Living for Change News
February 13th, 2017
Issue #1 of Riverwise is here!
Riverwise is a community-based magazine created by a team of authors, writers, photo- journalists, parents, grandparents, students, organizers, activists, artists, educators and visionaries.
We are working together to create media that re ect local activism and the profound new work being done in and around Detroit neighborhoods.
We envision deepening relationships through media that serve as an essential part of weaving beloved communities.
We will celebrate personal Detroit stories and the process of evolving ideas.
LOOK FOR ISSUE #1 at area bookstores, newstands, coffee shops and more
Thinking for Ourselves
Shea HowellIn the midst of the anguish and chaos flowing from the Trump administration, new reports about water were issued with little attention. They raise serious questions about the quality of our drinking water and predict that clean, affordable water is rapidly disappearing.In December, as we braced for Trumps inauguration, Reuters released an alarming report that concluded nearly 3000 localities in the United States currently have drinking water with levels of lead “at least double the rates found in Flint’s drinking water.”This was followed a few weeks later by research from Michigan State University concluding that water rates are becoming increasingly unaffordable. “If water rates continue rising at projected amounts, the number of U.S. households unable to afford water could triple in five years, to nearly 36 percent.” This means, “As many as “13.8 million U.S. households (or 11.9 percent of all households) may find water bills unaffordable.”Further, water rates have increased 41 percent since 2010, and if they continue at that pace over the next five years the number of households that cannot afford water and wastewater services could soar to an estimated 40.9 million, or 35.6 percent of all households.The United Nations estimates that by the year 2025 as much as two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in conditions of serious water shortages and one-third will be living in conditions of absolute water scarcity.
Water scarcity will be accelerated by the Trump administration. Within the first week in office Trump moved forward on the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), threatening the entire watershed flowing from the Missouri river.
In addition, he is commitment to privatizing public goods and turning the bounty of the earth into private profit centers. This kind of thinking proved deadly in Flint. A recent article by Tracey Chaplin published in Next City explains, “The flaw in the logic is simple, but devastating. An economic strategy will function in a different way if applied within a different sector, because there are two totally different bottom lines in operation. Efficiency and profit are the key motivators in the private sector. Conversely, creating the greatest public good for the greatest number of people is the bottom line in the public sector. But when private sector drive for efficiency at any cost is applied within the public sector, public good takes a back seat. Power is concentrated among a few individuals. The voice of the people is silenced. Safety and human rights are sacrificed. Lives are lost in the name of efficiency and economic solvency.”
Detroit has the opportunity to point another way forward to protect our waters and our people. For more than a decade community activists have been arguing for a water affordability plan based on income and designed to encourage conservation.
Mayor Duggan has steadfastly refused to adopt such a plan. He has shut off 50,000 homes from water since 2014. His assistance plans have been a disaster.
In the beginning of February the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department unveiled a system of block rates to encourage conservation and shift some of the burden from lower income people. While this is welcome first step, Duggan will have to do much more if he expects to truly address the crisis we are facing. As Roger Colton, a Massachusetts-based economist who sat on the panel, said the inclining rates are “a progressive step to address inability to pay.”
“Inclining block rates can be a good tool,” he said. “They are not adequate unto themselves, but they are a step ahead.”
Protecting our water and our people are fundamental to our future. While we resist Trump and his national assaults, we can make a tremendous difference here in our own city. It only requires imagination and will.
Social Action of/in/through Yoga
What We’re Reading
Living for Change News
After the March: January, 25, 2017
Thinking for Ourselves
After We March
Shea HowellPeople around the globe came together to affirm the possibility of a future based on justice, love, and peace last week. There is no question that this was much more than a protest. This was a march to call forth the best of what we can become. Organizers said the Women’s March was to “affirm our shared humanity and to pronounce our bold message of resistance and self-determination.” The organizers offered a “Guiding Vision and Statement of Principles that emphasized “Women’s Rights are Human Rights;” “Gender Justice is Racial Justice is Economic Justice;” “Women deserve to live full and healthy lives, free of violence;” and “accountability and justice for police brutality and ending racial profiling and targeting of communities of color.”The organizers drew on the legacy of revolutionary leadership naming 31 women who “paved the way” for us to march and who represent the global fight for freedom.
