Boggs Center – News November 28th, 2017

Living for Change News
Jimmy and Grace
James and Grace Lee Boggs, “Uprooting Racism and Racists in the United States” 1970

Less obvious but increasingly dangerous has been the human price paid by the entire country for advancing capitalism by all means necessary. In the course of making a unique land of opportunity in which whites climb up the social ladder on the backs of blacks, the American people have become the most materialistic, the most opportunistic, the most individualistic—in sum, the most politically and socially irresponsible people in the world. Step by step, choice by choice, year after year, decade after decade, they have become the political victim of the system they themselves created, unable to make political decisions on the basis of principle no matter how crucial the issue is.

November 28th, 2017


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Thinking for Ourselves

Shea Howell
Asking Questions

I recently received three emails that raised concerns about what is happening in our city. The first was about a young student at Wayne State. She is living in temporary housing, working full time, and going to school. She is looking for a place to live close enough to campus so she can either walk or take public transportation. The second email was about a family looking for a house because they are renting from an absentee landlord who is refusing to provide even minimal upkeep on the home, making it unsafe for a mother and her children. The third was from a grandmother who has recently taken custody of her grandchildren and now faces eviction from her building as children are not welcome there.

Each of these stories seems small in relation to the challenges we face as a city. But in more than 4 decades, I can count on one hand the number of people who have requested help in finding a home. Now I find three families in one week.

That was the same week as the City Council approved giving Dan Gilbert $250 million for the development of 4 new projects including a new skyscraper on the site of the former Hudson’s department store, a mixed use project on the Monroe Block, the renovation of Book Tower, and expansion of One Campus Martius. These four are considered one project in order to qualify for the special billion dollar pot of taxpayer money created at the state level though a package often called “Gilbert Bills,” because of his intense lobbying to establish the brownfields fund. Over a series of resident objections, the Council voted in favor of the project, accepting Gilbert’s argument that this will result in 24,000 jobs.

Only Councilperson, Raquel Castaneda-Lopez, had the courage to object. She used the opportunity to raise the question of tying the use of public funds to a real community benefits ordinance.

Such an ordinance and rethinking about development is urgent. Since the housing crisis of 2008 Detroit has shifted from a city of homeowners to one of predominantly renters. In the course of this shift there has been little thought to the implications of this or to the policy questions it raises. There has been little effort to tie development to affordable housing or to protect renters.

Even though many homes in Detroit are relatively inexpensive, the reality is that it is almost impossible to get a mortgage. If you do not have access to a lump sum of capital, home ownership is almost out of reach. Last year financial giants Bank of America made 18 mortgages and JP Morgan made 6. Dan Gilbert’s Quicken Loans made the most of anyone, coming in at 90.

As John Gallagher recently pointed out, the two most critical areas affecting home ownership are property taxes and water shutoffs. Both policies are driving people out of neighborhoods, creating downward spirals. And both policies could be reversed in ways that support people staying in their homes. Both Philadelphia and now Chicago have adopted water affordability plans that tie water rates to income, not usage. Such a plan has been long advocated in Detroit, but the Mayor stubbornly refuses to move toward this effort.

Others are raising the question of eliminating property taxes for homeowners all together. Currently they bring in less than 15% of our city’s revenue, yet do incalculable harm.

Over the next few weeks, Mayor Duggan is obligated to hold a number of public meetings.  Asking what he doing to protect renters, make housing affordable, support a real community benefits policy, stop water shutoffs and keep people in their homes are critical for all of us.


riverwiseMag_Summer2017_web_1_lwe (1)


 Riverwise Magazine is a collective effort to highlight and strengthen grassroots movement activity throughout the city of Detroit. Former staff members of the Michigan Citizen Newspaper alongside active members of the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center for Nurturing Community Leadership launched the magazine in 2017 with an eye towards reporting on emerging movements, especially among communities of color.

