Thinking for Ourselves Shea Howell
Mother’s Day with Nestle
Shortly after Mother’s Day, three Nestle semi-trucks will roll into Flint with free bottled water. Between Mother’s Day and Labor day Nestle will donate 100,000 bottles a week to three service centers where people can pick up the bottled water. The Mayor of Flint has graciously thanked the company for its “willingness to help the people of Flint.”
There are so many things wrong with this public relations stunt, it is hard to know where to begin. First there is the obvious problem that Nestle is “donating” water that the entire state, and in some ways much of the globe, is paying for. Nestle is pumping 400 gallons a minute out of the underground springs that feed the Great Lakes. For this desecration it pays the state $200 a year. That is less than many people in Flint pay for water on a monthly basis. They are doing this in spite of the largest public outcry on record for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Over 80,000 people objected to the authorization to nearly double the amount of water Nestle takes and puts into little bottles.
The decision to allow Nestle to increase its pumping capacity came on the heels of Governor Snyder’s decision to no longer distribute free water to the people of Flint. The Governor noted the water in Flint is now safe to drink, mostly. Nestle is the largest “owner” of a private water source in Michigan. Its head spokesperson is Deb Muchmore, the wife of the Governor’s Chief of Staff. The science behind the decision to allow increased pumping of water is based on questionable science, especially given the information gathered in a court case in 2003 when Nestle was order to stop operations due to “ecological harm and massive reduction in water levels.”
Given the series of lies the people of Flint have heard from public officials since 2014 when their Emergency manager joined with the Detroit Emergency Manager to remove Flint from the Detroit water system, it is understandable why the Governor’s comments are greeted with suspicion. Moreover, the glacial pace of removing lead pipes and replacing them means that aggregate testing of water does not mean every home is safe. Some families in Flint are depending on 22,000 bottles a year to live. But people still object to taking water from a company that is essentially stealing a precious resource for its own profit.
This year, as we celebrate Mothers Day, we should all remember just what kind of company Nestle is. Since the early 1970’s it has callously manipulated people around the globe into using baby formulas that require reliance on contaminated water. In 1974 a report called the Baby Killer by War on Want, sparked a global boycott. In 1981 the World Health Organization adopted a strict code of advertising to ban the promotion of formula as “comparable to breastmilk.” In February of this year Nestle was found to still be pushing formula as comparable to breast feeding, violating international guidelines and its own stated ethics.
In many places around the world, baby formula depends on water. Water that is often contaminated and unsafe to drink.
Nestle’s efforts to deflect our concern is foolish. The people of Flint, like people everywhere, deserve clean, fresh, affordable water. Until Flint’s entire water system is replaced, the State has a moral obligation to provide bottled water. We need a thoughtful, region-wide policy that recognizes our responsibilities to protect the waters of the Great Lakes and to respect the people and life they support.
THE CRISIS OF THE MASS KILLINGS IS NOT ONLY A DANGER BUT AN OPPORTUNITY FOR
EACH AND ALL OF US TO MAKE A GREAT LEAP FORWARD IN OUR HUMANITY –Grace Lee
In his 1967 call for a radical revolution of values against the giant
triplets of racism, materialism and militarism, King said, “a nation that
spends more on military defense than on programs of social uplift is
approaching spiritual death.” In recent years our spiritual death has
resulted in mass physical deaths all over the world and at home, e.g. at
Oklahoma City, Columbine High School, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, the
Immigration Center in Binghamton, N.Y. Each of these could have been the
wakeup call that this one can become.
We don’t have to limit ourselves to grieving or to calling for civility. We
are not just bystanders. We are citizens responsible for the safety of
ourselves and our fellow citizens in these very destabilizing times.
The time has come for each of us to be involved in creating what MLK called
a new concept of global citizenship, based on each one of us accepting the
responsibility for the safety of all of us,
This includes instituting more gun regulations and more mental health
awareness and facilities at the local level, instead of leaving it to
It includes many more of us risking arrest by initiating or joining
It requires more of us recognizing that the Old American Dream is dead and
accepting the responsibility for beginning to create, from the ground up,
in our neighborhoods, our cities, and our country, a New American Dream,
based on caring for each other in beloved communities, living more simply
in order that others can simply live, ending our wars and military
occupations around the world.
