Boggs Center – Living For Change News Letter – May 20th, 20198

May 20th, 2019

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Thinking for Ourselves

A Path Towards Life
Shea Howell

The city of Northville MI faced a boil water advisory this weekend. Over the last few years these advisories are becoming more common. This latest directive to boil water before drinking it was because of a water main break on Friday morning.

Just a few days earlier, images began to circulate revealing the extent of the damage done to the oil pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac. In April 2018 a tugboat anchor dragged across line 5, creating gashes in the pipe, allowing oil to spill out. Enbridge, the company that controls the pipeline, tells us there is nothing to worry about. “Everything’s fixed and operating.” It took them nearly 4 months to complete repairs on the line. There is no repair for the oil that seeped into the lakes.

Nor is there any repair for a newly documented group of chemicals, called PFAS. They are appearing in people’s water systems in Michigan and the Great Lakes Basin. They’re used in our waterproof clothing, nonstick cookware, food packaging and industrial waste. Communities that were home to shoe manufacturing and military bases show especially high levels of contamination. Dubbed the “forever chemical” in a new documentary, they’ve moved into our home water supplies, wells and communities’ water systems. These chemicals have been linked to fertility issues, high cholesterol, thyroid and liver problems and cancer.

Along with newly discovered toxins, we have known for decades that lead and other heavy metals lurk in our waters. We have known that more and more people are finding it impossible to pay ever escalating bills to provide safe water and maintain the system.

It should be obvious we cannot continue to segment the issues of providing and protecting our waters. Safe, affordable water is no longer a taken for granted part of life anywhere in Michigan.

The PFAS that flows from the cleaners and fire suppressant in Selfridge Airforce Base finds its way into ground waters and Lake St. Clair. The oil from the pipeline spill mixes in. The infrastructure that carries our water and waste is deteriorating rapidly. And the technologies of testing for contamination cannot keep up with the new toxins we are dumping without thought.

Jeffrey Insko recently gave a picture of just how vulnerable the 4 million people who depend on the Detroit water system are when he wrote:
Hundreds of chemical spills over several decades contaminated Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River, released cancer-causing toxins into the air, and produced increased levels of cancer and low birth-rates among First Nations inhabitants of the region. That pollution also—as a Bridge Magazine report explained in 2017 and as the City of Detroit warned in 1953 — poses a serious threat to the drinking water of millions of Michigan residents. Detroit knows this story all too well. Having also suffered from decades from a polluting oil refinery, it is Sarnia’s own twin brother, linked, literally and metaphorically, by the St. Clair River like a poisoned umbilical cord.
The water crisis we face cannot be fixed quickly, nor with small patches attempting to respond to each emergency. We need to shift how we think about the way of life that is literally poisoning us. This shift has been given a new framework in the Green New Deal. It is an opportunity to think holistically about the interconnections of our waters, the earth, the ways we make a living, and relate to one another. The Green New Deal offers the possibilities of reimagining how we can live in ways that acknowledge the intricate connections that form the web of life that sustains us. It is an invitation to look honestly at the horrors we are creating and to choose a path toward life.


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ON BEING

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Community organizers Rami Nashashibi and Lucas Johnson have much to teach us about using love — the most reliable muscle of human transformation — as a practical public good. Nashashibi is the founder of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network, a force for social healing on Chicago’s South Side. Johnson is the newly-named executive director of The On Being Project’s Civil Conversations Project. In a world of division, they say despair is not an option — and that the work of social healing requires us to get “proximate to pain.”

LISTEN

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A note from our friends at Veterans of Hope…

We hope all of you are very well.  As the summer unfolds, the Veterans of Hope Project is excited to announce a series of programs we are coordinating/co-sponsoring over the next three months. It’s a busy time for us but we are looking forward to a rich set of experiences and we invite you to join us – and please support our work.

