Boggs Center – News Living For Change – September 12th, 2019

September 12th, 2019

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Thinking for Ourselves

Ring and Recognition
Shea Howell

In the midst of public debate about facial recognition technologies, the Detroit Police Department quietly partnered with Amazon’s neighborhood surveillance program, Ring. The news of this partnership was spread by investigative reporters attempting to document the extent of a growing threat to civil liberties. Detroit is one of 14 Michigan cities that have partnered with the Ring “Neighbors” program. This technology allows police access to digital images captured by home doorbells. The programs offer live streaming to users’ devices, enabling people to remotely see and speak to people on their door steps. Through the Neighbors app, individuals can share images and information. Police departments have access to the images.

Digital justice advocates are concerned that this new technology is rapidly spreading without any regulation. Police partnerships began in the spring of 2018 and now include over 400 cities. While Ring says its mission is “making the neighborhood safer,” it is clearly making Amazon richer.

Amazon purchased the company last year for $800 million. This was not a donation to public safety. Rather, it is the basis for a sophisticated partnership with police departments, aggressively marketed through conferences and programs, offering webinars, technical advice, media strategies, discounts, free cameras, and talking points to help police increase the presence of this Amazon product in neighborhoods.

These partnerships increase the capacities of authorities  to have real time surveillance of communities and people. Mohammad Tajsar, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, called the system “an unmitigated disaster” for the privacy of neighborhoods. He noted, Amazon “gets to offer, at taxpayer dime, discounted products that allow it to really expand its tentacles into wide areas of private life way more than it already has.” And so do police.

Andrew Guthrie Ferguson, author of The Rise of Big Data Policing, examines the use of fear as a sales technique. He explains that by tapping into “a perceived need for more self-surveillance and by playing on consumer fears about crime and security Ring has found a clever workaround for the development of a wholly new surveillance network, without the kind of scrutiny that would happen if it was coming from the police or government.”

Evan Greer, the deputy director of Fight for the Future says this Amazon effort is “a privately- run surveillance dragnet built outside the democratic process, but they’re marketing it as just another product, just another app.”

Across the city people have been raising concerns about expanding police powers through Facial Recognition technologies. These technologies are wrapped into the development of the Ring program. Last month Amazon announced it was upgrading its facial recognition capabilities for its program called ReKognition. Also Amazon has filed a patent describing how a network of cameras could work together with facial recognition technology to identify people and respond accordingly.

The Detroit Police and the Mayor have been developing digital capacities of control without sufficient public conversation or attention to democratic safeguards. We need to support all efforts for a moratorium on the expansion of these police powers. We need sustained public conversation about how to enhance our relationships with our neighbors. We need to develop ways to support and nurture one another, not react out of manipulated fears.


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Face Our Fears Or Run From Our Differances?

Rich Feldman

These are complex times filled with anger, tears, hope, lessons and challenges.

I often ask myself: Where does courage come from? Does our humanity come from our courage to speak truth and break the silence among ourselves and our own kind? Does it start with us? I believe it does!

These past weeks were filled with lessons to learn from— or NOT!  Your choice. Our Choice! The urgency of NOW.

Tuesday, August 20th, I had the privilege to join with around 150 folks at the Farmington Hills Holocaust Memorial Museum. They spoke loudly and clearly:

“Close Down the Camps: Never Again.”

Their banner was clear:

“The Birmingham Temple Declares Solidarity with immigrants and refugees.”

I listened to Renee Lichtman, a child survivor and an individual I have known for more than 50 years. It was humbling to see their sign: “ICE = Nazism”

I listened to Adonis Flores from Michigan United as he shared his family’s story. During WWII, his father had worked in the fields in Farmington Hills picking fruits and vegetables for the war effort. Adonis was clear that his family played their part and we had to play ours. Today Adonis continues to oppose US style fascism. He is a leading activist in our area. He linked the need to close the camps on our southern border with the need to oppose the prison industrial complex across our state. In 2019-2020, Neither Wayne County nor Macomb County need new county jails. We do not need jails to house thousands upon thousands of African Americans because they cannot make bail.

There were also 25-50 Trump Supporters in attendance, waving the American and Israeli Flags and wearing T-shirts proudly claiming to be members of Detroit’s Proud Boys (a neo-fascist movement who more than likely supported the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville). They chanted: “Obama built the cages, Trump is filling them!”

