Boggs Center – Living For Change News Letter – March 6, 2017

yesmagazine.org Why Science cant be Silent

Up against the White House’s “alternative facts” and attempts to hide climate data, can new allies—citizens and science—prevail against politicians and corporations? Climate science is looking like a new front line, and scientists are increasingly its freedom fighters. Citizens need to support them by engaging in daily research, demanding truth, and forcing government and industry to use research for the common good.

click here http://www.yesmagazine.org/issues/science?utm_source=YTW&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=20170303

Boggs Center Living For Change News Letter – February 27th, 2017

Jimmy and Grace  
  •     Community Wisdom Shea Howell
    *  Women Creating Caring Communities – International Womans Days – March 11, 2017
    *   Scenes from the rollout of Riverwise, a community-based magazine…
    *  A Letter from Detroit Youth Organizers -Paige Watkins, Julia Cuneo, Dakarai Carter, Kezia Curtis
    *  An Open Letter to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission Tom Stephens 
Living for Change News
February 27th, 2017
final final 2017 wccc 2                    
Thinking for Ourselves
Community Wisdom
Shea Howell

Mayor Mike Duggan delivered his fourth State of the City address last week in an unusual venue. He chose Focus: Hope as the spot. It was a move designed to highlight his central message, time to focus on the neighborhoods. “We’ve improved the basic services but if we’re going to fulfill a vision of building a Detroit that includes everybody then we’ve got to do a whole lot more,” Duggan said.Duggan then listed efforts he intends to take: job training with a clear “path to jobs” though Detroit at Work and a Skilled Trade Employment Program aimed at youth. He emphasized neighborhood investment by philanthropic organizations, promising a beginning $30 million to engage residents in Livernois/McNichols, West Village and Southwest Detroit to create walkable communities, and he promised street sweeping. He even pledged affordable housing and to back the City Council effort to guarantee 20 percent of new units will be set aside in any new project.

He said we can also expect more police officers, a new initiative around healthy pregnancies, and a Detroit Promise to insure that those babies, and current students, have a guaranteed college education when they graduate from Detroit Public Schools.

In spite of all of this, the Mayor’s speech seems more show than substance, more promise than reality.

The first reason for this is the overall framing of the neighborhoods. According to the Mayor, our neighborhoods are only places to be fixed. He does not see any of the creativity, energy or imagination that has been evolving at the neighborhood level for years. Home recipes turned into a thriving sweet potato pie shop, a neighborhood bakery reclaiming lives with returning citizens, bike shops and barber shops, 3-D printing, hand crafted furniture, and flower shops all are anchors in communities long neglected by development schemes. Rather than seeing these as sources of strength to be supported and expanded, the Mayor reduces neighborhood life to nothing more than a vast wasteland he will fix for us.

At the same time, he has refused to look honestly at the inequality his policies have created. Just days before the address, two local professors released a study concluding: “First, by a number of measures Detroit continues to decline, and even when positive change has occurred, growth has been much less robust than many narratives would suggest. Second, within the city recovery has been highly uneven, resulting in increasing inequality.”

The report went on, “Citywide data suggest Detroit is continuing to experience decline that makes it worse off than it was in 2000 or even 2010 in the depths of the national recession. Population, employment and incomes continue to decrease, while vacancies and poverty have increased.”

Perhaps the most important reality for the mayor is his failure to come through with his earlier promises to leverage jobs in the development of the core city. Detroiters are actually losing jobs at an alarming rate. The researchers noted,
“At each geographic level, the number of jobs held by residents has dropped over time, while employment of non-Detroiters has increased…Jobs for those living in the suburbs — who are mostly white — have gone up 16.6%. Meanwhile, jobs for city residents are down 35.5%.”

Had the Mayor heeded the wisdom of the community, we would have a Community Benefits Agreement in place that could already have mandated job training, job placement and increased the number of Detroit Enterprises benefiting from downtown investment.

Had the Mayor heeded the wisdom of the community he would have adopted a Water Affordability Plan to stop water shut-offs and support people staying in their homes.  Instead his blindness to this human rights abuse risks the wellbeing of everyone.

The Mayor is going to have to do a lot more than stand inside Focus: Hope and offer promises. He might start listening to what people want.


Scenes from the rollout of Riverwise, a community-based magazine created by a team of authors, writers, photojournalists, parents, grandparents, students, organizers, activists, artists, educators and visionaries. Check us out online!