As part of our ongoing collaboration with the Terreiro do Cobre Candomblé community in Salvador, Bahia, we are hosting three Afro-Brazilian ritual leaders and activists this summer – Iyalorixá Valnizia Pereira, Ebomi Marilene de Jesus Cruz and Ogãn Claudio Santana de Freitas. The visit of the Brazilian elders is a partnership with our friends, Daniel and Marcia Minter, who have recently founded the Indigo Arts Alliance, in Portland, Maine, a wonderful center for artists of the African diaspora.  Our principal events this summer (May and June 2019) are:

·      May 19 @ Campbell Chapel AME church in Denver.  2-5pm. Invisible Knowledge. An interfaith conversation circle with African American and Afro-Brazilian elder women on resources of spirit and community for social justice work.
·      May 29 @ the Iliff School of Theology in Denver.  5-7pm.  Women’s Handwork– a panel and demonstration of Afro-Indigenous women’s cultural and spiritual heritage traditions.
·      June 8 @ Indigo Arts Alliance in Portland, Maine.  All day. The Welcome Table – a celebration of creativity, community and culinary brilliance in the African Diaspora.

For more information on these programs, please see our website: veteransofhope.org

Boggs Center – Living For Change News – May 13th, 2019

May 13th, 2019

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Thinking for Ourselves

To Shelter One Another
Shea Howell

The Trump administration is ramping up its efforts to attack local, democratic, compassion efforts to protect people who are seeking safer and more secure lives. Recently the administration announced a new programto allow local law enforcement officers to arrest and detain immigrants, even if local policies prevent them from doing so. Local officers will be encouraged to arrest people based on ICE warrants.

This latest effort is sharpening the contradiction between local governments, where people are most likely to make their will known, and the consolidation of federal force.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has condemned this measure. A statement issued by Lorella Praeli, the ACLU’s deputy political director, said this is the “latest scheme by ICE to enlist local police in its abusive deportation agenda.” “The agency explicitly aims to subvert the will of local communities that have passed ordinances to prevent exactly this kind of cooperation between police and ICE.” They also said the ACLU “urge(s) local law enforcement to resist this dangerous proposal and stand by their commitment to the communities they serve.”

Meanwhile, right wing republicans in Lansing are joining this federal effort to attack local community initiatives. House Bills 4083 and 4090, perversely called Local Law Enforcement Protection Acts, eliminate sanctuary cities and would force local governments to cooperate with federal officials investigating a person’s immigration status. These bills are working their way through committees.

State Rep. Mari Manoogian, a democrat from Birmingham, responded saying:

The individuals pushing this legislation want us to believe these policies are in our community’s best interest, but that could not be further from the truth. We have seen the negative effects similar policies have had around the country — further eroding the fragile trust between immigrant populations and local law enforcement and disincentivizing community members from coming forward when they witness or are the victims of a crime. That makes us all less safe in the long run. If public safety is truly the goal, we need to work to foster an environment characterized by cooperation and togetherness, not finger-pointing and division.
Across the country, local communities are taking principled stands for the dignity and rights of people. From California to Michigan, city councils and county officials are cancelling contracts with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which rents bed space from local, county, or state-owned jails across the country.

Since last summer at least five counties in California have severed ties with ICE and 4 counties in Michigan have done the same. In response, Trump is accelerating private prisons outside the purview of public policies. As local communities withdraw support, private corporations are seeing new opportunities to profit from human bodies.

In response to the cancelling of contracts for city and county jails to house people detained by ICE, private detention may actually expand under a new deal with ICE. Just a few months after Governor Whitmer cancelled a private prison deal negotiated by Snyder, a new  private prison company announced a 10-year federal contract to house non-citizens sentenced for immigration offenses or other federal crimes in a facility it owns in Baldwin. The Florida based Geo Group Inc. said it plans to “reactivate” its 1,800-bed North Lake Correctional Facility under a contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. In spite of its questionable record, GEO expects to generate roughly $37 million a year in incremental annualized revenues from the deal.

We need to resist these efforts to establish private prisons, to turn people’s bodies into profit centers for corporate powers. We need to assert our responsibilities to welcome people to our communities, to protect each other and to work together for justice. We must find new and creative ways to shelter one another.

