Conversations in Maine New Edition – Order your copy

 Conversations in Maine

A New Edition


Authors: Grace Lee Boggs, Jimmy Boggs, Freddy Paine, and Lyman Paine

Foreword by Shea Howell and Stephen Ward
Afterword by Michael Doan

Order your copy today


Meditations on activism following the turbulent 1960s—back in print

Following the Detroit Rebellion of 1967, four veteran activists, Grace Lee and Jimmy Boggs, and Lyman and Freddy Paine, came together to rethink revolution and social change. Posting tough, thought-provoking questions, the recorded dialogue among these four friends ultimately serves as a call to all citizens to work together and think deeply about the kind of future we can create.

Conversations in Maine was an essential text for my generation of radicals.

Robin D.G. Kelley

Boggs Center – Living For Change News Letter November 5th, 2018

November 5th, 2018

grace and jimmy

Adult allies are needed to assist We the Youth of Detroit in testing water across the city.



Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Against the Darkness

This is a time of accelerating homegrown terrorism. The Massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg followed closely behind the shooting deaths of two people in a Kroger parking lot in Kentucky. The killer had gone to the store after being unable to enter the First Baptist Church.

These killings, coming so closely after pipe bombs were sent across the US, along with the emerging details of the state directed murder of Jamal Khashoggi, led me to ask students in my university classes if they wanted to have conversations about these events.

I often take time in classes for reflection on current issues. So, I was unprepared for the response this time. In two separate classes most students said they really didn’t want to talk about any of this. They said they were numb. They did not want to think about it. They didn’t like that they were so shut down, but they were afraid. It felt like nowhere was safe.

This kind of reaction to the violence that is becoming normal in our public life is as dangerous as the violence itself. It is the necessary grounds for fascism to flourish. Fascism depends upon our disconnection from each other and from our selves. It not only requires that some of us be willing to commitment unspeakable horrors against each other. It requires that most of us give up reacting to these horrors. It requires we no longer feel it matters if we care.

This is why I was especially glad to see that some students were organizing a public response to these killings. At my university students organized a candlelight vigil. “Our student leaders came up with the idea and the event has grown organically over the past 48 hours to the point where we have Christian, Muslim and Jewish groups working together to participate in the vigil,” said Senior Director, Office for Student Involvement, Jean Ann Miller. Well over 200 people attended the event. People of Catholic, Protestant, Muslim and Jewish faiths spoke about connection, courage, and the need to care for one another.

This group was one of thousands, large and small that have come together to publicly stand against hate, violence, and fear.
Speaking to the overflowing crowd of the small Newton Massachusetts synagogue, Rabbi Robbinson said, “Each of you who made the choice to come here tonight, to stand together, to pray together, are angels of peace. Let us raise our voices against the darkness.”

Trump’s words foster fear and violence.  They matter. As Henry Giroux recently observed:
“Trump’s language is neither harmless, nor merely a form of infantilized theater. It is toxic, steeped in a racist nationalist ardor that stirs up and emboldens extremist elements of his base. It adds fuel to a culture capable of horrific consequences, …It is also the language of silence, moral irresponsibility and a willingness to look away in the face of violence and human suffering. This is the worldview of fascist politics and a dangerous nihilism — one that reinforces a contempt for human rights in the name of financial expediency and the cynical pursuit of political power.”

But our word matter much more. Through our words we can foster connection and love. Our words, openly offered in the public sphere, become the strands to weave a new democracy, rooted in life affirming values.

The Tragedy in Pittsburgh
Richard Feldman

The tragedy in Pittsburgh is a wake up call to our nation and to our souls.  As a country we have a history drenched in blood. Beginning with the massacres of Native Americans to the enslavement of African Americans to the internment camps, to our prisons, we have step by step put economic gain over human dignity. Our Constitution put slavery above human and social values. These choices continue as our current President abuses immigrant children.

We are able to continue to evade the consequences of our actions because we make people most affected by them invisible. We put folks with disabilities in prison like institutions, we declare the children of Flint fine, we deny the human dignity of gay, lesbian and transgender folks. At every turn, our nation has chosen economic development at the expense of human beings and the earth.

It is easy to say that Trump has blood on his hands. It is more difficult to say that our historical silence has come home to roost.  We would rather talk about healing and guns than look at ourselves and the cost that most of the world has suffered so that “typical Americans” can pursue our daily happiness.