20170224_181432

20170224_180831

041


A Letter from Detroit Youth Organizers
Paige Watkins, Julia Cuneo, Dakarai Carter, Kezia Curtis

When we were asked to plan the Youth Day of Vision on behalf of the James & Grace Lee Boggs Center, we knew that we wanted this event to youth-led and youth-centered. For us, that meant involving young(er) people in the planning process from the beginning and letting them control the direction of the event. Our Youth Planning Committee consisted of middle and high school students who are involved in the Detroit Independent Freedom School held at the Cass Corridor Commons.

We started with an introduction to what happened in 1967, inviting the Detroit Historical Society to a DIFS session to teach the students about the uprising and the Detroit 67 Project. This introduction was followed by brainstorming sessions, school visits, and planning meetings to determine what activities would work best for the day, recruit youth to attend, and set an agenda and facilitation schedule.

This may sound like an arduous process for just one event, but we believe that creating powerful, grassroots leadership in the future means giving them the reins today. We guided the young people through the organizing process, from conception to development to completion. This process provides them with the skills to create their own events, advocacy, and activism projects. The Youth Day of Vision was therefore not just about a vision of the future, but a vision of dynamic, transformative, present day youth leadership.

The day of the event, over 60 young people between the ages of 10 and 20 came to the Detroit Historical Museum for a day of investigating the past, understanding its relevance for our present, and envisioning our future. We explored the museum through an engaging scavenger hunt, teased out the differences between a riot versus a rebellion, and imagined ourselves in 1967 through a group role-play. It was exciting for us to see the young people’s visions of the future, which included cures for diseases, regional transportation systems, and diverse, interdependent communities.

At the request of the young people, we kept the space adult-free. The purpose of this careful curation was to allow young people to be themselves, open up, make mistakes, and take charge of their own spaces. We also integrated social media and many different types of hands-on engagement into the day’s activities. You can still find pictures on Instagram & Twitter by searching #DetroitUprising.

Because of this event, young Detroiters were able to more deeply understand the power of community organizing. Armed with this information, the young people heard from youth organizations about ways they could plug in immediately to work towards social justice in their communities.

We are incredibly proud of the young people who organized this event with such bold enthusiasm. We look forward to continuing to work with the social justice activists who attended and who will continue to transform this world for the next 50 years.


An Open Letter to the Michigan Civil Rights Commission on Their Report: “Systemic Racism Through the Lens of Flint”
Tom Stephens First, the Good NewsThere’s much to applaud in the Michigan Civil Rights Commission’s recent report[i] (February 17, 2017) regarding the deep historical and social origins of the now-notorious Flint water poisoning catastrophe.This includes:1.    Exposing the historical story of implicit bias, structural and systemic racialization behind this atrocity adds official recognition to the critical dynamics, particularly the “cumulative and compounding effects” of all discrimination and environmental racism (P. 82), far beyond and much better than the simplistic and limiting notions of individuals’ intentional, subjective racial prejudice that undermine our civil rights laws.  This is a notable achievement for an official government body – especially if it’s followed by policy actions to prevent repetition of such abuses in the future.  I don’t want to be misinterpreted as dismissing this positive aspect of the commission’s work;2.    Calls for specific reforms of the emergency manager statutes to avoid future cases of destruction of local democracy, accountability and the rule of law at the local level are welcome; and

3.    The Commission’s acknowledgement of its own failure to intervene on a timely basis for the benefit of the People of Flint, and their vow to do better in the future, displays sincere reflection and commitment.  It is appreciated.

I don’t want to minimize these good things in the report.  But as a lifelong Michigander who submitted written testimony to the commission that, altho uncited, is very much in line with their ultimate findings,[ii] I feel morally compelled to say that I am seriously dissatisfied with the report.

In brief, I believe it misapplies complex, historical analysis of flexible and only partially developed environmental justice concepts, and especially the distinction between implicit and intentional racism, to blatantly let top policy makers who are responsible for poisoning Flint off the hook for what they did and why.  Let me explain.

Racism without Racists, Poisoning without Culpability

The commission’s “implicit bias” narrative, based on the brilliant work of native-born Detroiter and leading critical race scholar john a. powell, reflects a sophisticated, contemporary and deeply insightful view of the way that racialization works to oppress People of color (and, as the commission notes, to injure Whites as well).  But that welcome perspective should never be employed as a shield for government officials whose implementation of state policies and actions causes harm.  The commission stumbles badly on this vital point of accountability.

