Boggs Center – Living for Change News – May 1st, 2018

May 1st, 2018
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Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Warning Signs

Early this week people in and around Wayne State University were evacuated because of a gas leak. Across the campus and in nearby residents, the smell of gas was overpowering. The leak was caused by a construction accident. By Friday we were told all is well, classes reopened and people returned to homes. No one was injured. We are back to normal.

This week the Great Lakes Water Authority will begin the shut off process for more than 17,000 homes with outstanding water bills. We are told not to worry, most people will find a way to pay up before the shut off, or within a few days of living without water.

The city of Livonia is recovering from a water main break. Officials said don’t worry about the low water pressure. Water is safe to drink.

Each of these instances is treated in the mainstream media as a temporary, disconnected problem.  They are presented as minor inconveniences, the result of systems that sometimes break, but can be repaired quickly. We shouldn’t worry. Everything can be fixed. Everything is under control.

This way of thinking obscures a very real truth.  These are the warning signs of a system near collapse.  They are not isolated, small glitches. They are the marks of a culture imploding. We are coming to the end of the earth ‘s capacity to bear cultures based on the extraction of resources that are toxic to all life.

Warning signs are everywhere. For more than 300 years, we have been developing ways of living that depend on extracting and using elements of the earth that we know are poison. Yet we persist in believing that our technologies will somehow keep the air we are polluting clean, the water we are poisoning safe to drink, and regenerate the resources we need to continue lives of consumption. In spite of all we have witnessed, all we have endured, and all that we know in our bones, we continue to live as though we can dominate nature. As though domination was our right, especially if we are white, wealthy, and think we can protect ourselves.

This way of thinking, embedded in the settler colonial cultures of this hemisphere and wrapped into the logic of capitalist, industrial production is killing us. As commentator Paul Stoller observed, “The culture of extraction has led us to widespread economic and social inequality and frequent warfare — often over access to extractive resources. It has led to widespread human insensitivity and to the development of societies — like our own — that tend to reward competition as an example of dominant strength and castigate cooperation as an example of timid weakness.”

Across our city and our country people are resisting this extractive, industrial culture, finding new ways to live with one another, new ways to power and empower our lives. In Detroit, as people plant gardens, construct wind mills, find ways to share water and imagine new futures based on care and compassion, a new culture is being born. It is urgently needed.


A Call to Defend Rojava

An Open Letter
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WHAT LIES UPSTREAM

In the unsetting exposé What Lies Upstream, investigative filmmaker Cullen Hoback travels to West Virginia to study the unprecedented loss of clean water for over 300,000 Americans in the 2014 Elk River chemical spill. He uncovers a shocking failure of regulation from both state and federal agencies and a damaged political system where chemical companies often write the laws that govern them.


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Boggs Center – Living For Change News Letter – April 24th 2018

April 24th, 2018
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Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Dialogue on Education

More than 120 people gathered together for a community dialogue on education and Black Male Achievement this Thursday at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The stage was set by the student co-hosts Lauren Danzy, the leader of the Detroit Independent Freedom Schools youth group, and Xavier Clemons, an 11th grader at Frederick Douglass Academy. Sharing their concerns about the importance of thinking together about education, they asked the gathering to focus on central questions. These included: How do we engage Black male youth in our schools and communities? What has worked for us collectively and individually? What is our vision for our schools and our communities? What is the importance of understanding ourselves, our cultures, and our histories?

Quan Neloms, who is now an educator at Frederick Douglass, shared his own journey of transformation and development. He explained that at a troubled time in his life, an adult man took the time to talk with him and challenge his thinking. “When I saw all the things adults were willing to sacrifice for me, it made me change my life.” He said, “At 18 I decided I wanted to be part of the lives of kids and to become a teacher. But I know nothing happens without the community, community involvement is the most important thing.”

B. Anthony Holley of the Conscious Community Cooperative Think Tank shared his experiences of finding his place in Detroit, after he was told by many people to leave the city behind. He said that when he returned in 2012 he was embraced by elders and young people who were working to be “solutionaries” in the city and he began to see the contributions he could make here. He emphasized how much his own sense of confidence was shaped by his Grandmother who encouraged him to ask questions and helped him see that “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Dana Hart of the Detroit Independent Freedom Schools talked about her vision of education as creating opportunities where we can reach our highest potential, becoming confident, competent people, able to evolve to our highest selves. She explained that this means we need to have our own meaning of success that comes out of understanding African centered traditions that inspire our children and community. She talked about the importance of adults doing more listening and providing places where our children “have the protection to be young.”

