B oggs Center – February 19th, 2019 – Living For Change News

February 19th, 2019

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Overlooked No More
: Dudley Randall, Whose Broadside Press Gave a Voice to Black Poets

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Thinking for Ourselves

Jackson Learnings

Shea Howell

 This past weekend the North Dakota Study Group gathered in Jackson Mississippi to explore “different ways of thinking about schools, communities, teaching and learning.” The group was formed in 1970 to support the development of “powerful, progressive, active community rooted education.” Vito Perrone, one of the founders of the group explained in a closing speech in 2000, “Our task is to share our learning with others, engage the struggles that surround us, keep the flame of hope alive, allow possibilities for helping our children and young people to be in position to change the world.” “That,” Perrone said, “Is a standard I think is worth pursuing.”

Over the years members of the group have pushed toward that vision, offering a deeply committed perspective on the role of education in advancing democracy and creating justice. They have offered us some of the best and most concrete ways to promote the development of children as whole, thoughtful, loving beings. The gathering has matured and expanded, opening up from a small group of friends and colleagues to a multi layered, diverse, intense, challenging and joyful effort to engage with each other in creating something new.

The call to the gathering was an invitation to “a deep, intergenerational and interracial dialogue over the broad-based work occurring in Jackson and the Jackson Public Schools (JPS).  Threatened by a state take-over, JPS is fighting back and reaffirming its identity through community-based leadership, and a commitment to self-determination that includes students.”

Five of us journeyed from Detroit. We wanted to share our own experience with state takeovers and the development of Freedom Schools. Over the last two decades more than 100 school districts have experienced some kind of take over. With the exception of New Orleans, these have been concentrated in the North. Domingo Morel, one of the first people to offer a systematic study of take overs explains, “Now, things have changed.”  He continues that white governors “have discovered a blueprint for the economic and political disempowerment of their urban centers.”

New Orleans is a prime example. Morel documents the “devastating effect on black economic and political power.” This is most visible in the attack on teachers.  “The black teaching force in New Orleans has decreased from roughly 71 percent black to less than 50 percent black.”
He documents ,“Over 7,000 school employees lost their jobs ,” and “governance authority has shifted from the locally elected school board to the state-created board and to the individual governing bodies of each charter school.”

People in Jackson are hopeful that the efforts of Mayor Chokwe  Antar Lumumba and the Kellogg Foundation will create a “third way “ to resolve the crisis in education through new public-private partnerships.

To those of us in Detroit, this sounds much like the consent agreement and “grand bargain” designed to deflect resistance while pushing privatization.

Forces linked to Betsy DeVos, Trump’s Secretary of Education, have been pushing vouchers and charter schools. In 2017, DeVos awarded Mississippi a $15 million to subsidize new charters over the next five years. Most are expected to open in Jackson.
At the same time Jackson Public Schools lost over 500 students to charters, costing the district $1.4 million.  It is estimated that since charters opened in 2015, the district has sent more than $12 million to charters.

The experience in Jackson highlights the importance of advancing coordinated, national strategies to protect our children, respect our teachers, and find new ways of learning together. These days there are some real national emergencies.

 

Filmed in Detroit’s Brightmoor neighborhood during late summer of 2018 at the Detroit Community School, the story documents the student, post-graduate and instructor perspectives and culminates with the introduction of the Brightmoor Makerspace — a fully functional, hands-on environment whereby students pursue their own entrepreneurial spirit and independence through the development of finished products designed with purpose. WATCH

 

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Every weekday, U.S. Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith delivers a different way to see the world – through poetry.

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Boggs Center Living For Change News. February 12th, 2019

February 12th, 2019

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Thinking for Ourselves

Black Geniuses
Shea Howell

Last week the Boggs Center hosted two conversations as part of the Black Genius series sponsored by the Michigan Roundtable. These gatherings offered an opportunity to think about our responsibilities at this “time on the clock of the world.”

James Boggs life and legacy were discussed at the first event. The gathering included people who had known Jimmy and Grace since the 1960’s, people who had worked with both of them, shared family, friendships and political ties, and people just discovering his writing.