What we are experiencing is not an individual mental health problem.  It is a social health problem.  This is not only about hate and violence. This is an historical problem that we have created in our pursuit of the evil triplets of racism, materialism and militarism. In Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech: Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence he calls upon us to acknowledge that we are the “greatest purveyors of violence” and to create a radical revolution in values.

Most Americans believe a fantasy story about our past that tells us we are special, entitled to what we have, and are the best country in the world.

As James Baldwin said: “America will never know its name until it knows my name.”

This tragedy cries out for us to look beyond simple answers. It is not about guns or the acts of a deranged person. It is about the violence rooted deeply in our past and our present. It is the violence that has led us to believe some of us are superior to other people and to the living world on which we depend.

Our country will not heal until it faces our past and grapples with the challenge of Dr. King when he said that when faced with such violence, “I cannot be silent.” Silence is betrayal.

Let us engage with each other and develop new truths about who we have been and who we wish to become.
What We’re Watching





DCNov18Event (3)


Boggs Center – Living For Change. October 8th, 2018

October 8th, 2018

grace and jimmy

Free – Riverwise Edition #8 Just issued


Thinking for Ourselves

Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
One Water

The push for local and state-wide policies to protect our water is accelerating. This past week saw both a successful student walk-out on count day in Detroit emphasizing the crisis of safe water in the schools and the need for a water affordability plan and a declaration of faith in support of water as a human right by people of faith.  On Oct 4th people gathered at the Spirit of Detroit to celebrate over 240 signatures of faith leaders in a call to all people of good will to become stewards of our waters. Faith leaders declared they will continue to organize to stop water shut-offs, get those who have been shut-off reinstated, and for a water affordability plan that allows people to pay for water based on percentage of income.

Throughout the state the weekend saw sermons and worship services aimed at raising with congregations our moral responsibilities to one another and the earth.  Organizers declared, “This is a critical moment. The faith community can add its prolific voice and use its formidable influence to change the course of history by helping to pass a water affordability plan in Detroit. This would allow people to pay their water bills. The plan would bring in more revenue than the shut-offs. Philadelphia and other cities have adopted a water affordability plan. The plan Philadelphia implemented was first drafted for Detroit.”

On October 10, Flint Strong Stones and We the People of Detroit will again join forces for the 4th annual Imagine a Day Without Water. People of faith, activists, and community leaders will discuss how to advance efforts to protect water and the lives that depend upon it.

This year’s event is be hosted by First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church in Flint.

People are gathering with a renewed sense of urgency because of the recent recognition of the widespread contamination caused by PFAS in drinking water around the state. Michigan was forced to declare a state of emergency over water contamination in Kalamazoo

The Department of Environmental Quality found that more than 1.5 million people have been drinking water with some level of contamination by PFAS.

SaginawGrand Rapids, Wyoming, and Ann Arbor, all show levels of the so-called “forever chemicals.”

Reports noted, “The sheer scope of contamination is highlighting concerns about the adequacy of that level and prompting calls for rigid controls on the chemicals, which are not regulated in Michigan public drinking water systems.

Since the first wave of water shut-offs in Detroit and the poisoning of Flint, community activists, people of faith, human rights workers, United Nations officials, students, parents, scientists, public health officials, and school personnel have recognized that we are in a deep crisis over the protection of the most essential element of our lives. Only elected officials seem oblivious.

Organizers of Imagine a Day without water said, “We demand as residents, as parents, as tax payers, as homeowners, as fishermen, as students and stewards, to bring forth the most visionary plan for our future generations. We are One Water from Keweenaw Bay to Saginaw Bay, from Detroit to the Soo.”

It is our responsibility to insist by every means necessary that water and the life that depends upon it be protected.


no water


No water to drink, or even to make coffee with. No water to shower, flush the toilet, or do laundry. Hospitals would close without water. Firefighters couldn’t put out fires and farmers couldn’t water their crops.

Some communities in America already know how impossible it is to try to go a day without our most precious resource: Water. But many Americans take water for granted every day. Imagine a Day Without Water 2018 is the fourth annual day to raise awareness and educate  America about the value of water.

