Boggs Center – Living For Change Newsletter – October 13th, 2020

October 13th, 2020

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water


Thinking for Ourselves

No Equivalent
Shea Howell

Last week 13 people were arrested in a plot to kidnap and kill Governor Gretchen Whitmer. They also planned to blow up bridges and kill specific law enforcement people. They intended to storm the State Capital and to incite a civil war.

Governor Whitmer, who has known for some time of this particular plot, responded with clarity and courage, saying of the conspirators, “They’re not militias. They are domestic terrorists endangering and intimidating their fellow Americans. Words matter.” In a strongly worded editorial in the Washington Post Governor Whitmer explained:

When our leaders encourage domestic terrorists, they legitimize their actions. When they stoke and contribute to hate speech, they are complicit. And when a sitting president stands on a national stage refusing to condemn white supremacists and hate groups, as President Trump did when he told the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” during the first presidential debate, he is complicit. Hate groups heard the president’s words not as a rebuke, but as a rallying cry. As a call to action.”

The Governor’s clarity is critical for us to understand the dangerous, polarized moment we are all now facing.

Many in the media obscure this danger by refusing to name right- wing forces for what they are, criminal gangs, bent on killing. Paul Egan, for example, writing in the Free Press created a false distinction between groups that provide armed “security” at public events and what the Governor and most experts on right wing terrorists call “hate groups.”

Eagan argues that “the truth is somewhere in between” and private military groups “should not be all lumped together and must be judged and labeled based on their actions and intentions.”

The truth is that the actions and intentions of right-wing forces are now, and have historically been, the use of violence to protect property and white supremacy. The definition of right-wing movement is the effort to push society toward establishing order, which requires the use of violence.

This is in sharp contrast to left wing movements, which center people above property. Now and historically, left wing movements have aimed for justice and been rooted in calls for peace.

While both the right and the left have occasionally taken up arms, the essence of the right wing is violence. That is why they typically embrace such issues as: military intervention into other countries, the use of nuclear weapons, the expansion of police powers, and limitations on government efforts to control corporate power. They oppose any effort to advance human rights, save that of the fetus. Even in the name of “pro-life,” they have justified the killing of doctors who perform abortions and the deaths of women who risk their own lives by giving birth. They insist women violated by rape be required to give birth. In recent history in Michigan, they have blown up school busses to protect white supremacy. These are the actions and intentions of right-wing forces.

Just this summer we have seen a proliferation of armed, right wing groups confronting people gathering in defense of Black lives. Recent research documents almost 600 such instances noting, “The number of serious incidents of outright violence, shootings, vehicular assaults or menacing with a pointed gun is on the up.”

Even more concerning is that “at least 40% of the almost 600 recorded total, were uncoordinated, with no known involvement of the Oath Keepers, Three Percenters, Proud Boys, or any other established group.” This means there have been at least 240 instances where armed white men have been enacting gun fantasies on our streets, claiming to protect property and willing to kill people.

This activity is clearly illegal. It is also immoral. There is no equivalent between the violence of the right and the aspirations of the left. Those like Egan, who claim the truth is somewhere in between, are enabling the most viscous aspect of our country to feel justified in what they do.

Instead of writing sympathetically about the anxiety of white men in turbulent times, we need to be clear about the consequences of their actions. Only by facing this reality, will people be able to determine what choices move us closer to creating peaceful, loving communities.

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Chief Craig Must Go flyer PDF 1


Nearly 41 years after Ku Klux Klansmen and American Nazis shot dead five antiracist activists in the town of Greensboro, North Carolina, the City Council there has passed a resolution apologizing for the attack and the police department’s complicity in the killings. We speak with two survivors of the 1979 attack, Reverend Nelson Johnson and Joyce Hobson Johnson, who say the city’s apology acknowledges “the police knew and chose to do nothing. In fact, they facilitated what we name now as a North American death squad.”
KEEP READING

 


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Boggs Center – Living For Change News – July15th 2020

July 15th, 2020

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Thinking for Ourselves

Chief Problems
Shea Howell

The police killing of Hakim Littleton is reverberating in our community. Within hours of Mr. Littleton’s death, Police Chief James Craig released body camera images of the shooting, saying it was essential to provide facts to counter mis-information being spread on social media. The slow motion video appears to show Mr. Littleton raising his arm and shooting at a police officer. It then shows Mr. Littleton falling to the ground and officers moving toward him, shooting. In the space of about 5 seconds, Hakim Littleton was dead.

