Boggs Center – Living For Change News – December 3rd, 2018

December 3rd, 2018

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Little War on the Prarie

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Thinking for Ourselves

 
Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Poletown Lives

Much of the country was shocked by the announcement that General Motors (GM) is closing five production plants in the U.S. and Canada. Two of the closing are in the Detroit area. The Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant, known as the Poletown plant, after the community leveled to enable its construction, will be closed. So will the Warren Transmission Plant. Other plant scheduled for closure are in Lordstown, Ohio, White Marsh, Maryland, and Oshawa, Ontario. About 14,000 people will be affected directly: 8,000 of them salaried workers, and slightly more than 6000 factory workers. GM will reduce its total workforce by about 15%. GM stock went up by 5 percent when they announced the decision.

Most industry analysts agree that these closures were inevitable. Auto economists point to a lack of demand for the smaller models produced in these plants and dropping markets in China and the U.S. Even long-time critics of the auto industry said that Mary Barra, the CEO, “needed to do something before losses mounted.”

Donald Trump reacted angerly to the news, tweeting, “Very disappointed with General Motors.” He is, “looking at cutting all GM subsidies, including electric cars.” Many folks were quick to point out that Trumps anger is a lie, noting that the closings have been directly caused by Trump’s protectionist tariffs.

Certainly an argument can be made that Trump’s trade wars with China contributed to this decision. But the closures reflect longer term strategic choices by GM.

Such is the way of capitalism.

For me, this announcement evoked memories of hot, emotional meetings in civic centers and church halls, as the people of Poletown gathered to resist the destruction of their community for a Cadillac plant and the promise of 6000 jobs.

In 1980 the community organized against GM, Mayor Young, the Detroit City Council, the UAW, and the Archdioceses. They attracted national attention in a battle to resist Michigan’s Quick Take law.  But in July of 1981, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled private economic development justified taking homes, businesses, and schools from people. The last hold outs, mostly older women, who had occupied the church basement for 29 days, were forcefully removed by a 60-man SWAT team. The wrecking ball slammed into Immaculate Conception almost immediately. The first Cadillac Eldorado rolled of the line four years later.
The plant never employed 3000 people. A little more than 1500 will affected directly by this closure.

The fate of Poletown and the Cadillac Plant bring us to sharp questions: What are the real costs of development? What are the long-term implications of using public money and power to benefit corporations at the expense of community? What are the real costs to people and place? Who really benefits? How do we develop our ways of living that protect people and the places we value?

In the short run we traded the homes and memories of nearly 4000 people, 140 small businesses, six churches and one hospital for unfulfilled economic promises. We violated people and the places they loved to produce gas guzzling luxury cars. The powers that be convinced themselves and most everyone else that there was no alternative but to destroy a community in order to save it.

This logic, and the devastation it brings, has been repeated over and over again.  It is repeated today. At the time of Poletown one church leader said, “The overall good of the city is achieved by cutting away a certain part. When you’re trying to make something grow, you prune.”

Poletown calls us to look deeply at the choices we are making, at whose lives and hopes matter. Poletown reminds us that we must find better ways, if we are to develop our city, our people and new ways of living that will carry us to the future.

What We’re Watching and Reading

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The American Empire Will Collapse Within a Decade, Two at Most


Fighting to Keep Wright Museum Connected to the Community and the African Legacy

 

Boggs Center Living For Change News Letter – September 17th, 2018

September 17th, 2018

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COMMUNITY MEETING
CONCERNING THE CHARLES H. WRIGHT MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY

SACRED HEART ACTIVITIES BUILDING
3451 Rivard Street (off I-75 and Mack)

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 2018 6:30—8:30 P.M.

Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell


Memory Work

It has been 17 years since the attacks on September 11. That was a lifetime ago for the young people entering the military, going to university, or heading to what they hope will be the beginnings of life after high school. Many are preparing to vote. All of them have spent their lives in a country at war. They have known Shock and Awe and a series of promises to end the death and killing. Each promise proved a lie.

I was thinking about these young people as I read the news that Muqtada al-Sadr is days away from forming a new government in Iraq. I have followed al-Sadr for more than 20 years. In the 1980s he fought against Saddam Hussein. With the 2003 invasion he led fierce military opposition to the U.S. In 2008 the US puppet government launched Operation Charge of the Knights against him, causing him to flee to Iran. There he shifted his strategy away from military operations and began providing social services. He returned to Iraq in 2011, joining with those fighting the Islamic State. Now he is on the verge of elected power.

