Boggs Center – Living For Change Newsletter December 11th, 2018

December 11th, 2018




Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Beyond Lame Ducks


Throughout Michigan people are rallying to challenge the Lame Duck actions of the state legislature. Protest, public demonstrations and outright mockery are tactics being deployed against a secure, smug legislative body. Many groups are placing their hopes in the Governor. They are urging us to call Gov. Snyder’s office and ask him to veto these lame-duck bills. I will join this effort, but I hold out little hope that this governor will be moved to reject the full array of bills being jammed through this legislature.  

What is happening in Michigan, and in a host of other places around the country, is the result of a concerted effort by right wing republicans to develop effective practices to undermine democracy. They are finding ways to curtail people center policies that challenge corporate interests. The actions by the republican dominated legislature are not the result of panic at having lost the three major elected offices of the state to Democrats. Rather, these are actions that have been evolving over the years to blunt the will of people to curtail the power of money and corporate interests.

Republican ideologues and the corporate interests that back them have long understood that democracy is not their friend. The passage of the Voting Rights act in 1965 aimed to eliminate legal barriers such as literacy tests and poll taxes at the state and local levels. These practices were aimed specifically at preventing African Americans from voting. The new Voting Rights Act ensured federal oversight in places where less than 50% of the non-white population were registered.  Since the passage of this Act, right wing interests and white supremacists have been seeking other means to exert their control. They have consistently undermined the Act itself, resisted its reauthorization, and under Trump, are actively moving away from any federal challenges to state voting practices.

Meanwhile, State governments, like Michigan, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, have been pushing to find new ways to undermine democracy. These efforts have been developed and refined by right wing think tanks and politicians for decades. Tactics such as moving polling places, gerrymandering districts, restricting numbers of polling stations in urban areas, denying student voting, demanding picture IDs, and steamrolling legislation to undermine citizen initiatives are all thriving, often literally under the cover of night. Certainly, without much public notice or oversight.

At the center of the lame duck efforts in Michigan, there are two consistent strategies emerging. First there is the effort to limit the power of public referenda, either by first passing and then gutting popular initiative such as raising the minimum wage and providing sick leave for people.  This tactic is combined with efforts to eliminate the capacity of local governments to pass legislation. 

The Michigan legislature is after every local expression of protection of the environment from stripping local officials to overseeing tree planting to monitoring septic tanks. The legislature fears the changes that people are willing to make when they directly meet together in face to face, person to person, efforts to create new ways of living.

As we resist these right wing moves by the lame ducks, we need to think about the larger implications for public decision making. Representative democracy is now more than 200 years old. In these last 40 years, we have seen a persistent erosion of the centuries long effort to expand the notion of who is a citizen, how they are represented, and how such representatives are held accountable. From the Supreme court deciding elections against the popular vote to the decision eight years in, Citizens United the country is experiencing “a wave of campaign spending that by any reasonable standard is extraordinarily corrupt.”

Direct democracy, where people engage with each other to determine what matters, needs to be fostered at every level. By strengthening our most immediate and direct relationships we can begin to create new political practices that will point us toward a new democratic future.

The list of bad bills in Michigan’s ongoing lame-duck legislative session

Rich Feldman
Hurt People, Hurt People

As a citizen of Oakland County, as a Jewish American and as I retired UAW union member and elected official, I believe we are at critical times that we break our individual and collective silence.  

During the past year, I have been challenged to think about my childhood in the 1950s and 1960s, as a young kid in Brooklyn, NY.  I vividly remember the pictures and stories from the Holocaust and also watching on television the pictures of angry, viscous white people and police hosing, screaming, yelling, encouraging dogs to bite, beating and arresting the children and citizens of Birmingham Alabama.  It was the television coverage of the Birmingham Children’s March of 1963 which lead to MLK’s “I Have a Dream speech first given in Detroit and then Washington DC.    Just as vivid in my mind are the pictures of the murder and bludgeoning of Emmitt Till and the courageous act of Emmett Till’s mother to have an open casket. I remember clearly how this led to Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. 

