B oggs Center – February 19th, 2019 – Living For Change News

February 19th, 2019

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Overlooked No More
: Dudley Randall, Whose Broadside Press Gave a Voice to Black Poets

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Thinking for Ourselves

Jackson Learnings

Shea Howell

 This past weekend the North Dakota Study Group gathered in Jackson Mississippi to explore “different ways of thinking about schools, communities, teaching and learning.” The group was formed in 1970 to support the development of “powerful, progressive, active community rooted education.” Vito Perrone, one of the founders of the group explained in a closing speech in 2000, “Our task is to share our learning with others, engage the struggles that surround us, keep the flame of hope alive, allow possibilities for helping our children and young people to be in position to change the world.” “That,” Perrone said, “Is a standard I think is worth pursuing.”

Over the years members of the group have pushed toward that vision, offering a deeply committed perspective on the role of education in advancing democracy and creating justice. They have offered us some of the best and most concrete ways to promote the development of children as whole, thoughtful, loving beings. The gathering has matured and expanded, opening up from a small group of friends and colleagues to a multi layered, diverse, intense, challenging and joyful effort to engage with each other in creating something new.

The call to the gathering was an invitation to “a deep, intergenerational and interracial dialogue over the broad-based work occurring in Jackson and the Jackson Public Schools (JPS).  Threatened by a state take-over, JPS is fighting back and reaffirming its identity through community-based leadership, and a commitment to self-determination that includes students.”

Five of us journeyed from Detroit. We wanted to share our own experience with state takeovers and the development of Freedom Schools. Over the last two decades more than 100 school districts have experienced some kind of take over. With the exception of New Orleans, these have been concentrated in the North. Domingo Morel, one of the first people to offer a systematic study of take overs explains, “Now, things have changed.”  He continues that white governors “have discovered a blueprint for the economic and political disempowerment of their urban centers.”

New Orleans is a prime example. Morel documents the “devastating effect on black economic and political power.” This is most visible in the attack on teachers.  “The black teaching force in New Orleans has decreased from roughly 71 percent black to less than 50 percent black.”
He documents ,“Over 7,000 school employees lost their jobs ,” and “governance authority has shifted from the locally elected school board to the state-created board and to the individual governing bodies of each charter school.”

People in Jackson are hopeful that the efforts of Mayor Chokwe  Antar Lumumba and the Kellogg Foundation will create a “third way “ to resolve the crisis in education through new public-private partnerships.

To those of us in Detroit, this sounds much like the consent agreement and “grand bargain” designed to deflect resistance while pushing privatization.

Forces linked to Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Secretary of Education, have been pushing vouchers and charter schools. In 2017, DeVos awarded Mississippi a $15 million to subsidize new charters over the next five years. Most are expected to open in Jackson.
At the same time Jackson Public Schools lost over 500 students to charters, costing the district $1.4 million.  It is estimated that since charters opened in 2015, the district has sent more than $12 million to charters.

The experience in Jackson highlights the importance of advancing coordinated, national strategies to protect our children, respect our teachers, and find new ways of learning together. These days there are some real national emergencies.

 

Filmed in Detroit’s Brightmoor neighborhood during late summer of 2018 at the Detroit Community School, the story documents the student, post-graduate and instructor perspectives and culminates with the introduction of the Brightmoor Makerspace — a fully functional, hands-on environment whereby students pursue their own entrepreneurial spirit and independence through the development of finished products designed with purpose. WATCH

 

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Every weekday, U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith delivers a different way to see the world – through poetry.

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Boggs Center News – LIVING fOR CHANGE – February 5th, 2019

February 5th, 2019

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Thinking for Ourselves

Weather Changes
Shea Howell

As some of the coldest temperatures in nearly a century move out of the Midwest, devastation is everywhere. In Detroit the thaw brought over 50 breaks in water mains, flooding streets and closing buildings. Thousands of homes, offices, schools and public facilities face burst pipes and are preparing for what will likely be intense flooding as warm weather brings rain on top of melting snow. Roads are closed as concrete crumbles. The famous landmark of Detroit’s decline, the Packard pedestrian bridge that has defied more than a century of weather, scrappers, and decay, finally collapsed into the street. Its crash signals the vulnerability of all our bridges and overpasses.

Meanwhile, Sunday morning warm breezes brought a disturbing smell of natural gas throughout the region.  Much of the problem was located at the Marathon Refinery, but people in Macomb County and Highland Park made hundreds of emergency calls about the intense odor.

No one doubts our infrastructure is in trouble. The extreme weather, likely to intensify in the future, lays bare our refusal to provide for common responsibilities of basic systems.

This reality is part of what makes the Green New Deal so appealing. It is a vision of dedicating our resources and imaginations to the redevelopment of the basic structures essential for daily life. At the same time, it promises to provide a platform to move toward renewable resources and a more just economy. The GND would directly address rebuilding infrastructure, shift us toward renewable energy, and pay for this by taxing the super-rich.

Progressives everywhere are signing on to help support this effort. We, at the Boggs Center join these groups. However, we think this effort needs to be combined with some serious thinking.

