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.”




Dear Friends of the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center

Jimmy and Grace

3061 Field St.

Detroit, Michigan, 48214

(313) 923-0797



Dear Friends of the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center,


We are writing to ask for your support during one of the most dangerous and turbulent times in recent memory. Internationally we are witnessing increasing brutality in defense of empire. The same disregard for life is a common experience everywhere in our own country.

At the same time, we know this violence cannot defeat the long push by human beings to create a more just, sustainable world.

Many of us know another world is possible because we see glimpses of it as people care for children, protect refugees, stand up to state violence and develop new ways of sharing and caring for one another and our planet.

We also know another world has never been more urgently needed.

For the past several years the Boggs Center has nurtured this new world’s emergence. From urban gardens to new ideas on education, we have fostered places and spaces that remind us of our capacity to create new centers of peace and power in the midst of a dying culture. Today, we recognize that we must move from emergence to convergence, connecting and deepening our abilities to advance toward a more just, sustainable future.

Over this past year we have emphasized creating tangible images of the future. Birwood House and Feedom Freedom Growers are vivid examples of efforts to create new community bonds.

The Center itself has hosted more than 30 tours and nearly 100 conversations, with well over 5,000 people moving through our doors. We have been humbled by the many visitors who have been strongly influenced by and even had their lives changed by the film American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, and the book The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activist for the 21st Century. Members of the Boggs Center Board are writing about critical issues, engaging with community and university audiences, and developing independent programs fostering new ways of thinking about justice in our city. We continue to produce our weekly newsletter, Living for Change, sharing ideas and practices from Detroit, and are actively supporting Riverwise magazine as it enters its second year.

We recognize this moment demands more of us and are committed to strengthening our capacities. We are beginning a strategic planning process and are moving toward finding people who can assume responsibility for the Center as their daily work.

The physical space of the Center has benefited from a number of repairs. Our roof no longer leaks, our steps are now sturdy, and the fence is being restored to its original condition. Increasingly the Center is a hub for activists seeking to think in bold news ways about this moment and our responsibilities to create the next American revolution.

We need your support to continue expanding our work, carrying our charge from Grace and James Boggs to advance our humanity. Please consider supporting us over this next year. For current supporters, we ask you to consider becoming a monthly sustainer by clicking the DONATE button at the top of our home page.

Send checks to:

The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center

3061 Field St. Detroit, MI 48214


TAX ID: 38-3267875

In love and struggle,

The Boggs Board

Boggs Center News Letter June 4, 2018

grace and jimmy



Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Mackinac Gathering

The business and political elite gathered on Mackinac Island last week to determine ways that will advance their interests and solidify their political control. As reported, “Nearly 1,700 business leaders, politicians, and philanthropists headed to Mackinac Island to rub elbows, and discuss issues in the state ranging from education to transportation.

“Michigan’s political establishment decamps for this conference because they are drawn by the movers and shakers in the business world who come up here, and vice versa — the business people come up because there is easy access to Michigan’s political class.”

Each year the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the gathering, organizes panels and speakers around themes, or “pillars.” It is obvious that the rejection by Amazon of the Dan Gilbert/Detroit bid to entice its new headquarters here formed the backdrop of the gathering. The pillars were “Is Michigan Prepared?”; the “Mobility Disruption, and “Trust,” restoring confidence in government, news media and business. Transportation and education dominated the discussions.

Over the years these gatherings have been incubators for state level initiatives. This year is no exception. We should all be concerned about the intentions signaled by conference goers to continue to meddle in affairs where they are ill equipped to make decisions. Yet, with an astonishing combination of ignorance and arrogance, the conference provides a glimpse of the collective agenda to continue efforts to “privatize” public goods.

The disaster of our public education system is perhaps the clearest example. The head of the Chamber of Commerce, Sandy Baruah, said, “I think education has been one of those issues that we’ve been talking up on the island in one form or another for years now,” We always talk about it but we haven’t been able to solve it, and so that’s a continuing frustration for us.”

Mackinac gatherings have provided the backdrop for the development of schools of choice; efforts to use public money to finance private, often religious schools; the establishment of emergency management; standardized assaultive and abusive testing; increased police presence in schools; assaults on teachers unions; efforts to charge parents for children’s misbehavior; removal of social supports; resisting anti-bullying efforts because they included LGBTQ concerns; extension of time required in school; and eroding qualifications for teachers. These are just a few of the ideas floated on the island over the years. Many have become laws creating the some of the worst, most destructive and abusive school practices in the country.

Baruah assures us there is no end in sight to this commitment to the destruction of public education.

In part these destructive policies are nothing more than the enactment of neoliberal, austerity politics aimed at turning all public responsibilities into private profit centers. The Mackinac gathering is simply the place where people reassure one another that they are committed to “business as usual,” and making Michigan ever more business friendly.

But these policies do not emerge by accident. The Republican dominated legislature, governor and court system reflect the long standing influence of frequent island visitors such as right wing ideologue Betsy DeVos and family.

Last fall the Republican party gathered to celebrate their hold on state and national government, a government which right wing money like that of the DeVos crew helped establish.

The DeVos family has made at least $82 million in political contributions nationally, as much as $58 million of those dollars spent in Michigan — with $14 million in the last two years alone.