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Detroit City Council hits pause on Fiat Chrysler Project

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Detroit City Council hits pause on Fiat Chrysler Project

Last week, City Council Planning and Economic Development Committee took the first step toward regaining the confidence of Detroiters by putting our health and welfare first over that of large multi-national corporations like Fiat Chrysler. As a result of 100s of phone calls to council expressing alarm around the impact of the plants expansion on the quality of the air our children and seniors need to breathe and the lack of transparency and community engagement around the land deals, the PED committee hit pause on this rushed project.

Thank you to all Detroiters who reached out the Economic Development Corporation (EDC), the Planing and Economic Development Committee and Detroit City Council about the Fiat Chrysler benefits package and land transfers.

Today, both the EDC Board and the PED Committee failed to move the land transfers and benefits package forward for a final vote by the committee of the whole.

By hitting the pause button City Council Members have an opportunity to hold FIAT Chrysler accountable around the environmental and health impacts relations to their planned expansion.

Now there is an opportunity for the Neighborhood Advisory Council to go back to the table and fight for a better CBA package for residents.

Fiat Chrysler is a global corporation that earned $4.1 billion in 2018. They have only committed 8.8 million dollars in community benefits on a project that will use up to $280 million in public investment.

Next steps:

Continue to keep the pressure on Detroit City Council, demand that Fiat Chrysler not only address environmental health impacts and negotiate a bigger and better CBA

Detroit City Council Contact Information

Brenda Jones, Council President, At-Large
313-224-1245 – @DetCouncilPres
bjones_mb@detroitmi.gov
Janeé L Ayers, At-Large
313-224-1027 – @Ayers4Detroit
ayersj@detroitmi.gov
James Tate, District 1
313-224-1027 – @CouncilmanTate
councilmembertate@detroitmi.gov
Roy McCalister Jr., District 2
313-224-4535 – @RoyMcCalisterJr
councilmemberMcCalister@detroitmi.gov
Scott Benson, District 3
313-224-1198 – @Scottinthe3rd
bensons@detroitmi.gov
André Spivey, District 4
313-224-4505 – @AndreLSpivey
councilmanspivey@detroitmi.gov
Mary Sheffield, President Pro Temp, District 5
313-224-4505 – @MsMarySheffield
councilmembersheffield@detroitmi.gov
Raquel Casteñeda-Lopez, District 6
313-224-2450 – @Raquel4Detroit
councilmemberraquel@detroitmi.gov
Gabe Leland, District 7
313-224-2151 – @GabeLeland
lelandg@detroitmi.gov

More Details: 

FCA CBA Update 2
http://detroitpeoplesplatform.org/2019/05/fiat-chrysler-cba-update/

FCA Call to Action #1
http://detroitpeoplesplatform.org/2019/05/call-to-action-vote-no-on-the-fiat-chrysler-cba/

FCA EGLE Permit to Install Approval
http://detroitpeoplesplatform.org/2019/04/fiat-chrysler-air-permit-approval-with-additional-monitoring-and-community-benefits/

FCA Environmental Concerns and Demands
http://detroitpeoplesplatform.org/2019/04/fca-expansion-environmental/

FCA CBA Update 1
http://detroitpeoplesplatform.org/2019/04/fiat-chrysler-expansion-community-benefits-update/

You’re Invited! 
 2019 SEMIS Summer Institute  
 June 25, 26, 27 Reflecting and Exploring
August 6, 7 Engaging and Planning

During this year’s institute we will focus on deep cultural analysis and place-based experiences related to interconnectedness, interdependence, and resilience. We will ask ourselves how the Great Lakes and humans in their watersheds are inextricably linked. Together, we will continue to “seek complex answers, in complex places.” (quote by Amy B. Demarest)

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REGISTER TODAY!