I was fortunate to be raised in a family that was clear about good & evil and the fact that the barbaric white rage we were witnessing were on the wrong side of that (White Supremist Rage or Nazi Violence).  

These past few months, I was in Pittsburgh and visited memorials of the 11 Jewish Americans killed as they attended the Tree of Life Synagogue.  I have also watched immigrant children placed in cages and now I watch families and children being tear gassed at our borders.    
As I grew up and learned more about “Good Germans” and more about children, immigrants and refugees who were denied entry into the US during the 1930s and 1940s, this silence has become more significant.   Many of you know this story and tell your children and grandchildren about the: 

 “In May 1939, the German liner St. Louis sailed from Hamburg, Germany, to Havana, Cuba, carrying 937 passengers, almost all Jewish refugees. The Cuban government refused to allow the ship to land, and the United States and Canada were unwilling to admit the passengers. The St. Louis passengers were finally permitted to land in western European countries rather than return to Nazi Germany. 254 St. Louis passengers were killed in the Holocaust.”

What has changed?  

We continue to go along and be more concerned with our comforts and our “own.”  Even when the tragedy in Pittsburgh makes it clear that we live in dangerous times, we remain silent to the other. Thus we are silent.   While a small number of religious activists and community social justice organizers have organized caravans to the border and there have been some conversations about racism, immigration, most of us go back to business as usual.  Do we go back to business as usual because we are hopeless or because we have no moral compass or vision of a more human human way to live and relate?  

We have a special responsibility to break our silence NOW:

Thus I call upon synagogues to declare themselves Sanctuary Synagogues.

I call upon the social justice committees to commemorate MLK’s 2019 birthday with listening to, reading and creating sermons in January based upon the words of Martin Luther King’s 1967 speech:  Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence. 

In this speech he challenged us to overcome the evil triplets of racism, materialism and militarism and create a life based upon a radical revolution in values.

Lastly, I share this tool that we look forward as we speak out against injustice”  I call upon every synagogue to place on their websites and share on facebook the 3 minute video by Vincent Harding:   I am a citizen of a Country that does not yet exist :

As a Citizen of Oakland County, I think it is time to speak out loudly and clearly that Brooks Patterson is an obstacle to creating a new unity in our region.   Brooks Patterson once supported the KKK and defended their burning of buses in the 1970s. He has done everything he could to ridicule, belittle and disrespect people in Detroit and uphold the materialist values of Oakland County.  We need to break our silence and the Jewish Community can lead the way in demanding that Oakland County become a Sanctuary City based upon values of compassion, empathy, caring and human dignity for all.  Contact me if you want to join with others to create a Democracy Circle to Break our Silence in your synagogue, community or city.

As a retired UAW international staff person, I pledge to continue to create conversations with workers who find it easier to blame and condemn than engage and create a future that is based upon the principles of love and solidarity.   

Hurt people, hurt people.  If we remember our own histories, maybe we can create a county, a community and workplaces that are an alternative to the current narrative driven by hate and violence which are dominating our area and our country.

poletown fb


GM Plant Closing: Poletown Lives! + Community Conversation
6:30 – 8:30 PM
WSU Law School
471 W. Palmer St.
Detroit, MI

(See last night’s Poletown coverage on PBS, here)

What We’re Watching and Reading

Community tells Wright Museum Board “We are tired of the slave narrative”

– Facing Race: Racial Justice Now and Forever!

Dec 13 flyer 2

Boggs Center – Living For Change News Letter – November 27th, 2018

November 27th, 2018

grace and jimmy




the problem with wokeness

Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Pipeline Perils

The poisoning of the water in Flint Michigan was the direct result of a republican dominated lame duck legislature acting to benefit corporations and abuse democracy. Now the republican dominated lame duck legislature is threatening the waters of the Great Lakes.

In 2012 Rick Snyder began his career as Governor opposing the will of the people. After a state-wide initiative soundly defeated emergency manangement powers in the state, Governor Snyder pushed through lame duck legislation that strengthened emergency management and made it referendum proof.

