CRISIS OF THE MASS KILLINGS Grace Lee Boggs, “Beyond Civility,” MLK Day 2011


In his 1967 call for a radical revolution of values against the giant
triplets of racism, materialism and militarism, King said, “a nation that
spends more on military defense than on programs of social uplift is
approaching spiritual death.” In recent years our spiritual death has
resulted in mass physical deaths all over the world and at home, e.g. at
Oklahoma City, Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, the
Immigration Center in Binghamton, N.Y. Each of these could have been the
wakeup call that this one can become.

We don’t have to limit ourselves to grieving or to calling for civility. We
are not just bystanders. We are citizens responsible for the safety of
ourselves and our fellow citizens in these very destabilizing times.

The time has come for each of us to be involved in creating what MLK called
a new concept of global citizenship, based on each one of us accepting the
responsibility for the safety of all of us,

This includes instituting more gun regulations and more mental health
awareness and facilities at the local level, instead of leaving it to
Washington, D.C.

It includes many more of us risking arrest by initiating or joining
non-violent demonstrations.

It requires more of us recognizing that the Old American Dream is dead and
accepting the responsibility for beginning to create, from the ground up,
in our neighborhoods, our cities, and our country, a New American Dream,
based on caring for each other in beloved communities, living more simply
in order that others can simply live, ending our wars and military
occupations around the world.

All of us, and not only borderline individuals, need this New American
Dream. And until the whole world knows that we are creating it in our
country, there will be no homeland security for any of us.

The crisis of the Tucson killings is not only a danger but an opportunity
for each and all of us to make this great leap forward in our and the
world’s humanity.

We must seize the time!!

From Grace Lee Boggs, “Beyond Civility,” MLK Day 2011

Riverwise Magazine’s First Birthday! Sunday March 11, 2018

 Riverwise Magazine’s first birthday!

Join us this Sunday (Mar 11) from 5-9PM  at Craft Work (8047 Agnes St, Detroit) to celebrate Riverwise Magazine’s first birthday! We will be enjoying food, drinks, music, dancing (if you like), and limitless, soul-stirring fun! It’s free.99, but it’s our birthday party so donations are welcome!

Buy a poster copy of Riverwise Magazine cover art!

We are selling select copies of Riverwise Magazine’s cover art from this past year of publication in poster form. These are $20 and will be available only while they last! If you want to purchase in advance, visit our Eventbrite page and RSVP with a donation and you’ll have one set aside!

Boggs Center Living For Change News February 27th, 2018

Boggs Center Living For Change News

February 27th, 2017

grace and jimmy

The Why and How of Visionary Organizing By Grace Lee Boggs   Sept 29 – Oct 6 2012

“At this time on the clock of the {R}evolution, movement activists need to discuss and struggle around different forms of Organizing. Jimmy’s Boggs were in the plant and the community. From his experiences as an organizer he had learned that human beings are individuals and not just masses or members of a class or race.

For example, as he used to say. “Some workers organized the union; others had to be whipped into it.“

In “Going where we’ve never gone before” and “Building Community: An Idea whose time has come, ” Jimmy recognized that while many, perhaps most people have been demoralized or immobilized by our disintegrating communities, there are also some who want to or are already trying to rebuild our communities.

That is what a Visionary Organizer does. S/he devises methods of Self-Selection through which visionaries can identify themselves and join with others.



Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Violent Times

This week the students, teachers and support staff of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida will resume classes. They will find ways to move forward in a place infused with memories of violence, fear and pain. And they will continue to show a deep commitment to organizing people against school shootings. They are planning a March on Washington “to demand that their lives and safety become a priority and that we end this epidemic of mass school shootings.” Schools and communities around the country are planning walkouts and marches in solidarity.