Throughout all of this time, Al-Sadr has had three central concerns: The end of the occupation of Iraq, the end of corruption, and the establishment of a government dedicated to the well- being of all its people.

Little covered in the US press, these demands have become critical as Iraq faces a civilian emergency.  Recently there have been massive demonstrations against the existing, US backed government, its corruption, and lack of services.  This summer over 30,000 people were hospitalized for drinking polluted water. For years, people have complained of the lack of basic infrastructure. Meanwhile billions have been spent on “reconstructing Iraq.”

So now Al-Sadr appears after all these years to hold out a promise of a new day, continuing his demands that US leave Iraq alone, that the current government apologize to the people, and step down. He is calling for “radical and immediate solutions.”

Such stories encourage people to ask, what has all of this death and destruction been for? What have we learned about the limits of US military? These questions go to the heart of who we are, who we became through the course of the lives of these young people.

Henry Giroux,  writing on the 10th anniversary of 9-11, as these young people entered 5th grade offered a critical analysis: “The forces that had been undermining democracy since the 1980’s appeared to receive new life under the Bush administration. These included:  the growing power of corporations in American politics; an intensified attack on unions; the ascendency of the military-security state; a persistent and growing racism, especially targeting immigrants and Muslims; the suppression of civil rights, especially under the Military Commissions Act and the Patriot Act; the rise of the punishing state, with its mass incarceration of people of color; the rise of a culture of surveillance and fear; the attack on the social state; the increasing privatization of public life; growing support for a cutthroat form of economic Darwinism and its celebration of cruelty; and the reformulation, under the Bush-Cheney regime, of politics as an extension of war, both abroad and on the domestic front. Lawless behavior has become standard practice.”

He went on to describe the coarseness that has taken over public life, saying, “America has taken a dire turn to the dark side and embraced a ruthless kind of moral Darwinism in which a survival-of-the-fittest logic and a cult-of-the-winner mentality legitimate a war of all against all and pernicious cynicism as the prevailing attitude toward everyday life.  We now live in a society driven by a hyped-up market fundamentalism that thrives on a culture of hardness to the point of cruelty.”

These words were written during the Presidency of Barack Obama, not Donald Trump. But they capture the world we have created. And they cry out to us to recognize the emergency we face. They ask us to look to the life of Al-Sadr, who recognizes there are no quick solutions, no easy paths to creating a world that cares for people.

Giroux concluded with his own call: “If we believe in the promise of democracy, the American public needs to engage in a form of memory work in which loss both evokes the principle of communal responsibility and reinforces the ethical imperative to provide young people, especially those marginalized by race and class, with the economic, social and educational conditions that make life livable and the future sustainable.”

Meditations on activism following the turbulent 1960s—back in print!

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 Following the Detroit Rebellion of 1967, four veteran activists, Grace Lee and Jimmy Boggs, and Lyman and Freddy Paine, came together to rethink revolution and social change. Posting tough, thought-provoking questions, the recorded dialogue among these four friends ultimately serves as a call to all citizens to work together and think deeply about the kind of future we can create.

Meditations on activism following the turbulent 1960s—back in print!

Following the Detroit Rebellion of 1967, four veteran activists, Grace Lee and Jimmy Boggs, and Lyman and Freddy Paine, came together to rethink revolution and social change. Posting tough, thought-provoking questions, the recorded dialogue among these four friends ultimately serves as a call to all citizens to work together and think deeply about the kind of future we can create.

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Come see Ali Dirul, Founder and CEO of Ryter Cooperative Industries (RCI) give a ground breaking TEDx talk on sustainability and his grassroots approach to community based alternative energy solutions.

What We’re Reading

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Boggs Center – Living For Change News – May 14 2018

 

May 14th, 2018
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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.

 

Piper Carter is back for the 3x Dope episode

 

CRISIS OF THE MASS KILLINGS Grace Lee Boggs, “Beyond Civility,” MLK Day 2011

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
Boggs

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
Washington, D.C.

It includes many more of us risking arrest by initiating or joining
non-violent demonstrations.

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
world’s humanity.

We must seize the time!!

From Grace Lee Boggs, “Beyond Civility,” MLK Day 2011

“WE HAVE JUST BEGUN TO FIGHT” Grace Lee Boggs

“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.)