Boggs Centers – Living For Change News – August 21st, 2019

August 21st, 2019

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The Siwatu Freedom team is overjoyed to report the news that Siwatu’s conviction has been reversed — see the full press release here!



Thinking for Ourselves

Climate Controls
Shea Howell

The images coming out of Newark, New Jersey this week could easily be mistaken for Flint, Michigan. Long lines of people, mostly black and brown, are pictured next to stacks of bottled water. After repeated denials of a water crisis, and inadequate, often chaotic attempts by officials to address it, the city and state are finally acknowledging a systemic, widespread crisis. Lead from aging pipes is leaching into the water of thousands of households, especially in poorer neighborhoods.

The New York Times reported. “A growing crisis over lead contamination in drinking water gripped Newark on Wednesday as tens of thousands of residents were told to drink only bottled water, the culmination of years of neglect that has pushed New Jersey’s largest city to the forefront of an environmental problem afflicting urban areas across the nation.”

Newark and Flint are examples of the problem older cities face in providing the basic sources of life to people. Marc Edwards, the professor from Virginia Tech who helped document the Flint water crisis, estimates that 11 million homes in the U.S. are at risk of dangerous levels of lead contamination.

Access to safe, affordable drinking water is a global crisis, intensified by climate change. A recent report warned that by 2030 nearly half the population of India, one tenth the of all people on earth, will not have adequate drinking water. Groundwater is running out. Meanwhile from Michigan to California, Nestle and other bottling companies continue to pump out millions of gallons of water, virtually for free, to sell back to people in crisis.

This system is unsustainable. Already much of the migration on a global scale is directly linked to the literal drying up or flooding out of communities made vulnerable by climate catastrophe.

Recently Phillip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights explained that we are increasingly at risk of “climate apartheid.” Alston explains that as basic elements of life become more fragile, political and economic powers move to protect themselves. Alston said, “Climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction,” Poor people everywhere will be most devastated as they will “bear an estimated 75% of the costs of the climate crisis” even though “the poorest half of the world’s population (is) causing just 10% of carbon dioxide emissions.”

The political implications are obvious. Democracy and human rights are endangered everywhere. Alston’s report said, “The risk of community discontent, of growing inequality, and of even greater levels of deprivation among some groups, will likely stimulate nationalist, xenophobic, racist and other responses. Maintaining a balanced approach to civil and political rights will be extremely complex.”

This global context helps us understand why the current fight in Detroit over facial recognition technologies is so important. Increasing tools of technological repression places the majority of people at risk. It only serves to intensify and expand the powers of the state. This is the wrong direction.

If we are to construct a future for all of us, we need to think very differently about the choices we are making today. We need to move toward policies and practices that increase our human connections and our ecological sensibilities. There is a deep tread that ties together protecting the human right to water, food, education, and creative life while resisting dehumanizing, technological efforts of control us. Each time we chose to act toward life, we are shaping a better tomorrow.



Final_2nd Annual PP Festival
We hope to see you at the 2nd Annual Petty Propolis Art Festival in Historic Idlewild, Michigan!


Join us as we continue Historic Idlewild’s legacy of celebrating Black history and culture! Enjoy incredible artists like Mollywop!, Nique Love Rhodes & the NLR Experience, Monica Blaire and so many more! Check out the Black History 101 Mobile Museum, play big board games, race one of the miniature race cars and enjoy the entertainment for free! For a nominal fee, go kayaking, take a bike ride or go paddle boarding.


This year, we are offering a 1 day roundtrip bus ride to Idlewild for ONLY $30! The bus leaves from Detroit at 8am on September 1st and leaves Idlewild to head back to Detroit at 830pm the same evening.
Limited bus seating available.

Get additional info and your day pass here


See you there!





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Detroit’s creative community has gained a valuable resource in the Riverwise Storytelling Workshops, which focus on grooming storytellers within the city. KEEP READING


Online Class by Visionary Organizing Lab



Many are marking 2019 as the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first captured Africans in Jamestown. So, even more than usual, we will hear chattel slavery referred to as the nation’s original sin.

It isn’t.