The key flaw in the commission’s reasoning runs thru out the report.  It is perhaps most evident in the commission’s express adoption of the word “racism”, but avoidance of the term “racist” in their report, because of “a lack of consensus on the common definition of the [latter] term”. (P. 21)  Much later, near the end of its report, the Commission states that “Racial disparities are too often sustained by structures and systems that repeat patterns of exclusion.” (P. 127)  Unfortunately, the commission’s misapplication of implicit bias theory, and structural and strategic racialization, to excuse policy makers whose unconscious prejudices, ideological biases and plain incompetence and arrogance poisoned Flint, effectively sustains and repeats those very patterns of exclusion.  This is completely unacceptable.   

Excusing Official Misconduct

The commission’s “racism without racists” construct takes back with one hand whatever positive effect it achieved with the other, via their exhaustive discussion of implicit bias, structural and strategic racialization.  While these concepts offer much promise in understanding the attitudes, actions and conflicts experienced by People in our communities, applying them to the acts of policy makers responsible for poisoning Flint is a cop out. 

The Governor and his men claimed, in their campaigns for office and in their “emergency management” policies, policies they re-enacted even after being rejected by public referendum, that they knew what they were doing.  (As Michigan’s great public citizen and Governor Frank Murphy observed in the era of the great depression: “To sacrifice everything to balance the budget is fanaticism.”  That’s what they were doing.)  Implicit bias, structural and strategic racialization should never be allowed as a defense to such official misconduct.  The commission’s failure to recognize this fundamental distinction between ordinary People’s implicit personal social attitudes, and the awful consequences of official actions by policy makers, converts their report in substantial degree from a needed exposé into an unjust, structurally racist cover-up.  

The commission’s inability to place well-deserved blame where it lies with state government leaders is even further exemplified by their rather shocking statement: “We have neither seen nor heard anything that would lead us to believe that anyone in government permitted something they believed to be harmful to continue because of the racial makeup of Flint.” (P. 12)  One must ask in this context, what in the world would it take? 

Long before they admitted it, the top state government officials had significant information that would convince any reasonable person that 1) Polluted water is harmful; 2) Most People in Flint are of color and poor; and 3) They were being forced to use polluted water.  Avoiding the conclusion that “government permitted something they believed to be harmful to continue because of the racial makeup of Flint” under these circumstances is apologizing for decisions and actions that implemented structural and systemic racism, of which these top officials should have known and which it was their duty to avoid and later stop.  The commission’s failure to reach this inevitable, common sense conclusion is an extremely grave, unconscionable error.

Ignoring Critical Relevant Evidence

One of the ways the commission achieves this myopic result is by completely ignoring – in spite of their otherwise comprehensive historical overview – the damning official history of government attacks on environmental justice in the 1980s and 90s, centered around Flint and Genesee County.  As I stated in my written testimony (note 2, below):

“Some 20 years ago, the issues of environmental racism and environmental justice – the disproportionate adverse exposure of People of color communities and the poor to pollution and other environmental dangers – were addressed by environmental agencies and courts in two (2) major cases that arose in Flint: 1) The Genesee Power Station (GPS) case; and 2) The Select Steel case.

The GPS case involved a wood-burning incinerator sited near Flint’s impoverished north end, a community already swamped with other toxic, heavy industrial sources of pollution.  Negotiations with the incinerator resulted in an agreement to significantly reduce the amount of lead paint-contaminated construction and demolition wood the incinerator was allowed to burn. (They originally described their business to state environmental officials as “burning demolished Detroit crack houses”.)

After that partial settlement, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) under Gov. John Engler and Director Russell Harding insisted on a historic environmental justice trial of the allegation that they violated Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act by permitting the GPS, the first such trial ever.  The Genesee County Circuit Court, Hon. Archie Hayman, entered an injunction against granting more air pollution permits in Genesee County after a 1997 trial that included lots of evidence of increased lead poisoning in Flint because of the GPS; the injunction was subsequently reversed on appeal for a procedural technicality.

The Plaintiffs in the GPS case had also filed the first administrative Title VI environmental racism claim with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1992.  After initially losing the file, EPA later found it and opened an investigation, but they have never issued any decision.  Meanwhile, 3 of the 4 Plaintiffs died.