She emphasized the importance of young men finding ways to talk to one another more deeply and openly. She encouraged us to think about ways our community can encourage young people to better understand their roles and responsibilities. Her suggestion of developing rites of passage resonated with the group.

Most people left the gathering wishing for more time for conversation, knowing we have a lot more thinking to do together. But everyone recognized that we have to find community based ways to protect and develop our young people. Education is up to us.


Demand Freedom for Siwatu-Salama Ra


A/PIA community rallies after Lawsin contract renewal denied by ‘U’
Michigan Daily

Maya Goldman and Nisa Khan

As a student at the University of Michigan, 2008 alum Aisa Villarosa fell in love with the Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies Program — housed in the American Culture Department — because it allowed her to learn about other cultures and her own heritage; she learned lessons she hadn’t been exposed to growing up in the majority-white suburbs of Detroit.

She said she owes this great experience in A/PIA Studies to faculty members, including longtime Lecturer Emily Lawsin. Lawsin has been teaching at the University since 2000.

“The number one thing is just how amazing the A/PIA Studies faculty are — the ones that built our experience as undergraduates,” Villarosa explained.

When news began to surface earlier this year about the American Culture and Women’s Studies Departments’ decision to not renew Lawsin’s contract, Villarosa took action.  KEEP READING


Find Five people and Love Them to Life
Emily Schorr Lesnick, Shelby Stokes, and Shawn Redden
This was the wisdom given to us on our third day in Detroit, where we began the morning at the Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership, founded by Grace Lee Boggs and her husband, James Boggs.  Rich Feldman, a longtime community and labor activist, led our students in a multi-layered discussion around the implications of the word “revolution” and what it means (and has meant) in a city like Detroit.  We then boarded the bus for a historical and cultural circuit of several key sites in the city: Elmwood Cemetery, which was the first fully integrated cemetery in the Midwest; the remnants of the Packard and GM plants, two of the former crown jewels of the booming auto industry in the first and second halves of the twentieth century; and the Heidelberg Project, a series of sprawling installations by Detroit artist Tyree Geiten, designed in response to the crack epidemic of the 1980’s.  Two bold points were established and returned to over the course of our morning: “resistance starts in the soil” and in Detroit we see “the birth and death of the American Dream.”

Indeed, the cycle of transformation was the theme of the day, whether it was in thinking about the interplay between the past and the present, or how art can become a healing response in communities devastated by violence and poverty, or how the urban farming movement, which we learned about in our visit to D-Town Farm in the afternoon, has turned abandoned plots of land into verdant, sustainable sources of nutrition, education, profit and community support.

PORTRAITS 2
We ended our day at DABLS African Bead Shop, where students admired the seemingly endless jars of colorful beads sourced from all over the African continent and purchased some gifts to bring home with them as a tangible reminder of their visit.  A delicious meal from Slow’s BBQ and Detroit Vegan Soul awaited us when we returned to the Inn on Ferry Street, followed by our final debriefing of what has left us all feeling “most hopeful.”
GROUP SHOT

When asked how Riverdale students can bring their transformative experience in Detroit back home, Boggs Center community activist Larry Sparks encouraged our students to “find five people and love them to life.”  It is our hope that these twenty-four young activists-in-training will identify five people in their own communities—home, school, and family—and share the revolutionary spirit and love they’ve received during their time in this wonderful city.

Shea Thinking for ourselves -Grace Lee Boggs on Lessons

Thinking for ourselves

Grace Lee Boggs on Lessons

April 1, 2018

Many of us will be thinking about Dr. Martin Luther King this week as we mark the 50 years since his murder and the 51st since his call for a radical revolution of values.
 To help us think about this moment, we are sharing some of the reflections of Grace Lee Boggs, written more than a decade ago while we were exploring the questions of what we learned about the creation of Beloved Communities since the death of Dr. King.
        MORE QUESTIONS THAN ANSWERS by Grace Lee Boggs.

First written somewhere between 2004 and 2008

In the last 60 years I have had the privilege of participating in most of the great humanizing movements of the second half of the last century – labor, civil rights, black power, women’s, Asian American, environmental justice, antiwar.   Each was a tremendously transformative experience for me, expanding my understanding of what it means to be an American and a human being, and challenging me to keep deepening my thinking about how to bring about radical social change.

However, I cannot recall any previous period when the issues were so basic, so interconnected and so demanding of everyone living in this country, regardless of race, ethnicity, class, gender, age or national origin. At this point in the continuing evolution of our country and of the human race, we urgently need to stop thinking of ourselves as victims and to recognize that we must each become a part of the solution because we are each a part of the problem.