As I have been thinking about the passion, persistence and potential of these young people to raise fundamental questions about our country, I happened on an article about Freedom Summer, 1964.  Most of the article reflected the experiences of Thomas Foner and a letter he wrote home, chronicling the violence he experienced in a single day while organizing for voter registration. He wrote:
“Two COFO volunteers were jailed on a trumped up rape charge. Forty M-1 rifles and a thousand rounds of ammunition were stolen from the local National Guard armory. As I write this letter, a Negro church is burning down the street; the fire department is nowhere to be found. Two other volunteers have just been arrested. Last night a Negro freedom worker was shot by white hoodlums. He was taken to the white University Hospital and was released about an hour later with the slug still in his head. Also last night Reverend Smith’s house was shot into about 1:30 AM by white men. The Negro guards fired back as the men got into a city truck.”
Violence is nothing new in America. Yet this moment is an opportunity to move beyond the surface symptoms of the disease that grips our country. Long before Charles Whitman climbed to the observation deck at the University of Texas to kill 17 people in 1966, before Columbine in 1999, Red Lake in 2005, Virginia Tech in 2007, Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, Umpqua Community College in 2015, and now Parkland, and the hundreds of other shootings in schools and out that rarely make the news, violence gripped our country.

Violence is at the core of our founding. It is essential to the continuation of our way of life. Beginning with the first killing of an indigenous person by Columbus and his men to the shot fired tomorrow in Syria, throughout our long and troubled history, the willingness to destroy others for private gain has marked us. This willingness has been not only to destroy people, but to deny the very humanity of those we kill, thus denying and distorting our own.

The bravery of the students at Parkland, like the young people of the Movement for Black Lives, and #MeToo invite us all to look honestly and deeply at who we have been, who we have become, and who we want to be. Young white men picking up guns and killing children in schools are not the problem. They are the symptom of a country shaped by the violence of racism, materialism, and militarism. Until we transform these values, violence in all its forms will continue.
march for our lives

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Womens Day Flyer 2018-1

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Boggs Center – Living For Change News February 12th & 19th 2018

February 19th, 2017
grace and jimmy

“As an organizer, I was taught to recruit people into the movement and to support them to stay involved. But I wasn’t taught how to repair relationships or to prevent harm. Many of us aren’t taught these skills.”



Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Thanks to Jackson

This week a group of us from the Boggs Center attended the North Dakota Study Group’s (NDSG) 46th annual gathering. The NDSG is a loose collective of progressive educators, artists, activists, authors, teachers and students who “come together annually to engage in an ongoing seminar on democratic possibilities in the U.S. and world education.” Its members have persistently and consistently pressed for deepening democratic theory and practice in education and in our communities.

This year we gathered in Jackson Mississippi and will do so again next year. The decision to go to Jackson was deliberate. It marked a commitment to our collective journey to eradicate white supremacy.  We understand white supremacy  is destroying our children and distorting our humanity. We turned consciously to Jackson to draw on its strength, wisdom, and rich history of struggle as we face forces that are intent on destroying our children’s minds, hearts, and spirits.

What could we learn from those who struggled over centuries for full humanity and the possibilities of controlling their own lives. What do learn in a place steeped in violence and tragedy as well as triumph? How will these lessons help us move our country forward? What do we need to do individually, collectively in this moment?

In his opening letter to the gathering Albert Sykes, Executive director of IDEA and co-chair of the gathering challenged the nearly 150 participants. He said this would not be a typical gathering. He explained, “Beloved communities do not just appear; they have to be built. We are asking you to commit to building one. Jackson will not be easy. The history will not be diluted to ease the conscience of the guilty; the work will not be diverted to comfort the fragile and the urgency of this work will not be tempered. As time and the country changes, we much challenge ourselves to change as well. We ask in love and have faith that participants will be receptive to much needed growth.”

Mr. Sykes explained, “Mississippi’s history is not limited to a single person or story. We will be greeted, introduced to and addressed by various individuals who have made life-changing contributions for the greater good for all. We will explore the confederate flag and other symbols of hate; explore the mechanisms by which racism is carried out and explore the places, where many sacrifices have been made in Mississippi. Our conversations this year are designed to be both hard and healing. There is no intent to shame, silence, ridicule, disrespect, or demolish any person who participates with us.” Mr. Sykes and the other volunteer organizes did their very best to provide this opportunity for all us.  All too often many of us fell short of meeting his expectations of us and our own. But often too, we found our way to courageous conversations, deep insights, and the capacity to continue to challenge ourselves and one another.

I was deeply and unexpectedly moved by this experience. Approaching the home of Medgar Evers I found it difficult to step onto the driveway. This is the place where he was shot, where his blood flowed as he crawled to the door to reach his wife and children. I know that blood is still in the dust rising as we walked. My tears of gratitude and sorrow now mix with those of countless others there.