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Boggs Center Living for Change News Letter – May 7th 2019

May 7th, 2019

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Thinking for Ourselves

More Moroun Outrage
Shea Howell

Mayor Duggan announced last week that he has secured nearly 215 acres of land on the east side to hand over to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), ensuring the development of the first new auto plant in the city in 30 years. FCA is making a $4.5 billion investment in the new plant and expansions to five other Michigan plants. FCA says it will create 6,500 jobs. They had given the city a short 60-day window to come up with the land for the new plant.

Duggan, proud of his accomplishment, said at the press conference announcing the feat, “We did something that I doubt any other city would have tried and we did it without the benefit of eminent domain.”

The acquisition of the land cost the city $107.6 million, with 50.6 million coming from the city. The rest is coming from state grants and loans (which presumably will also come back to the city). Along with the cash, the city is swapping a total of 155 acres of land, including 117 given to Crown Enterprises and 25 to DTE energy.

The size of city investment brought the deal under the Community Benefits Ordinance. This ordinance, backed by business interests to thwart one with real enforcement powers, is a flawed effort. But east side residents, among the most organized in the city, have put forward visionary ways of thinking about how the current FCA development can be leveraged toward a more sustainable and just future. The CBA being pushed at the grassroots level anticipates a world beyond mass production and extractive industries, arguing for the development of solar and wind power and for the skills and capacities of people to encourage self-sufficient and self-sustaining communities. Residents have also called upon the FCA to create neighborhood stabilization policies, including a moratorium on water shut-offs and tax foreclosures.

This forward thinking by community organizations has unsettled the city administration. While the mayor has attempted to control the CBA process, he cannot limit the power of the ideas being generated there.

It is also now clear that if the Mayor is to retain any credibility about the CBA, he is going to have to address the enormous costs associated with the acquisition of the land. The land give-away to Hantz Farms is completely overshadowed by the deal with Crown Enterprises.

Crown Enterprises is the name of the company owned by the Moroun family. The Moroun’s are not noted for their civic consciousness. In this latest deal in order to get the 82.2 acres owned by them, the city agreed to pay $43.5 million and 117 acres of land. This is ten times the cost for a little over half the acreage of the remaining land. The city paid only $4.6 million for the other 132 acers.

At the very least the Moroun Family and the City should enter into another CBA so that the community can gain direct benefit from the public lands and cash given the Crown Enterprises.

Detroiters have become wary of deals done under deadlines. There is a long list, including Poletown, Marathon, Detroit Axel, Hantz Farms, and the drive to bankruptcy, where corporate powers press the city for quick decisions. Almost always these are decisions that benefit the corporations and leave the city with broken promises.

Perhaps Duggan thought that the good news of jobs would overshadow the outrageous deal with the Morouns. Or the outrageous deal with Hantz. This kind of deal making has never benefited the people.

Whatever the limitations of the CBA process, we have the strength of committed, experienced community organizations dedicated to finding pathways toward a just future. This gives us all a strong basis for hope.
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Honoring Mama Lila Cabbil_final

In an effort to educate the Citizens of Detroit about the current status of the Detroit Charter Commission and the revision process, there will be an info discussion to ensure the Citizens have a better understanding of what the elected body has accomplished this far. The info discussion will include a presentation by The People’s Slate that outlines the following:

  1. Purpose of the Charter Revision
  2. Structure of the body
  3. What the Charter has done since Nov 21, 2018
  4. How this impacts Citizens of Detroit
  5. Next Steps

May 9, 2019
5:30 PM
DABO Center
12048 Grand River
Detroit, MI 48204

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bleeding fire

At the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights annual dinner, Frank Hammer shared the continuing struggle and update of the Colombian Injured Workers. Representatives from MCHR visited Colombia in 2018.

ASOTRECOLThe Association of injured workers and ex-workers of GM Colmotores – Colombia

Out of a recognition of the interconnectedness of struggles for social and economic justice between the peoples of the US and the countries the US dominates, the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights proudly recognizes the struggle and achievements of the ex-GM workers in Bogota, Colombia in their fight for justice.

