our city. Instead of destroying the skills of workers, which is what large-scale industry does, these small enterprises will combine craftsmanship, or the preservation and enhancement of human skills, with the new technologies which make possible flexible production and constant readjustment to serve the needs of local consumers.

In order to create these new enterprises, we need a view of our city which takes into consideration both the resources of our area and the existing and potential skills of Detroiters.

Detroit itself is in the Great Lakes region, so we should think of how we can take advantage of this resource. We can start by developing a fishing fleet. This would mean training young people to fish for a living as they do in New England and along the West and East coasts. It would also mean building docks and cleaning facilities along the river bank in order to supply fresh fish for the whole area.

Michigan also has the best sand in the world. In the past this sand has been used mostly in foundries. We can use it to produce glass; glass to replace the broken windows that we see all around us; glass for the storm windows which will enable us to save energy and use the sun to heat our homes and our water. We can also use glass for greenhouses all over the city, so that we can grow vegetables for the local market all year round. During the spring and the summer we should “Green Detroit” by planting gardens in the thousands of vacant lots all over the city.

Every day on the expressway we see hundreds of trucks and vans equipped with ladder, electrical tools and lumber, bringing carpenters electricians and other skilled workers into Detroit to do the work of repairing Detroit homes. Meanwhile, inner city youth, black and white, stand around doing nothing and waiting for the dope man. Our community colleges should be organizing crash programs to train our youth to use their hands and heads so that they can be doing this work to improve our communities and our city instead of depending on suburbanites.

Detroit has raised many talented clothes designers, but they have all left for New York or California because we have only been able to think in terms of large-scale industry and haven’t recognized that Detroit could become a clothes-producing center for the state of Michigan.

Over the years Detroiters have become locked into the mentality that a party store is the only small business that the average person can create and that shopping malls in the suburbs are where you go to buy most things. We need to be creating all kinds of locally-owned stores in our communities so that we can not only buy our necessities locally but so that our young people can see stores not just as places where you spend money to buy what you want but as places where people are working to meet the needs of the community. In every neighborhood there should be a bakery where families can purchase freshly baked bread and children can stop by after school to buy their sweets. In every neighborhood there should also be food shops where working people can purchase whole meals to take home to eat together, instead of living off McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken. This has been a common practice in other countries.

We also need a fundamental change in our concept of schools. Since the World War II our schools have been transformed into custodial institutions where our children are warehoused for 12 years, with no function except to study and get good grades so that they can win the certificate that will enable them to get a job. What kids learn from books in school has little if any relationship to their daily lives. While they are growing up, they are like parasites doing no socially useful work, spending their time playing and watching TV. Then when they become teenagers, we blame them because they have no sense of social responsibility. We have to create schools which are an integral part of the community, in which young people naturally and normally do social necessary and meaningful work for the community, for example, keeping the school grounds and the neighborhood clean and attractive, taking care of younger children, growing gardens which provide food for the community, etc. etc. Connections should be created between schools and local enterprises so that young people see these as an integral part of their present and future. Our goal should be to make Detroit the first city in the nation to use our schools to support the community rather than as places where our young people are upgraded to leave the community.

Because of our declining population many school buildings in Detroit have been abandoned or are about to be abandoned. These schools can be turned into day care centers to care for the children of working mothers and fathers. They can be developed into political and cultural centers for the community; the place for town meetings or for a local museum where the arts and crafts are proudly exhibited.

These are only a few examples of the kinds of things we can do to rebuild Detroit once we realize that we can no longer depend upon the corporations or the politicians to save us and begin thinking for ourselves about what we can do and must do. At this point, what we need to do is to begin discussing how we are going to rebuild our city, in every block club, every church, every school, every organization and every home –because for the rest of this century and most of the next, the major question in this country is going to be “How will we live in the city?” Up to now we have come to the city expecting somebody else, meaning the corporation, to provide us with a livelihood. Now we are stuck here and we can’t run or hide anymore. We can’t go back to the farms, we can’t keep running from city to city. We must put down our roots where we are and put our hearts, imagination, minds and hands to work, so that we can empower ourselves and one another to create an alternative to casino gambling. Coleman Young’s crisis is our opportunity. Let us start the discussion here tonight.

 

Living for Change: If Not Now, When? – 2010 – Grace Lee Boggs

Published on Monday, August 23, 2010 by CommonDreams.org

Living for Change: If Not Now, When?

by Grace Lee Boggs

 I won’t be marching with Jesse Jackson in the March called by the UAW and the NAACP to commemorate the August 28, 1963 March on Washington.

