Shea Howell – National Council of Elders and Young Activists -Opening Comments

Opening Comments

National Council of Elders and Young Activists

October 7, 2021

By Shea Howell

The move from the 20th to the 21st Century is marked by one of the greatest transformations in human evolution.  As Grace Lee Boggs often said,  “We are living in the midst of a transformation, on a scale that rarely happens in human evolution, as great as the shift from hunting and gathering to agriculture and from agriculture to industry.”

Sometimes this moment is called the Great Turning, the shifting of paradigms, an earth shift.

Vincent Harding called it the birthing of a new world, others see it as the fulfillment of ancient prophesies.

At this moment on the clock of the world, as Grace would say, it is marked by three inter-related crises.

The first is the ecological crisis. Today the  fate of much of the life on the planet is in peril. Countless species, including humans, face extinction.

The second is the economic crisis. Here the divisions between the haves and the have nots is growing wider every day. Access to the basic elements of life are increasingly concentrated in smaller and smaller numbers of people who are mostly, white, representing old colonial powers.

The third is the crisis of Governance. How we make decisions about our collective and interdependent lives is dominated by small elites, protecting power and privilege. It is sometimes called a  crisis in democracy, or described as the rise of the authoritarian state, but it represents the profound challenges of to create methods of decision making that reflect the needs of people and the planet.

With each of these  crises, it is clear that the institutions that emerged in the 20th century, and that many of us helped shape in more human directions,  are incapable of resolving these crises in the 21st Century. Often their attempts to do so only make things worse.

So, we are at the point, as Dr. King said, “The future neither certain nor assured.”

What is sure is that something new emerging, and the question in front of us is: Will it be better or worse than this present moment or our darkest past?

Responses to these interlocking crises emerged in 21st Century with new energy. We have witnessed the World Social Forums, Occupy Wall Street, Indigenous leadership in protection of people and the earth,  the Sunrise movement, the  Movement for Black lives,  an expanded queer consciousness, Me Too, mutual aid, and pro-democracy movements globally.

All of these are drawing on the energies and imaginations of young people. As it was in 20th Century, young people are critically important in propelling us toward positive, progressive changes.

At same time, the  forces protecting the of old ways of power and privilege have also become increasingly dangerous,  better organized, and more sophisticated. They have created effective

Propaganda methods and have destroyed the idea of a collective, shared reality. They are establishing domination over public authority in courts, state legislatures, think tanks, universities and media.They are intensifying this domination through control of police and military powers, becoming more violent. This violence is often mechanized, automated, and far reaching,  capable of forms of control and surveillance that intrudes into every aspect of life.

They are wielding this violence against emerging movements. They launch campaigns to delegitimize and destabilize movements to destroy movements and individuals in them.

As Nelson Johnson of the Beloved Community Center in Greensboro says, “People know that when a mule is dying, it is at its most dangerous. It kicks the hardest.” Some of use on this call know all too well what those kicks feel like.  We are witnessing this all around us.

For those of us who have experienced the long contours of this shifting time,  we want to say to you younger activists that this is most dangerous moment we have seen in our lifetimes, it is the most difficult time we have experienced.

It is a time that requires something new from all of us. It  requires careful thinking, conscious strategies, critical connections, new systems of care and collective responses, new ways of building trust, and new forms of collective actions.

We see this gathering  as a space to hold conversation about this time, what each of us is seeing unfolding, and what we think needs to be done.

I wish we could be on the porch together at Haley Farm, sitting in those rocking chairs, recalling all of those men, women, and queer folks who are our ancestors and we could call on them for their wisdom and courage. But, for now, is this space we have to explore together. Let us begin.



