February 17th, 2021
Thinking for Ourselves
The impeachment trial is over. The outcome was clear before the first words were spoken. In spite of overwhelming evidence of Trump’s responsibility for the Capitol attack, only 7 Republican senators had the courage to acknowledge his guilt. After voting against impeachment, Senator Mitch McConnell felt compelled to try and salvage his position by saying “There’s no question — none — that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.”
McConnell’s hypocrisy reflects the problem we all face. The mob unleashed by Trump is not going away. It will haunt us all. Republicans out of a combination of fear, foolishness, and a desire to garner votes, have encouraged more violence to come.
The coming months will challenge us all in ways that we can only begin to imagine. It will be especially critical that we understand the difference between public actions that press for peace and justice and right-wing mob violence.
Unfortunately, our Police Chief will be of no help. He fosters the misguided and dangerous reasoning that formed some of the main arguments of the Trump defense. He consistently confuses mob violence with public demonstrations for justice. He minimizes the racist treatment of BLM protestors, while excusing the hands-off approach accorded to right wing mobs.
Shortly after the attack on the Capitol, Craig went on Fox news to offer an argument in support of Trump. He invoked an example from Seattle, where the city decided to remove barriers from a police precinct in the face of a Black Lives Matters action, and claimed this was like the failure of law enforcement’s response to the Capitol. He said, “In those instances where law enforcement retreated and didn’t respond to criminal behavior by BLM protesters, what’s different with that than what was seen in the Capitol?” The Chief’s posing of this question, let alone his inability to answer it, is dangerous.
The Chief’s support for excessive force against people who challenge white corporate power is clear. He has established a record of hostility to those who challenge injustice. He refuses to protect First Amendment rights. Instead, he attacks those who exercise them with as much force as he can amass.
Consider his first challenge after he was appointed Police Chief by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr. In the midst of draconian water shut-offs, as people protested and challenged a clear violation of basic human rights, Chief Craig backed outlandish charges against two young Detroit Artists who whimsically painted “Free the Water” on an abandoned water tower that graced the Detroit skyline. He supported the charges of “trespassing at a key facility,” a post 9-11 charge that could have resulted in 4 years of imprisonment for the artists. Charges were ultimately dropped.
More directly, he supported the three year ordeal of the Homrich 9, water activists who had used their bodies to block Homrich Trucks from leaving a garage to shut off water to homes. The case was finally dismissed when the 36th District Court ruled the defendants’ constitutional right to a speedy trial was violated by “numerous unexplained and unjustified delays.”
Most recently, after a federal judge found that the Detroit Police used excessive force against Black Lives Matters demonstrators and barred the use of these tactics approved by the Chief, Craig backed an expensive counter-suit, claiming Detroit Will Breath protestors have engaged in a civil conspiracy.
Chief Craig reflects the kind of thinking that most of the people in Detroit have rejected. He, like his republican friends in the Senate, are unleashing dangerous forces, while attacking those who offer the best hope of moving us forward as a people.
Boggs Center boardmember and Detroit Justice Center founder, Amanada Alexander wrote letter to her young niece about staying true to your goals, deriving sustenance from nature, and other insights I’ve gleaned from activists.
Last summer your mama asked me a question that I couldn’t shake. We were at a rally called by brave young people who are fighting for well-funded and safe schools, without police, in Detroit. If they win, you will never know cops in your schools. You may even think it strange they were ever there.
Our people were in the streets for more than 150 days last summer and fall. We’ve been in the streets since police killed Aiyana Stanley-Jones in 2010, since they killed Sean Bell in 2006, since they killed Amadou Diallo in 1999, and long before. As we were leaving the demonstration, your mama asked me: How do you stay focused on Black joy and liberation? And how can I raise my child with that sense of possibility? I didn’t know how to answer her in that moment, but I promised I’d give it more thought.