Dr. Stephen Ward, who recently completed a biography of Jimmy and Grace, In Love and Struggle, opened the conversation with a video clip that included some of Jimmy’s most memorable speeches. Dr. Ward asked us to think about the opening line where Jimmy challenges a group of U of M students saying, “Nobody can run this country better than me.” When the students laugh uncomfortably at this, Jimmy continues his challenge saying, “You better think that way too.”

The notion that each one of us is responsible for our country framed much of the conversation as people questioned, “what does that mean for us today?”

In another speech, Jimmy shared his experiences growing up in Marion Junction, Alabama, where “white folks were ladies and gentlemen by day and hung someone almost every night.”

“As bad as those days were,” he warned, “We even more difficult days ahead. There’s going to be blood, sweat, and tears.”

Knowing this, he deeply believed that we could create a better country, where we cared for each other, found meaning in providing for our basic needs, and had joy in creativity.

It was this belief in our capacity to create loving communities that lead Jimmy and Grace to work with Save Our Sons and Daughters (SOSAD) and We the People Reclaim Our Streets (WePROS) in the late 1980s and 1990’s.  These organizations and their founders, Clementine Barfield of SOSAD and Dorothy Garner of WePros, were featured for the second conversation. We were fortunate to have Clem join us via Facetime from her home in Tennessee.

Clem said she had decided to participate, not because she thought she was a genius, but because of all the geniuses we had lost because of the lives cut short by violence. Saying that every child had a right to a full, productive life and their deaths by guns, police, or other forms of violence meant that everyone of us had lost something. We lost that unique contribution of what could have been. Clem said understanding this was the basis of love. She said, “We can only support and change one another from a place of love.”

One of the most powerful images of the evening was that of Dorothy Garner, walking down the street of her neighborhood, surrounded by small children, leading a group of mostly elders to confront drug dealers. She, too, did this out of love, saying to them, “We love you, but we hate what you are doing to our community.” She walks up to a young man, leaning against a wall and says, “We can do better. We got to do better.”

Jimmy, Clem, and Dorothy gave us a lot to think about and a reminder of what we can do together.
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FRED Talks (Facing Race, Elevating Democracy) are online videos produced at local events where activists and leaders share their stories and effective strategies for change.

WATCH Tawana “Honeycomb” Petty on clean water access and perceptions of Detroit
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Grassroots Models of a Just Future: Learning from Black Radicalism in Detroit
Scott Kurashige

In November 2018, the glow surrounding Detroit?s comeback was punctured by GM’s announcement it was shutting down production at five factories and eliminating over 14,000 jobs. It further exposed Donald Trump?s hollow promise that he “alone” could restore American manufacturing. In fact, Trump?s economic nationalism has offered little more than racist and xenophobic scapegoating for tens of thousands of working-class Americans in the Rust Belt unemployed or in a precarious state.”

“Detroit?s activists, however, have been grappling with a crisis that long preceded the 2016 election. The city exploded in the Great Rebellion of 1967 because of persistent problems with racism in employment, housing, education, and policing. James Boggs, a Black autoworker who migrated to Detroit from the Jim Crow South during the Great Depression, surmised from his own experience at Chrysler that automation was eliminating jobs and creating a permanent class of “outsiders.” The American Dream that had lifted millions of white workers into the Middle Class would not be attainable for most African Americans, especially the younger generations comprising a “street force” that would fuel the militant Black Power movement…

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A BLACK-LED FOOD CO-OP GROWS IN DETROIT

Boggs Center News – LIVING fOR CHANGE – February 5th, 2019

February 5th, 2019

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Thinking for Ourselves

Weather Changes
Shea Howell

As some of the coldest temperatures in nearly a century move out of the Midwest, devastation is everywhere. In Detroit the thaw brought over 50 breaks in water mains, flooding streets and closing buildings. Thousands of homes, offices, schools and public facilities face burst pipes and are preparing for what will likely be intense flooding as warm weather brings rain on top of melting snow. Roads are closed as concrete crumbles. The famous landmark of Detroit’s decline, the Packard pedestrian bridge that has defied more than a century of weather, scrappers, and decay, finally collapsed into the street. Its crash signals the vulnerability of all our bridges and overpasses.

Meanwhile, Sunday morning warm breezes brought a disturbing smell of natural gas throughout the region.  Much of the problem was located at the Marathon Refinery, but people in Macomb County and Highland Park made hundreds of emergency calls about the intense odor.