Shortly after the shooting, protestors gathered in the neighborhood and ultimately moved toward the nearby 12th precinct. The following day they gathered again. In both instances, police appear to have used excessive force to disperse crowds, arresting several people. Photos of the protest show police officers attacking peaceful protestors, using heavily armed riot gear, armored vehicles and direct force. Nakia Wallace, one of the organizers of Detroit Will Breathe was clearly grabbed in a choke hold. Another person was thrown to the ground with a knee on his neck.

Now we are told the police are also investigating their excessive use of force against protestors. Again.

As details are emerging about this tragedy, we face major questions. What was the context of this tragedy? Why were so many heavily armed police in a neighborhood? Mr. Littleton was not the target of the investigation. How is it possible that he was so quickly emmeshed in a confrontation?

The day before this killing, Chief Craig appeared at the Detroit Police Commission meeting. He made a report on the increase in fatal shootings in the city, even though the overall crime rate continues to fall. Craig said that based on his experience there were four factors driving this increase. First, he said that the psychological impact of the Covid-19 on people is contributing to a sense of hopelessness. Then he went on to say that the release of people from jails, the easing of confinement due to lack of money to pay for bail, and the protests are all impacting violent crime.

The Chief offered no actual proof of any of this. Instead he explained it made sense that because police were required to cover protests, they are not in neighborhoods, preventing crime.  The lie to that statement was evident, when the next day, it was police in a neighborhood who killed someone.

Moreover, the positioning of peaceful protestors as the cause of violent crime is non-sense and dangerous. This attitude, expressed over and over again by the Chief, gives license to those under his command to use escalating force.

On Friday evening, in an interview on local news about the killing and protests, Chief Craig talked about “violent mobs attacking our officers” even as he acknowledged that protest have continued to be peaceful. Then when he was asked directly by the local reporter if he considered the question of did the officers need to shoot Mr. Littleton, did they need to use “lethal force?” the Chief responded angrily, saying that events where unfolding quickly. He charged that  the very questioning of the use of force  is the kind of conversation that “spurs antagonism,” and” incites riots.” The reporter quickly backed off.

But these are the questions we now must face. Can we create communities without police? What do we need to do to make sure that no one walking down a street dies at the hands of police?

One key way to answer these questions is to see how wrong the Chief has been in his characterizations of these protests. How wrong he has been in his defense of facial recognition the use of technological surveillance. How wrong he has been in his refusal to respond to the videos and photos of police excess, even as he expects the community to respond instantly to those videos he chooses to share.

The protests are pushing us forward in rethinking how we live together, how we can learn to care and protect one another. Craig and his policies are in the way.


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Emma Fialka-Feldman

Re-Imagining Safety

Can we please expand our notions of safety as we talk about “going back?”

I don’t want to go back to our schools. They have failed — kids, educators, families, communities for generations (yes, even pre-covid). SCHOOLS WERE NOT SAFE BEFORE THE PANDEMIC.

Please stop perpetuating this false dichotomy. When we don’t broaden our notions of safety — we are letting Trump and DeVos set the agenda about what re-opening looks like.

What would you (you: educators, families, kids, community members) add as we say: What are the 6 ADDITIONAL things we MUST ensure to go back to school safely?

Some ideas I have heard include (but aren’t limited to): cops out of our schools, place-based curriculum that honors and learns from the brilliance of the communities where our students live, outdoor classrooms that demonstrate we must learn not just from the 4-walls of our “classrooms”, anti-racist curriculum and pedagogy (yes, no more color sticks for behavior management), a moratorium on firing any teachers of color, inclusive classrooms so ALL children learn with the kids from their communities (not just those disabled kids labeled “inclusion ready”), joyful classrooms where teachers have time to grow as educators and have time to breathe throughout the school day, recess spaces that allow kids to play, solve conflicts, and grow, lunch spaces with food that is found, cook, and prepared with the community at the center…oh yeah, and lots of love, imagination,

 


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Boggs Center Living For Change News – May 25th, 2020

May 25th, 2020

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“We never know how our small activities will affect others through the invisible fabric of our connectedness. In this exquisitely connected world, it’s never a question of ‘critical mass.’ It’s always about critical connections.”    —Grace Lee Boggs

 

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Thinking for Ourselves
Water Connections
Shea Howell

In the last six months Michigan has experienced two potential nuclear disasters. Both were due to rising flood waters.  In late November the Revere Dock collapsed, spilling unknown amounts of limestone and aggregate materials. In the course of the investigation of his spill, it was discovered that the site also stored nuclear waste material, forgotten by the most recent owners. The Environmental Protection Agency has since found uranium, lead, toxic chemicals and heavy metals in water samples at the site.