In a statement defending the action, Snyder declared the new law would “respect the needs of citizens and taxpayers by delivering greater oversight and efficiency. Our reinvention of government is delivering meaningful reforms that will keep Michigan on the path to prosperity,” he said. None of these benefits materialized. This assault on democracy resulted in disasters.

Instead of a “path to prosperity” that “respected citizens” we saw a path to poison, that disregarded the voices of citizens who tried desperately to get government officials to acknowledge what was plain for all to see. Flint water was contaminated.

This same legal framework became the excuse for massively transferring public goods into private hands in Benton Harbor, Flint, Pontiac, and Detroit. It restricted governmental capabilities and established disastrous educational policies.

Now, Governor Snyder is ending his term by pushing another lame duck effort. This time he is risking the Great Lakes to benefit a major oil producing corporation, Enbridge. Snyder is working furiously to establish a 99-year deal that includes the construction of an underground tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac to replace the controversial Line 5.  Snyder assures us that this “historic agreement” would “eliminate nearly every risk” and be a way of “better connecting our peninsulas, improving energy security and supporting economic development.”

In reality, this deal ensures continued operations of the aging pipeline for a decade. It puts the Great Lakes at further risk, committing us to an energy future based on fossil fuels, and threatens much of the world’s surface fresh water.

This lame duck deal is in direct defiance of the will of the people. A poll conducted by EPIC-MRA last April found that about 87 percent of the people in Michigan are concerned about the safety of Line 5.  More than half of those polled said it should be shut down. The incoming governor and attorney general both oppose the pipeline and tunnel.

Additionally, the whole project would be shifted out of public oversight by establishing new parameters for the Mackinac Bridge Authority, an organization ill equipped for such responsibility.

Line 5, build in 1953, currently carries up to 540,000 barrels of oil and natural gas every day through one of the most vulnerable spots in the Great Lakes. Enbridge has a history of environmental degradation and danger. A quick read of the actions it pledges to take to protect the pipeline during construction shows how foolish a company it is. Enbridge would provide teams capable of shutting down the line quickly, underwater inspection, cameras, and increased monitoring of anchors.  The obvious question is, “Why are earth is Enbridge not taking these steps now, especially after the fiasco in April that threatened to dump millions of gallons of oil into the upper Great Lakes?”

Democracy is no guarantee of good decisions. But we have painful experiences here in Michigan to demonstrate that circumventing democracy, defying the will of the people, and using lame duck sessions to promote profits lead to disaster. We cannot allow legalistic tricks to risk our future.

1130 flyer concept


Two weeks ago, we had an amazing community conversation about the issues affecting Oakland County.

On December 1st at 1 pm, join us at Grace Episcopal Church in Mount Clemens for a community conversation about the issues facing Macomb County, and how to address systemic issues such as racial injustice with creative new solutions that center our values.

Boggs Center – Living For Change News Letter. November 23rd, 2018

November 23rd, 2018

grace and jimmy



Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
A New We

This week the National Council of Elders met in Detroit. The Council was formed in 2011 by Vincent Harding and James and Phil Lawson, all veterans of the Black Liberation struggle and close associates of Martin Luther King. The purpose of the Council is “to engage leaders of 20th century civil rights movements to share what they have learned with young leaders of the 21st century and to promote the theory and practice of nonviolence.”

At the time of the decision to call elders together, there was a growing sense of urgency in the country. We were witnessing an “escalation of all forms of violence and the rise of anti-democratic forces” as white supremacists were reacting to the presidency of Barack Obama and the growing recognition that whites would soon no longer hold “majority” status and power. Many of us recognized that the increasing tensions between revolution and counter revolution were calling a new generation of activists to commit themselves to engaging people and structures in progressive change. We hoped to find ways to “deepen important story-based dialogue with younger activists who are currently on the frontlines of activism across the U.S.”