Boggs Center – Living For Change News – August 12th 2019

August 12th, 2019

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Field Street Block Club Clean Up & Meet Up

Saturday, August 17th
2514 Field St.

CLEAN UP: 9-noon

Thinking for Ourselves

Constant Sorrow
Shea Howell

This has been a week of constant sorrow. We have witnessed the murders of 31 people in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. As hospitals worked to save lives and repair people, brutal ICE agents rounded up nearly 700 people in Mississippi, leaving children sobbing uncontrollably for their parents. White supremacy and white nationalism are everywhere. By Sunday a young white man walked into a Mosque in Oslo with guns blazing.

These tragedies overwhelmed our hearts and saturated the media. The 74th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima on August 6th and on Nagasaki on August 9th went by with little notice. These nuclear weapons of mass destruction caused the deaths of 146,000 people in Hiroshima and 80,000 people in Nagasaki, changing the world forever. The US remains the only nation to have used these bombs, though each day the world comes closer to another such holocaust. Nor was there much space to publicly acknowledge and reflect on the five years that have passed since the murder of Michael Brown, even as the town of Ferguson calls on its artists to help heal wounds still raw.

The violence and brutality of this moment invades everything we touch. For many of us, the current President embodies the worst of it; encouraging hate, distorting lives, thoughts, and language, spewing hate.

In the midst of this, Toni Morrison left us. Her death marks the loss of one of the most vital and visionary thinkers of our time.  Her voice will be greatly missed. Angela Davis wrote in her tribute:

“Toni was cleareyed about the United States, about the lies it tells itself, about the truth of its dark side and about its potential, rooted in its traditions of dissent, to offer a better future. A student of history, she understood that nations come and go, but that human beings had the capacity for change, evolution and growth, and that a more just world awaits if only we would commit to bringing it into being.”

Tracy K Smith, former poet laureate of the US, wrote similarly of Ms. Morrison’s belief in the possibilities of America, fully knowing the brutality woven into us from the beginning. She said:

“I believe her subject is America, this place founded upon conflict and driven by the need to define one group against another. Her work asks: Who are we? What have we built and broken together? What does it mean to regard one another deeply, humbly, hopefully? And what are the consequences for our refusal to regard one another? Across Ms. Morrison’s novels and essays, these questions operate in the intimate spaces — in families, friendships, marriages — that serve to determine the terms of our engagement with the wider world. And the reverse is true as well: The terms of the wider world seep inevitably into the most private regions of our lives.”

Toni Morrison helps us all face the fact that the violence of today is an enduring part of our collective life on this land. Angela Davis said:

“Decades ago, she warned about the rising tide of authoritarianism in a series of astute and prescient lectures and essays. In 1995, she compelled us to heed the signs of people who “construct an internal enemy as both focus and diversion” and who “isolate and demonize that enemy by unleashing and protecting the utterance of overt and coded name-calling and verbal abuse.” These, she warned, were the first steps toward “a final solution.” These essays are as important today as they were when she wrote them. Perhaps even more so.

As with all of our greatest thinkers, she held up a mirror that shows us our capacity for tremendous evil as well as for good. In one of her late novels, “A Mercy,” she returned us to a period before racial slavery was consolidated, when a new nation might have made a different set of choices and everything was in flux and possible. She does not take us down the path of the devastating choice that was made. We know that. We are living it. She simply uses the power of imagination to remind us that at any given stage, we might have chosen differently.

Today the choices before us cannot be evaded. Terror is rising in ways that cannot be denied. Toni Morrison offers us deep wisdom. She challenges us to hold fast to our capacity to find our way to the choices of life rooted in love and longing.


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Calling all people with a disability or chronic illness living in the Detroit area!  Calling all caregivers
of a person with a disability or chronic illness – family, friend, aide, teacher, loved one or professional!

We invite you to join our process of exploring, listening, supporting, sharing, healing, reflecting, and transforming our lives in a community with others doing the same.

-Do you need assistance and resources for a more balanced life?
-Are you tired or feeling stressed from your day-to-day struggles in Detroit?
-Do you want to expand your support system and be a part of a caring community?
-Are you ready to share stories and strategies in a safe space?
-Do you want to have fun and meet new people?