Boggs Center – Living for Change News – October 5th. 2021

October 5th, 2021

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Thinking for Ourselves

Housing as a human right
Shea Howell

October is often a cruel month in Detroit. It is the time of foreclosures for overdue taxes and land sales through public auction.  This year, an unprecedented efforts by public and private groups will make tax evictions less likely. Wayne County officials are trying to avoid foreclosures on occupied homes and the Stay As You Pay program is designed to exempt people who are struggling with finances from property taxes.  Still officials say somewhere between 18,000 and 25,000 homeowners are at risk in Wayne Country of losing homes.

Along with evictions related to tax foreclosures, many Detroiters face eviction due to inability to pay rent during the pandemic. A recent survey in Michigan identified more than 100,000 people facing foreclosure or evictions. With the ending of the CDC freeze on evictions this week, the future is precarious.

The immediacy of the crisis draws our attention away from the longer term trends that shape it. Over the last 20 years, Detroit has been transformed from a city of homeowners to a city of renters. A recent article by Bonsitu Kataba-Gaviglio, deputy legal director of the ACLU of Michigan notes:

“Once a national leader in Black homeownership, a majority of Detroit residents now live in rental properties. That, combined with high poverty rates, results in a shocking number of evictions. In 2016, for example, there were 6,664 evictions in Detroit, according to researchers at Princeton University’s Eviction Lab. That amounts to more than 18 families losing their homes every single day.”

Along with the housing crisis in 2008, many Detroiters were forced out of their homes by inaccurate and inflated property taxes. In 2017, Mayor Duggan attempted to adjust assessments, but most studies demonstrated that Detroit homeowners are still over assessed. Last year the Detroit News documented that home owners were over-assessed by at least $600 million since the great recession.  The News also documented that more than 90% were overtaxed by an average of at least $3,700 between 2010 and 2016.  Roughly 1 in 10 of Detroit tax foreclosures between 2011 and 2015 are attributed to the city’s inflation of property assessments. During that time 100,000 properties were foreclosed.

There are broad based coalitions advocating to address these injustices, but the cold fact remains that people’s lives have been disrupted. Detroit has lost valuable community members and many neighborhoods are suffering as families have been forcibly moved out, leaving homes empty.

The long term trend is clear. City policy combined with banking practices are driving out African Americans, while welcoming in younger, whiter homeowners. The percentage of African Americans who own their own homes dropped in Michigan more than any other state, down to 40%. In contrast, home ownership rates for whites dropped 3%.

This drop in home ownership is coupled with the inability of African Americans to get mortgages. A recent report documented that in the metropolitan area African Americans are almost twice as likely to be denied a conventional home loan as white applicants. In 2017 African Americans received just 34 percent of all loan dollars coming into Detroit, whereas whites received 58 percent, up from 17 percent in 2007.

Behind all of these figures is the reality that intentional policies and practices by those in authority in our city are driving out long term residents, targeting neighborhoods that are predominantly African American.

There are many things we can do to turn this around. Establishing legal protections, initiating fair assessments, restoring homes to those unjustly foreclosed upon, and providing low cost homes to those without shelter are all possible. Our task is to forge the political will to make sure “housing is a human right” is more than a slogan.

What We’re Watching
Holding Down the Fort

Detroit filmmaker, Kate Levy highlights the senior population who rely on Section 8 housing and are displaced from their homes due to developers who have become more concerned with profits from their Downtown Detroit developments than the population they have evicted. The film was originally released in 2016 but this revision extends the film, with unreleased footage for dated


HoldingDownTheFort 2

VIMEO STREAM: Holding Down the Fort
See more of Katy’s work here

Uplifting & Supporting our Community

Detroit Visionary Community Fair

It is our time to bring together, in an outside, safe, masked environment, individuals and organizations on the east side and across our city. Our goal is to have those gather who are and have been visionaries committed to creating power and showing the world that another Detroit is happening.

Community Fair Flyer (2)
RSVP online using this link!