The also acknowledged inspiration from “the movements before us – the suffragists and abolitionists, the Civil Rights Movement, the feminist movement, the American Indian Movement, Occupy Wall Street, Marriage Equality, Black Lives Matter, and more – by employing a decentralized, leader-full structure and focusing on an ambitious, fundamental and comprehensive agenda.”Whatever the contradictions, this was a moment to be celebrated. Marches that move us toward stretching our humanity are an essential part of creating a better world. But they are not sufficient. The real question is what do we do the next day, and the next, and the next?Many people that I talked to were already working to answer this question. Many had been working for years on issues facing their communities, challenging injustices, and developing alternative visions. But many were also new to politics. About 65% of those responding to the March survey said they had never been to a demonstration. For thousands upon thousands of people this global outpouring was made up of small conversations, human moments of laughter, fear, and joy mixed together in a spirit of hope.
We were in Washington DC on Friday. We found ourselves joining a march. We were not sure where it was headed, but the giant elephant with the “racism” sign made it clear this was group to join. All along people were stepping into the streets. Within a few minutes we heard an explosion. It was a tear gas shot. The first of several. There had been no effort to ask people to clear the streets. We were marching with babies in strollers, elders with canes, and people peacefully raising their voices. The tear gas was followed with pepper spray. We saw small groups of young people franticly trying to wash it out of their eyes. We saw fully militarized police, tanks, and army troops arrayed against demonstrators.
Power is not frightened by pink hats. It moves swiftly to crush those who challenge it. When it does, it is often the young, the bold, and communities of color that are most directly targeted.
Over the next few days we are going to have to do some very strategic thinking. As we deepen our work to develop alternative visions, we are also going to have to expand our capacities for direct action and civil disobedience. We cannot pretend that the forces that brought us this administration will go away.
On Saturday I got a glimpse of how we can think more about what we need to do. On the sidewalk were individual white men with electronic megaphones. They were saying hateful things. Each one was surrounded by a small group of women. The women held affirming signs. They offered loud chants and songs, so we had an alternative message to the hate being broadcast. And they had fun while they were doing it.
This seems a message for action. Box them in so they can’t move. Have more of us than there are of them. Provide an alternative vision and have as much fun as we can while we do it. We should have no illusions. But we should also have faith in our own possibilities.
America’s Truth: The Moment We Must Now Face
This movement moment is calling on those of us who believe in the vision of Dr. King to respond. This movement moment is calling on us resist. But, what does resistance look like?
In 2014, I published an article in the beloved, but now defunct, Michigan Citizen newspaper called, “A Time for Visionary Resistance”. In that article, I said in part:
It is no coincidence that we continue to experience this never-ending turmoil in America. America has not been honest with herself when it comes to her identity as a country, her coming into being, or the violence she inflicted and maintains at home and abroad in order to continue to exist in the way that she has since her inception. Many have been harmed and killed by the values carried forward by pursuit of the American Dream. In order for us to transform this country we have to start being honest about what we stand for.
In 1964, Dr. King said, “It is a question of whether we are making any real progress in the struggle to make racial justice a reality in the United States of America. And whenever I seek to answer that question, on the one hand I seek to avoid and undo pessimism, on the other hand I seek to avoid superficial optimism and I try to incorporate or develop what I consider a realistic position by admitting on the one hand, that we have made many significant strides over the last few years in the struggle for racial justice. But, by admitting that before the problem is solved we still have numerous things to do and many challenges to meet . . .We have come a long, long way, but we have a along long way to go before the problem is solved.”
It is time that we had very frank conversations about the condition of this country. It is time that we had brave conversations about the fear that sparks racial divide. It is time that we had honest conversations about the individualism that feeds capitalism and its toxic relationship to racism. It is time that we had real conversations about the misinformation perpetuated in the mass media and regurgitated in our homes and our communities about various cultures and identities that incubates ignorance and encourages violence.
By 1968, Dr. King was calling on this country to have a radical revolution of values.
Right now, we are witnessing within the White House an increased investment in the 1% by President Elect Trump. This is a repeat of what we have witnessed from the top time and time again. It begs the question, what are the rest of us willing to invest in?