This engagement is more than sharing stories. Most of the members of the Council are immersed in daily work alongside their younger counterparts. Some are standing with immigrants at our borders, offering sanctuary and challenging the brutal policies of this administration. Some are working in the new Poor People’s Campaign to create a sense of moral urgency around the increasing poverty and degradation of life for so many of our people. Some are working in peace making and reconciliation, education and community visionary development. All share a belief that we must create a radical revolution in values and stand against the evils of militarism, racism and materialism. We know that the revolution in values called for by Dr. King more than 50 years ago would be hollow without a commitment today to protect our earth.

As we move into 2019, the Council agreed to call for a year of dialogue on the theme pressed by Vincent Harding. Dr. Harding often talked of being a citizen of a country that does not yet exist. Drawing on the 1938 poem of Langston Hughes, Let America Be America Again Dr. Harding challenged people to think about the distance between who we are and who we want to be. He frequently quoted the lines
O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet, I swear this oath—America will be!

Vincent asked us to believe in our potential to create a better place for ourselves and our children.

Yet, I imagine if Vincent were alive today, he might be placing as much attention on the last stanza of the poem as he did on this one. He would recognize the call to “Make America Great Again” as the trumpet of white supremacy.

But Langston Hughes offered a different view of what we can fashion out of this moment of brutal ugliness. He wrote:
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain—
All, all the stretch of these great green states—
And make America again!

The capacity to redeem and dream, to fashion to a better future out of cruelty and greed, to create a new we, are still our challenges.
It’s Time to Repeal the Genesis Doctrine
Frank Joyce


The following is adapted from remarks given in accepting the Coleman H.  McGhehee Jr. Champion of Justice Award from the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights (MCHR)

As I stand here this evening, humbled and proud to receive this award, I think it boils down to this.

The rotten system, the cursed idea that white men are somehow superior, not only to other humans but to rivers and coral reefs and forests and elephants and termites and water and fire is coming to an end.

The repeal of the toxic doctrine of Genesis is up for a vote.

God did NOT give MEN dominion over women or of all other life forms. That whole strange idea is wrong. And dangerous.

Fortunately, Homo Sapiens are not the only eligible voters in this referendum.

In fact, if we don’t get this right, we won’t be voters at all. Humans need the planet. The planet does not need humans.

Or, to put it another way, the planet will surely survive. Humans may not.

But humans can survive and even thrive. It won’t be easy, but it surely can be done. How?

Our differences, our silos, our “intersections”, if you will, must be put aside. It is the white way of thinking that must go. Root and branch. All of it.

White people are not superior. Period. The evidence is in. White people are, to be sure, good at myth making, at fairy tales. Very good.

That, after all, is what white supremacy IS—a pervasive, invasive species of a myth. It’s a bad human invention like Agent Orange, plastic shopping bags and the so-called Electoral College.

Fortunately, the world around us is already making another, truer, better story. A story of peace instead of war. A story of kindness rather than endless acts of violence, large and small. It is a narrative of love and harmony and proportion.

This new world is not all about stuff. It is a world that, as Richard Powers puts it, needs to stop, just plain stop, squandering a billion years of planetary evolution in favor of bling.

It is a world that cherishes every living thing far more than self driving cars and mobile telephones with more pixels and better weapons for killing.

It is up to us, each of us and all of us, which of these two worlds we choose.

That is the cry for justice that calls us now.

What We’re Reading


order your copy



What We’re Watching

The Mariachi Who’s Bringing Internet to Detroit | NBC Left Field

Rita Ramirez is not your typical mariachi. When she’s not on stage with Detroit’s first female-led mariachi band, she spends her time bringing internet to her neighbors, one home at a time. Through the Equitable Internet Initiative, Rita works to connect the estimated 40 percent of Detroiters who still lack an internet connection in their homes. This episode of Tag was co-produced by Erik Paul Howard and Anastasia Klimovitz, two Detroit photojournalists who helped bring Rita’s story to life.


Boggs Center – Living For Change News Letter. – October 31st, 2018

October 31st, 2018

grace and jimmy

It has been a week of hate crimes and violence across the country.

Please join us at interfaith press event to condemn recent acts of violenceand extremism targeting the Jewish community, immigrants, African-Americans and the press, and call for unity and mutual support.