This week the entire city of Midland was flooded as two dams burst under the pressure of rising water. Midland is the home of Dow Chemical and one of the most toxic Superfund cleanup sites in the country. The site also contains a nuclear research reactor.

As the waters rise and carry these surface contaminants down into the rivers and Great Lakes water shed, shorelines are eroded and the underwater sediments stirred up. Allen Burton, a professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Michigan explained,  
“You worry about the speed of the current, this wall of water coming down the river,” he said. “It just has a huge amount of power.”

 In both cases, officials assure us there are no radioactive effects. Thus far the water from Revere has been contained, and the nuclear plant was shut down due to the Coronavirus.

Even so, everyone knows that the flood waters are carrying the wastes of centuries of industrial poisons. We also know they are carrying the oil from the engines of the newest cars, now under water,  the chemicals stored in homes used to clean and protect them from bacteria, and the untold toxic materials used in businesses, manufacturing centers, schools, and churches. We all know that the Fermi plants are just down river, watching the waters rise. And we know that Fermi has the worst safety record in the US.

Flood waters, like the coronavirus, remind us that we are all connected. They warn us that we cannot return to” normal.” We need a completely different way of thinking about our responsibilities to each other, the earth and the waters.

This new way of thinking is not likely to come from our officials. They continue to deny reality, especially in Detroit. Here Mayor Duggan and Gary Brown insist water has been restored everywhere.  Yet two weeks ago we delayed the Riverwise editorial meeting, as one of our members stood out side to stop a water shut off of her 95 year old neighbor.  This week volunteers gathered at churches to distribute water to people who do not have it in their homes. 

At the heart of this contradiction is the insistence by the city that people need to contact them to get their water restored. Placing the burden on people who have been shut off, and may not even know of the restoration efforts, comes from a deep disrespect of those who could not afford high bills, and from a lack of fundamental understanding of government responsibility. It also comes from the fact that the city keeps poor records, and hides those from public view. As a recent article in Michigan Advance explained, the numbers kept by local governments are murky.

Charlotte Jameson, program director of legislative affairs, drinking water and energy at the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC), says Michigan’s deregulated reporting system makes it almost impossible to know exactly how many residents are still living with their water shut off…It’s incredibly difficult to know what is happening at any given water utility because they’re regulated at the local level…So there’s very little access to data, very little transparency in terms of how utilities do rate making, very little transparency into their operations, who they’re shutting off and who they’re not, why they’re shutting people off. We just don’t have that information.

What we know is that we need a comprehensive, thoughtful, and visionary approach to the waters that sustain us. We also know that the values of the past that cast water as a resource to be used and tossed away, that limits access to it by the ability to pay, and that denies our deep connections, are ideas that are killing us.  It is time to craft a way of living that begins with the basic understanding that water is a human right and a sacred trust. There is no other way to ensure our future.


Michigan Prisoner:
Covid Could Be Death Sentence We Don’t Deserve


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Disability Justice, Community, & Intentionality
Honoring Stacey Park Milbern #StaceyTaughtUs

Emma Fialka-Feldman

Stacey Park Milbern passed away on May 19, 2020, her 33rd birthday. Her friends, community, and family — people she met and people who longed to meet Stacey immediately began telling their stories, #StaceyTaughtUs. Her first of many many memorials included a virtual celebration with over 500 registered guests on Zoom with a 150 car parade throughout Oakland, CA with ASL (American Sign Language) and live captioning. This growing collection of stories demonstrate how much people want to fight like hell, while building the world that centers the lives of disabled, queer, and BICOP. She lived in the possibilities of what it can be. She not only practiced living in the “beloved community,” she lived it. Every #StaceyTaughtUs story is evidence of that.

My brother, Micah Fialka-Feldman is who he is for many reasons (as we all are) — but when he connected with young disability leaders — they shaped my brother (and therefore our family’s story) in powerful ways. He saw his disability as an identity with history, pride, community, activism, and brilliance.

Stacey Park Milbern was one of those shapers. Stacey got “it.” The “it” that says people with intellectual disabilities must have their voices and presence at the disability justice table. The “it” that says we must, both, live in and for a reimagined world — where the lives of disabled people are dignified, honored, and supported — in a beyond capitalism, racism paradigm. The “it” that says we must always be learning, thinking, questioning, in conversation with our communities. The “it” that says we can not use a lack of familiarity with difference to stop us in for getting together. That’s what Stacey taught me. 