Making Room for Abolition

Lauren Williams is an artist-in-residence at the Detroit Justice Center exploring abolitionist imaginaries, realities, and the spaces inbetween. Making Room for Abolition is an installation of a living room that evokes critical conversations around what stands between us and a world without police and prisons. Situated in a domestic space, Making Room draws attention to our home’s most quotidian objects and sounds and acknowledges how our homes and belongings reflect the world outside, especially in a city so deeply shaped by over-policing and carceral politics as Detroit. This experience is a provocation, not a vision, intending to posit possible futures; hint at how abolition demands that we evolve through time; and pose questions about an abolitionist world through the lens of a home.
Lauren’s exhibit is a part of a series, Monolith, that will be on display at Red Bull Arts Detroit, October 8 – November 5. You can fiind details about the exhibit here


Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit
One Earth Community Conference


Find out more here and register by October 7 for an early bird discount!

What We’re Reading

YES! A Better World Today Newsletter

Cooperation and Chocolate: The Story of One Colombian Community’s Quest for Peace

A community in Colombia is ditching traditional capitalist models in order to build a collective future. Read the full story here

YES! Fest: A Better World Rising – October 7-8, 2021
10 a.m. – 2 p.m. PT / 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. ET
Get your ticket HERE.

You’ll hear lively discussions about the solutions and ideas that go into building a more equitable and sustainable world, and learn how you can help us advance solutions for the next 25 years. Read more about the schedule and speakers here.

Calling all writers!

YES! Magazine is looking for pitches for “reported stories, essays, and analyses that will explore personal approaches to activism, and simply, ways of being engaged in what is going on in our communities.” Interested? Find out more detail and email pitches to by October 22, 2021
“How is it possible for people and places to change so entirely that they lose any connection with what they used to be? Can a man adapt to new things and new places without losing a part of himself?”

Abdelrahman Munif

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Boggs Center – Living For Change News – September 27th. 2021

September 27th, 2021

revolution image final

Thinking for Ourselves
Hantz Lessons
Shea Howell

More than a decade has passed since John Hantz announced his effort to create a vast urban farm on Detroit’s east side. The original idea was to develop the world’s largest urban agricultural business, combining traditional farming methods with indoor hydroponics. This was to be augmented by agro-tourism and, ultimately, a global innovation center. The plan promised 15 to 20 jobs in the first year, and 250 within the decade. Hantz was prepared to invest $30 million over 10 years. In defending his ideas in April of 2010, Hantz explained his motives. Farming  is “land extensive” he said. Detroit “cannot create value until we create scarcity, and large scale farming could begin to take land out of circulation in a positive way.”

This past week we learned that Hantz in fact created value, at least for himself. Since 2019 he has sold 147 properties of the nearly 2000 he got from the city for pennies on the acre. It is estimated he received $2.8 million. He still has more than 90% of the properties that he can sell at any time.

Local activists fought back against this plan, saying it was nothing more than a scheme to allow Hantz to grab land that he would ultimately sell for an immense profit. In the course of this fight, Hantz shifted his goals for the land. After critics emphasized that large scale agriculture was likely to disrupt communities and posed serious ecological concerns, Hantz announced he would plant fruit trees. Neighbors objected to the absence of any viable means to actually harvest the fruit, and Hantz pivoted to offering to plant Christmas trees. Ultimately, he decided to plant hardwoods, changing his name from  Hantz Farms to Hantz Woodlands. What he didn’t abandon was the desire to own nearly 2000 parcels of land. After contentious city council hearings and public gatherings, the City Council voted 5 to 4 for the deal.   Under Emergency Management, Kevyn Orr and Governor Rick Snyder signed off on the final paperwork in 2013 after nearly five years of controversy.

There is much we can learn from this.  First,  there is the obvious recognition that local activists saw through this scheme from the beginning. We warned that the city was giving away land to a private developer who had no commitment to the ethics of urban agriculture. He was cynically manipulating the good will developed by local growers to make his development scheme palatable to city authorities.