Riverwise documents the people and places building a more equitable and just city. While government agencies lay down the red carpet for billionaire venture capitalists and corporate ‘tech’ headquarters, Detroit’s ‘underserved’ are projecting visions of a sustainable future.

With a distribution of 10,000 copies a quarter, we are encouraging new ways of thinking about our city in coffeehouses, barbershops, community centers and bookstores.  Our work has been supported by a generous grant from the New Visions Foundation and individual donations. We anticipate being able to maintain the current level of funding for basic production for the coming year but we have depended on the volunteer work of authors and artists.

  We are now calling on you, our growing readership, to help us support local writers and artists working with us to tell these remarkable stories. Their unique insights and abilities are essential to projecting new ideas and propelling us towards a more humane world.

Our commitment to expand the traditional role of a community publication is paramount to the mission of Riverwise magazine. We provide an independent, visionary voice about the challenges facing our city and our country. This campaign is one step towards aligning our funding structure with the communities we seek to engage.


The mainstream news media has all but neglected the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico. Data from Media Cloud, a database that collects news published on the Internet every day, shows that the devastation in Puerto Rico is getting relatively little attention from digital and cable news outlets compared to coverage of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.

At the same time, relief for Puerto Ricans has been slow and insufficient. U.S. president Donald Trump dedicated a golf trophy to hurricane victims, and on his October 3rd visit to the island he suggested that hurricane Maria was not a “real catastrophe,” proceeding to throw toilet paper to a crowd of Puerto Ricans.

WATCH #PRonthemap

Please Support the Boggs Center

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
beloved communities.

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
initiatives below.

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:  –  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.

Boggs Center News – November 20th, 2017

Living for Change News
Jimmy and Grace
James and Grace Lee Boggs, ‘Rediscovering the American Past,”

Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century, 1974

After fighting a bloody civil war allegedly to free the slaves, then declaring them legally free, the North allowed them to be put back into a state of servitude equal to or worse than that of slavery. In exchange for the opportunity to develop the West and the North as they saw fit, the Northern industrialists gave back to the Southern slaveholders the right to exploit blacks as they saw fit. Once again, the nation had put economic development, economic expansion, and the material self-interests of the individual ahead of all human considerations. Economics was put in command over politics, degrading politics to a tool of economics—to “dirty politics.” Once again, it was confirmed to those already in the country and to the millions of immigrants still to come, that the pursuit of economic development and economic expansion was the ideology of this nation whatever the cost in terms of human development.



November 20th, 2017

Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Place, Memory and FutureThis week I attended two gatherings that offer much hope for our future. The first was the annual Fall meeting of the National Council of Elders at Haley Farms in Tennessee. I was reminded how much we need the combination of place and memory to think about the future.

The Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) cares for Haley Farms. In 1994 CDF became responsible for what had once been the home of Pulitzer Prize winning author Alex Haley. It is now a place of gathering where thousands of people have come to walk the hills, study in the library, or reflect in the chapel to renew and expand their thinking. It is filled with the spirit of struggles for liberation.

The main farmhouse is now a lodge that welcomes people home. Surrounded by a wide porch offering rocking chairs that bear the names of people now gone, Haley reminds us the longing for freedom persists in this land.

The Council was fortunate to spend time with a group of women from across the south gathering to talk about abolishing prisons and supporting other women as they return to communities. They recognized that the present system has created a cradle to prison pipeline that depends on locking people up as a source of its own profit and power.

One strategy in creating more liberated lives is the use of restorative justice. We learned of the efforts in Nashville to bring restorative justice practices not only to the schools, but to the courts, prosecutors, and jails.  We learned of the use of art to open imagination and consciousness through a wonderful project where students were given two items, a school desk and prison uniform, to create an artistic statement. Displaying these creations in front of the courthouse, police, judges, lawyers, prosecutors and jurors had to confront images of chained bodies, money pouring out of pockets, and handcuffed bibles as young people expressed how their souls are being sold and destroyed.  In simple yet powerful ways, new images become a basis for change, opening new ways to see our world.