On Leadership and Love
The Women’s March was about leadership and love, and was truly massive. I had the privilege to travel to DC from Detroit with my partner, Janice, and our friends who founded Matrix Theatre. We met our daughter Emma and her friends there. I marched peacefully and in militant affinity groups in DC during 1969, 1970 and 1971, challenging US Imperialism and the Vietnam War as well as defending the Black Panther party and other political prisoners. I have joined many other gatherings of labor, anti-war, nuclear disarmament, environmental demonstrations, free political prisoners in years since but this was different. This was a call to life and love. It felt like an emerging declaration of commitment to resist the violence, policies and barbarism that awaits all of us and the entire planet. We responded to the counter-revolution. How we respond is now on our agenda.
This was not a lot of self-interest groups spouting their agenda or simply putting forth “Fix it” strategies but this was a comprehensive yearning and expression of voices that brought forth an energy that I have never seen in one place. While some expressed short term concern, most of the speakers and signs created a new unity of voices: From Black Lives Matter to the need to address the Planetary Crisis. From Gay, Lesbian, Transgender to Disability Justice. From signs reminding us of the spirit of Harriet Tubman to the courage of Shirley Chisholm. From people committing to defend and protect the earth to defend and protect immigrants and strongly proclaiming solidarity with Muslims and declaring that “we will all register as Muslims”.
This was a joyous gathering not based in naivety but with a feeling that when people come together we have the chance to make history. A great majority of people were under 40 years old and most had never been to a demonstration before. Folks who “sat out” the 60s and 70s broke their silence and participated for the first time. As I marched and as I witnessed this humanizing moment, I was reminded that these marches across the world were a response to the rising counter-revolution and the fact that Trump made this so personal and so ugly. Trump’s victory was in response to our emerging movements of the past decade. From Arab Spring and Occupy, From Black Lives Matter to Standing Rock and From rallies reaching 350,000 in NY to advance the struggle against climate change and commit ourselves to Mother Earth.
A new leadership is emerging in our country and it is was not the chant: “We need a leader, not a freaky twetter” but “We are the leaders we don’t need a creepy tweeter.”
The commitment to resistance, the commitment to go back and organize, the work to create vision and practice to change ourselves and establish liberated territories is now on our agenda. When Angela Davis addresses 1 million people in DC and when Grace Lee Boggs is an honored leader along with Judy Huemann (Disability Justice) this is not your usual march. Let us learn all their names, just as we will learn each other’s names and passions. This is our time.
Let us claim no easy victory and let us never underestimate the barbarism of those in power and let us never underestimate our power as we engage for the long haul with a sense of deep urgency. Let us “not panic” but organize.
From the Women’s Call to March:
We are empowered by the legions of revolutionary leaders who paved the way for us to march, and acknowledge those around the globe who fight for our freedoms. We honor these women and so many more. They are #WHYWEMARCH.
Bella Abzug • Corazon Aquino • Ella Baker • Grace Lee Boggs Berta Cáceres • Rachel Carson • Shirley Chisholm • Angela Davis Miss Major Griffin Gracy • LaDonna Harris • Dorothy I. Height * bell hooks • Judith Heumann • Dolores Huerta • Marsha P. Johnson Barbara Jordan • Yuri Kochiyama • Winona LaDuke Audre Lorde • Wilma Mankiller • Diane Nash • Sylvia Rivera Barbara Smith • Gloria Steinem • Hannah G. Solomon Harriet Tubman • Edith Windsor • Malala Yousafzai
WHAT WE’RE READING
In 2011, I sat in the living room of Grace Lee Boggs at 3061 Field Street, a space Bill Strickland affectionately described as “the Boggses’ University.” Grace was then a sharp 95 years old and began by asking each of the graduate students huddled on her floor where we came from. I told her that I grew up in Fort Wayne, Indiana, but was skeptical what this could tell her about me. I had given it little thought since I left for college a decade earlier. Fort Wayne was a place Grace knew intimately, whether she had been there or not. It mirrored her city, Detroit: a booming, blue-collar industrial city, home to massive plants that were depleted by a loss of over 30,000 jobs during the closures of the 1970s and 1980s. The cities even shared a basketball team (the original Zollner Pistons were moved from Fort Wayne to Detroit by auto magnate Fred Zollner in 1956).
Five years since sitting in that living room, as Donald Trump unfathomably became our 45th president, I kept returning to that conversation. A year since Grace’s transition at the age of 100, and two decades since her intellectual, political, and spiritual partner Jimmy passed away, the Boggses’ lessons about grassroots organizing, community activism, and dialectical thinking are needed now more than ever. As Grace once put it, “The answers are coming more from the bottom.”