We must loudly proclaim our positive vision of a strong, multi-cultural democracy, and affirm the importance of pluralism and freedom of the press.

1 PM, Thursday, Nov. 1st
Islamic House of Wisdom
22575 Ann Arbor Trail
Dearborn Heights, MI

Speakers & Attendees Confirmed So Far:
Imam Elahi, Islamic House of Wisdom
Rev. Ed Rowe, Methodist Federation for Social Action
Rev. Paul Perez, Office of Peace & Justice, Michigan Conference of the United Methodist Church
Imam Mustapha El-Turk, Islamic Organization of North America
Rabbi Ariana Silverman, Downtown Synagogue
Rashida Tlaib
*more to be confirmed*

RSVP to:



Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Weaponizing Water

Gary Brown, the director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, recently revealed that the Duggan administration is once again threatening to use water shut offs as a weapon to clear people out of neighborhoods.  Brown had scarcely concluded his interview with Bridge Magazine when Food and Water Watch released its first national assessments of water shut offs for non-payment of bills. The report entitled America’s Secret Water Crisis: National Shutoff Survey Reveals Water Affordability Emergency Affecting Millions,  is a stark condemnation of the approach Duggan is taking to the water crisis.

Duggan and Brown would do well to consider the key findings of the report. It concludes:

  • We estimate that 15 million Americans experienced a water shutoff for overdue bills in 2016.
  • The average water utility shut off one in 20 households for nonpayment that year.
  • The most water shutoffs are concentrated in the South: Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Florida.

Detroit figured prominently in the report. Of the 73 municipalities that responded to the survey, Detroit ranks number 9 in percentage of shut offs. We are the largest city outside the South to experience these shut offs.

The report explains, “the highest shutoff rates occurred in lower-income cities with higher rates of poverty and unemployment. Water service is exceedingly unaffordable for low-income households in Detroit and New Orleans, in particular. More than one in five households in these cities receive water bills that exceed 9 percent of their income.”

Shut off policies and high water bills especially effect communities of color. The report noted, “Overall, communities of color had higher water bill burdens. This pattern was seen among the cities with the highest and lowest shutoff rates.”

Things do not need to be this way. Two cities do not use a shut off policy at all for non payment of bills, Eau Claire, Wisconsin and Leominster, Massachusetts. Several cities have either adopted, or are moving toward real water affordability based on income, not use.

The truth that Brown, Duggan and the corporate elite refuse to admit is that water shut offs make no economic sense. As economists have demonstrated time and again, a water affordability plan based on income is a much smarter way to collectively support public utilities. Such a plan rewards conservation, supports vulnerable families, improves public health, and expands consciousness of our responsibilities as stewards of the waters that support us.

Yet Duggan and his cronies have refused to address this logic. Instead they have avoided any substantial effort to provide a rational water policy.

Now Gary Brown has made it clear why. The administration sees water as a weapon for ethnic cleansing.

This was clear from the first day of Emergency Management when Kevyn Orr tried to sell the water department to private interests. Ultimately that effort lead to the establishment of the Great Lakes Water Authority, the loss of control of the department by the city, and a deal that will earn Detroit less per year than it is currently paying the consultants to review the water system.

Duggan of course denies he intends to close down any neighborhoods. But the reality is that the current pattern of persistent water shut offs, foreclosures, school closings and lack of adequate transportation make life more and more difficult throughout much of the city.

Detroit has the opportunity to provide visionary, thoughtful policies for water usage. There are broad citizen coalitions that have spent decades clarifying the simple ideas that water is a human right and a sacred trust. These organizations have already crafted affordable water policies and have led the way in water conservation and consciousness.

It should be clear to everyone Duggan is weaponizing water in his drive to remake Detroit as a whiter, wealthier city. Evidence keeps mounting that he is ignoring those who have an inclusive justice vision of how we can live together.

What We’re Watching

Pulitzer-prize winning Journalist, Author and Activist Chris Hedges, discusses modern day consumerism, totalitarian corporate power and living in a culture dominated by pervasive illusion.