Mr. Sykes gave us this charge, “We invite you to open your heart and mind, to lock your arms and hands in order for us to walk into a reckoning and walk out together on the other side of a renewal.”

This is our hope not just for the gathering, but for our country. We have much work to do.  Mayor Chokewe Antar Lumumba called us to believe that “Together we will make (Jackson) a symbol of unity, prosperity and progression.”  In the process, we have the opportunity to change our people and our country as we change the places that hold our lives.
“We must make a preemptive strike to replace the job system with a life system.”



Will Makers Change Everything?


February 12th, 2017

Documenting Puerto Rico from the Ground Up

Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
The Year with Betsy Devos

Betsy DeVos has completed her first year as the head of the Department of Education. Some have argued that she has been ineffective in carrying out her right wing agenda. Some take comfort in her foolish public statements; arguing for guns in school in case a bear wanders in, comparing schools to taxicabs and food trucks, and claiming Margaret Thatcher as her idol.

But Devos is not naïve. She has a relentless political agenda that she has been advancing in Michigan, in states around the country, and now on a national scale. Given the fact that the federal government only contributes about 10 percent of the cost of running schools, her impact will not be on visible issues of funding. Rather she is subtly changing the foundations of education through shifting priorities within the Department of Education and stripping away federal protections of all kinds. She is accomplishing this through sophisticated and subtle changes that are largely happening outside of public scrutiny.

First consider the case of vouchers, a funding mechanism designed to provide families with public funds to subsidize placing their children in private schools. These have long been sought by DeVos as part of the right wing agenda of shifting public money to mostly white, right wing Christian schools. Vouchers have been resisted at state and local levels, including here in Michigan. They violate fundamental concepts of the separation of church and state. They are a central strategy in undermining public education.

Now, with barely a public comment, the new republican tax bill passed last December gives parents the ability to use college saving plans for private k-12 schooling. It allows $10,000 tax free withdrawals every year per child. As a recent article in the Atlantic explained, “This new provision effectively operates the same way a voucher program would, but without the name: While vouchers distribute funds directly to parents to pay for private school, the new law uses the tax code to facilitate private-school attendance.”

The National Education Association estimates that over the next 10 years, this provision will take $150 billion from state and local revenues for schools.

DeVos has slipped in legislation to promote and finance her dream of “schools of choice” without having to debate or defend the idea. She simply provided enabling taxing mechanisms.

As the #MeToo movement brings welcome attention to widespread sexual violence in our culture, DeVos eliminated protections on college campuses for victims of sexual assault. Echoing Trumps recent tweets, she has stressed concern for the men being victimized by false accusations. She has increased support and counseling for them. She has also eliminated guidance aimed at protecting people based on gender identity.

She has sided with banks and business over student interests. She has made it more difficult for students who have been defrauded by for profit schools to seek loan forgiveness. She has appointed Carlos Nuniz to be General Counsel for the department. He is most famous for having argued that his home state of Florida should not participate in legal action against Trump University for fraud.

Sometime this week her latest nominee, Kenneth Marcus, will likely be confirmed as the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights. He is well known for “threatening academic freedom generally, as well our civil rights as women, immigrants, Muslims, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people.”

DeVos is not ineffective. She is patient, persistent and deadly. She has no respect for students, teachers, or education. She is dedicated to schools of choice as an essential element of a broader right wing strategy to protect power and privilege by undermining democracy.

All of us who care about the importance of education need to look beyond her rhetoric. More importantly, we need to create places and where our children can grow in their unique capacities for creativity, critical thinking, and social responsibility.
“The stories of women in the Subcontinent are often neglected and they are often relegated to the background – the doting wife, the supportive sister or the encouraging daughter. Our history is the tale of his story, not her story.”
In the USA privatization practices contribute to increased water bills and jeopardize water quality, endangering one of residents’ most basic needs. We can gain some perspective on the consequences of water privatization by looking to a glaring overseas example: In Lebanon, mismanagement of infrastructure has provided ample opportunity for privatization to proliferate. In both cases, the pursuit of privatization comes from cash-strapped places prioritizing cost-cutting over resource conservation and quality.”