These are some of the insights I’ve kept close through 20 years of movement work. It’s basically what all of my life has been aimed at honing. I’ve learned these ways of being from elders, writers, and organizers — sometimes in community and sometimes alone. I’ve gleaned the most from Black women philosophers, prophets, community builders, and strategists who cultivated young leaders and ensured that movements could sustain themselves across generations.
When my mama died at age 60, I decided that I wanted every aspect of my life to come alive with color. And that I couldn’t numb myself with work — even noble work — or delay joy and pleasure. I’m sharing what works for me more days than not, with the hope that it might hold something for you. READ THE WHOLE LETTER @ BOSTON GLOBE.
HUNTINGTON WOODS PEACE GROUP PRESENTS
ZOOM DISCUSSION AND Q & A
The Realities of Mass Incarceration
In conversation with author/columnist
Jeff Cohen and Exoneree Lacino Hamilton
FEBRUARY 17th 7pm
On September 30, 2020, Lacino Hamilton walked free after 26 years of wrongful incarceration in the Michigan prison system. At the hearing that exonerated him, Wayne County Judge Tracy Green apologized profusely:
“Twenty-six years is a very, very long time to spend in prison. I’m sure it’s
even harder for an innocent man.” He was freed by long-buried DNA evidence — after social activism demanded a review of his case. He’d been convicted, at age 19, largely on perjured testimony from a
Lacino spent 26 years fighting for his freedom, seeking help by writing thousands of letters to the outside world, and educating himself. He never gave up or gave in. On the inside, he became a columnist, writing about prison as part of a broader system of economic and racial exploitation. One of his columns, “The Gentrification-to-Prison Pipeline,” recalled his time growing up in Detroit’s Cass Corridor.
Lacino Hamilton has plenty to say about prison and about society. His articulate voice needs to be heard.
He’s eager to answer any and all questions.
After 26 years of being denied an opportunity to make a life , Lacino has nothing. A GoFundMe page has been set up on his behalf. https://gofund.me/652e7b1a. Anything you can contribute will go directly to Lacino. He needs help with housing, transportation, clothes, food, eye wear, phone, medical needs denied him in prison, and resources to continue fighting for truth and justice. Donating will help Lacino secure the most basic necessities and help him foster and expedite his continuing efforts to build a broad dialogue to find more effective ways to challenge injustice and promote social justice through education. Thank you for being part of righting a terrible wrong. Donate! Help Lacino! And join our zoom meeting on February 17th at 7pm.
Meeting ID: 846 6078 0872
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Our Suburbs Are Up To Us
When I moved to Huntington Woods, a 1.5 square mile city, just outside Detroit, I was told it was integrated. I looked surprised and then they said it was Jewish and non-Jewish. For the past 50 years, most of my political activism and community-labor commitments have been in Detroit, the Downriver working-class suburbs, the Ford Wayne Michigan Truck Plant in Wayne, and the UAW Headquarters on the east-side of Detroit. Since my retirement and the 2016 Trump election, I have been working in the Tri-County suburbs of Oakland, Wayne & Macomb County with an organization called “Break our Silence.” We have focused on challenging anti-black racism with a belief that we need to move beyond being allies – mere cheerleaders for social justice – to being co-conspirators and co-liberators in the mold of the Abolitionists of the 19th century (John Brown and William Lloyd Garrison) or brave 20th century leaders like Viola Liuzzo. Since the murder of George Floyd, the energy, the opportunities, and responsibilities for organizing, education, actions, dialogue, engagement, and listening have reached new heights.
The opportunity to truly break the racist silence of the suburbs, to move beyond our suburban comfort, and to transform our values, our institutions, and ourselves is now on the public agenda. This summer we saw tens of thousands of people across the metro area say, “enough is enough.” It was the organizing, vision, and commitment of the movement for Black Lives that unlocked this moment. At 73 years old, I am so fortunate to participate in a second historical social movement in my life. It is great to be alive.