As currently proposed, the GND accepts the corporate-capitalist system and its commitment to continued, even accelerated, economic growth. The GND argues that through rapid growth, lower income households will benefit. This ideas of simply a repackaging of the same old trickle down economics that has never worked.

As many thoughtful economists point out, continued growth is inherently unequal and distorts not only the lives of those pursuing it, but our relationships to people around the planet. More is not always better. We need to think beyond sustainable growth to “degrowth” economies.  We cannot continue a wasteful, self-centered, disposable culture.

Capitalists assumptions and practices are catastrophic. The future demands much more of us than fixing our bridges and pipes and using more solar and wind power.

We need to cultivate a deep ecological wisdom that explores basic questions of how to live on a more human scale, with responsibility for our communities and for the earth. Small scale production, aimed at developing our human capacities for creativity and connection should form the heart of any new economy. Producing what we need for ourselves and our neighbors shifts us away from productive forces and corporate powers that inherently aim to control and degrade life.

The Green New Deal promises much. But it needs to challenge us more. The transformation we need to secure a just future requires all of us to consider the question posed by Indigenous activists, ”How do we live more simply, so that others can simply live?”
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Finance. Climate. Food. Work. How are the crises of the twenty-first century connected? In Capitalism in the Web of Life, Jason W. Moore argues that the sources of today’s global turbulence have a common cause: capitalism as a way of organizing nature, including human nature.

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“Nowadays, we talk about King as though he were an isolated one-off event.  In some ways, we talk about him as though he were superhuman, his life and exploits becoming part of our national mythology.”

“King is one of the people to whom I am deeply indebted, one of the people who make up my lineage.  These four figures are the greatest social change agents of the 20th Century, recognized as world leaders and inspiration to billions of people throughout the world.” – KEEP READING Shariff Abdullah’s reflection on Moving Beyond King and Gandhi

 

Boggs Center – Living For Change News Letter – November 27th, 2018

November 27th, 2018

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the problem with wokeness

Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Pipeline Perils

The poisoning of the water in Flint Michigan was the direct result of a republican dominated lame duck legislature acting to benefit corporations and abuse democracy. Now the republican dominated lame duck legislature is threatening the waters of the Great Lakes.

In 2012 Rick Snyder began his career as Governor opposing the will of the people. After a state-wide initiative soundly defeated emergency manangement powers in the state, Governor Snyder pushed through lame duck legislation that strengthened emergency management and made it referendum proof.

In a statement defending the action, Snyder declared the new law would “respect the needs of citizens and taxpayers by delivering greater oversight and efficiency. Our reinvention of government is delivering meaningful reforms that will keep Michigan on the path to prosperity,” he said. None of these benefits materialized. This assault on democracy resulted in disasters.

Instead of a “path to prosperity” that “respected citizens” we saw a path to poison, that disregarded the voices of citizens who tried desperately to get government officials to acknowledge what was plain for all to see. Flint water was contaminated.

This same legal framework became the excuse for massively transferring public goods into private hands in Benton Harbor, Flint, Pontiac, and Detroit. It restricted governmental capabilities and established disastrous educational policies.

Now, Governor Snyder is ending his term by pushing another lame duck effort. This time he is risking the Great Lakes to benefit a major oil producing corporation, Enbridge. Snyder is working furiously to establish a 99-year deal that includes the construction of an underground tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac to replace the controversial Line 5.  Snyder assures us that this “historic agreement” would “eliminate nearly every risk” and be a way of “better connecting our peninsulas, improving energy security and supporting economic development.”

In reality, this deal ensures continued operations of the aging pipeline for a decade. It puts the Great Lakes at further risk, committing us to an energy future based on fossil fuels, and threatens much of the world’s surface fresh water.

This lame duck deal is in direct defiance of the will of the people. A poll conducted by EPIC-MRA last April found that about 87 percent of the people in Michigan are concerned about the safety of Line 5.  More than half of those polled said it should be shut down. The incoming governor and attorney general both oppose the pipeline and tunnel.

Additionally, the whole project would be shifted out of public oversight by establishing new parameters for the Mackinac Bridge Authority, an organization ill equipped for such responsibility.

Line 5, build in 1953, currently carries up to 540,000 barrels of oil and natural gas every day through one of the most vulnerable spots in the Great Lakes. Enbridge has a history of environmental degradation and danger. A quick read of the actions it pledges to take to protect the pipeline during construction shows how foolish a company it is. Enbridge would provide teams capable of shutting down the line quickly, underwater inspection, cameras, and increased monitoring of anchors.  The obvious question is, “Why are earth is Enbridge not taking these steps now, especially after the fiasco in April that threatened to dump millions of gallons of oil into the upper Great Lakes?”

Democracy is no guarantee of good decisions. But we have painful experiences here in Michigan to demonstrate that circumventing democracy, defying the will of the people, and using lame duck sessions to promote profits lead to disaster. We cannot allow legalistic tricks to risk our future.

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Two weeks ago, we had an amazing community conversation about the issues affecting Oakland County.

On December 1st at 1 pm, join us at Grace Episcopal Church in Mount Clemens for a community conversation about the issues facing Macomb County, and how to address systemic issues such as racial injustice with creative new solutions that center our values.