How are we going to make our livings in an age when Hi-Tech and the export of jobs overseas have brought us to the point where the number of workers needed to produce goods and services is constantly diminishing? Where will we get the imagination, the courage and the determination to reconceptualize the meaning and purpose of Work in a society that is becoming increasingly jobless?

What is going to happen to cities like Detroit that were once the arsenal of democracy? Now that they’ve been abandoned by industry, are we just going to throw them away? Or can we rebuild, redefine and respirit them as models of 21st Century self-reliant, sustainable multicultural communities? Who is going to begin this new story?

How are we going to redefine Education so that 30-50% of inner city children do not drop out of school, thus ensuring that large numbers will end up in prison?   Is it enough to call for “Education, not Incarceration”? Or does our topdown educational system, created a hundred years ago to prepare an immigrant population for factory work, bear a large part of the responsibility for the escalation in incarceration?

How are we going to build a 21st century America in which people of all races and ethnicities live together in harmony, and Euro-Americans in particular embrace their new role as one among many minorities constituting the new multi-ethnic majority?

What is going to motivate us to start caring for our biosphere instead of using our mastery of technology to increase the volume and speed at which we are making our planet uninhabitable for other species and eventually for ourselves?

And, especially since 9/11, how are we to achieve reconciliation with the two-thirds of the world that increasingly resents our economic, military and cultural domination? Can we accept their anger as a challenge rather than a threat?   Out of our new vulnerability can we recognize that our safety now depends on our loving and caring for the peoples of the world as we love and care for our own families? Or can we conceive of security only in terms of the Patriot Act and exercising our formidable military power?

When the chickens come home to roost for our invasion of Iraq, as they are already doing, where will we get the courage and the imagination to win by losing? What will help us recognize that we have brought on our defeats by our own arrogance, our own irresponsibility and our own unwillingness, as individuals and as a nation, to engage in seeking radical solutions to the growing inequality between the nations of the North and those of the South? Can we create a new paradigm of our selfhood and our nationhood? Or are we so locked into nationalism, racism and determinism that we will be driven to seek scapegoats for our frustrations and failures – as the Germans did after World War I, thus aiding and abetting the onset of Hitler and the Holocaust?

We live at a very dangerous time because these questions are no longer abstractions. Our lives, the lives of our children and future generations, and even the survival of the planet depend on our willingness to transform ourselves into active planetary and global citizens who, as Martin Luther King Jr. put it, “develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual society.”

The time is already very late and we have a long way to go to meet these challenges. Over the decades of economic expansion that began with the so-called American Century after World War II, tens of millions of Americans have become increasingly self-centered and materialistic, more concerned with our possessions and individual careers than with the state of our neighborhoods, cities, country and planet , closing our eyes and hearts to the many forms of violence that have been exploding in our inner cities and in powder kegs all over the rest of the world – both because the problems have seemed so insurmountable and because just struggling for our own survival has consumed so much of our time and energy.

At the same time the various identity struggles, while remediating to some degree the great wrongs that have been done to workers, African Americans, Native Americans and other people of color, women, gays and lesbians, and the disabled, and while helping to humanize our society overall, have also had a shadow side in the sense that they have encouraged us to think of ourselves more as determined than as self-determining, more as victims of “isms” ( racism, sexism, capitalism) than as human beings who have the power of choice and who for our own survival must assume individual and collective responsibility for creating a new nation that is loved rather than feared and that does not have to bribe and bully other nations to win support.

 

These are the times that try our souls. Each of us needs to undergo a tremendous philosophical and spiritual transformation. Each of us needs to be awakened to a personal and compassionate recognition of the inseparable interconnection between our minds, hearts, and bodies, between our physical and psychical well-being, and between our selves and all the other selves in our country and in the world.   Each of us needs to stop being a passive observer of the suffering that we know is going on in the world and start identifying with the sufferers. Each of us needs to make a leap that is both practical and philosophical, beyond determinism to self-determination. Each of us has to be true to and enhance our own humanity by embracing and practicing the conviction that as human beings we have Free Will; that   despite the powers and principalities that are bent on objectifying and commodifying us and all our human relationships, the interlocking crises of our time require that we exercise the power within us to make principled choices in our ongoing daily and political lives, choices that will eventually although not inevitably (there are no guarantees), make a difference.

