Boggs Center – Living For Change News – March 24th, 2020

March 24th, 2020

After This? Care

Shea Howell

What will our world look like after this virus? This is the question we all need to be talking about now, even as we struggle with managing our new day to day reality. One of the most hopeful signs that we can come out of this crisis better than how we went into it is the emerging recognition of how interdependent we are on one another for our health and well- being. For example, this week in New York, facing the most severe outbreak of the escalating virus, Governor Andrew Cuomo offered a version of what is becoming a commonly understood value. He said simply, “We need everyone to be safe. Otherwise no one can be safe.”

After decades of public policies that have encouraged individualism, selfishness, greed, dehumanization, and destruction, we are all facing the reality that our lives are indeed linked. None of us can be healthy or whole, as long as some of us are not.

Nowhere is this shifting of perspective clearer than in the struggle by people for clean, affordable water. For decades people have been advocating two basic ideas: water is a human right and a sacred trust. They have been offering sensible policies embodied in water affordability plans that base payment for water on household income, rather than usage. A key aspect of these plans is that they would stop the draconian water shut offs that in Detroit, for example, meant that between 2014 and 2018, 112,000 households went without water, some for months and years. In cities and towns throughout this land, people shut off from water because they could not pay high water bills cannot do the most basic first line of defense against this virus. They cannot wash their hands. They cannot protect themselves, their children or their neighbors.

Two weeks ago, less than 5 cities took the demand to provide clean, affordable water to everyone, regardless of ability to pay, seriously. Today more than 289 communities have stopped water shut offs. Nearly 128 million Americans who could not turn on the tap to wash their hands, clean their homes or prepare their food, can now do so. This is a major contribution to our collective health. This must become the new reality for us.

In Detroit, we are suffering the consequences of long term shut offs. This Friday a broad coalition of activists, community organizations, and faith-based groups held a press conference to demand that the mayor and governor take swift action to restore water to the more than 9000 homes currently shut off. In spite of the Governor’s order to turn the water back on, the city had been moving slowly. By Thursday they had only managed to turn back on 434 houses.

The coalition is calling on the governor and the mayor to provide residential water access through emergency potable water stations in the city. They also are asking for bulk water, sanitizing products, and disinfectants to be made immediately available to people. Organizers explained that much of the independent water deliveries that people have come to depend on are no longer possible. And the City is moving too slowly to provide water. Meanwhile, bottled water is in short supply as people throughout the metro area have purchased large quantities, emptying selves and limiting supplies.

Many communities around Michigan and around the country are facing the same problems as Detroit. Weeks, months and sometimes years of living without running water has resulted in crumbling systems, not quickly fixed. More and more people are recognizing that the notion of shutting people off from water was a mean spirited, self-defeating notion of government that harms our collective well-being. The Michigan congressional delegation is leading the way in creating new national policies and understandings about the values we need to come out of this crisis. Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Debbie Dingell, and Dan Kildee sent a letter to congressional leaders, asking congress to shield people from high water bills and water shutoffs.

After this crisis, we should all be thinking about our responsibilities to one another and to the earth on which we depend very differently. We are learning, slowly and painfully, that creating ways of living that emphasize care for all is our only way to survive.

Coronavirus policy must account for those in Michigan jails and prisons

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(Gaia and Shekhina Speak: Earth, Water, Fire, Air © Arlene Goldbard 2020)

“What can console us in the face of the Great Unknown? I thought I understood that safety was always an illusion: any of us could be struck down at any moment. But having the illusion of safety erased, that’s uncertainty of another magnitude, so vastly out of proportion to the “normal,” default reality that words can’t do it justice.” KEEP READING



Boggs Centers – Living For Change News – January 15th, 2020

January 15th, 2020

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Global Water Summit
January 24-25
Cass Community United Methodist Church
MORE INFO

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Thinking for Ourselves
Finding New Ways
Shea Howell

The possibility of war with Iran cooled a little this week, thanks to the mature decisions of the Iranian government. Unlike President Trump, who took the most extreme action offered him by his advisors, Iran chose a limited show of force, firing 16 missiles into a base housing Americans in Iraq. Miraculously no one was hurt. But in the tensions caused by Trump’s decision to kill Maj Gen. Qassim Suleimani, 176 people were killed when a civilian passenger jet was shot down by Iranian defense forces, fearing it was a missile attack.

None of this needed to happen. The justification for it has been slippery at best, with the President claiming he was preventing an “imminent” attack, even while other State Department officials call it “a mistake” to use such language.