Last year, over 750 organizations came together. Will you join us this year


Design 2

What We’re Reading

Howard Zinn: Don’t Despair about the Supreme Court

It would be naive to depend on the Supreme Court to defend the rights of poor people, women, people of color, dissenters of all kinds.
Check in with the Michigan Poor People’s Campaign

Boggs Center – Living for Change News Letter – August 20th, 2018

August 20th, 2018

grace and jimmy

On September 8, Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition will host its 3rd Environmental Justice Statewide Summit in Flint MI, seeking to bring 200 EJ Activists to testify, visualize and strategize for a just and equitable future. We’ve been through a lot over the last 8 years, and, it’s not over. It’s time to CHANGE THE NARRATIVE. As a new administration heads in Jan. 2019, we must define what it means for all living beings to have clean and affordable access to water, air, land and make a way to take decisions about our own future in the critical times of climate change.  REGISTER

Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Future Water Plans

Children working with the Detroit Independent Freedom Schools (DIFS) have been harvesting eggplant, tomatoes, greens, herbs and other vegetables at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. This is the second summer of the garden celebrating the agricultural expertise of African Americans and fostering skills needed for the burgeoning urban agricultural movement that shapes much of Detroit. Next summer the garden will be part of a visionary landscape, designed to emphasize water as a human right and a public trust.

In a recent article explaining why the Charles H. Wright Museum thought it important to include gardening on its plaza, Vice-President Charles Ferrell said, “The whole spiritual concept of planting something and removing the weeds and nurturing it and seeing it grow and then being able to eat, it’s a way for not only the children, but the parents to know that you have to have a place where you can grow your own food.  You know it’s clean, it’s organic. There are multiple reasons why this sends a higher message to the community around self-determination.”

Mr. Ferrell’s understanding was echoed by recently retired CEO Juanita Moore who observed, “The broad need to educate these young people…not just about what they should learn in the classrooms, but the broader lessons about how to live complete lives; the health and wholeness of their bodies; the longevity and quality of their life and the lives of families and other people around them. A lot of that revolves around food, especially in our community and especially in Detroit.”

As this year’s harvest accelerates, plans for next year are taking shape.   They include a much more ambitious partnership extending to the Michigan Science Center. The two museums, along with community partners like DIFS are envisioning a new outdoor space intended to provide a visible, tangible, model of sustainable, regenerative water practices.

The neighboring museums are joining forces to conserve water by using porous pavers, bioswales, plants and gardens designed to store storm water.  By keeping rain water out of sewers, the new landscape will reduce the pressure on Detroit’s aging system and help reduce flooding.

In part, this vision emerged out of necessity. Museum complexes face the pressure of high sewerage rates for run off. Detroit is currently facing rates that are almost three times more than the water bills. These bills are already impossible for many to pay.  Increased sewerage bills mean not only will home owners suffer, but businesses, churches, and meeting spaces are concerned about losing property to unpayable bills.

But this effort is more than about saving money. It is about helping people to think differently about the serious questions raised by the water crisis in our city.

People are recognizing that urban centers have intensified the global water crisis. And they are responding in visionary ways. Philadelphia, New York, Portland, Copenhagen and the “Sponge Cities” of China are all evolving imaginative ways to coordinate wetlands, tree planting, green and white roofs, and other green stormwater infrastructure to create resilient, coordinated, and sustainable approaches to water.

Here in Detroit a strong array of community organizations and some forward -thinking foundations are supporting these experiments. However, our current administration, locked into efforts to prevent a human, sensitive, and sustainable approach to ensure that water is affordable to all and cared for with an eye to the future, is holding us back. Hopefully, by next summer, the Mayor and his administration will learn from the children about what needs to be done to protect our water and our people.


Petty Propolis Flyer_Ocean

Professor john a. powell, one of the world’s most important thinkers and scholars on civil and human rights, Director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at U.C. Berkeley, explores how we can better understand the spaces we currently inhabit and strategize to co-create alternative spaces where real healing can truly begin.


RETC- What is truth? James and Grace Lee Boggs





What is the Truth?

“We can only deal with these questions when we understand that

ideas themselves are not permanent. Ideas which were once solutions

become barriers to advance at another stage of development. There

is no such thing as “the truth.”

To clarify the question of “the truth,” we must first make a

distinction between three categories which are usually linked


218         James and Grace Lee Boggs


together as “truth.” They are scientific truth, factual truth, and the

ideas called “truths” which are actually convictions held by people

as to what it means to be human.

First, it is clear that science has discovered many valuable facts

about physical realities. Yet someday, someone is going to discover

that something even in this sphere (for example, that the speed of

light by which everything is measured) is, in an Einsteinian sense,

relative, and then all scientific facts will have to be re-evaluated.

Next there is the category which Hannah Arendt has called

“factual truth” in her important essay “Truth and Politics.” Factual

truth involves statements about events and circumstances which

have occurred or are occurring to human beings. The opposite of

factual truth is not error or illusion or opinion, but the falsehood or

lie, either of commission or omission, i.e., the deliberate attempt to

deceive. Lying even in trivial matters reveals the arrogant belief that

facts are deniable or can be made “inoperative.” Hence the

inevitable degeneration of any individual, nation, or organization

which has a careless attitude to factual truth.