We also heard much about the developments of Project South that has spent more than three decades supporting movement work and advancing the practice of democracy.  Through popular education, collective action, and imaginative programs, Project South has been evolving the work of People’s Movement Assemblies as a way to create new forms of governance. Recognizing that we must find ways to not only care for one another, but to make decisions about our lives and communities, Project South has been pushing the edges of our thinking about local control in the face of a hostile state.

After returning briefly to Detroit, I went to the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership in Kalamazoo. There a small group of activists rooted in the Midwest had gathered to think about the importance of our region in creating new ways of living and being.

It was a rich few days, stimulated by a visit to the Sweet Water Foundation in Chicago.

Sweet Water practices Regenerative Placemaking, creating “safe and inspiring spaces for healthy, intergenerational communities that transform the ecology” of neighborhoods. Blending urban agriculture, art and education, Sweet Water is a vivid example that we already know some of the pathways to a better future.

This year as many of us gather to celebrate the ties of family and friends, we should hold fast to those places and memories that sustain us as we imagine the world we want and so need to create.

When it comes to the internet, our connections are generally controlled by telecom companies. But a group of people in Detroit is trying to change that. Motherboard met with the members of the Equitable Internet Initiative (EII), a group that is building their own wireless networks from the ground up in order to provide affordable and high-speed internet to prevent the creation of a digital class system.

Nelson and Joyce Johnson Challenge and Uplift the Kirkridge 75th Anniversary Celebrations
Rich Feldman and Shaun Nethercott
“Was it a privilege to be taken by your grandfather to a picnic and watch people laughing and smiling while an African American human being was being lynched?

Was it a privilege to have an ancestor throw human beings to the sharks and the sea during the Middle Passage?

Was it privilege to watch dogs and firehoses be set of people peacefully protesting for that most basic civil right of voting?”

These were the startling and transformative questions offered by Nelson and Joyce Johnson at the recent 75th anniversary celebration of the Kirkridge Retreat and Study Center ( in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.

The audience, mostly older Christian European Americans progressives from throughout the United States and Canada, were challenged and uplifted by Nelson’s gently stated, but oh-so-provocative questions, originally posed by activist and theologian Ruby Sales. (More information about Ruby Sales can be found at:

The questions changed the tenor of the moment, bringing both reflection and tears to the audience, many of whom later pointed to these questions as the single most important moment of the 75th Anniversary celebrations at Kirkridge.

Joyce and Nelson ended the final panel with a favorite song written by Vincent Harding, (For a brief video and pictures and to learn more about Vincent Harding, please see

A few years ago, Janice Fialka joined the Board and introduced Nelson and Joyce Johnson from the Beloved Community of Greensboro, NC ( to the Kirkridge community.  For the 75th anniversary celebration, the Board of Directors invited Nelson and Joyce to share their stories, vision, and testimony of more than 50 years of commitment and transformation in Greensboro, NC.

As keynote presenters, the Johnsons also provided an historical analysis linking the birth of our nation with the interconnected growth of racism and capitalism.  They recalled their on-going work and success creating Beloved Community in Greensboro.  In the early years of their work, they organized workers and students at North Carolina A&T, North Carolina University, K-Mart, and at Smithfield Foods and Meat Packing.  This unifying work excited the ire of local capitalists, who collaborated with local police and nearby KKK to attack a peaceful protest on November 3, 1979, resulting in the deaths of five protesters.

In 2006, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission released a report which condemned not only the KKK and the American Nazi Party, but also the Greensboro Police Department and the city itself for being responsible for the events of November 3, 1979, as well as the subsequent cover-up.  After the recent attacks in Charlottesville, the Greensboro City Council finally apologized for the events of 1979, but the Johnsons are waiting to see if the apologetic words are matched with appropriate actions.