Certainly the U.S. has a long and sordid history of assassinations, many of them in the middle east. But this killing appears to have been done on a whim, an impulse born of frustration. The shadows of this decision will be long. They will weave into the fabric of these last two decades of war, where the U.S. has taken international violence to new levels. We have claimed the right to strike anyone, anywhere, anytime, if we think they endanger us. We justify torture and perpetual imprisonment. We pick up civilians off streets and drop them in “black holes.” We act without accountability to the opinions of other nations. Yet all of these actions have consequences, some we have seen, many unfolding in generations to come.

In the wake of this week, the drive toward impeachment seems a small response. We have come to the point where those who control the triggers of some of the most deadly weapons of war cannot be trusted to make considered decisions. We are, as Dr. King said, a nation with guided missiles and mis-guided men. We have come to this place as we step by step believed we should protect our own comforts at the expensive of the rest of the world.

At the end of his speech against the Vietnam War, delivered at Riverside church, Dr. King said, “We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.”

Surely finding these new ways to peace is our most urgent task. Such a task requires radical rethinking of how we live and what we value. But as the actions of this week so clearly show, those in authority stand against all that is sacred, cherished, and loved by most human beings. We have no choice but to fine these new ways of being.

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MLK

 

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The Padre Guadalupe Carney Latin American Solidarity Archive (CLASA), a rare collection of Spanish and English books, human rights reports, independent newspapers and newsletters, and social justice papers broadens its message of social justice to the Detroit Mercy community with speakers and exhibits of art, photography, and archive documents. Most events take place on the McNichols Campus. Check out their slate of free events starting tonight!

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January 25 DanceAbility Workshop

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Moms 4 Housing: Meet the Oakland Mothers Facing Eviction After Two Months Occupying Vacant House

 

 

 

Boggs Center Living for Change Newsletter – Changing Time , Shea Howell

Changing Time , Shea Howell

Boggs Center Living for Change Newsletter (boggscener.org)

December 29, 2019

We are at the beginning of a new decade. Across the political landscape, people are reflecting on the 2010’s and the first decades of the new millennium. Among liberal and progressive voices, despair seems the primary result of these musing. The New York Times year end editorial explains “Fear and distrust are ascendant now.”  They cite the 16 year high in hate crimes, growth of nationalism,  attacks on civil rights and democratic institutions, climate catastrophe, and distrust in the mechanism we have established to create more human and just futures  as the accumulated  results of our actions and inactions.

 

What is most obvious is how little these reflections offer guidance in the present or help us think about  the future. The concerns that dominated the first decade of 2000 did little to prepare us for the viciousness of the next ten years. Today, the depth of crisis we face is far deeper than the problems of new technologies or recurring outbursts of anger and fear. Short term thinking, even attempts to look at the cycles of our own short history, as the Tmes does, are efforts to evade the magnitude of the changes we must make, the choices that are in front of us.

 

Grace Lee Boggs helped us understand this as she often explained we are in a moment of transition “as great as that as the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture or from agriculture to industry.” These changes happen rarely in human experience, and our consciousness of them is only beginning to emerge.  Living in the midst of  epoch change makes it clear that  attempts to strengthen old ways of thinking and acting only compound the problems we face.

 

Instead we need to think about how the cornerstones of the industrial era: the deadening of the natural world, extractive  cultures and industries, mass production, corporate organization, representative democracy, hyper rationalism, and hyper individualism, have all brought us to the point where this could well be the last millennia of the human experience.

 

So much of our attention turns toward what is slipping away. We have only weak frameworks to understand what is emerging that is life affirming, holding the possibilities of a future.  That is why I think it is important for those of us working toward a just future to spend some time revisiting Marx and the Communist Manifesto.Marx, perhaps more than any other philosopher-activist, captured the emergence of the new industrial era out of the old dying feudal arrangements. Consider this passage:

The foundation of the dying epoch was the separation of human life from nature, the turning of natural world into “resources” for economic profit. The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones.

 

Marx goes on to say, in what was one of Grace Boggs’s favoriate passages:

All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

This is why Detroit matters so much as a touchstone toward a better future. Here, as one of the first places shaped and reshaped by the industrial era, and one of the first to be utterly abandoned by capital, we have been forming a future on values that emphasize our connections with one another and the earth on which we depend. What we do matters. And in times of great change, what each of us does can and will have profound, unpredictable effects.

 

Boggs Center Living For Change News – December 18th, 2018

December 18th, 2018

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In the Face of Fear
A Call from James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


We have seen the face of fear and fascism. It is tear gas shot at barefoot children in diapers. We cannot look away.  We cannot be distracted by the din of disinformation and denial.