Assembly & Training in Detroit, November 8-12, 2018


Assembly & Training in Detroit, November 8-12, 2018



Boggs Center Living For Change – October 16 th, 2018

October 16th, 2018

grace and jimmy

Design 2

Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Effecting the Children

This week the Michigan League for Public Policy released a new report on the crisis of education in our state. It identifies the failures of decades of so-called reforms and argues for a honest look at systemic racism embedded in these efforts

The report urges legislators, leaders and all concerned people to face “the inescapable truth of deep inequities in educational opportunities and outcomes for children based on race, ethnicity, place and income.”

It continues, “While all children can learn and deserve a top-notch education, children of color and those living in low-income communities face barriers to educational success from cradle to career. Attempts to improve Michigan’s educational system without addressing those barriers will undoubtedly fail.”

The study puts the failure of state educational efforts into a broader context explaining that “educational disparities do not occur in a vacuum and can be traced to public policies that limit employment and housing options for many parents, fail to adequately recognize the added costs of teaching children who live in high-poverty neighborhoods, and view investments in teachers as a “diversion” of school funding away from children.”

The report concludes with a series of recommendations to law makers. These recommendations are not new, but they point to how inadequate recent legislatures have been in addressing the needs of our children.

The first step, the report says is for policy makers to “consider the impact of potential budget and policy decisions on children of color and low income communities.” It goes on to recommend investment in “efforts to reduce poverty and ameliorate the impact of poverty on learning.”

These first two recommendations should guide any decision, anywhere. The simple question, “how does this effect the children” should be a basic standard of judgment. By this standard most of the policies enacted by our city fail.  Water shut offs, foreclosures, punitive testing, lack of transportation, escalating rents, and the use of public money to build jails and entertainment center all fail to meet this basic standard.

As we consider this report, I was reminded of one published more than a year ago by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission. It was described at the time as “a searing 135 page report,” documenting the impact of “systematic racism” and the “complete failure of government.” The subject was the Flint water crisis. That report also “delved into the history of race and racism in Flint.”  It linked structural racism to emergency management legislation and “called for changes in the state’s emergency manager law and more training on racial bias at all levels of state government.”

“It is abundantly clear that race played a major role in developing the policies and causing the events that turned Flint into a decaying and largely abandoned urban center, a place where a crisis like this one was all but inevitable,”

The Flint report concluded with this warning. “We cannot predict what the next crisis will be, when it will occur, or in which decaying urban center it will happen. But we do know that unless we do something, it will occur, and it will disparately harm people of color.”

These reports are bringing to the forefront of public discussion a reality that most of us know every day in our bones. It is a reality that diminishes the lives of all of us, but especially those of our children. The urgency for deep, structural change has never been clearer. Care for the children. Advance democracy. Provide the basic necessities for life. Our challenge is to find new, collective ways to craft just futures for our children and ourselves.

dear ford

For Immediate Release
Coalition for Ensuring the Black Legacy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

Community Coalition Challenges the C.H. Wright Museum Board over Controversial Jefferson Exhibition and Lack of Community Representation in Museum Leadership

A Coalition of 20 community organizations, bolstered by social media campaigns ( and that collected more than 17,000 signatures, has been rebuffed by the Board of Trustees of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (CHWMAAH) in its effort to win community representation on the Board, and prevent the hosting of the exhibition, “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello:  Paradox of Liberty.”

Recently the Coalition wrote to the Museum Board to oppose installation of the Jefferson plantation exhibition during Black History Month, 2019. The exhibit seeks to represent the slavery experience in ways that delete or obscure the essential features of the plantation system: inhumane violence and terror. As such, the exhibit erases from history the sufferings of our ancestors, and fails to acknowledge their extraordinary capacity to overcome the oppression to which they were subjected. This falsification of history is offensive and inappropriate, given the heinous practices of slaveholders like Jefferson, and given the nature of current race relations in the U.S., where police violence and murder of our youth continue to plague our communities.  Thousands of signers have supported the Coalition’s insistence that such an exhibit should not be featured at the CHWMAAH, which was founded to uplift and inspire the African American community.