Our monthly Community Care Circles will launch August 18, 2019, meeting the 3rd Sunday of each month, 2-4 p.m. at Delray Senior Housing, 275 W Grand Blvd. in Detroit.

Please RSVP here.
Click here for more details!



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Boggs Center – Living for Change Newsletter – July 8th, 2019

July 8th, 2019

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Thinking for Ourselves

Independence Day
Shea Howell

This Fourth of July Donald Trump staged a militaristic, made for media moment to celebrate Independence Day in the USA. As planes flew over his head, often drowning out the sound system designed to reach his select crowd, about 150 Detroiters gathered on the East side to talk about freedom, peace, art and liberation. The gathering at Feedem Freedom Growers offered a workshop on creating peace zones for life, celebrated the new Fox Creek Artist collective, and provided food from local vendors. Children made art projects and played on tire swings fashioned on the low branches of ancient maple trees.

Detroit Police came by three times. At one point, an officer got on a loudspeaker to yell at people crossing the street. Of course, people were moving freely back and forth between gardens, water stations, art exhibits, and play areas. The street was closed to all but local traffic.

This police intrusion, unasked for and unwanted, reflected the prison mentality taking over our country. It was in line with the words and actions of Trump. Its most brutal expressions are encouraged by him daily.

This police presence is a reminder to all of us that we are at a critical moment in the evolution of capitalist economies. In 1980, with the ascent of Ronald Reagan to power, capital began to shift as primary sources of profit. Prior to Reagan, as industrial capital replaced people with robots and technologies of production, human beings became more important as consumers than as producers. But with Reagan, the use of tax dollars to support consumption by those thrown out of work eroded. Hard won victories by welfare rights organizations and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Poor People’s Campaign, which had protected many of our most vulnerable people from the reality of no longer being needed to produce goods or provide services, were overturned.

Reagan attacked “welfare” as supporting laziness and corruption. He introduced a racialized pretext for ending the public consensus that we had a responsibility to one another to ensure that all people had some level of dignity and the ability to secure food, clothing, education, and shelter. Until Reagan, capital supported public assistance to those made obsolete to production. Capital endorsed using taxpayer dollars to stimulate consumption. Consumption was seen as necessary to keep profits going.

But with Reagan and the development of what has come to be called “neoliberalism,” capital found new sources of profit. It is making money from controlling our bodies. In much the same way as early capital in the US sold human beings into slavery for profit, capital is again turning our bodies into money. Putting elders into hospitals and nursing homes, cramming children into for profit charter schools, stealing dreams of education from people seeking advanced education through for-profit colleges, and forcing people into prison cells and detention centers are now all big business.

In this new evolution of capital, controlling people becomes essential. For capital not only makes money off warehousing us in hospitals, nursing homes, schools and prisons, it makes money off of publicly financing and building these institutions. Municipal debt impoverishes cities while advancing the wealth of a few individuals.

This dynamic is most insidious in the evolution of technologies of control. This week the New York Times published an important article on ankle bracelet monitoring, emphasizing that people who have not been convicted of crimes are often placed by courts into “home monitoring” systems that end up costing them hundreds of dollars. Snared in an ever-expanding criminal net, people are forced to pay daily fees for monitoring, for installation costs, late fees, and outrageous interest rates.

These mechanisms are supported by the Trump policies encouraging the arrest of more people. The “fear of crime” whether by people living in urban areas or immigrants coming across borders is being twisted into a vast financial network.

Since the days of the first poor people’s campaign, the number of people in prison has jumped more than 500%. Increasingly those people in this system are being steered into technological monitoring programs.

This Fourth of July, we gathered to talk of a different kind of future, one without prisons or borders. Gathering to dream together of peace, of a future that embraces children, values art, and encourages joy threatens the foundation of those whose attempt to profit from controlling us.
On the Betsy DeVos Agenda and Raising Our Collective Critical Consciousness for Social Change

Summer Reading Recommendations


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Summer Reading Recommendations



Boggs Center – Living For Change News – June 25th, 2019

June 25th, 2019

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Thinking for Ourselves

Asking Questions
Shea Howell

The future of our city is driven by countless small decisions. Of course, political choices, like giving 200 acres of land to Fiat-Chrysler, or flattening a community for a Cadillac plant, have enormous consequences. But often, the things that touch our daily lives are far less dramatic.