Before this moment we knew this president was capable of putting children in cages. We knew he would call people names and whip up nationalistic hatreds. We knew he would endorse white supremacists as good people, condone the murder and dismemberment of a journalists, refuse to limit right wing violence, withdraw protections for people who are transgender, use language to foster hatred, ridicule people with disabilities, embrace torture and the use of force, attack women, people of color, and anyone who was critical of his policies, deny science, violate basic standards of decency, and demonstrate a complete disregard for truth.  Now we know he will tear gas barefoot children.

We know all of this about Donald Trump. We know this is the kind of person he is. This is the kind of country he is creating.  We also know that some of us embrace him. We see the depth of their fear. Most of those who support him are white. Most of them are men. All of them are disconnected from any moral center.

Now, the only question is where do the rest of us stand? What kind of country do we want? What kind of people are we?

The violence on the Southern border of the U.S. presents a moment of decision for all of us. Just as the unleashing of sticks and dogs on peaceful demonstrators challenged the conscious of America a half century ago, we are again called to respond.

Some of us will stand with Trump. But the rest of us cannot condone him with silence. Many of us know that people are fleeing conditions in their homelands created by U.S. policies that have disrupted generations. The U.S.  have intervened to destroy democratic impulses, distorted economic development for our own interests, and pursued deportation polices that have eroded the social bonds of communities, contributing to corruption and violent drug cultures. In U.S. efforts to guarantee access to the resources and wealth of people around the globe, we are destroying the homes and cultures of people everywhere. The people coming to the borders of the US are fleeing conditions we created to feed our own greed.

It is not enough to open our borders or change our immigration policies. We need to open our hearts and minds to change the reality that our willingness to take the wealth of the world is destroying us and risking the future of our planet.  We need to support one another to not only sustain our outrage at the terror our government is wielding on a daily basis, but in finding new ways to live together that are sustainable and just. As we work to transform ourselves and our culture, we must begin by renouncing the violence being done in our name.

We at the Boggs Center denounce this president and his actions. We open our hearts to those who seek refuge and peace, knowing that much of their pain is caused by the actions of our nation.

  • We call upon all people of good will to publicly and forcefully object to the inhuman immigration policies of our government.
  • We call upon all faith-based organizations to declare Sanctuary for all immigrants.
  • We call upon all organizations to issue public statements welcoming immigrants and denouncing the use of force to prevent their safe passage to this land.
  • We call upon all labor unions to offer support and welcoming assistance to immigrants.
  • We call upon all police, border patrol agents, and military personnel to refuse to comply with orders that harm those who seek nothing but peace and safe harbor.
  • We call upon members of the media to portray accurately and fully the violence being committed in our name.
  • We call upon all teachers, parents and community leaders to hold conversations about immigration, the US role in global violence, and the kind of country we wish to become.
  • We call upon individuals to face this brutality and find ways to extend love, compassion and care in our everyday lives.

At every moment in our often bloody, shameful history there have been people who resisted. People resisted the taking of indigenous lands, the enslavement of people from Africa, the use of laws to turn people into property, and the limitations of full citizenship for women, people of color, workers, immigrants and youth. People are resisting today.


We call upon people to reflect on the words of Dr. Martin Luther King more than 50 years ago when he said, “Now we must resist this barbarism.” America, he said, “Can never be saved so long as it destroys the deepest hopes of men the world over. So, it is that those of us who are yet determined that America will be are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.”

He said that “Somehow this madness must cease” for it “is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit.
In his speech calling for the end of the Vietnam war King offered a new way of thinking about who we could become as a people.  We encourage people to consider the wisdom he offers for us as we face a time of choice.

Share his wisdom with family and friends. Dr. King says to us:

“I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin…we must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

He called on us to look beyond our narrow self -interest and consider “A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just.”

“America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.”

King understood that “These are revolutionary times…all over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wounds of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before.”

Dr. King called for “A genuine revolution of values “that begins with the understanding that “our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.”

If we cannot find new ways to act in Love, King warned, “We shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.


Dr. King concluded his speech on breaking his own silence on the war in Vietnam on that long-ago April night:
“Shall we say the odds are too great? Shall we tell them the struggle is too hard? Will our message be that the forces of American life militate against their arrival as full men, and we send our deepest regrets? Or will there be another message — of longing, of hope, of solidarity with their yearnings, of commitment to their cause, whatever the cost? The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history….”

If Trump and his supporters fear barefoot children, how much more must they fear the sounds of our united voices, calling forth a compassionate, just and joy filled future? The choice is ours.