A second major environmental justice case arising in Flint was decided adversely after a bogus, pro forma investigation in 1998 by EPA: the infamous Select Steel decision.  In Select Steel, the same plaintiffs complained about a proposed (never built) steel recycling facility, that would further pollute their already overburdened community.  EPA came under heavy political pressure in both Michigan and Washington, DC, including explicit threats to zero out the budget of their Office of Civil Rights.   EPA rendered a decision against environmental justice that abandoned any meaningful attempts to remedy environmental racism, refusing to use their power to bring public health and environmental quality in Flint up to standards enjoyed in white suburban communities.

In significant part as a result of the Flint Select Steel precedent, environmental racism has found no legal remedy at EPA.

Why did these regulators ignore the pleas of Flint residents who were forced to drink smelly, foul and discolored water for a year and a half?  Because that was the policy of allowing substandard environmental and public health conditions in communities like Flint, conditions that would never be allowed in whiter, more affluent communities.  And that precedent was largely established in Flint in the 1990s.  The ongoing Flint River scandal was the result of emergency management and the Snyder administration’s depraved indifference to health of People in Flint, as well as longstanding, established de facto environmental policy to allow such pollution in these communities.

The Flint River’s lead poisoning is just an extreme case.”

Ironically, on January 19, 2017, EPA finally issued their administrative Title VI decision in the GPS case.  They found the state violated Title VI in their permit process. “… EPA finds that the preponderance of evidence supports a finding of discriminatory treatment of African Americans by MDEQ in the public participation process for the GPS permit considered and issued from 1992 to 1994.”  25 years later, it’s a textbook case of “justice delayed is justice denied.”  The commission should not have ignored this evidence.   

Leaving out Flint’s important role in the attack and rollback against environmental justice perpetuates the very exclusion the commission decries, and allows current state leadership off the hook for implementing racist abuses in Flint in 2014-15.  This seriously compounds the commission’s admitted failure to come to the aid of the People of Flint in their hour of need.  That is why I feel compelled to write this response.

Racist Restructuring is not only about Flint

In addition to erasing the significant history of anti-environmental justice state actions in and around Flint, the commission’s selective application of history leads to other major contradictions.  For example, Detroit’s decline and revitalization is a product of the same history of structural and systemic racism, suburbanization, housing and employment discrimination, capital flight and separate and unequal benefits of crucial infrastructure, all rooted in regional development shaped by implicit bias, that the commission details in Flint.  Indeed, the two cities’ histories of abuse by such structural, systemic forces are inextricably related. 

Detroit, like Flint, was subjected to Governor Snyder’s racist and undemocratic “emergency management” restructuring and asset-extraction policies; instead of contaminated water, Detroit’s structural adjustment involved mass denial of water via shut offs to tens of thousands of families comprising well over a hundred thousand individuals, an atrocity that was condemned by UN representatives as a human rights violation.  This dubious achievement has been widely celebrated in the corporate media as Detroit’s “resurrection”.[iii]  It is not critiqued by the commission, altho it represents another manifestation of the same deep history of implicit bias, structural and strategic racism that is their primary focus.

Ignoring Agency and Power

In political terms, emergency management deprived predominantly African American citizens in the managed communities of their agency in democracy.  Now the commission’s “racism without racists” reframing of the Flint River scandal lets the perpetrators off the hook for their abuses and crimes, by excusing their agency because it “merely” reflected implicit bias the commission believes they shouldn’t be called out on, because it supposedly did not rise to the level of intentional, willful prejudice embodied in state policy.  In addition to devastating democracy by ignoring the crucial role of agency, this is far too charitable to the structurally racist miscreants at the top of Michigan’s power systems.  For the record, neither Snyder nor any of his Republican enablers in the state legislature have lifted a finger to date to fix the deadly problems caused by Michigan’s unprecedented emergency management statute.  There’s nothing unconscious about their racist evil.

Coincidentally, the release of the commission’s report coincides with the release of the justly acclaimed James Baldwin documentary film, “I Am Not Your Negro”.  Baldwin’s simultaneously blunt and eloquent message to American White People perfectly captures the moral blame that should be cast for poisoning Flint, and should serve as a useful corrective to the commission’s tragic evasions of official culpability:

What white people have to do, is try and find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a nigger in the first place. Because I’m not a nigger. I’m a man, but if you think I’m a nigger, it means you need it. . . . If I’m not a nigger here and you invented him — you, the white people, invented him — then you’ve got to find out why. And the future of the country depends on that. Whether or not it’s able to ask that question.”[iv]

It is long past the time to stop the “relentless poisonous action” of Snyder and his associates; the systemic, structural and implicit nature of the racist bias underlying their shocking, depraved actions should not be an excuse. 