The Johnson reminded the gathering: the struggle and commitment to heal continues. From their work with the Moral Mondays Movement to their current organizing with the new Poor People’s Campaign, Nelson and Joyce have never separated spiritual work, social transformation, healing and a commitment to peaceful revolution.  As such, their work and activism now join Kirkridge Retreat and Study Center’s illustrious history of social transformation.

Located on a ridge of the beautiful Kittatinny Ridge of northeast Pennsylvania, overlooking the Delaware Valley, Kirkridge has been a Christian and interfaith retreat center since the 1940s.  Originally built to be place of Christian social engagement, or as its founder John Oliver Nelson put it, a place where activist pastors could both “picket and pray.”

In the intervening years, it provided safe and brave spaces for peace activists like the Berrigan brothers, and more than 40 years of retreats for gay, lesbian and transgender folks  More recently, it became home for a large group of Courage and Renewal Fellows to study and train in the works of Palmer Parker to deepen work in educational and community settings  It has also become a center for progressive music and culture, hosting music workshops with singers and composers like Carolyn McDade and Ysaye Barnwell, as well as hosting the annual Bread for the Journey Poetry gatherings.

In the past few years, it has sponsored and developed the Together It’s Possible (TIP) Program. (, a groundbreaking self-advocacy program for young adults with intellectual disabilities, and their families and friends.  Each week, the group gathers in a glassmaking studio the group assembled on the grounds of Kirkridge.  Not only do they transform glass bottles and other glass refuse into stunning works of jewelry, housewares, and artwork, they also provide support, community, and advocacy for each other.  Funds from the sales of the glass works, supports additional training, travel and opportunities for the participants.

TIP is a vivid demonstration of the power of collective action and the necessity to recognize and develop the capacity of all people.   Visitors are encouraged to visit Kirkridge and meet the young men and women and their families who show by their actions the movement towards inclusion and the beloved community.    They remind us, as disability activist Dan Wilkins often says: “A community that excludes even one of its members, is no community at all!”

In the presentation of Johnsons, in the work of Together It’s Possible, and the legacy of Kirkridge thoughtful and spirit-centered social change, the entire audience was challenged and uplifted to address the moral bankruptcy and spiritual destruction present in contemporary culture.  Because these rifts are deep in our souls and rooted in our history, the audience was asked to find new ways to undo “the evil triplets of racism, militarism and materialism,” generate a radical revolution in values and build the beloved community.  A sense of that community was present in the dedication of a new barn with the songs and music from the Riverside Church Choir of New York City and a reading of the stories of Kirkridge, organized by Shaun and Wes Nethercott.

Kirkridge Retreat and Study Center offers itself as a place to do this hard work, a “thin place,” where diverse people can work together to move beyond our historic failings, heal our divisions and build a new culture and nation centered in love, community, and human dignity.  As Kirkridge’ enters its second 75 years, let us break the silence about the moral, spiritual historical destruction of our nation’s soul, as we recognize the material benefits arising from the oppression of African-Americans and other people of color.  The Johnsons and Kirkridge ask us to look beyond our greed, grow our souls, and build a Beloved Community for all.


The Profound Misunderstanding the Public Has About How the Military Operates
Frank Joyce

In one of the greatest PR successes of all time, close to 100 percent of Americans believe the United States has a volunteer military. It does not. What the United States does have is a recruited military.

The distinction matters for many reasons, most importantly because overcoming profound public misunderstandings on this and other realities of the U.S. killing machine is essential to building a vigorous anti-war movement.
Before we zoom in, let’s zoom out.

Just as a fish may not know it’s wet, few Americans have any idea of just how pervasive militarism is in defining who we are as a nation and as a people. From the massacre of indigenous people to the suppression of slave resistance, we are steeped in brutal and relentless slaughter. We are also utterly and completely immersed in language designed to confuse and obscure just how much killing and destroying we do.