Those autoworkers, injured on the job because of a blatant disregard for their health and safety and then fired by General Motors, formed the association ASOTRECOL.  Detroit-area activists know these workers from their dramatic tent encampment at the US Embassy now reaching its 2,823rd day, and their acts of moral witness, including stitching their lips shut as part of three hunger strikes.

The MCHR embarked on a campaign of Solidarity, awarding ASOTRECOL leader Jorge Parra with an “International Labor Activist” award in 2013.  Some of you met Jorge on his journeys to the US and have become supporters of ASOTRECOL. Your solidarity has been deeply appreciated not only on a spiritual and material level but because it’s been impactful, even after its 7+ years!

Last Spring, MCHR sponsored a 6-member delegation to the tent encampment in Bogota, led by Board members Kim Redigan and Frank Hammer.  The delegation witnessed first hand the heroic stand by Jorge and his comrades, their support for other struggles, including families fighting the banks over unjust evictions, and other fired injured GM workers. Inspired, delegation members and others took the justice of ASOTRECOL’s fight into the GM shareholders’ meeting on June 12th and confronted GM CEO Mary Barra on the unjust management actions perpetrated in Bogota.  Some of us were booted out, only to join a spirited rally there at the Ren Cen!

Though ASOTRECOL hasn’t reached its goal of a just settlement with GM, much has been achieved:

  1. Whereas the fired injured workers who formed ASOTRECOL were denied justice through the courts in 2011, recently-fired GM workers have succeeded in winning reinstatement.  Judges have referenced the letters of international support for the encampment in their decisions ordering GM to reinstate fired, injured workers.
  2. A robust injured workers’ movement is emerging in Colombia, inspired and encouraged by the ASOTRECOL tent encampment.
  3. ASOTRECOL contributed to the defeat of an employers’ offensive, including GM and other transnationals, to pressure the Colombian lawmakers to pass legislation legalizing the firing of injured workers.
  4. ASOTRECOL’s resistance against GM inspired workers in the plant to organize; today there are four organizations representing 25% of the workforce, including an injured workers’ association and – a first of its kind – an injured workers’ union.
  5. ASOTRECOL’s persistence is paying off, winning support from the largest Colombian labor federation, even in the absence of support from US labor unions.  Consistent grass roots support here in the US is winning hearts and minds among Colombians.
  6. ASOTRECOL, in tandem with the MCHR and numerous other social justice groups and union locals, has aided in winning US workers to an internationalist perspective on their own struggles against GM and other transnationals.  Workers are grasping an important lesson: resisting the “race to the bottom” requires supporting workers at the bottom.
  7. ASOTRECOL has put General Motors on the defensive regarding the company’s illegal firings and abuse of workers’ rights. GM has had to invest in better health and safety practices at the Colmotores plant.

We urge MCHR supporters to keep up the fight! We’re making a difference! Online donations for ASOTRECOL are welcomed at www.asotrecol.org. Keep up with our latest actions by visiting us at www.mchr.org.

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Boggs Center – Living For Change – April 15th 2019

April 15th, 2019

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Thinking for Ourselves

Fearless Love
Shea Howell

Sanctuary cities are back in the news. Trump has renewed his efforts to punish cities that have declared sanctuary for people coming to this country seeking safety and new ways of life. In both a speech and a tweet, Trump vowed he is thinking about rounding up people who are being detained at the border and sending them to cities that have declared sanctuary. He is taking special aim at California.

No one but Trump and his advisor Stephen Miller support this. The Washington Post reported on Thursday that the idea to transport people to cities offering sanctuary had been “floated and rejected” many times since Trump took office. The next day, Trump insisted the idea was still being given “strong consideration.”

“California certainly is always saying, ‘Oh, we want more people,’ Trump told reporters Friday. “And they want more people in their sanctuary cities. Well, we’ll give them more people. We can give them a lot. We can give them an unlimited supply. Let’s see if they’re so happy.”

“They’re always saying they have open arms. Let’s see if they have open arms,” he continued.