[i] The Flint Water Crisis: Systemic Racism Through the Lens of Flint (link)

[ii] The Flint River Lead Poisoning Catastrophe in Historical Perspective (link)
I also drafted the original, much stronger version of the Michigan State Environmental Justice Policy that was disastrously watered down by DEQ bureaucrats in 2009-10, under pressure from corporate and white supremacist special interests.  That “Executive Directive” is discussed at length by the commission beginning on P. 100.  The commission’s analysis of this farcical process and the meaningless document it produced is pure tautology: If Michigan had an effective policy against environmental racism, then there would have been a policy against environmental racism that might have been effective.  True.  But that’s not the question.  The question is why the state government’s bad actors did what they did. 

Lansing’s systematic inattention to issues addressed in our communities’ original draft environmental justice executive order, like the  precautionary principle, cumulative impact of multiple pollution sources, communities’ rights to directly petition the state to investigate and remedy environmental injustice, and environmental racism (as well as feral, unregulated capitalism) itself, came after fighting tooth-and-nail against grassroots groups seeking such policies for 30 years.  This notice-and-refusal-to-correct-injustice evidence adds culpability – even willful depravity, in the unprecedented circumstances of Flint in 2014-15 – to the depths of unconscious, implicit bias that undoubtedly plague all levels of the Snyder administration.  This is precisely why I reject the commission’s reasoning and conclusion; they seem to be saying that, since structural and systemic bias are overwhelmingly implicit and unconscious (Nobody in state government endorses “I am a racist”), it would be unduly hurtful to attribute blame where blame would otherwise be due.  I respectfully dissent.

Flip the script: The policies and actions of high officials like Governor Rick Snyder, Transformation Manager Richard Baird, and Treasury Secretary Andy Dillon that exposed the People of Flint to contaminated water were racist.  Fundamentally, environmental racism is the state’s policy.  The Flint River crisis proves it beyond doubt.

[iii] This uncritical corporate and white supremacist backslapping has been debunked by scholarship.  Detroit’s Recovery; The Glass is Half Full at Most “…[B]y a number of measures Detroit continues to decline, and even when positive change has occurred, growth has been much less robust than many narratives would suggest. Second, within the city recovery has been highly uneven, resulting in increasing inequality. … Overall, citywide data suggest Detroit is continuing to experience decline that makes it worse off than it was in 2000 or even 2010 in the depths of the national recession. Population, employment and incomes continue to decrease, while vacancies and poverty have increased.” (emphasis added)

[iv] I Am Not Your Negro; James Baldwin’s Lesson for White America Still Hits Home 50 Years Later


The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership

.

3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214
US

The Commons – An Appeal to the Social Justice Advocacy Community in Detroit

An Appeal to the Social Justice Advocacy Community in Detroit

From the Eastern Michigan Environmental Action Council

In 2011, the Eastern Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC) received as a gift the property of the First Unitarian-Universalist Church (First UU), located at the corner of Cass Avenue and Forest Street. This property consists of the august church building and sanctuary, as well as the adjoining elegant parish house, which has a spacious vestibule and parlor, a very large social hall, a kitchen, and several floors of multipurpose rooms. Constructed in 1916, the structure has been awarded an historic designation, and occupies a prime site in midtown Detroit, a central hub of corporate gentrification.

A Legacy of Social Justice Activism

In accepting the stewardship of the First UU property, EMEAC inherited a long-standing legacy of social justice activism. From its inception to the 2lst Century, the First UU congregation was engaged in community building and human rights causes:

The 1960s was an active time for the members of the church, who sponsored the largest Vista volunteer project in the city of Detroit. The project included a residents’ organization and a food co-op. Members and friends during this time included activists, such as civil rights martyr Viola Fauver Gregg Liuzzo, and Vic Schumacher, who worked with Bayard Rustin to integrate the segregated dining hall when he was in federal prison for being a conscientious objector during World War II, marched with Martin Luther King Jr. and was a union organizer; and pioneers, such as Judge Wade McCree, the second African-American solicitor general in the history of the United States.