The Boggs Book Shop is open and waiting for you!
Among many other titles, don’t miss…
Ron Scott’s – How to End Police Brutality
evolution in the 21st Century Anthology
…or the classic, Conversations in Maine
ANOTHER WORLD IS NECESSARY
ANOTHER WORLD IS POSSIBLE
ANOTHER WORLD HAS ALREADY STARTED
Michigan Citizen, Nov. 27-Dec. 3, 2005
We are in the midst of a great transformation, not only
economically but psychologically, culturally, politically,
in our relations with one another, to the Earth, to other
species and to other peoples of the world, and in our
concept of ourselves and of our rights and responsibilities
as human beings.
To an unprecedented degree, as we approach 2006, millions
of us are aware that our present and impending disasters
are not natural but man-made, the consequence of our
limitless pursuit of capital accumulation.
Up to now the main victims of this have been the peoples
of the global South. But now the chickens are coming home
to roost. In our own countries, the United States and
throughout Europe, there are tens of millions who for
decades have been marginalized, living how they can,
without any social safety nets, unemployed, disempowered,
disenfranchised, disengaged, disrespected, and without a
perspective of another positive future.
These people in the so-called informal sector are now being
joined by those who through centuries of struggle and
sacrifices thought they could look forward to a stable and
secure future for themselves and their children.
At this moment and under these circumstances it would be
easy to despair. But this universal crisis is not only
a danger but a promise, an opportunity to advance
ourselves and our societies to a new level, based on a
new vision, new principles and values:
• Respect for the limits of the earth
• Responsibility for community and not just for self
• Concern for posterity into the seventh generation
• Partnership instead of patriarchal relations
• A new concept of Work based on use values and skills
• Resistance to commodification of human relationships
• and of all life
• Local, sustainable and self-reliant economies instead
• of one global dominant economy
• Diversity instead of monocultures
• Restore the joy of living in community with all
• Practice global citizenship to preserve the best
• of our historical traditions
• Social justice and cooperation instead of exploitation
• and competition
• WHAT DO WE DO NOW? HOW DO WE GET FROM HERE TO THERE?
• WE can begin by restoring our relationships to each
• other and to the Earth
• WE can create gardens, for food, health and to create
• a community as a basis for resistance, for learning
• and enjoyment of young and old.
• WE can create new subsistence skills to grapple with
• our present problems and the challenges to come.
• WE can transform our schools from job-and-career-oriented
• institutions to places where children and young people can
• learn the values of teamwork, serving the community,
• self-reliance and the joys of creativity
• WE can initiate discussions in our communities locally,
• nationally and internationally on new visions, a new
• perspective, and the profound historical meaning of the
• great turning during this time in which we live.
• WE can share and spread the word of what people are
• already doing to create a better world.
Grace Lee Boggs, Detroit, Michigan., Boggscenter.org
Maria Mies, Koeln, Germany, Women and Life on Earth (WLOE)
Shea Howell, Detroit, Michigan
Werner Ruhoff, Koeln, Germany
Hilmar Kunath, Hamburg, Germany
Elisabeth Voss, Berlin, Germany
Irina Vellay, Dortmund, Germany
This statement emerged from some of the participants in the
International Workshop on Self-Organizing and Common Self-Reliance,
Cologne, Germany, October 20-22, 2005.
Please show your support by adding your name, place (and if you
wish your organization), circulate to your networks, nationally
and internationally, and publish where you find it appropriate.
In the era of trump.
Grace left us Oct 5, 2015 – Read Graces timely piece In Love and Struggle! Carry on…
Naming the Enemy
By Grace Lee Boggs
A spectre is haunting the American people– the spectre of destruction by capitalism. In its limitless quest for profits capitalism has defiled our human relationships by turning them into money relationships. It has transformed Work from a precious human activity into Jobs which are done only for a paycheck and which have become increasingly meaningless and increasingly scarce as the profits from our labor are invested in increasingly complex machines. It has undermined the Family ties by which human beings down through the ages have absorbed naturally and normally the elementary standards of conduct and the sense of continuity with the human race which make us human. By encouraging us to value material things more than social ties, it has turned us into a society of selfish individualists and materialists, seeking to compensate for the spiritual emptiness of our lives by the endless pursuit of distractions.It has despoiled the Land, Waters and Air on which our lives depend.