The notion of shipping people to Sanctuary cities has been pushed repeatedly by Miller.  Homeland Security officials “sought a formal legal opinion which said that the plan would be inappropriate and not in accordance with federal law.” That is a nice way of saying it is illegal.

Trump pays little attention to the law in his efforts to whip up anti-immigrant hatred and to intimidate those who oppose him. He has persisted in efforts to block funds to sanctuary jurisdictions. Every one of these efforts has been ruled illegal. At least seven federal courts have blocked Trumps unilateral efforts to cut funds to sanctuary jurisdictions.

This latest effort at intimidation brought forceful responses. California Governor Gavin Newsom said, “It is illegal. It is immoral. It is unethical. It is sophomoric. It is petulant. And it is par for the course.” The head of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, said Trump’s idea is “a reminder that the Trump administration’s reckless immigration agenda is not about keeping the country safe, but about partisan politics and wantonly inflicting cruelty.”

This is the context giving rise to equally cruel, cowardly, and immoral efforts at the Michigan State Legislature. Earlier in the week two bills were introduced by republicans Beau LaFave of Iron Mountain and Pamela Hornberger of Chesterfield Township that would prevent Michigan cities and counties from passing sanctuary policies. House Bills 4083 and 4090 would ban decisions by municipalities and counties to limit police agencies from detaining people solely for being undocumented. HB 4083 also stipulates a court could assess a civil fine between $2,500 and $7,500 against a local official it deems “knowingly and willfully enacted or enforced a law, ordinance, policy or rule in violation of this act.”

The bills were originally introduced with names that clearly explained what they intended. They were called the Local Government Sanctuary Policy Prohibition Act and the County Sanctuary Policy Prohibition Act. In an effort to make them more palatable the names were changed Tuesday. The proposed legislation is now titled the Local Government Law Enforcement Protection Act and the County Law Enforcement Protection Act.

But changing their names does not change their intent. Nor does it change the reality that this is an effort rooted in racism and xenophobia. It is an attempt to bring Michigan in line with inhuman and callous policies advocated by Trump. It is an effort to ask us to endorse cruelty.

We should resist these bills forcefully. By now it sure is clear that we cannot appease Trump and his ilk. Cities in Michigan should stop trying to evade criticism or to escape Trump’s wrath by calling themselves “welcoming.” We should declare Sanctuary loudly and clearly. If history has taught us anything, it is that only fearless love can overcome hate.

 

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May 2 Brightmoor Maker Space Event Invitation

 

A tiny house program in Detroit helps people avoid homelessness, and get a head start on building equity.

Boggs Center – Living for Change News – April 8th, 2019

April 8th, 2019

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baba

[Cover Photo: from Homrich 9 action. credited to ACLU]
Let’s pack the court room THIS WEDNESDAY for Baba Baxter’s motion hearing in regards to an injury he sustained while being forced into an ADA noncompliant van by the police during a direct action protesting water shutoffs #Homrich9

2PM in ROOM 226 @ Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse

!!!SHARE AND SPREAD THE WORD!!!

Bring a Picture I.D.
No cellphones or weapons!

An Update from the Highlander Center

What we know:

As most of you know, a devastating fire burned down our main office early Friday morning. Thankfully no one was inside the building and no one was injured.
We also found a symbol connected to the white power movement spray-painted on the parking lot connected to the main office.

While we do not know the names of the culprits, we know that the white power movement has been increasing and consolidating power across the South, across this nation, and globally.

Since 2016, the white power movement has become more visible, and we’ve seen that manifest in various ways, both subtle and overt. They’ve targeted and exploited working class and cash-poor white communities searching to find a sense of belonging, dividing them from people who support efforts to improve the material conditions of all people. Their attempts to increase in size and scale impact the realities of our daily lives here because the majority of Black people in this country reside in southern states. As islamophobic attacks become more prevalent, we’re hyper-aware that the majority of Muslims in this nation are Black people. We know that anti-Semitic attacks have rocked the Jewish community. We know that anti-immigrant forces are consolidating, attacks on reproductive freedoms abound and the politics of the federal government’s executive branch are speaking to the privilege-based fears of the white power movement, emboldening them in ways the 21st century hasn’t seen.