All of us, and not only borderline individuals, need this New American
Dream. And until the whole world knows that we are creating it in our
country, there will be no homeland security for any of us.
The crisis of the Tucson killings is not only a danger but an opportunity
for each and all of us to make this great leap forward in our and the
We must seize the time!!
From Grace Lee Boggs, “Beyond Civility,” MLK Day 2011
“WE HAVE JUST BEGUN TO FIGHT”
Grace Lee Boggs (August 18, 2013)
I‘ve been a Detroiter for 60 years and this is the first time in my experience that so many different organizations with different ideologies and personalities have recognized that the time has come when we must join together to resist and defeat the growing counter-revolution.
This counter-revolution is very unprincipled, very dangerous and taking many forms, Therefore its defeat will take a lot of cooperation, courage, and principled struggle.
Rooted in race, and the search for the American Dream, it began at the end of World War II when white people moved to the suburbs to escape blacks in cities like Detroit where whites were becoming the minority. Taking with them their schools, their businesses and their taxes, they impoverished the cities and attracted the attention and money of extreme right-wingers like the Koch brothers.
As a result, over the years the suburbs have become increasingly reactionary. They have elected governors like Scott Walker and Rick Snyder. They have passed anti-union right to work, anti-women, and anti-black “Stand your ground” laws, which have given men like George Zimmerman permission to kill teens like Trayvon Martin as if they were roaches.
It is also mushrooming on college campuses. Professors are writing books celebrating Senator Joe McCarthy, claiming that his red-baiting witchhunts were actually early warnings against the big government that Obama is trying to force on us. Every year the ultra-conservative Phyliss Schlafly hosts a nationally-telecast Collegians Summit at the Heritage Foundation to provide these professors with a youthful audience.
As a result, on some campuses white students warn black professors not to flunk them – or else. At UCLA’s medical school Dr. Christian Head, a black surgeon, was assaulted by a flyer depicting him with the body of a gorilla being sodomized by another professor. He sued and was awarded $4.5 million.
With growing unemployment, the crisis in the Mideast, and the decline in this country’s global dominance, we have come to the end of the American Dream. The situation reminds me of the 1930s when good Germans, demoralized by their defeat in WWI, unemployment and inflation, followed Hitler into the Holocaust.
These days, in our country, a growing number of white people feel that, as they are becoming the minority and a black man has been elected president, the country is no longer theirs. They are becoming increasingily desperate and dangerous.
We need to address their fears, and at the same time invite and challenge them to join with us in creating a new American Dream.
It will not be easy. It will take the willingness to risk arrest that North Carolinians are demonstrating in the Moral Mondays movement.
It will take the kind of militancy that students are exhibiting in sit-ins against ‘’Stand your ground” legislation.
It will take the kind of courage and persistence that Texas State Senator Wendy Davis demonstrated when she carried out a 13 hour filibuster against a bill that would have denied women the right to choose.
We have just begun to fight….
(Note: Grace wrote this column under the heading “In Detroit, We Have Just Begun to Fight” after Detroit was taken over by an emergency manager and plunged into a corporate-styled bankruptcy.)
Grace Lee Boggs, 99, is a Chinese American philosopher, writer, and activist in Detroit with a thick FBI file and a surprising vision of what an American revolution can be. Rooted for 75 years in the labor, civil rights and Black Power movements, she challenges a new generation to throw off old assumptions, think creatively and redefine revolution for our times.
How Do “We Reimagine? Grace Lee Boggs
We reimagine by combining activism with philosophy. We have to do what I call visionary organizing. We have to see every crisis as both a danger and an opportunity. It’s a danger because it does so much damage to our lives, to our institutions, to all that we have expected. But it’s also an opportunity for us to become creative; to become the new kind of people that are needed at such a huge period of transition. That’s why it’s so wonderful to be here today—that we dare to talk about revolution in such fundamental terms.”