For more information – www.boggscenter.org

 

This is from one of our readers in Ohio, written in response to last week’s, Thinking for Ourselves column.

Shea,

I just read your most recent blog, “Beyond Lame Ducks” and while I agree that placing calls to the very electeds who put forth the bills that strip people of direct democracy is not going to stop it – it is comparable to slaves asking the plantation owners to free them – I have to disagree with your implication that this is somehow all because of Republicans.

We are fighting a war in Ohio for Community Rights and Rights of Nature and I can tell you that the Democrats (as in the Democratic party, so maybe not every individual democratic elected) are just as opposed to direct democracy by the people as most Republicans are. It is a false assumption to think that we have 2 distinct political parties in this country. They are really one elite party representing the best interests of the elite 1% minority.

In Ohio as more communities bring forth laws by initiative – direct democracy, we have seen the D’s vote against us right along with the R’s. We have also witnessed a few R judges actually write dissenting opinions in our favor. So, to keep people believing that if we could only somehow get more D’s in office, all will be better is false. All it does is keep us spinning in the two party hamster wheel and keeps people fragmented, which is what they want.

I  wanted to share this with you as I see it over and over again as I talk to people across Ohio….Trump is the problem and Obama was wonderful. That is very far from the truth. They both work(ed) to promote the best interests of the corporate state (1% elite minority) above the people’s and nature’s. It is what that money to get them in office requires of them. We need to realize that change comes from the grassroots and that our guiding documents state “all power is inherent in the people”, NOT “all power is inherent in the electeds”. We need to start asserting that power to propose and pass laws directly that benefit the best interests of the people and nature and eventually the electeds will be forced to follow our lead. – Tish O’Dell – Ohio Organizer for the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

 

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Represent your love for the Motor City wherever you go by rocking the new “Detroit Diplomat” t-shirts. “Detroit Diplomat” is a call for community self-determination and a responsibility to represent our interdependence and collective autonomy wherever we go.

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Black Legacy Coalition info sheet 2

 


April 2nd, 2018 – Boggs Center LFC Newsletter

April 2nd, 2018

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Literacy By Any Means Necessary_April14

Living for Change Grace Lee Boggs More Questions than Answers
Many  of us will be thinking about Dr. Martin Luther King  this week as we mark the 50 years since his murder and the 51st since his call for a radical revolution of values.
To help us think about this moment, we are sharing some of the reflections of Grace Lee Boggs, written more than a decade ago while we were exploring the questions of what we learned about the creation of Beloved Communities since the death of Dr. King. – Boggs Board