Even in the face of these realities, the southern freedom movement is alive and well. Our folks are winning campaigns. They’re organizing and base building. People are fighting for progressive policies and using direct action to hold people in power accountable.

Highlander is a sacred place built by communities of the most affected people and it has become a home to those who believe in freedom and collective liberation here in the south, across the U.S and around the world. Because of our history we are not surprised that this space, one where marginalized people working across sectors, geographies and identities show up consistently, has been repeatedly targeted over our 87 years of existence.

What’s next:

The safety of our people is and has always been our first concern. The investigation is nowhere near over. We are continuing to survive and monitor the process that takes more time in a rural geography with limited public resources. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office will continue their investigation. The Tennessee Bomb and Arson people will continue to do theirs. We are not confused about how rarely people are ever charged with arson; however, we are surviving and monitoring these investigations.

This is a time for building our power. Now is the time to be vigilant. To love each other and support each other and to keep each other safe in turbulent times. Now is not the time to dismiss how scary things are, which makes it even more important to have concrete assessments of concrete conditions, and sophisticated strategies to build a new world.

What’s next for Highlander is that we will continue to be that sacred place, that movement home, that place where strategy is developed, that place where principled struggle happens, that place that accompanies movement, that place that incubates radical work, and that place that demands transformative justice.

We love you all, we appreciate your patience and questions, and please continue to be vigilant.

Thinking for Ourselves
Critical Days
Shea Howell
April 4th is an important day for our country. It is the day Martin Luther King Jr. denounced the Vietnam war and called for a radical revolution in values, in 1967. It is also the day he was murdered, one year later.  Over the past two years, this day has been acknowledged widely. In 2017 thousands of people gathered to read Breaking the Silence and discuss its meaning 50 years later. Last year, people gathered to consider how movements live beyond individuals, shifting and changing to overcome the challenges we all face.

This year, these events received little public attention. Perhaps these moments of collective experience are dimming. Most of the people who were part of them are gone now, especially those closest to King.

Still, in honor of that day, I always read King words. I find them a searing indictment of who we are, and a compassionate longing for who we might become. “America,” he says, “Can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So, it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.”

These words were still with me as I read the news of Donald Trump’s visit to the U.S.-Mexican border town of Calexico. There he announced. “Our country is full.” He said, “The system is full. We can’t take you anymore.” “Our country is full…Turn around.” He continued, “When it’s full, there is nothing you can do. You have to say, ‘I’m sorry, we can’t take you.’”

These words were followed by another threat to close the border and more bluster about the wall. Trump was especially flattered by a plaque that his Secretary of Homeland Security had installed in October of 2018, to ensure that Trump got credit for a little over two miles of new fence, initiated by his predecessor. It reads below the presidential seal, “This plaque was installed on October 26, 2018, to commemorate the completion of the first section of President Trump’s border wall.”

Missing from the entire affair was Trump’s nominee to head ICE, Ronald Vitiello, a 30-year veteran of the U.S. Border Patrol. Trump abruptly announced he was withdrawing the nomination because he wants someone “tougher” in charge of immigration enforcement.

Trump’s policies at the border are a crime against humanity. Last week the people held under a bridge, sleeping on gravel, were let go and the ACLU is filing a suit on their behalf. “The detention of migrants for multiple nights in outdoor detention pens is an unprecedented and extreme violation,” the complaint says. “Although CBP has long violated the rights of migrants in its custody, the agency’s decision to detain migrants, including children, in caged dirt filled outdoor areas is an escalation of this administration’s cruelty. Without immediate attention and oversight, we will continue to risk the lives of those seeking refuge in our country.”

King said of Vietnam, “Somehow this madness must cease” for it “is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit.”

He reminds us that we must find new ways to act in love or, “We shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality ad strength without sight.”

Our children will remember what has happened to them and what we choose to do. These are critical days.