At the very core of our identity is the idea that “freedom” requires that we kill, kill, kill. “They died for our freedom,” rings throughout the land, not just on Veterans Day or July 4, but every day. While we say they died, what we also mean is that they killed. As Donald Trump and General Kelly put it, “that’s what they signed up for.”

To be clear, there is a cohort that does join the military voluntarily. Many are the children of active duty and retired military personnel. Many are low-income for the simple reason that the military offers a place of relative stability and opportunity. Some join out of sincere support for the mission of the U.S. military and/or because they are attracted to the military way of life. But however many genuine volunteers there are, there are nowhere near enough of them to meet the Pentagon’s staffing needs. Which is where the recruiting machinery comes into play.

As an exercise, try keeping track of how many times a day you see or hear something that in some way glorifies the use of force, either in personal conversation or more commonly from the media. Yes, any version at all of “thank you for your service,” counts, whether it refers to a “first responder” (isn’t that a clever phrase), or a citizen, or a soldier.

Instead of just letting all that praise and worship wash over you, pay attention. Notice how often you see military references at sporting events. This is not an accident. It is but one component in the Pentagon’s vast recruiting operation.

Consider this little nugget from a Wall Street Journal article on the debate over whether Roger Goodell should continue as Commissioner of the National Football League.

Remember that the NFL was cultivated into prominence by Pete Rozelle, a pro-war conservative. In the 1960s, Rozelle hired a World War II veteran-turned-filmmaker, Ed Sabol, to produce highlights, commercials and documentaries that marketed the sport as patriotic and militaristic. Sabol’s NFL Films made football feel more American than baseball. His work was so critical to the league’s wild growth that in 2011 he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The same honor had been bestowed on Rozelle in 1985, while he was still commissioner.

Back in 2015 Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain rocked this boat a little by questioning the Pentagon’s relationship to sports:

“The Pentagon has paid more than $9 million to professional sports franchises the past four years, including $6.8 million to stage ‘paid patriotism’ events, Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain disclosed Wednesday.

“The events ranged from full-field displays of the American flag to enlistment and re-enlistment ceremonies and emotional reunions of returning servicemembers and their families.

“’What is upsetting is when you see activities like this that people assume when they go to games are paid for out of the goodness of the heart by the owners and the teams, and then to find out the taxpayers are paying for it. It kind of cheapens (it) and it’s simply not right,’ Flake said at a news conference with McCain to release the report.”

Needless to say, the effort by Senators Flake and McCain to illuminate this activity had no impact whatsoever.






Please Support the Boggs Center

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
beloved communities.

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
initiatives below.

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:  –  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.

Dig – Angela Jones – 2009


In DIG poet Angela Jones, now 24 and on her way to the Peace Corps in Peru, shares with us the identity she has forged for herself from being in and with Detroit Summer since she was 14. It is from imaginations like hers that will come answers to the many fundamental interconnected and demanding questions with which this essay began.


There are forgotten truths in this soil

And I’m going to dig for them

But don’t give me those tools that my brothers used

To extract diamonds from a land

That they once called home

Oh ,no, I’m going to use my hands.


I’ll scar the ground and scrape the stones

In desperation

Digging for a truth that is buried down deep

Buried with a purpose

I’ll scratch with my nails and punch with my fists

Shaking the earth with their urgent blows

Until I hit some solid surface

The surface of a revelation so true

It’s too true to bear witness to.


These violent secrets unveiled that are dirty

Like t he dust on my knuckles

Angry and clenched in a fretful pose

This earth is not a lake, where I can dip palms in

And let drops drip from my fingertips

No, these secrets are too painful

And the earth is unwilling

So I will make my hands of metal

Digging through the cracked cement to excavate



Finding tombs of wombs that bare the fruit

Of privileged elite

In moth-eaten purple pin-stripe

My destiny is to dig for doubtless truths

Shattering dogmas with jackhammers

And hiding jailhouse files in my raised fist

To file away the bars of steel mines

And copper mines

Freeing ancestors of mine, and y ours

From slavery, indentured servitude,

And minimum wage.