No one doubts our infrastructure is in trouble. The extreme weather, likely to intensify in the future, lays bare our refusal to provide for common responsibilities of basic systems.

This reality is part of what makes the Green New Deal so appealing. It is a vision of dedicating our resources and imaginations to the redevelopment of the basic structures essential for daily life. At the same time, it promises to provide a platform to move toward renewable resources and a more just economy. The GND would directly address rebuilding infrastructure, shift us toward renewable energy, and pay for this by taxing the super-rich.

Progressives everywhere are signing on to help support this effort. We, at the Boggs Center join these groups. However, we think this effort needs to be combined with some serious thinking.

As currently proposed, the GND accepts the corporate-capitalist system and its commitment to continued, even accelerated, economic growth. The GND argues that through rapid growth, lower income households will benefit. This ideas of simply a repackaging of the same old trickle down economics that has never worked.

As many thoughtful economists point out, continued growth is inherently unequal and distorts not only the lives of those pursuing it, but our relationships to people around the planet. More is not always better. We need to think beyond sustainable growth to “degrowth” economies.  We cannot continue a wasteful, self-centered, disposable culture.

Capitalists assumptions and practices are catastrophic. The future demands much more of us than fixing our bridges and pipes and using more solar and wind power.

We need to cultivate a deep ecological wisdom that explores basic questions of how to live on a more human scale, with responsibility for our communities and for the earth. Small scale production, aimed at developing our human capacities for creativity and connection should form the heart of any new economy. Producing what we need for ourselves and our neighbors shifts us away from productive forces and corporate powers that inherently aim to control and degrade life.

The Green New Deal promises much. But it needs to challenge us more. The transformation we need to secure a just future requires all of us to consider the question posed by Indigenous activists, ”How do we live more simply, so that others can simply live?”
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Finance. Climate. Food. Work. How are the crises of the twenty-first century connected? In Capitalism in the Web of Life, Jason W. Moore argues that the sources of today’s global turbulence have a common cause: capitalism as a way of organizing nature, including human nature.

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“Nowadays, we talk about King as though he were an isolated one-off event.  In some ways, we talk about him as though he were superhuman, his life and exploits becoming part of our national mythology.”

“King is one of the people to whom I am deeply indebted, one of the people who make up my lineage.  These four figures are the greatest social change agents of the 20th Century, recognized as world leaders and inspiration to billions of people throughout the world.” – KEEP READING Shariff Abdullah’s reflection on Moving Beyond King and Gandhi

 

Emergency Shelder List -Boggs Center – Living For Change News – January 29th 2019

January 29th, 2019

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Thinking for Ourselves
Historical Divisions
Shea HowellThe celebration of Martin Luther King makes it clear how difficult it is for many people in our country to look at the fullness of our history. People in power have a vested interest in turning Dr. King’s life and legacy into a shallow dream of a future where race does not matter.

Increasingly, efforts to reduce Dr. King to a few lines from a single speech are being challenged. Scholars and activists are insisting that we look at the deeper lessons and complexities of his life, including his organizing, his sermons, his speeches, writings, press conferences, books, and lectures. They are demanding we put him in the context of his times and that we acknowledge that a movement is always more than an individual. They apply his most bold and radical challenges to today.

The tendencies to distort our history, to narrow its focus and ignore the contradictions were captured by Tim Wise this week speaking at the University of Michigan King Celebration. Wise, sharing the stage with Detroit’s Julia Putnam, talked about the threads of injustice forming a “blinkered historical memory—an inherently flawed understanding of who we are as a nation and who we have always been.” He explained that “At root, much of what ails us is an acute case of misremembering, selective amnesia. He explained “What we remember, what we forget, and what we never learned as people has profound impact on how we celebrate this day and this man and this legacy of which he was such a central part, but also how we understand our current political crisis.”

If we are to become a people capable of mature, moral judgements, of evolving a culture that places people over property, sustainability over greed, and peace over violence, we are going to have to come to terms with the realities of living in a country founded on genocide, slavery, and death. We are going to have to find a way to the future that does not begin with lies.

Facing this reality is not easy, especially for most white Americans. In Where do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? Dr. King wrote of the refusal of white people to “re-educate themselves out of their racial ignorance.” He explained, “It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn.”