That’s not only because at 95 my marching days are over.

As early as 1963, Malcolm X called the “I have a Dream” March a “Farce on Washington” because John Lewis had been forced to delete from his speech any references to Revolution and Power by the MOW’s “Big 6” organizers: A. Philip Randolph, Dr. King/SCLC, Roy Wilkins/ NAACP, James Farmer/CORE, Whitney Young/Urban League, John Lewis/SNCC.

Marchers were also instructed to carry only official signs and allowed to sing only one song ‘We shall overcome,’ (see p. 127, Living for Change).

Malcolm never put lipstick on a pig. Malcolm thought outside the box. If he were alive NOW, he would be telling us that we should no longer be marching. We should no longer be protesting. We should no longer be dreaming. We should no longer be encouraging democratic illusions.

  • WHEN millions of Americans do not have meaningful work,
  • WHEN as a result of our obsession with economic growth, wildfires in Russia burn dangerously close to nuclear plants and millions drown from floods and mudslides in Pakistan, China and Iowa,
  • WHEN Congress decides to cut back food stamps for the poor and hungry in order to provide paychecks for public employees because trillions are being thrown away on unwinnable wars in the Middle East and military bases around the world,
  • WHEN our cities are dying because corporations are exporting jobs oversea to make bigger profits,
  • WHEN our prison population is the highest in the world because our schools structured in the factory age have become pipelines to prison,

IT IS TIME TO STOP DREAMING AND PROTESTING.

Instead in every community and city we should be discussing how to make the “Radical Revolution of Values” not only against Racism but against Materialism and Militarism that Dr. King called for in his 1967 anti-Vietnam war speech.

King’s call for this “Radical Revolution” came only four years after his 1963 “I have a Dream” speech. But in those few years, youth in Watts, California and other cities had risen in Rebellion. In Chicago King and anti-racist marchers had experienced the raw ugliness of Northern racism. The genocidal war in Vietnam had exposed our country as the world’s worst purveyor of violence and on the wrong side of the world revolution.

That is why in 1967 King decided that the time had come to warn the American people that unless we make a Radical Revolution in Values, we face spiritual death.

In 2010, 42 years later, we are experiencing massive physical and spiritual death.

Why are we STILL marching and dreaming?

Why are we not making a “radical revolution in values”?

Why are we STILL obsessed with economic growth?

Why are we STILL allowing corporations to deprive us of jobs by replacing human beings on the line with robots and by exporting jobs overseas to make greater profits?

Why are we STILL accepting the dictatorship of technology and of corporations?

THE TIME HAS COME to

  • slow down global warming by building sustainable local economies and by living more simply.
  • reject the dictatorship of technology so that it is no longer normal and natural to replace human beings with robots.
  • stop corporations from exporting jobs overseas.
  • end factory-type schooling and start engaging schoolchildren in local community rebuilding.

LET’S START THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX!

IF NOT NOW, WHEN?

Grace Lee Boggs has been an activist for more than 60 years and is the author of the autobiography Living for Change.

 

Boggs Center – Living For Change News Letter -July 17, 2017

 Jimmy and Grace  

“We still survive, in the culture of estrangement, for how much longer no one knows. Yet to change that culture intelligently, we must understand it, trace its roots, know its history – not because estrangement is the lineal descendent of one particular historical event or time, but because the past is still alive in the present.”

Burning Times – Dreaming The Dark – STARKHAWK

 

Living for Change News
July 17th, 2017
Thinking for Ourselves
Beyond Boundaries
Shea Howell
Across the country people in small towns and cities are experimenting with new ways to create change. While we have experienced a national catastrophe on the presidential level, municipal governments are showing a deep resilience as citizens find ways to address income inequality, climate catastrophe, and basic needs for health, welfare, and education.

Writing in the Nation, John Nichols talked about the “radical experiment in community-guided governance and cooperative economics” emerging. Along with the election of Chokwe Antar Lumumba in Jackson, Mississippi, Nichols documents progressive victories from “Cincinnati to St. Louis to South Fulton, Georgia.”

“The list of victories thus far on this year’s long calendar of contests—mayoral, City Council, state legislative, and even statewide—is striking.” Nichols argues.  “Many of them are unprecedented, and most are linked by a growing recognition on the part of national progressive groups and local activists that the greatest resistance not just to Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan but to right-wing governors could well come from the cities and states where the day-to-day work of governing is done. Municipal resistance is crucial.”