This earth that hides the headlines and hellraisers

Of old revolutions

Is that same earth that bore me into a kingdom

Of corrupt kings and cruel intentions

This institution is not amorous

It knows its sins – now I shall know them, too.


This dirt is soaked with nuclear test sites

Ghetto mounds of grass-covered garbage

Where children run through mutated weeds

This dirt is carried on the wind

Gets in your eyes and blinds you

From the internment camps that were once there

In this soil rests the sullen graves of adobe huts

And in their place grow reservation HUD houses

And welfare cheese

Barrio booze and CIA-sold street crystals

All picked from the same genetically modified tree

Grown in the closet we hide our skeletons in.


The deep, dark depths of the earth

Hide the secrets to shame and bad decisions

What’s fair is often forgotten

And you can’t find freedom from a flag

You have to dig for it.


So dig for your freedom

Fragile figures of history’s failures

Or I’ll dig for you

For those fools of fortune I’ll plow through

The lies and muck of middle-earth

Turning stock shares into ploughshares

Giving campesinos back their poly-cultural crops

I’ll worm my way though the holes in this planet

To other kingdoms and freedoms forgotten

Because t his earth is not rotten

It cleanses itself every other empire

By hands that dig for the truth


Through old tragedies and fallen legacies

We must keep the past in mind and at hand.

To seize that chance to begin anew.



Jobs aren’t the Answer by Grace Lee Boggs written 2011


Jobs aren’t the Answer

By Grace Lee Boggs 2011

The continuing Jobs crisis is an opportunity to go beyond protest organizing for more Jobs and begin imagining Work that frees us from being the appendages to machines that we have become because of our dependence on Jobs.

Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times

Instead of looking to politicians for programs that will provide millions of Jobs, we need to encourage the creation of Work that not only produces goods and services but develops our skills, protects our environment and lifts our spirits.

In a letter read recently to hundreds of activists at an Environmental Justice gathering, University of Michigan Professor and futurist Bunyan Bryant explained the thinking needed for this visionary organizing.

It begins, he said, by making a distinction between Work and a Job as outlined by Mathew Fox (The Re-Invention of Work)

“A job is similar to slavery in that one is forced to perform actions in return for some sort of compensation for one’s labor.  Therefore the rewards are extrinsic, and without such extrinsic rewards people cannot be forced into a job they dislike.  To tolerate or compensate for these job conditions often times people will engage in excessive consumerism or self-medicate to counteract the boredom that comes from a job or to make themselves feel better.

“Work, on the other hand, is defined as activities that one enjoys.  To be compensated with money is not important because of the pleasures and satisfaction of work. Therefore the rewards are more intrinsic.

A Society that Works

“ I envision a multi-racial society where people perform the requirements of a job three days a week.  Jobs are designed to perform the basic functions or necessities of society.  The other four days of the week are devoted to work activities of teaching, learning, and healing the earth. It would also be a time to spend more quality time with family, friends and to pursue one’s hobbies and special interests.

“Full employment can be defined as 90 percent unemployment. People will devote their time to build a green economy and one that is compatible with the Earth’s life-cycle. People will be liberated to participate in community-based research projects to help the poor and to protect the environment.

“Every six years people would get a two year paid sabbatical to travel to distant parts of the planet to help people in need and to work for healthy environments, green economies, peace and prosperity of the mind, body and spirit. In order for this to happen requires a skillful use of technology and a commitment to the future.”

Bunyan’s vision of a Society that Works reminds me of the               {r} evolutionary transformation that Jimmy Boggs envisioned nearly 50 years ago in The American Revolution as automation and Hi Tech eliminated the need for human creativity and energies to make things. Those energies and that creativity, Jimmy said, could be used to make politics and a better world — without war and without global warming.

REIMAGINING WORK: A conversation in Detroit, sponsored by over 15 community organizations. Oct. 28-30, 2011. !!!!!