“These are the deepest causes for contemporary abrasions between the races,” he wrote. 

Loose and easy language about equality, resonant resolutions about brotherhood fall pleasantly on the ear, but for the Negro there is a credibility gap he cannot overlook. He remembers that with each modest advance the white population promptly raises the argument that the Negro has come far enough. Each step forward accents an ever-present tendency to backlash.”

Understanding that the present and future are distorted by mis-remembering of history, is why the work of the Black Legacy Coalition is so important. The Coalition is calling on all Detroiters to oppose the decision by the current board of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History to host the exhibit Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty.  The coalition is calling on the Museum board to cancel the exhibit and to expand the board membership so that future decisions reflect a greater understanding of the complexities of history.

The Board defends its decision as an opportunity for “constructive conversation” and “seeks to emphasize the perspective of the slaves who endured Monticello rather than that of Jefferson.” One need only look at the title to see this is a lie. Jefferson controlled the lives and deaths of more than 600 human beings on his plantation. There is no paradox nor liberty there.


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The Power of Community Beings with the Power to Create Community

Myrtyle Thompson-Curtis Monique Thompson & Rich Feldman

“People may be moving in but we are not movin out”.

On Saturday January 12 under the call of MLK:  Community or Chaos, more than 125 people representing community groups and organizations, churches, urban growers, and visionary activists came together at UAW Local 7 to share their work and stories.  They came together to network, inspire and seriously break down the silos that have emerged in the past decade. 

There was Suzanne Cleage of the Eastside Community Network, to Myrtle Thompson-Curtis and Monique Thompson of Feedom Freedom Growers, Carlos Nielbok of Can-Arts and his wind energy initiative to Ali Duril and his Solar Work. We felt the spirit and we see the future of Detroit from organizations such as Soulardarity to Detroit Summer, The Treehouse Initiative, and Michigan Roundtable as well as many others from Alter RD and Jefferson to Gratiot and Mt. Elliott, there were so many others.  There was a young woman Author of Poetry and young Entrepreneurs who sell their value added products.

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The conversations and networking was most definitely inter-generational and connecting. There was a soulful bluesy musical number done by Pastor Robert Jones to show how we are all connected, one thing grows from another.  Then there was impromptu but powerful Lyricist who shifted the energy into high gear with his lyrical spoken word, his name is Dwight Roston of the Messiah Church. Honoring the belief that everyone has a gift and people were shining and sharing brightly! The Rev. James C. Perkins of Greater Christ Baptist, Rev. Homer Jamison of Jamison Temple, joined with Pastor Barry Randolph of Church of the Messiah, Pastor Robert Jones of Sweet Kingdom Church all shared their commitment to their work in the community now and into the future.  Kesia Davis from the Heidelberg Project shared the amazing story of art and vision work being done in MLK and Southeastern High Schools. Yes our friend Tyree Guyton was there to absorb the good vibes in the space as well. Students and staff from the Boggs School shared their commitment to placed based education and becoming critical thinkers and solutionaries. Linda Campbell and her group of committed organizers, The Peoples Platform was in attendance to introduce people to the Community Benefits Law and the importance of organizing in the community.
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This gathering was gifted with the presence and voices of some real legendary organizers form the Eastside, from Alberta Tinsley-Talabi and Mack Alive to the Charlevoix Village to Jocelyn Harris of Jefferson Chalmers Advocates. These are the voices of wise organizers joining with a new generation of visionaries and organizers.  The power of the community begins with the power to create community. What is power? Power is the ability to define phenomena and then make it act in a desired manner. People may be moving in but we are not moving out!
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The gathering was hosted by UAW Local Pres. Reginald Griffin who was raised on Marlborough, North of Jefferson. His commitment and energy to create a new relationship and love between the UAW-Fiat Chrysler Workers and the longtime residents was warmly received. As Myrtle Thompson-Curtis of the Boggs Center and Feedom Freedom and Jerry King of the Metro Detroit A. Philip Randolph Institute clearly stated…this gathering was to bring together folks from the neighborhood that have been creatively doing community work for decades and the local workers at the Chrysler Plant.  The leadership of Torrey Green and Sheree McLaughlin kept the meeting spirited and moving forward. This work is about creating a vision of networks and leadership for the decades to come. This gathering of leadership and visionary networks was initiated by the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nuture Community Leadership, The Metro A. Philip Randolph Institute, Coach Kellog of GEMS(Gration,I-94,Mt.Elliott. & St. Aubin) and The Feedom Freedom Growers, as well as many friends across the eastside.
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*Links to above mentioned community orgsSuzanne Cleage(http://www.ecn-detroit.org/our-team/)
Myrtle Thompson-Curtis (https://www.facebook.com/feedomfreedom/)
Carlos Neilbok (https://detroitwindmill.com/)
Ali Duril (https://www.youtube.comwatch?v=jcqt9MgkWba)