Micah was introduced to Stacey and her deep demand for creative justice when Micah attended the National Youth Leadership Forum, a national disabled led youth leadership project, in the early 2000s. This National Youth Leadership Forum (NYLF) connected him with other disability activists around the country. Micah, excited by his deepening understanding of his own identities shared this growing knowledge with our family. Given connections to various disability organizations (including NYLF), our family worked with the Allied Media Projects to see how disability justice could be brought into the work of the Allied Media Conference which had recently moved to Detroit in 2007. Stacey and a cross-section of disability organizers worked with AMP to make Allied Media Conference creatively accessible and weave in workshops and themes about disability justice. Years later, this eventually led to the first ever Disability Justice track.

Stacey reflected on this collaborative work in a December 2008 NYLF Newsletter. “I have been thinking a lot about an event I went to this summer, the Allied Media Conference (AMC)…It was amazing to see young people taking the city in their own hands. Through the AMC, I had a chance to really get to know an NYLN member, Micah Fialka-Feldman. He welcomed me to Detroit. Since I was new to the AMC community, he made sure I always knew what was going on. He made sure I had what I needed to participate. Conference organizers told me about how Micah and his family had worked with them to make sure that access wouldn’t be an issue for anyone. As a result, many disabled people attended the conference. Disability issues were on the table. Unlike other events, many workshops focused on integrating a disability analysis into broader social justice work. It was a transforming experience for me. I owe a lot to Micah for it…[then she described Micah’s lawsuit to sue Oakland University for housing discrimination]… I hope you will join us in talking about what access really can mean and how it can change how we interact with the world.”

Stacey continued to be connected to visionary activism in Detroit and the work of Grace Lee Boggs as she grew personally and politically. As Catherine Kudlick, Professor of History and Director of Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University wrote, “She was a co-founder and promoter of Disability Justice, a second wave of the disability movement that combats the disproportionate negative impact of ableism on people of color, queer, trans, and others who are multiply-marginalized. She called out and showed with each of her projects — and indeed with her very existence — the benefits that come from abandoning capitalism’s narrow definitions of who has worth. For example, last fall when the claims of activists proved true in the face of PG&E’s bungled planned power shutdowns, Stacey organized grassroots relief and protests. With the arrival of the pandemic, the Disability Justice Culture Club, which she ran out of her home, took on even greater significance and reach. In April, she partnered with Longmore on some of the pathbreaking work she was doing as co-chair of the Crip Camp film impact campaign!

Stacey wrote in 2009 an article titled, “On the Ancestral Plan: Crip Hands Me Downs and the Legacy of Our Movements,” I speculate that Grace Lee Boggs is loving the conversations happening right now about disability in the context of what it means to be human, and as Grace’s friends the Fialka Feldmans said to me last week, would ponder that the reason to add disability justice to social justice is not just because it’s another element of diversity or representation, but rather because disability justice (and disability itself) has the potential to fundamentally transform everything we think about quality of life, purpose, work, relationships, belonging. As a new colleague Ria DasGupta said in a meeting about cripping college campus this week, “we can no longer afford add and stir politics.”

Catherine Kudlick continued, “Stacey came to all of this from her perspective as a biracial Korean-American queer woman who arrived in the SF Bay Area from a southern fundamentalist Christian upbringing. She was forthright, demanding, focused, all while being unnervingly vulnerable with a giggle that could cut through every kind of bullshit. She never lost sight of the biggest goals, all while making you feel like you were the most important person in the world.”

Too often our movements work in silos. Too often we speak about intersectionality but leave out the voices and bodies of those most marginalized. Too often we speak about what the government isn’t doing. May you honor Stacey by building a bigger table, with chairs of various sizes, empty space for chair users, virtual spaces for folks who can’t physically be at the table and with a belief that by making access radical and intentional, our world will grow into beautiful possibilities. 

To learn more about what #StaceyTaughtUs check out this syllabus of videos and articles written by her.

If you did not know of Stacey Park, take time to sign up for one of Crip Camp’s Virtual Camp Series each Sunday. Stacey’s vision and force are behind the themes, the speakers, the accessibility, the outreach of it. You will fall in love with the possibilities of a future that centers disabled lives.


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Language is the gateway to freedom and to our full humanity. Ruby Sales

April 26 at 4:58 PM ·

From my front porch 

Language is the gateway to freedom and to our full humanity. Black and Brown people are not wholly marginalized. Although the state marginalizes us, we are essential people in creation and in democracy. We are significant to our family, friends and our local and national communities. In short, we are more than what the White guardians of power make of our lives. Rather we are what we make of our lives. Our language must speak to reaffirm the multi dimensional aspects of our lives and the different spaces that we occupy. Ruby Sales