Boggs Center -Living For Change Newsletter – Oct 26th, 2017

Jimmy and Grace  

 James and Grace Lee Boggs, “Uprooting Racism and Racists in the United States” 1970

The economic advantages to the United States of having a colony inside its own borders have been tremendous. By using the colonial force of blacks, US capitalism has been able to moderate the general contradiction of capitalist accumulation. That is to say, it has been able to accelerate technological expansion and at the same time keep profits coming in from continuing exploitation of it obsolescent “used” factories, homes, schools, stores, etc. As a result, the United States has developed into the technologically most advanced country in the world.

Living for Change News
October 26th, 2017

Thinking for Ourselves
Heart Fierceness

Shea Howell

This week Detroit hosted two major conferences, the 13th Annual Great Lakes Bioneers and the 1st National Women’s Convention. I shuttled between the two, getting a sense of the new energy emerging in our country.

womens con

The Bioneers are dedicated to creating resilient, sustainable communities. Conference planners invited everyone to embrace the theme We the People Love this Place, saying, “When people come together as a learning community to discover new ways of being and when they share transformative ideas for the sake of the Commons everyone benefits. When students and teachers attending the conference bring back what they learn to their schools, education can flourish. When everyone is welcomed and affirmed we move toward wholeness.”

Friday was dedicated to young people. Naelyn Pike, a 17 year-old Apache change maker from Arizona, challenged people to find their own voices and stand for protecting the earth and one another. She was followed by a several city tours exploring the water crisis, new approaches to housing, work, art, agriculture, and sustainable communities. Young people asked critical questions about what kind of future we want and how we organize in new ways to secure it.

Saturday morning began with powerful poetry offered by Dr. Gloria House to open our hearts and minds to think creatively about our city.  The opening session brought together 4 women who experienced the 1967 uprising and are now offering leadership to critical struggles. Erma Leaphart and Rhonda Anderson of the Sierra Club are immersed in issues of environmental justice. Gloria Lowe of We Want Green 2 is working on rebuilding community while restoring veterans to a sense of wholeness and purpose. Maureen Taylor of Michigan Welfare Rights spoke passionately about the impact of nearly 60,000 water shut offs in our city and the importance of creating new narratives about our lives based on an understanding the forces attempting to profit from the sufferings of people.

Panelist talked not only about the fear and confusion created by tanks and curfews, but about the joy in seeing people stand up for each other and say “enough is enough.” They shared memories of neighbors organizing to go grocery shopping and protect children in the face of gunfire and tear gas. All the speakers emphasized finding ways to take action now. Gloria Lowe said, “There is a lot of work to be done as we understand what it takes to become more human human beings.”

Downtown nearly 5000 women and some men gathered to extend the energies unleashed in January 2017 in the historic Women’s March calling for resistance to the Trump agenda.

While the gathering emphasized strategies for midterm elections in hopes of countering the policies and direction of Donald Trump, there was a deeper tone. In large meetings and smaller workshops women affirmed the belief that change is coming. It is being born by the power of women exploring new forms of resistance, working toward a larger vision of liberation for all people. Maxine Waters captured the feeling in a fiery speech echoing the words spoken earlier that morning. “Enough is enough,” she shouted, challenging us to take responsibilities for our futures.

Sister Gloria Riveria captured the mood of both gatherings when she spoke to the young bioneers at the opening session. She talked about finding a politics from our heart and having the courage for fierce action. Heart. Fierceness. These will carry us to a better future.


Do Labels Define a Person’s Worth?
An Evening with Author Janice Fialka
Thursday, November 2, 7 pm
Crazy Wisdom Book Store
Ann Arbor, MI

whatmatters

Her book, What Matters: Reflections on Disability, Community and Love, is the powerful story of Micah Fialka-Feldman, who has an intellectual disability, his community, and the ground breaking journey of full inclusion in K-12 schools, college work and life.  Learn what it takes to ensure that labels such as “low IQ” do not define one’s ability to contribute to the world and live a meaningful life.  Discover why Krista Tippet of On Being praises the book as “mind-opening, life-altering, soul stretching.” A book of practical guidance, wisdom, and humor for all, because we all need to be included. Janice Fialka, LMSW, ACSW is a nationally-recognized speaker, author, award-winning social worker and advocate on issues related to disability, inclusion and family-professional partnerships.  She is also a compelling storyteller.

The mother of Micah and Emma, Janice brings grace and grit to her conversations. Hosted by Bill Zirinsky, owner of Crazy Wisdom.