Finally, there is the category of truths which has to do with the

nature of man/woman. Is Man the son of God? This is the sort of

thing people argue over. In this sphere there are no absolutes. Yet for

hundreds of years, most people, and not only religious people, have

believed in “the truth.”

The concept that all truths which deal with human identity are

relative and not absolute is indispensable to the revolutionist. In

order to make a revolution, you have to discard the notion that

anything one has previously regarded as truth about human beings is

necessarily true. Revolution is an effort to discover or to create truth,

not to prove what is true. It is hard to Persuade most radicals of this.

You question their personalities if you question what they live by.

Being a revolutionist for them is living by certain truths, rather than

discovering or creating new truths. The New Left–as distinguished

from the Old Left–started out by trying to discover rather than

prove. But they were empirical and pragmatic in the extreme. The

Old Left had a body of ideas which the masses of people are

supposed to prove for them. So they are happy, gratified, satisfied

whenever the masses do something to prove what they already

believe. All this has nothing to do with being a revolutionist.

Revolutionists do not believe in absolute truth but they do have

Changing Concepts for Changing Realities 219

strong convictions, thoughts which move them. How can you have

strong convictions which possess and move you, and yet develop

them in relation to struggle, to practice, and to developing reality?

The highest level of human creativity is the constant developing and

advancing of your vision. But this is a dialectical process, involving a

creative relation with reality, which is very different from syllogistic

thinking. Syllogistic thinking is a way of proving a statement rather

than a way of advancing a vision (e.g., “All men are mortal, Socrates

is a man; therefore Socrates is mortal” is a syllogism).

Vision is more than thought. Vision adds to the rational process of

thought all the instincts, intuitions, and other untapped qualities in

people. That is why vision can’t be analyzed in the way that thought

can be.

In the attempt to grasp what vision is, we approach the realization

that a human being is infinitely more complicated than we have been

ready to recognize. The more complicated human beings are, the

harder it is to organize, to dominate, to use them. What has

distinguished great creative individuals from all others is that they

have been willing to accept the challenge of the complicated nature

of a human being. Maybe that is why there have been only about two

thousand great individuals in five thousand years. Some people are

defeated by this complexity; some are illuminated by it; some are

challenged by it. This complexity tells us that the evolution of

hunankind is still going on and will continue to go on. The nature of

man/woman, our human identity, is still being discovered, still being


So when we are asked “What is truth?” we must make clear that

there is no such thing as truth. There are different kinds of truth.

There are truths which are really scientific facts, used for technical

purposes. There is factual truth, or truth-telling as opposed to lying.

And then there are truths which are really convictions, having to do

with human beings, with change, with development, with values.

Convictions are relative, not absolute.

That they are relative means that they are extremely important. It

is hard for people to accept this because in the Western intellectual

tradition, absolute truth has come down to us as a Positive goal to be

striven toward, while relative truths have come down as “merely

relative,” and therefore, by implication, mean, material, negative.

This started with Plate, whose anti-mass bias was clear. It was

220         James and Grace Lee Boggs

extended by Christianity (to save the souls of the meek and humble).

Then science gave it new life. Therefore, it is hard to get people to

understand that truths are constantly being created, and that this

creativity is in fact the greatest achievement of humanity. We tend

to speak of ideas as “only relative” or “merely relative” implying that

what is relative doesn’t matter too much because it is not fixed, as if

only fixed truths were important.

A constant evolution takes place in our concepts, in truths. God

was a concept created by human beings. The first gods that men and

women created were closer to nature because at the time people

lived closer to nature. As we progressively departed from nature,

beginning to master nature for the first time within the last few

hundred years, we created other, more complicated gods. As we

were enhanced in one direction, we were dulled and diminished in

another. This is the contradiction, the duality in man/woman. When

we crossed “the threshold of reflection,” in Chardin’s phrase, we

began to discover things about our own developing nature. We may

think that we have discovered the final truth about the nature of

human beings, and therefore we know who and what man/woman is.

But we don’t. The nature of a human being, present as well as future,

is infinitely more complicated than we have permitted ourselves to

recognize or to express.

A revolution is to create new truths about human beings and

society. There is no proof really that the road you are taking is the

“true” one. You have to make it true. Revolution creates new bases

of tensions, new unities which will split again into new dualities.”