Celebrating this moment and our challenges does not mean I do not feel and hold the pain, the fears, or the sadness of a world facing climate change, global poverty, continuous war, chaos, and a global pandemic. 400,000 Americans have been murdered by the heedless policies of a war criminal, Donald Trump. I do believe that out of pain emerge not just dreams but real possibilities. 2021 brings us the possibility of contributing to a multi-generational, multi-cultural, multi-racial movement – that can successfully resist “White Rage” and counter-revolution. “The times,” as a Sixties culture hero promised us, “they are a-changin’”.
This decade is an opportunity to usher in the ”Third Reconstruction” and a fundamental transition, as Valarie Kaur has said:
This month in my small world of the suburbs of metro Detroit, I have seen a commitment by suburbanites, my mostly White neighbors, to move beyond the “initial outbursts, and the “righteous anger” which followed the murder of George Floyd. While we often think of the suburbs as White, it was a young African American woman in Royal Oak and Berkley that organized the two major initial demonstrations.
As 2021 begins, I wanted to share three exciting developments.
The recently formed Suburban Coalition of Collective Liberation’s first public event: The Suburban Car Caravan of Spring 2020, which brought together hundreds of people under the banner of“Suburban Silence is Racist Violence & Disturb the Burbs.”1
Last month, the newly formed coalition sponsored its second event entitled Beyond Biden: Moving Towards Collective Liberation. 125 folks from local suburban organizations and residents from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties attended. Church members and others joined voices to uplift the local struggles against police violence, white supremacy, and the evil triplets of “racism, materialism and militarism.” People shared stories, some shared the poetic words of Amanda Gorman and everyone emphasized the idea that it was time to create a suburban coalition with a multi-year commitment. A commitment to transform ourselves, the purpose of the suburbs and the relationship of the suburbs to Detroit and Pontiac. The urgency of NOW is on our agenda. While welcoming the victory over Trump in the election, the coalition has no illusions that the Democratic Party will redefine the future of the land its first inhabitants called “Turtle Island.” Transforming ourselves, our values and all our institutions is our job.
A few days later Huntington Woods 4 Black Lives (HW4BL) hosted a zoom educational event on Prison and Police Abolition: “A World without Prisons and Police.” Huntington Woods for Black Lives is a group of younger adults and high school students working toward anti-racism in their hometown. A friend and 30-year Huntington Woods resident who was at the event said, “It wasn’t just educational – it was genuinely thought-provoking.”3
HW4BL is also organizing a campaign to CREATE A MORAL BUDGET, that involves high school students, long time residents, former residents and young people who grew up in HW and attended Berkeley Schools.4
These two small developments when combined with the work and vision of other suburban anti-racist organization & social justice organizations are ushering in a new era for vision, action, and change. Here are just a few of the groups that participated in the Suburban Coalition for Collective Liberation event in January:
- Showing up for Racial Justice
- The Beloved Community of Farmington Hills,
- South Warren Radical Movement (SWARM)
- Suburban Solidarity for Social Justice (SHIFT)
- Accountability of Dearborn
- We the People of Michigan
- Mindful Generation
- Resource Generation
- Michigan Liberation and many, many others.
2020 witnessed the greatest visible birthing of a multiracial, multi-cultural movement in the history of our country. While it has been the result of decades of organizing, it was also a response to “the fierce urgency of now” – an urgency of now which was viewed and felt across our phones, and video screens when we witnessed the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and too many more. The older generation remembers that it was the image of the bludgeoned body of Emmet Till that appeared in JET magazine in 1955 that will never be erased from our minds and hearts.
We also remember that there were organizers, visionaries and activists engaging in organizational building, creating strategies, training, and educational activities before these historic painful events that said, “enough is enough.” The 1955 murder of Emmett Till lead to the arrest of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, where 50,000 people joined together for 381 days, unleashing the modern Southern Freedom Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, and ultimately the Black Power movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Some call this the Second Reconstruction. Then came the response of white rage, Richard Nixon, the New Right, talk radio, and in 1980 the presidency of Ronald Reagan – the counter-revolution that culminated in proto-fascist President Donald Trump and the White supremacist riot he encouraged at the Capitol.