The Hidden History of Solidarity Economy Visions

The Hidden History of Solidarity Economy Visions

Asar Amen-Ra  B.A., J.D.
The Life and Times of James Boggs

James Boggs’ life was one of imagination and reimagionation. His narrative was one of hardcore socialist, to Black Power advocate, to Humanitarian solutionary. There was never a time when Jimmy, as he was affectionately called, would get stuck in dogmatic doctrine; he made it a point to constantly learn and adapt to his environment.In his formative years while working in the auto industry, Jimmy predicted and envisioned a time when automation/technological advancement would replace human labor in the workforce. With this understanding, Jimmy crafted a vision into a formidable body of work entitled The American Revolution: Pages from a Negro Worker’s Notebook.

In  Chapter 2 of The American Revolution, “The Challenge of Automation“, Jimmy points out that “Automation is the greatest revolution that has taken place in human society since men stopped hunting and fishing and started to grow their own food.”  At the dawn of the technological age and even today, most of us turn a blind eye to the exponential growth of automation displacing people from the workforce. But Jimmy faced the issue of automation head-on by declaring we must have hope and we must work towards a new way of life, a life not centered around a job but a life centered around community, centered around family, centered around our world environment. Instead of automation enslaving us, Jimmy saw that automation could actually free mankind to pursue those things in life that man so passionately cared about.

With that being said, it is not automation we should fear but what international and transnational corporations will do with those advanced tools of technology. We must make a preemptive strike to replace the job system with a life system.

…even more important than a Solidarity Economy is a Solidarity Culture…

Just as today’s Solidarity Economy economists talk about the permanent displacement of workers/poor people, Jimmy coined his own phrase.  His phrase was “The Outsiders” (who were people permanently locked outside the workforce and thus outside of normal society and the job market).

Furthermore, Jimmy said “once released from the necessity to work, men and women would come up with new ideas for increasing productivity that would astonish the world”.

But even more important than a Solidarity Economy is a Solidarity Culture, because culture is what defines us as human beings with our relationships with each other and our environment. Culture is the glue that holds a society together or a sword that can tear society apart.

So, yet again we point to the landmark vision of James Boggs. He understood and said that “The first principle that has to be established is that everyone has a right to a frill life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness whether he is working or not.”

As an autoworker, Jimmy unequivocally announced “I am a factory worker, but I know more than factory work.” This bold and emphatic declaration was the working man’s emancipation proclamation, declaring to all workers we have value beyond our place in the means of production. We must remove the shackles of work from our minds when thinking about defining our lives. We break these shackles when we see ourselves not as workers, but as humans who have gifts and talents we wish to share with the rest of humanity.

Lastly, but certainly not least, Solidarity Culture was born through the following declaration:

“We must create a society of politically conscious, socially responsible individuals, able to use technology for the purpose of liberating and developing humanity.”

Today, we should admit to ourselves the culture we practice is the materialistic culture. In this culture, there has been a devaluing of human life while value has been added to the material wealth one can gain.  Crass materialism is tearing apart the foundations of our society. By placing our value of wealth on symbols of material status — whether it be a car, a house, or a job — instead of valuing principles such as truth, integrity and kindness, we value products over people.

We need to look at the one person who can make a difference in this world, ourselves, and ask this question: Do we want a culture of Life or a culture of death? According to Jimmy, a culture of death leads to “the pollution of our atmosphere, the erosion of our soil, the threat to nuclear destruction, the withering away of human identity and, worst of all, the loss of our freedom to make meaningful and principled choices.” How would a culture of life look? Well, if we take a minute and think about it, it would be the converse of a culture of death. Our Solidarity culture would consist of respect for environment, full employment, universal health care, education, and housing.

I have sent this article to GEO because, as Solidarity Economy practitioners, it is time that we break out of the chains of the traditional, corporatized Black History Month. It’s tradition that limits our memories to Dr. King, WEB DuBois and a few others, when in actuality there were a plethora of African Americans creating and fighting for a new reality. James Boggs was one of these people. As an autoworker, he saw beyond the industrial revolution to the point in time when workers would control the point of production, not for profit, but for the benefit of planet and people.

Go to the GEO front page

Asar Amen-Ra, is a long time labor and community organizer. With a focus on social and economic justice.

When citing this article, please use the following format: Asar Amen-Ra (2018). The Hidden history of Solidarity Economy Visions: The Life and Times of James Boggs. Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO)


Asar Amen-Ra  B.A., J.D.