Boggs Center – Living For Change News Letter. November 23rd, 2018

November 23rd, 2018

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Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
A New We

This week the National Council of Elders met in Detroit. The Council was formed in 2011 by Vincent Harding and James and Phil Lawson, all veterans of the Black Liberation struggle and close associates of Martin Luther King. The purpose of the Council is “to engage leaders of 20th century civil rights movements to share what they have learned with young leaders of the 21st century and to promote the theory and practice of nonviolence.”

At the time of the decision to call elders together, there was a growing sense of urgency in the country. We were witnessing an “escalation of all forms of violence and the rise of anti-democratic forces” as white supremacists were reacting to the presidency of Barack Obama and the growing recognition that whites would soon no longer hold “majority” status and power. Many of us recognized that the increasing tensions between revolution and counter revolution were calling a new generation of activists to commit themselves to engaging people and structures in progressive change. We hoped to find ways to “deepen important story-based dialogue with younger activists who are currently on the frontlines of activism across the U.S.”

This engagement is more than sharing stories. Most of the members of the Council are immersed in daily work alongside their younger counterparts. Some are standing with immigrants at our borders, offering sanctuary and challenging the brutal policies of this administration. Some are working in the new Poor People’s Campaign to create a sense of moral urgency around the increasing poverty and degradation of life for so many of our people. Some are working in peace making and reconciliation, education and community visionary development. All share a belief that we must create a radical revolution in values and stand against the evils of militarism, racism and materialism. We know that the revolution in values called for by Dr. King more than 50 years ago would be hollow without a commitment today to protect our earth.

As we move into 2019, the Council agreed to call for a year of dialogue on the theme pressed by Vincent Harding. Dr. Harding often talked of being a citizen of a country that does not yet exist. Drawing on the 1938 poem of Langston Hughes, Let America Be America Again Dr. Harding challenged people to think about the distance between who we are and who we want to be. He frequently quoted the lines
O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet, I swear this oath—America will be!

Vincent asked us to believe in our potential to create a better place for ourselves and our children.

Yet, I imagine if Vincent were alive today, he might be placing as much attention on the last stanza of the poem as he did on this one. He would recognize the call to “Make America Great Again” as the trumpet of white supremacy.

But Langston Hughes offered a different view of what we can fashion out of this moment of brutal ugliness. He wrote:
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

The capacity to redeem and dream, to fashion to a better future out of cruelty and greed, to create a new we, are still our challenges.
It’s Time to Repeal the Genesis Doctrine
Frank Joyce

 

The following is adapted from remarks given in accepting the Coleman H.  McGhehee Jr. Champion of Justice Award from the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights (MCHR)

As I stand here this evening, humbled and proud to receive this award, I think it boils down to this.

The rotten system, the cursed idea that white men are somehow superior, not only to other humans but to rivers and coral reefs and forests and elephants and termites and water and fire is coming to an end.

The repeal of the toxic doctrine of Genesis is up for a vote.

God did NOT give MEN dominion over women or of all other life forms. That whole strange idea is wrong. And dangerous.

Fortunately, Homo Sapiens are not the only eligible voters in this referendum.

In fact, if we don’t get this right, we won’t be voters at all. Humans need the planet. The planet does not need humans.

Or, to put it another way, the planet will surely survive. Humans may not.

But humans can survive and even thrive. It won’t be easy, but it surely can be done. How?

Our differences, our silos, our “intersections”, if you will, must be put aside. It is the white way of thinking that must go. Root and branch. All of it.

White people are not superior. Period. The evidence is in. White people are, to be sure, good at myth making, at fairy tales. Very good.

That, after all, is what white supremacy IS—a pervasive, invasive species of a myth. It’s a bad human invention like Agent Orange, plastic shopping bags and the so-called Electoral College.

Fortunately, the world around us is already making another, truer, better story. A story of peace instead of war. A story of kindness rather than endless acts of violence, large and small. It is a narrative of love and harmony and proportion.

This new world is not all about stuff. It is a world that, as Richard Powers puts it, needs to stop, just plain stop, squandering a billion years of planetary evolution in favor of bling.

It is a world that cherishes every living thing far more than self driving cars and mobile telephones with more pixels and better weapons for killing.

It is up to us, each of us and all of us, which of these two worlds we choose.

That is the cry for justice that calls us now.

What We’re Reading

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order your copy  http://boggscenter.org/store-new/

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What We’re Watching

The Mariachi Who’s Bringing Internet to Detroit | NBC Left Field

Rita Ramirez is not your typical mariachi. When she’s not on stage with Detroit’s first female-led mariachi band, she spends her time bringing internet to her neighbors, one home at a time. Through the Equitable Internet Initiative, Rita works to connect the estimated 40 percent of Detroiters who still lack an internet connection in their homes. This episode of Tag was co-produced by Erik Paul Howard and Anastasia Klimovitz, two Detroit photojournalists who helped bring Rita’s story to life.

 

Conversations in Maine New Edition – Order your copy

 Conversations in Maine

A New Edition

2018

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

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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