For more information:  Contact Janice Fialka at www.danceofpartnership.com or ruaw@aol.com


Taking a (Michi)Gander Down a Path of Possibility
Sydney Fine

Dark soil caked underneath my fingernails and seedling in my hand, rays of sunshine beating down from the sky, the smell of fresh produce in the air, and laughter roaring from all directions, I looked up to see a row of houses that had been abandoned and boarded up to be demolished. The juxtaposition between the life I was holding in my hands, in the form of small sprouts that would soon become brightly colored vegetables, and the devastation 50 feet away from me was uncanny. This observation hit me several times over the course of my three-day service trip in Detroit.

I had the privilege of co-leading a service trip to Detroit over Fall Break with Kate Longo. Seven intelligent and observant students and Alex Serna-Wallender, our fantastic chaplain, joined Kate and me on the alternative break trip with the intention of making an impact outside of the Wooster community. We partnered with an organization called Repair the World (RTW). With locations in several major cities in the United States, RTW is a non-profit organization that seeks to bring about community-wide change, focusing on food and education injustices in these cities. The organization gets its name from the Jewish value of Tikun Olam, which translates to “repair the world.”

On our trip, we spent the majority of our time working in urban gardens. We gained new perspectives about the importance of urban gardens that supply fresh produce in the middle of communities where public transportation is incredibly sparse. While we were planting garlic or building a green house, we had the opportunity to talk to the founders of the urban gardens and members of the community who lived by the gardens who had come to join us in the work. We heard incredible stories of entrepreneurs starting with a plot of overgrown grass and turning the land into spots where neighbors come together to harvest vegetables, tend to animals, and share each others company. One man, Magnetic Sun, explained to us that everything that he has learned about agriculture, he taught himself from reading every book he could get his hands on and connecting with other urban gardeners.

Thoughts about how ubiquitous poverty and food scarcity is in the United States are often overwhelming. They often inhibit me from determining what clear-cut things I can do to make a small impact on those problems. However, there are things I am doing to begin to repair the world, and, if I can do it, you can do it. Wooster is anomaly in that we get a full week off for Fall Break and two weeks off for Spring Break. Participating in a service trip over one of these two breaks is a great start. I have been on three alternative break trips, and every time I return from the trip feeling fulfilled and rejuvenated. If participating in a service trip is not your cup-of-(volun)tea(ring), look for opportunities to volunteer in your local community. I find that residents residing in struggling communities have fascinating stories to share. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way to listen to and learn from these experts. It is important to recognize that the people who know what any community needs most are the members of that community, not volunteers or local political leaders. Step outside of your comfort zone, talk to members of your surrounding community, and take a (Michi)gander down a path of possibility.


The North Pole_Flyer 3


NOVEMBER 11 flyer

 

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:
($10,000)

You can contribute directly at our website:  –
www.boggscenter.org  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.


The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership

.

3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214
US

Boggs Center – Living for Change News Letter – October 24th, 2017

  BC Board

James and Grace Lee Boggs, ‘Rediscovering the American Past,” Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century, 1974 

“Thus the United States became the only nation in history whose best and brightest minds first led a revolution from colonialism in the name of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all men, and then built a contradiction into their society by explicitly denying human dignity to a quarter of the population they aspired to govern. The Constitutional Convention had exposed and polarized real contradictions in the country. But in the interests of unity, the Founding Fathers covered up the contradictions. They evaded their political responsibility to carry out ideological struggle and create a principled political leadership for the country. They thereby laid the groundwork for the Civil War. ”

James and Grace Lee Boggs, ‘Rediscovering the American Past,” Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century, 1974

Living for Change News
October 24th, 2017
REVIEW: The Fifty-Year Rebellion
Chris Juergens
International Examiner

“Detroit has been the in the forefront of the deindustrialization of the urban cores and the institution of neoliberal policies in U.S. cities that primarily hurt communities of color,” argued Scott Kurashige in a recent interview with the International Examiner.

Kurashige, a Japanese-American whose mother’s family is native to Seattle, is a University of Washington, Bothell, history professor and writer of the recent book, The Fifty-Year Rebellion: How the U.S. Political Crisis Began in DetroitThe election of President Donald Trump and the strong move toward pro-corporate environmental and labor policies, in addition to the support for aggressive police tactics that disproportionately hurt communities of color nationwide, is not surprising to Kurashige. Detroit has already seen these policies and in full force and so it comes as no surprise to Kurashige, a former Detroit resident, that they are being exported across the United States.