These victories begin by saying “no” but they do not end there. Instead, Nichols explains, “They recognize that an alternative vision can be proposed and put into practice in communities where taxes are levied, services are delivered, commitments to fight climate change are made, resolutions to establish sanctuary cities are adopted, and questions about poverty, privatization, and policing are addressed.”

He continues, ”These victories make a powerful case that a new resistance-and-renewal politics is sending a signal to conservative Republicans and cautious Democrats alike about the ability of bold progressive populists to win in every part of the country.”

The radical potential of local governments to create new forms for enacting values of cooperation, care and commitment to sustainable ways of living is precisely why the right wing is assaulting the very idea of local government.

In Michigan we have seen violent attacks on local sovereignty. Embedded in right wing republican thinking is the idea that local governments exist only at the behest of states. Michigan Attorney General and would be governor Bill Schuette said in defending Emergency Manager Laws that people “do not have a constitutional right to local self government.”

Current Governor Rick Snyder demonstrated this notion recently as his Receivership Transition Advisory Board (RTAB) overrode a unanimous city council vote in Flint to place a moratorium on liens on homes with delinquent water bills.

As journalist Curt Guyette explained, “The decision to strike down the moratorium highlighted yet another prong of an anti-democratic receivership law—the same law that created “emergency managers”—that also resulted in the lead contamination of the city water supply and a prolonged, deadly outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease…The RTAB has complete authority to reject budgets, revenue decisions and major contracts approved by the elected council and mayor. Calling it an “advisory is really a misnomer.”

We are in the midst of a struggle for the soul of our country. What values will we live by? Will we care for one another and our earth or will we continue a system of survival of the greediest and most vicious, destroying people and places for the benefit of a few?

Communities that care for one another are providing real alternative directions toward a better future. But these communities are vulnerable to the whims of state governments in the hands of right wing politicians funded by corporate dollars. Thus, as we create new forms of local governance, we need to be forming new associations of support and resilience, creating ways of linking our selves together beyond the boundaries of the State.


Become a Warrior for the Human Spirit

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Organizing in Detroit: Why it Matters to Me
Tawana “Honeycomb” Petty
electablog

I am a social justice organizer who enjoys introducing conferences and other social justice initiatives to my great city, Detroit. However, it’s more than just organizing. It’s a responsibility that I find as difficult as I find rewarding.

Detroit is a city that is over 80% black. It is a city that was disinvested from for many decades and, in many neighborhoods, is still being disinvested from. It’s? a city that has suffered under a half century of propaganda assault. Because of this systematic propaganda assault, many folks who travel to Detroit have preconceived negative notions about the mostly-black city. Even well-meaning people succumb to this bias.

This makes bringing conferences or any diverse gathering into the city challenging. A lot of black residents are skeptical of whites who enter the city because of the sordid history of white flight and the racial tension that still permeates the fabric of the city and the United States. The tension that had the perception of bubbling under the surface has been unearthed with the emergence of the Detroit “comeback narrative” and the “Make America Great” call to the country from the current administration. The comeback narrative has reinforced the perception that black residents are less than and incapable of caring for where they live.

As a student of history and the present, as well as a poet and visionary organizer, I am cognizant of the type of environment I am inviting conference participants into. It’s an undertaking which sometimes presents quagmires that aren’t sorted out before a conference leaves the city.

Nonetheless, I have made a commitment to analyze the conference invitations that I am approached with, to engage other organizers with similar interests in the city around the invitation, to invite panelists, artists and presenters who live in, love on, and have a historical analysis of Detroit to present, and to challenge the dominant narrative that still haunts this great city. This is a task that holds even greater significance as we approach the 50th anniversary of the Detroit Rebellion.

The Rebellion was a response to police brutality and racism in 1967. Identifying it as a riot minimizes the righteous indignation exercised by a community that was living under constant violence and profound neglect. The lack of reference to the 1943 race riot is also telling and contributes to a lopsided narrative around Detroit history.

During the week of June 1st – 4th, the Pedagogy and Theatre of Oppressed Conference was held in Detroit. I accepted an invitation from my neighbor and comrade Reg Flowers several months prior to join the planning team because I am an artist who believes in Toni Cade Bambara’s challenge to artists to “make revolution irresistible,” and I believe art, education, and theatre centered on Paule Freire’s and Augusto Boal’s ideologies are good opportunities to do just that.

I had also worked with Reg in the past and had grown to admire him and his work, as well as his compassion for humanity.