We can also learn something about our city council. I attended most of the public meetings on Hantz Farms, including the final session prior to the vote in favor of the deal. Nearly 1000 people gathered to oppose it. Of the one hundred people who commented on the issue, only three were in favor. Yet the majority of the council disregarded the concerns of citizens.

How is it possible that elected officials can so easily dismiss the voices of the people who elected them?

Had they listened at all to what was being said, council members  would have recognized that most people objected because the deal was unfair. Almost everyone talked about how they had tried and failed to get even one open lot, or to purchase a family home lost to foreclosure.  In story after story people shared their efforts to build their community, only to be thwarted by the city. What emerged in this saga was not only the greed of John Hantz, but the failures of the city to provide even minimal support for most of its people and their dreams.

This year as we approach a city council election, we should remember John Hantz and ask our candidates whose voices they will listen to, whose dreams they will work to make real.

What We’re Watching

Detroit “Hacks” the House

CryptoHarlem is an inner city digital surveillance clinic. In this episode they sit down with the one and only @hypervisible Dr. Chris Gilliard and @combsthepoet Tawana Petty, Detroit super stars breaking the (surveillance) internet.


“Grievers” Author Event
Author adrienne marie brown in conversation with Siwatu-Salama Ra & Lottie Spady

Grievers is “a Queer Detroit based fiction/science fiction.” Next week, adrienne maree brown will engage in conversation with Siwatu-Salama Ra and Lottie Spady to celebrate the release of Grievers on October 5th, 2021 at 7pm. Two ticket options are available: A Free Ticket will give you access to the virtual event. A Book Ticket will give access to the virtual event and a copy of Grievers shipped to you.

Tue, October 5, 2021
7:00 PM – 8:30 PM EDT

Get your tickets at eventbrite


Uplifting & Supporting our Community
Detroit Visionary Community Fair

A fair to create beloved community and solutions

Community Fair Flyer

AMP Seeds Series
Stay connected to the Allied Media Conference with visionary voices from the AMP network. Two upcoming events:

Dismantling Barriers
The Undocumented Filmmakers Collective will be premiering a short film followed by a conversation on the triumphs and pitfalls of non-white filmmaking.
Oct 7th at 5pm ET – RSVP

Performance as Resistance
Performers can captivate our attention, embody space and reverberate energy while liberating themselves from their own bodies. Join us for an evening of song and dance hosted and curated by the Brown RadicalAss Burlesque co-founder, Una Osato.
October 21st at 5pm ET – RSVP

Read more about AMP in the September AMP News

Detroit People’s Platform
Pro-Democracy Rally for Majority Black Detroit

Detroiters have a right to a city government that puts the needs and priorities of it’s residents first. We demand a return to a deeper form of democracy in Detroit, a democracy where the people hold political power and elected representatives sit in service to the common good.
Friday, October 1st – 5:30 – 7:00 pm
7700 Second Ave @ Pallister

Register Now

What We’re Reading

Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition Newsletter

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Keep up with the autumn highlights of the Southeast Michigan Stewardship Coalition. A letter from the director about living into our values, upcoming events, new initiatives, a teacher spotlight, and more.
Read the Coalition Commons: Seasonal E-Newsletter of the SEMIS Coalition Fall 2021

Ryter Cooperative Industries Newsletter

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Ryter Cooperative Industries (RCI) is a project management company that encourages community development and empowerment through design and engineering support, project management, and educational services. They specialize in providing the services mentioned using renewable energy solutions, the application of innovative technology, and collective creative ideas.

Learn about their recent partnership with Design-Build Green Hub, read about how to join their team, or learn more about RCI.

Read the Ryter Cooperative Monthly Newsletter

“In 2001, the Associated Press published a three-part investigation into the theft of black-owned land stretching back to the antebellum period. The series documented some 406 victims and 24,000 acres of land values at tends of millions of dollars. The land was taken through means ranging from legal chicanery to terrorism.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates

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Boggs Center – Living For Change News – September 20th. 2021