50year
Kurashige and his publisher, the University of California Press, released the book to coincide with the 1967 rebellion of African-Americans in Detroit against police brutality, sub-standard and segregated housing, and discrimination in the workplace. Kurashige’s first chapter addresses the causes of this rebellion while emphasizing that to many whites and those in government it was a “riot.” Kurashige quotes Chinese-American activist Grace Lee Boggs as saying, “We in Detroit called it the rebellion [because] there was a righteousness about the young people rising up.” This is juxtaposed with a white Detroit police officer quoted by Kurashige who described the rebellion as “more than a riot […] this is war.” Kurashige quotes a member of the Michigan National Guard, called to Detroit by Governor George Romney, as saying “I’m going to shoot anything that moves and is black.”

This first chapter sets the tone for Kurashige’s 143-page, quick moving and easy to read book that portrays Detroit’s demise and conflict in non-ambiguous racial terms. Kurashige states both in his book and interview with the Examiner that Detroit was ravaged by white flight that severely hurt Detroit’s public services and left the Detroit area segregated into a decaying, black urban core and an economically prosperous suburban area.

This decay of Detroit’s African-American, urban core was furthered by predatory lending practices that disproportionately hurt African-American communities. Detroit’s 2013 bankruptcy was the culmination in a process of marginalization of Detroit’s black community at the hands of a neo-liberal, white elite and a number of willing black collaborators. Kurashige details the emergency management of bankrupt Detroit by Kevyn Orr, a black corporate lawyer doing the bidding of Wall Street at the expense of Detroit’s struggling yet still existing black-majority communities.

Kurashige does an excellent job of finding smoking guns that vividly demonstrate the racism inherent in prominent individuals and policies aimed at dispossessing black Detroiters of power and dignity. Kurashige leaves no room for plausible deniability regarding the roots and motivations for the hollowing out of Detroit. For instance, at the beginning of his fourth chapter that details the racist neoliberal management of Detroit by Orr, Kurashige quotes Detroit’s chief financial officer under Orr, a 60-year-old white man named Jim Bonsall, as asking “Can I shoot anyone in a hoody?” as a way to belittle Trayvon Martin. The comment was made in front of many black co-workers as part of a discussion on how to prevent arson during Halloween.

Kurashige also points out the hypocrisy inherent in the bailouts of Wall Street from 2008-2009 but the unwillingness to bailout a bankrupt Detroit in debt to many of those same Wall Street banks.

When the Examiner asked Kurashige to make a comparison between the historical experience of Detroit’s communities of color and those of Seattle, Kurashige said the major difference is that Seattle did not experience anywhere near the level of white flight that Detroit did. Seattle always maintained a majority white population and as such its downtown never suffered the same neglect as that of Detroit.

Detroit, on the other hand, was and still is a majority black city that fully suffered the withdrawal of white capital.

This withdrawal of white capital, while one of the causes of Detroit’s economic decay and ultimate bankruptcy, is actually seen by Kurashige as presenting a chance for positive and creative change. In Seattle, the local economy is strong and even those who work in lower-end jobs are invested in working within the existing economic and political system because they too can gain to a certain extent by a strong economy. In our interview with Kurashige, he cited the successful campaign for a 15-dollar minimum wage and the general acceptance—however reluctant—of the business community as an example of how those on the low-end of the socio-economic scale are working within the mainstream economic and political system in Seattle.

In Detroit, however, the mainstream economic and political systems have failed so horribly that people have no choice but to look for alternative beyond the system. Kurashige’s book ends with a chapter dedicated discussing alternative local business models, ways in which Detroiters have combated aggressive, inhuman police techniques, and alternative types of schools that have been developed by and for the Detroit community. In a neoliberal economic and political system that is often imposed in a top-down manner by corporate boards and lawyers like in the case of Detroit’s bankruptcy, Detroit’s citizens are providing an alternative model to the existing system. Kurashige told us in our interview that this is crucial because “protesting and pointing out problems is not enough. An alternative social, economic, and political vision is necessary” to enact real change to an increasingly radical and inhuman neoliberal system.

Unfortunately, as Kurashige himself laments, his chapter on Detroit’s alternative communities is far too short and limited. When asked about other resources to further explore these communities, he points to the book he co-wrote with Grace Lee Boggs titled, The Next American Revolution, and the documentaries, Urban Roots, Grown in Detroit, and The American Revolutionary as good starting points. He also recommended attending the Detroit Allied Media Conference in June as a way to see up close the alternative communities and visions in Detroit.