First written somewhere between 2004 and 2008…In the last 60 years  I have had the privilege of participating  in most of the great humanizing movements of the second half of the last century – labor,  civil rights, black power, women’s, Asian American, environmental justice, antiwar. Each was a tremendously transformative experience for me,  expanding my understanding of what it means to be an American and a human being, and challenging me to keep deepening my thinking about how to bring about radical social change.
However, I cannot recall any previous period when the issues were so basic, so interconnected and so demanding of everyone living in this country, regardless of  race, ethnicity, class, gender, age or national origin. At this point in the continuing evolution of our country and of the human race, we urgently need to stop thinking of ourselves as victims and to recognize that we must each become  a part of the solution because we are each a part of the problem.
How are we going to make our livings in an age when Hi-Tech and the export of jobs overseas have brought us to the point where the number of workers needed to produce goods and services is constantly diminishing?  Where will we get the imagination, the courage and the determination to reconceptualize the meaning and purpose of Work in a society that is becoming increasingly jobless?
What is going to happen to cities like Detroit that were once the arsenal of democracy? Now that they’ve been abandoned by industry, are we just going to throw them away? Or can we rebuild, redefine and respirit them as models of 21st Century self-reliant, sustainable multicultural communities?  Who is going to begin this new story?
How are we going to redefine Education so that 30-50% of inner city children do not drop out of school, thus ensuring that large numbers will end up in prison?   Is it enough to call for “Education, not Incarceration”? Or does our topdown educational system, created a hundred years ago to prepare an immigrant population for factory work, bear a large part of the responsibility for the escalation in incarceration?
How are we going to build a  21st century America in which people of all races and ethnicities  live together in harmony, and Euro-Americans in particular embrace their new role  as one among many minorities constituting the new multi-ethnic majority?
What is going to motivate us  to start caring for our biosphere instead of  using our mastery of technology to increase the volume and speed at which we are making our planet uninhabitable for other species and eventually for ourselves?
And, especially since 9/11, how are we to achieve reconciliation with the two-thirds of the world  that increasingly resents our economic, military and cultural domination? Can we accept their anger as a challenge rather than a threat?   Out of our new vulnerability can we recognize that our safety now depends on our loving and caring for the peoples of the world as we love and care for our own families? Or  can we conceive of security only in terms of the Patriot Act and exercising our formidable military power?
When the chickens come home to roost for our invasion of Iraq, as they are already doing, where will we get the courage and the imagination to win by losing?  What will help us recognize that we have brought on our defeats by our own arrogance, our own irresponsibility and our own unwillingness, as individuals and as a nation, to engage in  seeking radical solutions to the growing inequality between the nations of the North and those of the South? Can we create a new paradigm of our selfhood and our nationhood? Or are we so locked into nationalism, racism and determinism that we will be driven to seek scapegoats for our frustrations and failures – as the Germans did after World War I, thus aiding and abetting the onset of Hitler and the Holocaust?    We live at a very dangerous time because these questions are no longer abstractions. Our lives, the lives of our children and future generations, and even the survival of the planet depend on our willingness to  transform ourselves into active planetary and global citizens who, as Martin Luther King Jr. put it, “develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual society.”
The time is already very late and we have a long way to go to meet these challenges.  Over the decades of economic expansion that began with the so-called American Century after World War II,  tens of millions of Americans have become increasingly self-centered and materialistic, more concerned with our possessions and individual careers than with the state of our neighborhoods, cities, country and planet ,  closing our eyes and hearts to the many forms of violence that have been exploding in our inner cities and in powder kegs all over the rest of the world – both because the problems have seemed so insurmountable and because just struggling for our own survival has consumed so much of our time and energy.
At the same time the various identity struggles, while  remediating to some degree the great wrongs that have been done to workers, African Americans, Native Americans and other people of color, women, gays and lesbians, and the disabled, and while helping to humanize our society overall, have also had a shadow side in the sense that they have encouraged us to think of ourselves more as determined than as self-determining, more  as victims of “isms” ( racism, sexism, capitalism) than as human beings who have the power of choice and who for our own survival must assume individual and collective responsibility for creating a new nation that is loved rather than feared and that does not have to bribe and bully other nations to win support.
These are the times that try our souls.  Each of us needs to undergo a tremendous philosophical and spiritual transformation. Each of us needs to be awakened to a personal and compassionate recognition of the inseparable interconnection between our minds, hearts, and bodies, between our physical and psychical well-being, and between our selves and all the other selves in our country and in the world.   Each of us needs to stop being a passive observer of the suffering that we know is going on in the world and start identifying with the sufferers. Each of us needs to make a leap that is both practical and philosophical, beyond determinism to self-determination. Each of us has to be true to and enhance our own humanity by embracing and practicing the conviction that as human beings we have  Free Will; that despite the powers and principalities that are bent on objectifying and commodifying us and all our human relationships, the interlocking crises of our time require that we exercise the power within us to make principled choices in our ongoing daily and political lives, choices that will eventually although not inevitably (there are no guarantees), make a difference.
How are we going to bring about these transformations? Politics as usual, debate and argument, even voting, are no longer sufficient. Our system of representative democracy, which was created by a great revolution, no longer engages the hearts and minds of the great majority of Americans.  Vast numbers of people no longer bother to go to the polls, either because they don’t care what happens to the country or the world, or because they don’t believe that voting will make a difference on the profound and inter- connected issues that really matter. Even. organizing or joining massive protests against disastrous policies and demands for new policies fall short. They may demonstrate that we are on the right side politically but they are not transformative enough. They do not change the cultural images, the symbols , that play such a pivotal role in molding us into who we are.
As the labor movement was developing in the  pre-World War II years, John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath transformed  the way that Americans viewed themselves in relationship to faceless bankers and heartless landowners. In the 1970s and 1980s Judy Chicago’ s Dinner Party and Birth Project  re-imagined the vagina, transforming it from a private space and site of oppression into a public space of beauty and spiritual as well as physical creation and liberation. In this period we urgently need artists to create new images of our selfhood and nationhood, images that will liberate us from our preoccupation with constantly expanding production and consumption and empower us to create another America that will be viewed by the world as a beacon rather than as a danger.  

Vincent Harding: Creating America


ADRIENNE

“When you talk to author and activist adrienne maree brown, you feel everything is going to be all right. You’re inspired by her hope, belief, and commitment just enough to muster your own. This must have to do with the way she sees possibility for change absolutely everywhere, which came about through her many roles. Brown is also a poet, social justice facilitator, science fiction scholar who is co-editor of Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice Movements, and a doula.” KEEP READING