How are we going to bring about these transformations? Politics as usual, debate and argument, even voting, are no longer sufficient. Our system of representative democracy, which was created by a great revolution, no longer engages the hearts and minds of the great majority of Americans. Vast numbers of people no longer bother to go to the polls, either because they don’t care what happens to the country or the world, or because they don’t believe that voting will make a difference on the profound and inter- connected issues that really matter. Even. organizing or joining massive protests against disastrous policies and demands for new policies fall short. They may demonstrate that we are on the right side politically but they are not transformative enough. They do not change the cultural images, the symbols , that play such a pivotal role in molding us into who we are.

As the labor movement was developing in the pre-World War II years, John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath transformed the way that Americans viewed themselves in relationship to faceless bankers and heartless landowners. In the 1970s and 1980s Judy Chicago’ s Dinner Party and Birth Project re-imagined the vagina, transforming it from a private space and site of oppression into a public space of beauty and spiritual as well as physical creation and liberation. In this period we urgently need artists to create new images of our selfhood and nationhood, images that will liberate us from our preoccupation with constantly expanding production and consumption and empower us to create another America that will be viewed by the world as a beacon rather than as a danger.

Boggs Center News March 26th, 2018

March 26th, 2017
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The Future of Food
Lessons from African Smallholder Farmers
Thursday, March 29th
6-7 pm
free admission
Health Professional Bldg.  Room 124 UDMercy

Presenter: Carol Thompson, PH.D

SPONSORS: GLBD is partnering with REBUILDetroit and Detroit Black Community Food Security Network


Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Reflection on EM

Last week we had an opportunity to reflect on the legacies of Emergency Management. Two schools of architecture, Taubman College of the University of Michigan and the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture of Columbia University, brought together scholars and activists from Detroit and around the country to probe what the experience of Emergency Management has meant to our city.

The call to the conference noted:

“Michigan has been the national epicenter of the development of municipal “emergency management”—a project that allows state governors to declare “financial emergencies” in Michigan cities and thereby replace democratically-elected city officials with appointed emergency financial managers.” As a result, “cities have seen the large-scale sell-off of public assets, the privatization of public institutions, the disinvestment in public infrastructures, the elimination of public services, the dissolution of municipal agencies, the hollowing-out of collective bargaining, and other acts of violence against the public sphere. Extending long histories of the extraction of labor, land, and wealth from communities of color in the United States, the transfer of public wealth and financialization of municipal governance under emergency management has been focused on Michigan’s black-majority cities; in the last 10 years, around 52% of Michigan’s African-American residents have been disenfranchised by emergency management as compared to 3% of white Michiganders.”

Although Governor Snyder announced in December of 2017 that no city or school district required an Emergency Manger, the law enabling their reinstatement continues. Moreover, most school districts and cites are subject to ongoing financial review boards that set strict parameters on local action. Emergency Management continues as a tool of state government in spite of being clearly responsible for the poisoning of the entire city of Flint, the shutting off from life giving water to 100,000 people in Detroit, the chaos of our public schools, and the gutting of cities across the state.

State legislators have refused to look at the limitations of this policy. The mainstream media is beginning to resurrect the idea that emergency management is a flawed but essential mechanism. They are pushing the narrative that the Flint disaster was an “exception” to an otherwise great policy that “saved” Detroit, setting the stage for its “comeback.”

Emergency management continues in the shadows of our lives, threatening to be pulled out should city leadership show any signs of independent, forward thinking that might challenge the relentless consolidation of white, corporate wealth.

Thus it was a welcome opportunity to gather and ask critical questions: “What has the impact of emergency management been on Michigan’s cities? What are the lessons that should be learned from Michigan’s experience with emergency management? How can the legacy of emergency management in Michigan inform resistance in other spaces of threatened or ongoing de-democratization?”

The emergency management experience has made it clear that racialized finance capital cannot tolerate even the weak democracy that characterized our public processes in this first quarter of the 21st Century. After nearly a century of progress in moving toward greater dignity for workers, more justice for African Americans, people of color, women and all those who have been disrespected and denied their full humanity, we are experiencing the viscous backlash of counter revolutionary forces. Sometimes these forces carry confederate flags and wear Nazi uniforms. Most often they wear business suits and carry a twisted logic of law as they deny and destroy the hopes of people for decent homes, clean water and a quality education for children. Emergency management has made it clear we are now engaged in a struggle for the very soul of our cities and our country.


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

THE CRISIS OF THE MASS KILLINGS IS NOT ONLY A DANGER BUT AN OPPORTUNITY FOR
EACH AND ALL OF US TO MAKE A GREAT LEAP FORWARD IN OUR HUMANITY –Grace Lee
Boggs

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