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Boggs Center – Living For Change News Letter – January 21ST, 2019

January 21st, 2019

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Thinking for Ourselves

Valued Choices
Shea Howell

In the midst of the latest boil water advisory, a group of scholars and community activists released a long awaited report on Water Equity and Security in Detroit’s Water and Sewer District. The report is a thoughtful, well researched, and historically grounded analysis of the current crisis of water insecurity. It is an important contribution to our conversations about water security in the region and the country. It is a joint publication of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC Berkeley, MOSES, and Praxia Partners, and was funded by the Kresge Foundation.

Central to the thinking of the report is a vision of our obligations to one another and to the earth on which we depend for life. The authors argue that the goal of public policy should be the creation of “structural, systemic, and institutional arrangements that ensure everyone has consistent access to drinking water and wastewater services.” They provide a framework for us to rethink regional relationships and the central role the city of Detroit could play in setting a model for the country in guaranteeing water security. This rethinking could be a way “to promote regional coordination and alignment to ensure water security for everyone in the region and maximize the system’s ability to lift up regional economic and public health.”

Water security is about more than spending money. It requires the political will and compassionate leadership to “address deeper social cleavages around race and poverty.”

Citing the importance of grassroots organizations that have been developing innovative solutions, the report asserts that Detroit could “be an example of how to ensure water security across the region and design practicable urgent adaptation to climate change. It can be an example of practical adaptation that also raises the level of public health and environmental quality. It can also provide a model of how to provide benefits to everyone and can be best and most fairly accomplished by designing strategies to help places and people who most urgently need relief from structural, systemic, and institutional barriers. The regional context of the DWSD system and its environmental and public health impacts are exceptionally well suited to see how ‘we all live downstream’ and stand to benefit or be harmed by the way our neighbors fare.“

The welfare of our neighbors should be our most common concern, the report argues. It recommends a moratorium on water shutoffs and the development of a serious water affordability plan. The report invites current leaders to reconsider how race, class, and business interests have distorted their thinking. The authors explain that for many people “Consistent and secure access to clean water that runs in your home is taken for granted.” As a result, many of our suburban neighbors and political leaders “rationalize and argue there is a need for residential water shutoffs there is a sense that shut offs are routine ordinary practice and that incentivizing bill collection is not a crisis—that the crisis is that system revenues have been too low in recent decades. “

In sharp contrast to this, people who experience water shut offs or advocate for them know we are in a crisis. The authors explain, “When adults or children are facing these challenges in their day-to-day lives they realize that it’s not normal and that a vast majority of people do not face these struggles. These are the material conditions of being othered and structurally marginalized. The relief of getting access to water and sewer systems can be a force for structural belonging and inclusion.”

The report documents two very different visions for our future. The authors warn, “Choosing not to respond to the pressing inequities at hand only passively enables the continuation of today’s system, which, if left unchecked, will likely worsen existing problems: increasing water and sewerage bills, contaminated water, and failing infrastructure accessibility and correspondingly, poverty and insecurity.”

The report invites us to “envision a different path forward for Detroit and the region—one where vital resources are fairly distributed, where the region’s residents can enjoy a dignified life in health communities, and where lasting economic and social equality is fostered and nurtured.” Reading and sharing this report are important step toward securing that better future.

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Julia Putnam and Tim Wise discussed ways to resist oppressive systems, the misremembering of American history, and how education can help unravel injustice during their Keynote Memorial Lecture for U-M’s 33rd annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium. See the video here. 

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Time to Break the Silence on Palestine

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