It was the murders of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown that sparked the birth of Black Lives Matter. It was the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd that unleashed conversations, activism, and commitments in the suburbs that I have never seen in my life. While I remember Chicago Black Panther Party Leader Fred Hampton’s efforts to unite Puerto Rican, Chicanos, and poor Whites in Chicago with the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s, to form a multi-racial, multi-cultural Rainbow Coalition, we are currently witnessing a similar evolution in the northern suburbs of Metro Detroit, the rural areas of Iowa, and small towns across our country. These movements of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s were not separate from the anti-colonial struggles and the liberation and independence movements in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
None of this would be happening without the leadership and organizing skills of the Movement for Black Lives, predominantly Black women, which was birthed In July 2013. The movement began with the use of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media after the shameful acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African American teen Trayvon Martin 17 months earlier in February 2012.
It is also not a coincidence that the Arab Spring in Tunisia in January 2021 and Black Lives Matter both emerged in such a close time frame. Nor is it difficult to understand the timing of Detroit’s US Social Forum uplifting the banners of: Another World is Possible; Another US is Necessary, and Another Detroit is Happening, bringing 20,000 people together. The decade that just ended witnessed Standing Rock, the MeToo Movement, Occupy Wall Street, the Immigrant Rights Movement, the voices of the Transgender and Disability Justice Movement and the movement to “Save the Planet” that lead global climate strikes across the globe.
It is precisely our winning and our success that unleashes the intensified “White rage.”
History is about movements in response to movements, and in response to the continuing crises of our economic and political systems, planet-wide and now planetary concerns.
Do we just go back and forth or is there a moment when new births and new visions emerge? I believe this is one of those moments in human history, in our history.
In conclusion, I want to uplift the current Friends of Royal Oak Township campaign to “Tell the Truth and End the Lies”. This Truth Toward Reconciliation: Voices of Dignity and Stories of Royal Oak Township. It’s a suburban campaign to repair, heal, transform and reach reconciliation after more than 400 years of stealing, occupying indigenous land, enslavement and systemic racism, which runs deep within Metro Detroit and our suburban story.
We know in our hearts and minds that there will not be reconciliation, repair or moving forward until the voices of dignity and truth are heard. As James Baldwin often said: American must face our Lie. We are so honored and challenged that The Friends of Royal Oak Township has initiated this campaign: Without truth there is no transformation, healing, repair or co-liberation.
Thus I share the words of Brigitte Hall, Royal Oak Township resident: and invite readers to the February zoom public meeting:
In this moment of national reckoning of history and race, the words “Systemic Racism” and “Structural Racism” are now in our national conversation. Most suburban communities have never confronted their historical role in the segregation, suburban sprawl, and racisms that have shaped our home. Friends of Royal Oak Township and our community partners aim to transform our understanding of our own histories in South Oakland County. Few know the history of Royal Oak Charter Township and how the Township’s original 36 square miles, currently .55 square miles, were siphoned off to create what is now Ferndale, Hazel Park, Royal Oak, Berkley, Madison Heights, and the rest of South Oakland County. Therefore, the “Truth Toward Reconciliation” project.
Please join The Friends of Royal Oak Township and our partners throughout South Oakland County for an on-going introduction to our project: Truth Toward Reconciliation (TTR): “The Vision, Journey, and Voices of Royal Oak Charter Township,” which includes an oral history project with residents of the ten subject communities in Southern Oakland County, with priority given to documenting the voices of long-time (current and former) residents of historical ROCT.
We will be gathering Saturday, February 20th, at 3pm for a Zoom call to introduce the project and build community engagement through the collective exploration of our past, present, and future.5
Recent events in HW, the recent gathering of the Suburban Coalition, and the Friends of Royal Oak Township Truth Toward Reconciliation campaign move us along this journey. It is a journey of no simple answers utilizing few or no old solutions. Creating change is messy and much more than “lawn signs” and “study groups”. It is about taking risks into the Unknown.