The conference was not without challenges, but there were moments of reflection and transformation throughout that encourage me to continue to analyze and accept some of the invitations I receive to co-organize and expose Detroiters to new conference experiences that are rooted and invested in social and environmental justice. It is also an opportunity to engage visitors to Detroit in a new, more humane way of seeing my city by sharing with them the brilliance and innovation of the residents who loved on Detroit when she was left for dead, and still love on Detroit today.

Of course there are many conferences held in Detroit. Some conferences are organized by kick-ass organizers with similar commitments, others are facilitated in ways that reinforce harmful stereotypes and narratives. I am grateful that the PTO Conference succeeded in challenging those harms while planting seeds of humanity in its participants.

The reflection below from Pedagogy & Theatre of Oppressed, Inc. board member Rebecca Struch is a touching reflection and why it was worth it to expose diverse voices to Detroit.

I am still processing the many gifts of my time in Detroit at the 22nd Annual Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Conference. My heart expanded with our collective commitment to create a better world through theatre, education, and community leadership. Building on the historical legacy of the Cass Corridor Commons (Shea Howell taught me the Parlor Room was the first place in the city where black and White folks could gather together to read), we spent our days laughing, crying, questioning, disagreeing, dreaming, and scheming—all in an effort to lay siege to systems of oppression that seek to destroy our communities from within. We will not be fooled. Detroiters have taught me the power of true intersectional organizing.

We can’t talk about education without talking about water shutoffs. We can’t talk about school closings without talking about emergency management and the intimate relationship between racism and capitalism. We can’t build a revolutionary movement without ensuring access to healthy foods. Detroit is where it’s going down, y’all. Watch, listen, and support in any way you can.

I know I intend to carry the seeds of my new knowledge into all the work I do back home. It seems to me that cultural resistance—something so economically “useless” as community-engaged theatre—is the best hope we have for mocking and dismantling neoliberalism and the structural oppression that supports it. Liberation is ours to create. We must. We will. #wagelove #resist

Rebecca’s reflections are significant in recapturing the spirit of Detroiters who never stopped loving Detroit. It’s easy to find value in the “comeback” areas of Detroit. It’s more significant if your love for Detroit encompasses the full scope of her being and survival when the rest of the world turned its back on her.

I am committed to nurturing an understanding of the city that raised me, but never at her expense. If you come to Detroit, try not to bring the seeds of propaganda with you.

Join us for the FREE premiere of DETROITERS on June 22nd at 6pm. Detroit’s story is still being told.

Detroiters_DIA


WHAT WE’RE READING

Noble Folks’ spirit linger

Prosy Abarquez Delacruz, J.D.

“Another time, we had Grace Lee Boggs in our house, celebrating her octogenarian birthday. A bunch of students and friends were at my house sharing stories. Grace was quick in her wit and she had a longer view of the world to share. It was always about hope, it was about how empowered we were. But most especially, how to care for the other person at the other side of the world. What time would it be for them, as opposed to simply a focus on our time here in the US? It was a source of bewilderment for me for a long time, but the more I think about time in the other side of the globe, I got to think more about how they lived in that part of the world, and how each moment becomes a struggle to live one’s humanity.?..”

KEEP READING


WHAT WE’RE LISTENING TO

How Does a Community Internet Organizer Work?

Diana Nucera runs an organization that promotes digital literacy and internet access in Detroit.

170707_working_communityinternetactivis.jpg.CROP.promo-xlarge2

LISTEN

Please Support the Boggs Center

With each day we are reminded of the legacy of James and Grace Lee
Boggs as we see the seeds of their work across Detroit, our nation
and the globe, and in the work that you are doing to bring to life
beloved communities.

This year we are thinking about centuries as we commemorated the 98th
birthday of James Boggs in May and Grace’s 102nd birthday in June.
Where will we be in 2117? What do we long for our world to become?

These questions are at the root of the work of resisting the
dehumanization of this present moment and our efforts to accelerate
visionary organizing throughout the country.

Over the next few months we plan to raise  $100,000 for the
initiatives below.

Place-based organizing of Feedom Freedom Growers, Birwood
–Fullerton and Field street initiatives: ($50,000)

Riverwise Magazine publication: ($40,000)

Boggs Center repairs. Archiving and meeting space improvements:
($10,000)

You can contribute directly at our website:  –
www.boggscenter.org  or mail a check  to Boggs Center, 3061 Field
Street, Detroit, MI 48214.

Please consider becoming a sustaining member of the Center.
Your ongoing support is critical to us.


The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership

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3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214
US