Up to now, most Americans have been able to evade facing this destructiveness because it was primarily other peoples, other races, other cultures which were being destroyed. For the sake of westward expansion the Native Americans were massacred and their survivors driven into the world’s first concentration camps. To clear the land and build the agricultural infrastructure necessary for industrial development, millions of Africans were enslaved and the ideology of racism created. Convinced that it was our destiny to rule the entire continent, Americans seized the Southwest from Mexico. When we came to the end of the American frontier, we reached out to Latin America and the Pacific. When capitalist expansion and centralization created the Great Depression, we got our economy moving again by producing for World War II. After the war we used our economic power and monopoly of nuclear weapons to protect capitalism in Europe from socialist revolution and to crush revolutionary struggles in the Third World by supporting and installing military dictatorships.
Ever since World War II it has been able to keep going only by producing weapons of destruction and by turning us into mindless consumers, unable to distinguish between our Needs and our Want, utilizing the mass media with the same cunning with which Hitler turned the German people into collaborators in their own destruction. New shiny cars and appliances have been pushed as sure ways to win love for ourselves. Women (and men) have been turned into sex objects. Credit cards have been promoted as badges of status.
As this brainwashing process has gained momentum over the last few decades, the moral and social fabric of our society has been steadily undermined. Our small towns and communities, in which neighborliness and character were more important than money, have been replaced by suburbs. Our judgment has been so distorted that we now consider “square” those who still value self-reliance and hard work, while we admire the “big spender.” Banks and loan sharks, whom we once viewed with suspicion, we now consider our friends, while more and more we fear those closest to us, our families, co-workers, and neighbors. Crime, mental illness, drug addiction, alcoholism, teen-age pregnancy and venereal disease have reached near epidemic proportions because, instead of depending upon each other for company and comfort (as human beings have done down through the ages), we look to more colorful goods and new, more exciting experiences to make us feel good.
Pursuing private happiness in the form of material goods, we did not care that we were passing on these materialistic and individualistic values to our children. Instead of recognizing that we were breeding criminals by the supreme value we had put on material things, we tried to project the blame for crime onto others. We ignored the growing threat to our health from the Love Canals that were being created by the dumping of industrial waste in our waters and our earth. We closed our eyes to the degrading lives being lived by the millions whom capitalism had already cast onto the Welfare rolls, little dreaming that the same fate was being prepared for us
But now the chickens have come home to roost. While we were collaborating with capitalism by accepting its dehumanizing values, capitalism itself was moving to a new stage, the stage of multinational capitalism. Big capitalists have been swallowing up smaller ones, creating giant corporations who buy and sell other giant corporations all over the world. A few hundred multi-national corporations now move capital and goods everywhere and anywhere, according to where they can make the most profit.
These multinational corporations have no loyalty to the United States or to any American community. They have no commitment to the reforms that Americans have won through hard struggle. Instead of giving more each year, they demand that we accept less or else.
If American workers do not accept wages and benefits competitive with those of Japanese or Mexican or Filipino workers, they do not hesitate to shut down a plant that has been the heart of the economic life of a city or region.. City workers and school teachers find that they are no longer needed; small businesses go bankrupt. So millions of workers, skilled and unskilled, blue collar and white collar, have already been laid off . Whole cities have been turned into wastelands by corporate takeovers and by runaway corporations. Yet our city and state officials, conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican, white or black, continue to compete with one another to offer tax breaks and reduced worker benefits to these corporations, knowing full well they will pick up and leave when they can make more profit elsewhere.
Meanwhile, because American capitalism no longer dominates the world market, our government can no longer afford the reforms with which all administrations since the Great Depression have tried to make capitalism more palatable. So social and Welfare programs are being ruthlessly dismantled; unions are being busted or immobilized; the moral, environmental and civilized restraints on capitalist expansion which have been won only after decades of struggle are being abandoned.
That is why we must now make a second American revolution to rid ourselves of the capitalist values and institutions which have brought us to this state of powerlessness or suffer the same mutilation, the same destruction of our families and our communities, the same loss of national independence as over the years we have visited upon other peoples and other nations.