Living for Change News December 10th, 2017
There’s something amazing growing in the city of Detroit: healthy, accessible, delicious, fresh food. In a spirited talk, fearless farmer Devita Davison explains how features of Detroit’s decay actually make it an ideal spot for urban agriculture. Join Davison for a walk through neighborhoods in transformation as she shares stories of opportunity and hope. “These aren’t plots of land where we’re just growing tomatoes and carrots,” Davison says. “We’re building social cohesion as well as providing healthy, fresh food.”
People in Michigan can celebrate a small victory this week as public outcry forced the state legislature to scale back its latest attack on local government. The Emergency Management Team provision was withdrawn in the series of bills aimed at pension finances. The proposed package of bills sponsored by right wing republicans to deal with pension commitments would have established a new level of emergency financial managers, setting aside basic local control in the name of financial responsibility. Both Democrats and moderate republicans baulked at the provision, acknowledging the new legislation was more emergency management by a not very different name. Since the disaster in Flint, Emergency Management by any name has not been a popular idea. So the provisions attempting to expand this were withdrawn. Few elected officials are willing to support extending Emergency Managers.
But this is a small victory surrounded by larger questions. Embedded in the issue of emergency management is the deeply held right wing belief that democracy is incompatible with responsible choices. Local control of local decisions do not matter, they argue. In fact it is the official position of these right wing extremists that people have no right to local self-government. This is evident in the continual pursuit of Emergency Managers to replace locally elected governments. Those who lost this time have pledged by to keep the effort to establish emergency management teams alive.
They are supported by the right wing analysis that infuses all levels of government these days. Last spring three republican appointed justices to the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Emergency Managers, finding them a constitutional exercise of authority. Judge John M. Rogers, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote that it “undoubtedly is a legitimate legislative purpose” for the governor to be given authority to appoint emergency managers with broad authority to run communities and school districts. The decision affirmed Bill Schuette’s bold assertion that people simply “do not have a Constitutional right to local self government.”
Undergirding this thinking is the belief that local financial distress is the result of mismanagement by local officials. Rogers wrote in his opinion, “The solvency of a local government is the result of the management of the finances of that government,” Or mismanagement. In this perspective, if local governments face financial difficulties it is because elected officials haven’t made the necessary decisions to “discipline” aggressive unions and public employees. They have bowed to political pressures. Or they were just plain corrupt.
Notions of mismanagement and corruption are widely held by the right wing to be endemic to communities governed by African Americans. As the Center for Constitutional Law pointed out, “Since 2013, at one point or another, 56% of the black population of the state of Michigan has lived under emergency management.” Meanwhile just three percent of the white population has endured these circumstances.
This racialized blaming of local officials evades fundamental, systemic problems in financing local governments. As a recent report from the Michigan Municipal League argued, “We have built an unsustainable method for funding local government, and unless the administration and Legislature take steps to correct it, we will be damning Michigan’s future.” The report concludes, “We must reevaluate how we fund the services that matter most and back it with the resources needed to create places that people want. “
The beginning of this reevaluation is a conversation about the intricate connection of democracy and the places where we live. How do we make meaningful decisions? Who is responsible? What are the values that govern our choices? In pursuing these questions we will find our way to a deeper understanding of why cities, communities, and people matter.
Violence is not privilege, it’s detriment Tawana “Honeycomb” Petty eclectablog
Violence is not privilege, it’s detriment.
I’m not writing this as someone who has always thought this way. I wrote an entire poem around privilege in my book Coming Out My Box in 2016. However, my thinking has since evolved. The urgency to be free of the system of white supremacy has become even more prevalent.