Do Labels Define a Person’s Worth?
An Evening with Author Janice Fialka
Thursday, November 2, 7 pm
Crazy Wisdom Book Store
Ann Arbor, MI

whatmatters

Her book, What Matters: Reflections on Disability, Community and Love, is the powerful story of Micah Fialka-Feldman, who has an intellectual disability, his community, and the ground breaking journey of full inclusion in K-12 schools, college work and life.  Learn what it takes to ensure that labels such as “low IQ” do not define one’s ability to contribute to the world and live a meaningful life.  Discover why Krista Tippet of On Being praises the book as “mind-opening, life-altering, soul stretching.” A book of practical guidance, wisdom, and humor for all, because we all need to be included. Janice Fialka, LMSW, ACSW is a nationally-recognized speaker, author, award-winning social worker and advocate on issues related to disability, inclusion and family-professional partnerships.  She is also a compelling storyteller.

The mother of Micah and Emma, Janice brings grace and grit to her conversations. Hosted by Bill Zirinsky, owner of Crazy Wisdom.

For more information:  Contact Janice Fialka at www.danceofpartnership.com or ruaw@aol.com


The North Pole_Flyer 3


Automation and the End of Wage Labor: Job’s News or Boggs’s News?
Richard Bachman

In June, a group of junior researchers from the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies at the Free University Berlin invited me to chair a session of their discussion group on “The Future of Work”.

Just like in the US there is a lot of talk in Germany about this topic these days, particularly about the possible effects of automation on the labor market and society in general. The tone of this conversation is often alarmist. And how could it be any different? In a society which rests on the premise of wage labor, in which the individual is defined and cherished as a wage laborer first and as a human being second, a recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers which predicts automation to have terminated up to 35% of all current jobs in Germany by the early 2030s (in the US, even 38%) can only be perceived as Job’s news.

This development would gravely increase the number of those at risk of securing the basic means of subsistence in a wage economy. Without a wage one has no sufficient access to food, clothes and shelter. But this is not what politicians and commentators seem to be concerned about. Rather, they are spooked by the damage mass idleness supposedly does to the character of those who are no longer needed. Many see the social peace, the prerequisite for our economy to continue working undisturbed, at risk. An opaque fear is taking hold in Germany and beyond. Looming on the horizon is a growing jobless surplus population which can no longer be controlled by the disciplinary corset of wage labor.

To provide a different perspective on this scenario, I decided to have the group discuss excerpts from James Boggs’s The American Revolution. In this pamphlet Boggs makes the bold statement that “automation is the greatest revolution that has taken place in human society since men stopped hunting and fishing and started to grow their own food”. How can he say that, though? Through supplanting humans with robots, automation pushes more and more people out of their jobs, and thus plunges them into existential danger and misery.

This seems to be anything but revolutionary if one understands revolution to be the process of continuous evolution towards social and personal emancipation. Here, Boggs simply asks us to alter our perception; to see automation not as a job-destroying threat, but rather as a possible means to liberate us from the burden of wage labor and the social system it rests upon. Undermining the wage relation, automation and the transformations it brings about, urge us to rethink the very foundations of our economy and society, to “find a new concept of how to live and let live” in Boggs’s words.

One researcher in the group connected this idea to recent discussions in Europe and the US about the implementation of an Unconditional Basic Income (UBI). The UBI would secure people access to their basic means of subsistence while freeing them from the necessity of engaging in wage labor. As a result, they would be free to use their capacities to care more for each other and the environment, to engage in politics and social action, to be creative or contemplative, or simply to rest.

Doing away with the necessity to engage in wage labor also calls on us to rethink our definition of who has the right to live in our society, Boggs points out. In a wage economy only those able to engage in wage labor have the unquestionable right to live. Those who cannot work or are no longer needed are pushed into precarious conditions which threatens their very survival. Unable to produce, their right to continue living in our midst is also questioned. They become subjects to be controlled, policed and incarcerated—deviants, outcasts, prisoners.

Thus, defining human beings only according to their ability to engage in wage labor, ultimately deprives them of their humanity. Automation, Boggs highlights, finally presents us with the means to transcend this inhumane way of thinking, to help us become “more human human beings”.

Inspired to have these kinds of conversations based on what we had read, the participants of the discussion group were shocked to find out that Boggs had published The American Revolution already in 1963. His ideas seem so timely; perfectly fit to provide a fresh perspective on our current moment. This shows us that those voices from the past we have not been aware of—partially because we simply did not know they existed or have deliberately been taught to not know them—can help us make sense of our present predicament. It is the task of the historian to help those voices find listeners today. Because they can help make the difference.

 

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:
($10,000)

You can contribute directly at our website:  –
www.boggscenter.org  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.


The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership

.

3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214
US