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Living for Change News
March 27th, 2017
Thinking for Ourselves
World Water Day
World Water Day passed without a word from Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. Soon it will be three years since he got control of the Water Department and he has done almost nothing with this power. His direction has failed Detroiters and he is failing the future. His lack of leadership is stunning.
In July of 2014 when he was given control of the Water Department, Mayor Duggan said he welcomed “the responsibility for dealing with the Water Department issues.” He promised a plan to deal with the shut offs, to provide support for people unable to pay their bills and to improve services. None of this has happened. He has utterly failed to advocate for water as a human right and failed to address concerns for water as a public trust.
Instead, water shutoffs continue with one failed payment support scheme after another. The Mayor stubbornly refuses to make the Water Affordability Plan passed over a decade ago by the City Council a reality. Instead, he continues policies that enrich a private corporation, giving it what seems to be a blank check to go around the city shutting people off. The Homrich Wrecking Company has expanded its original $5.6 million dollar contract for water shut offs to $12.7 million as of last fall. That is as much as the City of Flint paid Detroit for its entire water usage prior to its own man made crisis.
Meanwhile, the Mayor ignores the public health consequences of these shutoffs and he has done little to address the real possibility that new sewerage costs threaten the very existence of hundreds of churches across the city.
Most disturbing is the Mayor’s refusal to provide leadership around the growing global crisis of safe, affordable drinking water. That is why the United Nations has asked people to participate in World Water Day. Since 1993, the UN General Assembly has understood it was essential to draw attention, thinking, and action to water. This year they have especially asked people to consider the implications of wastewater, as we poison the water we depend upon.
The UN declared, “This year, we focus on wastewater and ways to reduce and reuse as over 80% of all the wastewater from our homes, cities, industry and agriculture flows back to nature polluting the environment and losing valuable nutrients and other recoverable materials.” Currently, over 80% of the wastewater generated by society flows back into the ecosystem without being treated.
The Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, framed the issues we face clearly. She said, “Access to safe water and sanitation services is essential to the human rights and dignity, and the survival, of women and men across the world, especially the most disadvantaged.”
Rethinking our understanding of water is critical. She explains, “In the face of growing demand, wastewater can be a reliable alternative source of water – this calls for shifting the paradigm of wastewater management from ‘treatment and disposal’ to ‘reduce, reuse, recycle and resource recovery.’ Wastewater should no longer be seen as a problem, but as part of the solution to challenges that all societies are facing. Treated wastewater can be a cost-efficient, sustainable, safe and reliable alternative source of water for a variety of purposes – from irrigation and industrial uses to drinking water, particularly under conditions of water scarcity. For this, we need to change mind-sets, to raise awareness and redouble educational efforts to share the benefits of wastewater reuse.”
Thousands of people around Michigan understand we need to shift our thinking to see water as a human right and public trust. Many converged in Lansing on World Water Day under the leadership of The People’s Water Board of Detroit. They, not the Mayor, are thinking about the future of all of us.
History, Time, Ideas and Vision Matter!
March has been a month for several tours and visits to the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center. During the last few weeks of March, artists came from Indonesia & Morocco representing the Ghana Think Tank and students came from Williams College. We’ve welcomed art students from Stanford, spring semester visits from University of Massachusetts in Boston, Georgetown University in DC, Concordia College in Minnesota, educators from Pittsburgh and women from the League of Women Voters. They came with a curiosity to understand the past and to imagine the future.
Visitors come to both learn the story of Detroit, through the writings and organizing of James and Grace Lee Boggs as well as to begin to think differently about time & ideas. From our discussions which focus on the difference between riot & rebellion & between rebellion and revolution we engage in site visits emphasizing the need to think dialectically and the importance of reflecting on our practice and our dreams. The Tour titled: From Growing our Economy to Growing our Souls, (not growing our economy and growing our souls), provides a glimpse into changing space through historical discussions. While some visitors are more prepared reading articles, viewing videos, and watching We R Not Ghosts or the documentary of Grace Lee Boggs, American Revolutionary, we all engage in a serious conversation about the resilience of the land and the Anishinaabe indigenous presence which began more than 1,000 years ago and we emphasize the resistance which took place with The Battle of Bloody Run that was fought during Pontiac’s Rebellion on July 31, 1763 on what now is the site of Elmwood Cemetery.
These tours in 2017 emphasize the historical significance of the 50th anniversary of the Detroit Rebellion and the 50th Anniversary of MLK’s Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence and provide an important discussion of the need to create new values and a new American Dream. We need a new dream not a return to the past. The tours are about counter-revolution and revolution. Through our site visits to Heidelberg, the Boggs School, Can Arts, Avalon, and Feedom Freedom Growers we, witness the emerging commitment to create structures of hope, transformation and vision.
Our friends from the Ghana Art program were also engaged in creating a community art initiative in the North End, visited Incite Focus while our visitors from Pittsburgh were here to learn from and work with the Allied Media Project. People come to understand and learn about history and see/experience the future. One of the Moroccan artists did a wood-craft of Grace Boggs.
Everyone visiting leaves wondering how they can gain an understanding to challenge the current media-Gilbert-Illich narrative that downtown gentrification will be the resurrection of Detroit? Is gentrification anything more than displacement, ethnic cleansing and a renewed attempt to renew and continue the self-destructive and dying values of individualism, greed, materialism & racism?
The tour takes on the tough discussions of the pains of capitalism and acknowledges that “Taking back Detroit” for Hockey, Restaurants and the fun of a few at the expense of water shut-offs, foreclosures and “blight ticketing” will not create a Detroit we can all be proud to call our own. Another Detroit is Happening and it is happening in the communities, not downtown.
While Donald Trump’s election has been a wake-up call and the removal of the veil of our nation’s history of exclusion, with a constitution that accepted slavery, our tour provides a narrative to see that we are movement city creating ideas, institutions, and structures based upon a call for the “beloved community” and a radical revolution in values.
What We’re Watching
Love & (R)evolution
Jane Addams Hull House Museum hosts activist and writer Grace Lee Boggs in a discussion about the connection between evolution and revolution. This program was produced by Chicago Access Network Television (CAN TV).