As Free Press writer Nancy Kaffer observed, “In Michigan, it’s difficult to find a significant state-level policy change the DeVos family hasn’t backed: right-to-work, pension reform, unfettered school choice.”

The conference may be over, but the consequences linger. They remind us of the urgent, persistent work ahead to create more human, caring, and creative ways of living.

Rojava, a Socialist-Feminist Bastion in Syria, is Under Siege

Join Sweet Water Foundation for the First Annual Juneteenth Celebration at the Perry Ave Commons to create, build, and celebrate freedom and community. Experience the richness of the Commons with Arts & Crafts, Music, Dance, Cooking Demonstrations, Food, Family, and Fun! The celebration will also feature SWF’s first farmers’ market of the season.

Breathe Free Detroit – June 2018 Updates

Please join us for the next
Breathe Free Detroit Community Meeting:

Wednesday, June 27, 2018
6:00 – 7:30 PM
Cass Corridor Commons, 4605 Cass Avenue
D. Blair Theatre (enter through red door at rear of building)
The meeting will include:
updates, including the release of our incinerator report and meetings with City officials
planning for fun summer Breathe Free Detroit activities!
discussion about what closing the incinerator means for our community
Bring a snack to share if you can, but just come!

The 12th Consecutive Annual Backpack Giveaway and Neighborhood Festival on August 4, 2018 is more than an event; it’s a celebration of Love, Hope and Self-Determination. We go extra hard because our people deserve an extra kind of love! We have been able to impact thousands of lives by giving a damn, and with the support of the people from different walks of life. Donations will go to support the following: 1) Backpacks, 2) School supplies , 3) Food (hot meal provided to each attendee as well as hot dogs and snacks all day long) 3) Children’s activities (bounce houses, games, art projects, face painting etc), 4) Live performances, 5) Water supply, 6) Prizes , 7) Portable stage , 8) Porta John, 9) Preparing the site for the event, 10) Dj & Sound system, 11) Photographer…


Boggs Center – Living For Change Newsletter May 29th, 2018

May 29th, 2018

grace and jimmy


A free and open web powers our ability to organize across communities, borders, and even the world. That’s why we’re joining more than 50 leading racial justice groups urging members from the tri-caucus to sign on to the House CRA to restore #netneutrality


Thinking for Ourselves     Shea Howell Who Benefits

Last week Dan Gilbert received the largest tax subsidy in Michigan history to support his private developments. The board of the Michigan Strategic Fund in Lansing approved $618 million for four linked projects that are estimated to cost $2.2 billion. For perspective consider that the Little Caesars Arena cost $863 million, of which $329.1 million was in subsidies. Or consider that the city gave Belle Isle to the State because it could not afford the $6 million in annual upkeep. Or the $7.8 million the City Council approved for Homrich Wrecking to shut off water.
RJ Wolney, vice president of finance for one of the Gilbert companies involved, Bedrock, said that “the incentives are needed to create catalytic developments to help fill the funding gap of building such projects that can’t be made up with current rents for downtown commercial projects.”
This is the central question. Is the public responsible to underwrite private development? Why? For whose benefit? What is the public good from such private ventures?
Dan Gilbert obviously thinks he is owed public money to achieve his private vision. He has been working at putting the legal structure in place to allow such tax subsidies for several years. In 2016 he was behind a series of bills, brownfield tax subsidies, that were so blatantly pushed by him they were informally dubbed the “Gilbert bills.” At the time even some republicans thought it was too much to ask of Michigan taxpayers. Then Speaker of the House, Ken Cotter (R-Mt. Pleasant) said, “If he can’t make a deal work without state aid then it is not a deal worth doing, and Michigan taxpayers should not be forced to invest.”
But taking a page from the DeVos and family playbook, Gilbert went back at the legislature with changes in the legislation that spread some of the potential benefits around.  The Detroit News reported: Public campaign finance records showed that various Quicken Loans employees gave a total to $35,975 to state House members’ committees in 2017. Of those 56 lawmakers, 48 voted yes on the main bill in the brownfields package.
This is the legal framework for transferring taxes that would have supported schools, universities, roads, parks, police, art, and health care.
The practice of using public money to support private business ventures is not new. What is new is the scale and extent of these public commitments. We are all on the hook to Gilbert’s plan for the next 30 years. We are told that given this long-term view, we the citizens will actually benefit from the process.
This is highly debatable. A recent study by the Texas Organizing Project explored similar claims in Houston. The study found “the city was failing miserably at the task of making these programs work for the public… from job creation to setting and achieving equity goals to workforce development and community engagement.” They concluded, “From a community-based perspective, we argue that if economic development tax breaks are not addressing a community need in the service of advancing equity, then they deserve to be called out for what they really are—a windfall for the private sector and a drain on our city’s cash-strapped budget.”
Gilbert, along with the Detroit Chamber of Commerce, the Mayor, and Downtown Development Authority, did all they could to ensure that Detroit would not have a serious community benefits agreement. A strong agreement would demand that questions of the public good, public priorities, and mutual responsibilities be discussed and decided in open, transparent ways.
Developing a city requires a great deal more than big plans and giant tax breaks. This new deal is nothing for Detroiters to celebrate. It is a call to reinvigorate community benefits and restore vigorous public discussion about the direction of our city.

It’s back in print!