Between 1998 and 2004, a 501(c)(3), UU Community Place, was formed and operated as an umbrella organization for neighborhood activism and grant funding source. Various organizations benefitted from UUCP, including: C.A.M.P. Detroit, Cinema Cafe?, The Learning Center, Black Folks Arts, Digital Video Studio, Detroit Summer, Food Not Bombs, Center for Women’s Culture, Detroit Women’s Coffeehouse, Kwanzaa Movie Festival, Wisdom Institute for Teenage Mothers, Urban Visionaries, and Blue Triangle.

Community involvement continued through the 2000s. After September 11, 2001, over 50 First Church members held a vigil outside the Islamic Center, our neighbor across the street, after a vandal destroyed one of the mosque’s windows. Church children made drawings to cover the broken windows. Before September 11, the two congregations had cooperated on other issues, including a march in support of Iraqi children. In 2002, the nationally known speaker and philosopher, Rev. Dr. William Jones, conducted a workshop titled “Oppression/ Neo-Racism – How It Operates in Society.” In 2003, First UU was a founding member of Michigan UU Social Justice Network. In 2004, a Get out the Vote Workshop (sponsored by the UU Social Justice Network) was held at First Church. M.O.S.E.S. (Metropolitan Organizing Strategies Enabling Strength) was formed when we joined with 55 other churches, unions and schools to confront local and state officials about health care, affirmative action, job training and immigrant rights.  (www.1stuu.org/history)

EMEAC Continues the Legacy

When EMEAC assumed ownership and management of the property, it continued this human rights legacy, working in partnership with numerous coalitions, including People’s Water Board, Grassroots Global Justice, Zero Waste Detroit, US Solidarity Economy Network, Detroit Equity Alignment Lab, Climate Justice Alliance and the Overbrook Foundation’s Building Equity and Alignment for Impact. EMEAC has also hosted and facilitated workshops on race equity, environmental justice and community organizing with national coalitions and University partners. As a pilot site of the Climate Justice Alliance, EMEAC continues to foster collaborations among environmental and justice groups to support green and just solutions to race, poverty and environmental concerns in southeast Michigan. EMEAC’s doors have been open for the meetings, projects and organizing efforts of countless community organizations. In addition, the First UU congregation has continued to worship in the Church sanctuary every Sunday, and hold its social hours and organizational meetings during the week.

Protecting and Securing a Vital Base

Given this synergy of organizational activities over the years, the property has become a true “commons” for social justice advocacy and cultural development. However, the care and maintenance of an aging, 44,000 – square feet facility involves heavy financial responsibilities. Though EMEAC has succeeded in securing grants, a few major rental contracts, and intermittent income from rentals for events such as weddings, workshops and conferences, these strategies have not generated the volume and regular flow of funds required to cover operational costs.

An Immediate Goal of $60,000

As major corporations appropriate the heart of the City, dislocating and dispossessing working class neighborhoods, people of color and the poor, we social justice activists who are current EMEAC board members want to secure this valuable, strategically located community center. We are convinced that this base is indeed treasured by many community members. Therefore, we are inviting those organizations and individuals who have created projects and relationships here — relationships and mutual efforts which, in fact, constitute the commons, to join us in implementing a program that will secure this property while advancing our capacities to build movement unity.   Our immediate goal is to raise $60,000. Then we will work to generate an income of $10,000 each month. (Please see the attached sample budget.)

What You Can Do as a Member of the Commons

ANNUAL MEMBERSHIPS

 Individual

 Organizational

 Work/Skills Commitment

 

DONATIONS

 

COMMONS RESIDENT

 

 

 

Boggs Center Living For Change – December 26th – January 2, 2017

Jimmy and Grace  
Living for Change News
December 26th – January 2nd
The Boggs Center would like to thank Vassar College for the opportunity to share the stories and work of Detroiters who are visionaries, solutionaries and place-based educators during a recent learning journey in Detroit.

The following videos published by Vassar College share stories from Freedom Freedom Growers, Church of the Messiah and the Boggs Center.

To read the magazine in it’s entirety, click here.

Thinking for Ourselves

Beyond Balance Sheets
Shea Howell

shea25

The people of Michigan can take some comfort in the recent criminal charges brought against two emergency managers responsible for the disaster in Flint. This is the first formal acknowledgement that the poisoning of Flint is directly tied to the lack of democratic control. Former Emergency Managers Gerald Ambrose and Darnell Earley were charged with criminal conspiracy. These charges affirm what most people in Michigan know. Emergency Managers are a means of sacrificing public safety and health in order to save money. In the course of these savings, some well-connected businesses make money.

