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

November 27th, 2018

grace and jimmy




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.

1130 flyer concept


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

grace and jimmy



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


order your copy



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


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