In a letter to the Coalition, the Museum Board has reiterated their determination to host the Jefferson exhibition.  They also rejected the Coalition’s proposal that there be community representation on the Museum Board and the CEO Selection Committee.  

The recent ouster of CEO and President, Ms. Juanita Moore, prompted the Black community’s concerned response.  Ms. Moore was dismissed suddenly, despite her stellar record of creating financial stability for the Museum, and raising the programming of the Museum to a level of national recognition and enthusiastic community support. Within two months of her leaving, the Board appears to be moving towards other staff changes, alerting the Coalition that the Board intends a new direction in policies and programs.  We are concerned that this new direction is intended to accommodate corporate/private, White supremacist interests –like the Jefferson exhibition — rather than those of the African American community at large.

Indeed, it appears that the Board member who is taking the lead in imposing the Jefferson exhibition is Euro-American attorney James P. Cunningham of Williams Williams Rattner and Plunkett law firm, Birmingham, MI. The other Board members appear indifferent to the outrage of 17,000 individuals who have signed the petitions against the exhibit.  

Are the Board Members aware that Jefferson made an enslaved child, Sally Hemings, the bearer of seven of his children (only four of whom survived to adulthood)? Are they aware that for over a century, white historians in the U.S. attempted to cover up this history, dismissing the claims of African American descendants of Hemings and Jefferson, until DNA science made it impossible for them to do so?  Having no alternative now but to recognize Thomas Jefferson’s outrageous hypocrisy as a slaveholder, such historians now want to recast Sally Hemings, the enslaved child, Jefferson’s victim, in the following contradictory ways: “…Negotiator. Liberator. World traveler. Enslaved woman. Concubine. Inherited property. Mystery.” (Press release, Office of Cultural Affairs, City of Dallas)  What unmitigated deceit!

At a community meeting held at Sacred Heart Church on September 19, 200+ activists carried out a nomination and election process to vet 10 community representatives to join the Museum Board, and four community representatives to join the CEO Selection Committee.  The following were the criteria for nomination:

  1. Ten or more years of ongoing engagement in community service or organizing to advance and protect the rights and well being of the African American community
  2. Demonstrated leadership and trust of community
  3. Interest in, knowledge and advocacy of African American history and culture
  4. Readiness to collaborate to generate resources to maintain African American institutions

The following well-known community activists were elected:

Museum Board

Ms. Theo Broughton
Mr. Jamon Jordan
Ms. Marian Kramer
Mrs. Helen Moore
Ms. Monica Patrick
Ms. Tawana Petty
Prof. Charles Simmons
Ms. Maureen Taylor
Mr. Paul Taylor
Mr. Malik Yakini
Alternate:  Mr. Khary Frazier

CEO Selection Committee

Atty. Jeffrey Edison
Dr. Gloria Aneb House
Mr. Michael Imhotep
Rev. JoAnn Watson
Alternate:  Dr. Kefentse Chike

The Coalition will continue to demand that these elected community representatives be included on the Museum Board and the CEO Selection Committee.As the corporations and their allies in government and public agencies continue their ruthless gentrification of Detroit, dispossessing African Americans and other people of color through home foreclosures, illegal property taxes, water shutoffs, toxic water and school closings, and as these forces insist on building yet another jail to facilitate the school-to-prison-pipeline for our youth, the Coalition will take all actions at its disposal to ensure that the CHWMAAH remains a center of our community, governed in the interest of the community.

The Coalition is appealing to everyone who treasures the Museum, both locally and nationally, to speak out, send letters and texts to the Board Chairperson, Mr. Eric Peterson ( and Interim COO, Mr. George Hamilton, retired Dow Chemical Executive (  Demand that the elected community representatives be seated on the Museum Board and on the Selection Committee for the new CEO, and that another exhibit, representative of our people’s hopes and strivings, be brought to the Museum to celebrate African American History Month, 2019.

The next meeting of the Coalition will be held at 6:30 p.m. on October 10th at West Side Unity Church, 4727 Joy Road, Detroit.