Even Attorney General Bill Schuette, who has vigorously defended emergency management laws, was forced to admit that the irrational drive to make public decisions based on balance sheets is at the core of this disaster. During the press conference announcing the filing of criminal charges Schuette said, “There was a fixation on finances and balance sheets. This fixation has cost lives. This fixation came at the cost of protecting health and safety. Numbers over people, money over health.”

This fixation did not happen by accident. It is imbedded in the philosophy of the right wing republican legislature that dominates our state. It is the core belief of the Governor who champions private businesses as inherently better than public services. It is also the notion embraced by president-elect Trump. He clearly intends to bring business, profit seeking, and private wealth to the plundering of the country. As Flint so clearly demonstrates, these ideas are disastrous for people and for the natural world on which we depend.

Two things are clear in these criminal charges. First, Emergency Managers were concerned about something more than “saving money.” They are also beholden to the forces that appoint them and support their use over publicly elected officials. Both Ambrose and Earley used their positions to commit the financially troubled city of Flint to long-term loans that would benefit Wall Street and the Karegnondi Water Authority.  Something more than saving money was involved. Both are charged with using false pretenses to put Flint in the position of leaving the Detroit Water System and committing it to the use of the Flint River.

As the Attorney General’s special prosecutor indicated, “Without the funds from Flint the Karegnondi Water Authority (KWA) Pipeline would have to be mothballed. However, as a bankrupt city, Flint needed the Michigan Department of Treasury’s approval to get loans.” Todd Flood, special Flint water crisis prosecutor described their actions as a “classic bait-and-switch.”

Second, the emergency management legislation is the direct result of the efforts of Governor Snyder. As citizens voted against the legislation that allowed governors to appointment unaccountable individuals to control city resources, Snyder told his business buddies not to worry. He pushed through PA 436 in a lame duck legislature, against the clear will of the majority of people. This is Snyder’s law, Snyder’s idea, and Snyder’s responsibility.

But Snyder is not alone in this. The idea that the best way to think about public responsibilities is by looking at balance sheets is shared by many others. Mayor Duggan in Detroit upholds this notion. It is behind his irrational commitment to water shut offs. In the face of ongoing concerns of human rights abuses, the inability of people to keep up with payment plans, escalating water bills and concerns for public health, Duggan continues to shut off people from life giving water. His efforts to assist people in paying bills have failed miserably. Now he has authorized over 12 million dollars to a private corporation to continue to shut people off.

Whatever comes of these indictments, the idea that saving money is the only responsibility of government is a disaster for people and the planet. The idea that good decisions are made by unaccountable officials is a lie. The real questions before us cannot be answered with balance sheets. They require us to think with our hearts.

daplconcert
The Oppurtunity in our Crisis
Tawana Honeycomb PettyTawanaPetty

Last week we shared with Living for Change readers that the Boggs Center was watching “Barry” and had read the review of the film about President Barack Obama in Vanity Fair.

We found it curious that James “Jimmy” and Grace were referenced in the short film about the college life of the future president, but recognized the opportunity it presented to further the discussion with a generation that might have had their first introduction to Jimmy and Grace through the film.
In the age of technology many people are introduced to revolutionaries and social justice activists through online methods and social media sound bites. Although not an ideal method for a thorough political analysis and discussion, it is an open door to introduce deeper conversations and thinking.
With the release of Stephen Ward’s new book In Love and Struggle, we are hopeful that a new generation of visionaries, revolutionaries, educators, solutionaries, artists, activists, students and everyday people will get an inside look into the legacy of revolutionaries who challenged the status quo, redefined evolution, helped define place-based education and challenged the notion of Detroit as a dying city dependent on solutions from a top down approach.
Jimmy and Grace nurtured political thought, grassroots leadership and the humanity of human beings who sought and are still seeking to reimagine what America can become.
The country is at a crossroads right now, but we should be as clear as the Boggs’s that with crisis comes opportunity.

At this “time on the clock of the world,” it is critically important that we vision together The Next American Revolution. It is critically important that the children of Martin and Malcolm and Jimmy and Grace, “shake the world with a new dream,” a dream that begs the world to question, what it means to be a more human, human being at a moment that at times is challenging us to channel our ugliest selves?

Let us together prove for once and for all that our “imaginations are rich enough.”