Most of these small decisions happen without much public attention. Small conversations, routine committee meetings, and group planning sessions can be the spark for big changes. Such a moment occurred last week in the Public Health and Safety committee discussion convened to explore the transfer of responsibilities from the Land Bank back to the city of Detroit. This transfer is critical in the upcoming effort by the Duggan administration to pass $200 million bond to accelerate “blight” removal and the tearing down of vacant homes.

What started out as a routine administrative effort to show a power point and move on was quickly turned into a thoughtful discussion by the only two council members present, Janee Ayers, who chairs the committee, and Roy McCalister, who happens to be my representative.

The head of the Detroit Building Authority laid out his case for helping the committee understand the need to shift housing demolition away from the Detroit Land Bank and into the Housing and Revitalization Department (HRD). This shift was motivated by the running out of federal dollars to underwrite demolitions and to lay the ground work for greater “flexibility” in acquiring “targets” to knock down.

It is no secret that housing demolition is a contentious issue.  Since Duggan took office, 18,000 homes have been destroyed. Duggan frequently brags about this. In his speech to the elite of Mackinac Conference he said “We’re going to take down 4,000 houses a year, and in five years by the end of 2024, we will not have a single abandoned house in any neighborhood in the city of Detroit.”

However, many of the homes, now abandoned and suffering from want of care, were created by illegal taxing and foreclosure policies. The persistent over evaluation of poorer neighborhoods and under evaluation of wealthy neighborhoods has been a powerful tool in clearing people out of their homes. The use of foreclosure to drive people out has been especially contentious because Duggan decided to use federal money intended to be used to keep people in their homes to demolish them instead. Since 2008 one in four Detroit homes have been foreclosed. We have shifted from being a majority African American home owning city, to a majority of renters. Often these rents go to faceless companies in distant lands.

In the small committee meeting, Ayers and McCalister asked critical questions based on fundamental ideas about developing people and place. They probed: Who decides what gets demolished? Who decides how and when neighbors are engaged in decision making about what happens in their neighborhoods? Who is responsible for land that is opened up? What is the thinking about using demolition as a way to increase the skills of Detroiters? What is the thinking about how to encourage community driven planning? What about ensuring that we keep people in homes, rather than encouraging abandonment or take overs?

It is clear in the conversation that HRD looks at land as a commodaty to be bundled, “packaged,” and sold. It does not think about it as the place of neighborhood life, where people care for one another and what is around them. It is asking only transactional questions.

Ayers and McCalister introduced transformational questions that open the way for a new dialogue about the kind of city we want, who is responsible for it, and how we enact policies that encourage collaboration and protection for those who are vulnerable.

As the Mayor touts knocking down houses to fight crime, we should all remember that our safety rests in the hands of neighbors who look out for one another, not in” knocking down” “targets” to “package.”


The Story of Water

The People vs Us Ecology

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Join us Saturday June 29th 10:00 am at Eastern Market to demonstrate and educate! The Coalition to Oppose the Expansion of US Ecology will be joined by Detroit and Hamtramck neighbors to advocate for the protection of our water supply and for a healthy environment. Our goal is to keep our neighborhoods safe from the massive increase of poisonous chemical waste being brought into our cities. We think it’s wrong for companies to wreak environmental havoc on POC and low income communities. We’re here to demand that US Ecology + the MDEQ (EGLE) take our concerns seriously and to share information on how you can join in the fight. Bring your signs, noise makers, friends and neighbors!! DETAILS.

At the intersection of Grand River Ave. and 15th Street in Detroit’s Core City neighborhood, there is a four-story brick building covered in murals. The most prominent one, spanning the top half of the front facade, is of four hands shaping the letters L-O-V-E. For nearly 20 years, this building was a home for artists and small businesses. Through low-cost studio space, gallery space, and community, it nurtured a kind of creative love, the impact of which is visible along Grand River, and will be felt for many more decades. KEEP READING