My mind can no longer connect a violent, oppressive and genocidal system with privilege. I can no longer encourage potential co-liberators to accept their history and collaboration with this system as a privilege. For me, accepting the ongoing legacy of trauma inflicted on blacks and other people of color as a privilege is dehumanizing for all involved. In fact, the terms privilege and ally within the anti-racist organizing movement have been so watered down that mentions make me a bit nauseous and triggered at times.
If someone snatched a child and raped and killed them, would we tell them to admit that they had the privilege of being with that child? Why then would we encourage well-meaning white people who hope to grasp the magnitude of slavery and the current system of white supremacy, to identify their connection to that violent history and current brutality as a privilege? Why are we framing white supremacy as a benefit from our Ancestors’ brutal history of torture (many of whom were children). Why are we framing it as a perk to benefit from our ongoing displacement and marginalization in this country?
Even with the resources gained and protections afforded by the system, based on whiteness, I would much rather hear white co-liberators say, “I recognize my detriment. I am actively struggling against white supremacy, here is how…” Because to identify with those gains with such affirmative language is detrimental to healing and progression in this country. It is detrimental to any real systemic change. If we reframe the connection to this brutality as a detriment, rather than a privilege it removes the optional ally-ship that is so prevalent within anti-racism organizing. If white co-liberators can see their connection to the legacy of slavery, lynching, redlining and other forms of racial violence as a detriment to their humanity, rather than a privilege to their existence, we can begin to balance the racial seesaw a bit.
The argument around privilege verses detriment has been used in the past to think about how whites and blacks relate to the system of white supremacy. However, in those instances, the argument has been that we should refrain from calling white people privileged and instead identify black people as having the detriment. My argument is that this still reinforces the historical hierarchal narrative that got us here in the first place. It is a narrative that makes it a global phenomenon to consistently fail to recognize blacks and other people of color as fully human. I am also arguing that it is the indoctrination into the system of white supremacy and the connectedness to a legacy of violence and brutality towards human beings based on race, that is the actual detriment. Rather than determine a person’s value (privileged or underprivileged) based on what one of my comrades would call, stuff and status, we can begin to reconnect morality with humanity.
It is a mistake to continue to teach black children and other children of color, even those who are without basic necessities, that they are underprivileged. We must begin to take care of their spirit. Society has already told them that they are less than, that they are hopeless and helpless. We must teach them that as we struggle against these systems that seek to dehumanize them, we recognize their full humanity and will do everything in our power to strengthen and restore our villages, so that they don’t have to go without.
Dr. King said, “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” I firmly believe that we all have greater control over the edifice than we have allowed ourselves to believe. What We’re Watching
This week’s Laura Flanders Show comes from Whitakers, North Carolina and the annual gathering of the Southern Movement Assemblies — a living experiment in popular democracy and local self governance. Plantation politics, monopoly capitalism, incarceration instead of peace: a lot of the worst of the American experience has it roots in the US South, but so does much of the best, from slave revolts, to abolition, to organized labor and civil rights. If the country goes as the South goes, what grassroots progressives do here matters. For this special episode we partnered with Project South, an anchor organization of the Southern Movement Assemblies, and Laura was joined by co-host LaDie Mansfield.Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.
With each day we are reminded of the legacy of James and Grace Lee
Boggs as we see the seeds of their work across Detroit, our nation
and the globe, and in the work that you are doing to bring to life
This year we are thinking about centuries as we commemorated the 98th
birthday of James Boggs in May and Grace’s 102nd birthday in June.
Where will we be in 2117? What do we long for our world to become?
These questions are at the root of the work of resisting the
dehumanization of this present moment and our efforts to accelerate
visionary organizing throughout the country. Over the next few months we plan to raise $100,000 for the
Place-based organizing of Feedom Freedom Growers, Birwood
–Fullerton and Field street initiatives: ($50,000)
Riverwise Magazine publication: ($40,000)
Boggs Center repairs. Archiving and meeting space improvements:
You can contribute directly at our website: – www.boggscenter.org or mail a check to Boggs Center, 3061 Field
Street, Detroit, MI 48214.
Please consider becoming a sustaining member of the Center.
Your ongoing support is critical to us.