WHAT WE’RE WATCHING/READING

President Obama: use clemency to free a wrongfully convicted Native American
The Guardian

Approaching the Standing Rock Reservation to stand with the Water Protectors, you couldn’t miss the dramatic display of tribal flags flying high along the dirt driveway and surrounding the perimeter of the large campgrounds. Scattered between hundreds of flags are banners bearing messages such as: Mni Wiconi, “water is life” in the Lakota language.

Also scattered among the flags were banners calling for the release of Leonard Peltier, a Native American who has been in jail for more than 41 years, unjustly convicted of the 1975 murders of FBI special agents Jack Coler and Ronald Williams on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Barack Obama justpardoned or commuted the sentence of 231 individuals on Monday, and Peltier was not among them.

We represent Leonard Peltier in his 2016 clemency petition, which asks Obama to allow him to live his final years at home on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota. Mr Peltier is old, ill and a threat to no one. The petition seeks his release in the interests of justice and reconciliation and is supported by Nobel Peace Prize laureates, humanitarians and scholars. Rights groups have embraced his cause, including more than 100,000 people who have signed an Amnesty International petition calling for his release. KEEP READING


Winter Soup
Myrtle Thompson Curtis

The Feedom Freedom Growers held its monthly community-building gathering, Winter Soup and Warm Sweaters. This activity was inspired by the work we do day in and day out of self-determination that keeps us tightly knit and visionary as we press on toward our mission of “growing gardens and growing community”.

The following phrase is one of many that we find inspiring and spot on. It is from Martin Luther King. “In the Beloved Community, poverty, hunger, and homelessness will not be tolerated because International standards of human decency will not allow it. Racism and all forms of discrimination, bigotry and prejudice will be replaced by an all-inclusive spirit of sisterhood and brotherhood.”

This statement also reminds me of words from the late Detroit activist and philosopher Grace Lee Boggs. She said, “growing our souls” is to reach inside ourselves and to be a part of the solution. In the first chapter of the book The Next American Revolution, Grace speaks of these trying times and what each of us needs to do, like working collectively and individually to assume responsibility for creating the world anew.  She said, “Each of us needs to awaken to a personal and compassionate recognition of the inseparable interconnection between our hearts, minds, and bodies; between our physical and psychical wellbeing and between ourselves and all the other selves in our country and in the world.”

This was read aloud before the program ended. It was a mindful and reflective way of closing out our day together and brought us a step closer to healing what is broken in our communities.

The program on the afternoon of December 17, 2016 was one of many critical steps in the community building of the Jefferson-Chalmers area. The neighbors, friends, and family of FFG came out despite falling snow and cold temperatures. We appreciated the many that did show up in spite of harsh, snowy weather. One visitor from France found us via facebook and enjoyed the meal that was served. He said his town of Marseilles does not have the sense of community that Detroit has and he wondered aloud what changes are needed to create such a sense of loving unity.

FFG-102

The families that attended helped in providing an atmosphere that emphasized doing our part with each person to build community. Many have attended FFG programming before but there were new friends and their beautiful children all enjoyed a meal of homemade vegetarian chili, old fashioned homemade Chicken & Dumplings, a salad of dark greens, and cornbread.   

A representative of Detroit Zero Waste was present to make sure that families that cannot afford to pay for a blue recycle bin get one for their waste. This is a necessary step toward reduction of recyclable waste going into the incinerator and helps households become responsible to the environment. We put out a call for warm clothing, new and gently used.  We are able to assist those that may be in dire need this winter, especially families from our neighborhood and youth at a local housing shelter.  A table of hats, scarves, gloves, sweaters, and coats piled up rather quickly.  

Moms, Dads and children created artistic designs on t-shirts. Artist and Mentor Wayne Curtis tutored youth in creating original designs to be screen printed at a later date. The team of OneCustom City Screen T-Shirt printing let the youngsters color and press the designs to get a feel for what they had created.  

Feedom Freedon Growers meets once a month in a local venue to cook, converse and create, grow our souls and grow our community into critical, caring thinkers and doers. You can like visit us on fb and stay tuned for January programming as we reflect again on the powerful words and actions of the Detroit activist’s community.

new_mo_cover
The Boggs Book Shop is open and waiting for you!
Among many other titles, don’t miss…

Ron Scott’s – How to End Police Brutality

evolution in the 21st Century Anthology

…or the classic, Conversations in Maine


The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership

.

3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214
US