Two days earlier, on Sunday, August 18th, I was at the Hazon Michigan Food Festival in Eastern Market. Thousands of folks came from across Metro Detroit and the Midwest to feel, smell, taste and support the amazing work of local farmers and local businesses. I staffed a table for the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership ( and Detroit’s Community visionary magazine, Riverwise (

With all the progressive Jewish organizations participating, I did not see anyone lifting the banner to engage people in a discussion or introduce the importance of “never again” as it relates to the concentration camps on the southern US border, ICE, or the continued mass incarceration of black Detroiters and people of color across our country.

So many people said: “this is not a time for politics.”

I did not see one sign that said: “We support Rashida Tlaib right to visit Palestine without restrictions.” “We support individual rights to support boycotts,” “Shame on Senator Stabenow,” or even that they disagree with current Israeli policies toward the Palestinian people.

Are we afraid of controversy, debate, dialogue?  Are we afraid of losing our donations? Are we unable to create safe and brave places for public conversations?

That were the fears I was raised to feel. We were told to “never discuss our dirty laundry”—even though everyone else could see the stains and smell the odors.

That is not how I raised my children, though.  I raised my children with voice, dignity and a moral center.  Listening, Disagreeing, Trusting to continue to engage were important to them from the beginning.


DJEF FilmFest



Boggs Centers – Living For Change News – August 21st, 2019

August 21st, 2019

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The Siwatu Freedom team is overjoyed to report the news that Siwatu’s conviction has been reversed — see the full press release here!



Thinking for Ourselves

Climate Controls
Shea Howell

The images coming out of Newark, New Jersey this week could easily be mistaken for Flint, Michigan. Long lines of people, mostly black and brown, are pictured next to stacks of bottled water. After repeated denials of a water crisis, and inadequate, often chaotic attempts by officials to address it, the city and state are finally acknowledging a systemic, widespread crisis. Lead from aging pipes is leaching into the water of thousands of households, especially in poorer neighborhoods.

The New York Times reported. “A growing crisis over lead contamination in drinking water gripped Newark on Wednesday as tens of thousands of residents were told to drink only bottled water, the culmination of years of neglect that has pushed New Jersey’s largest city to the forefront of an environmental problem afflicting urban areas across the nation.”

Newark and Flint are examples of the problem older cities face in providing the basic sources of life to people. Marc Edwards, the professor from Virginia Tech who helped document the Flint water crisis, estimates that 11 million homes in the U.S. are at risk of dangerous levels of lead contamination.

Access to safe, affordable drinking water is a global crisis, intensified by climate change. A recent report warned that by 2030 nearly half the population of India, one tenth the of all people on earth, will not have adequate drinking water. Groundwater is running out. Meanwhile from Michigan to California, Nestle and other bottling companies continue to pump out millions of gallons of water, virtually for free, to sell back to people in crisis.

This system is unsustainable. Already much of the migration on a global scale is directly linked to the literal drying up or flooding out of communities made vulnerable by climate catastrophe.

Recently Phillip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights explained that we are increasingly at risk of “climate apartheid.” Alston explains that as basic elements of life become more fragile, political and economic powers move to protect themselves. Alston said, “Climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction,” Poor people everywhere will be most devastated as they will “bear an estimated 75% of the costs of the climate crisis” even though “the poorest half of the world’s population (is) causing just 10% of carbon dioxide emissions.”

The political implications are obvious. Democracy and human rights are endangered everywhere. Alston’s report said, “The risk of community discontent, of growing inequality, and of even greater levels of deprivation among some groups, will likely stimulate nationalist, xenophobic, racist and other responses. Maintaining a balanced approach to civil and political rights will be extremely complex.”

This global context helps us understand why the current fight in Detroit over facial recognition technologies is so important. Increasing tools of technological repression places the majority of people at risk. It only serves to intensify and expand the powers of the state. This is the wrong direction.

If we are to construct a future for all of us, we need to think very differently about the choices we are making today. We need to move toward policies and practices that increase our human connections and our ecological sensibilities. There is a deep tread that ties together protecting the human right to water, food, education, and creative life while resisting dehumanizing, technological efforts of control us. Each time we chose to act toward life, we are shaping a better tomorrow.



Final_2nd Annual PP Festival
We hope to see you at the 2nd Annual Petty Propolis Art Festival in Historic Idlewild, Michigan!


Join us as we continue Historic Idlewild’s legacy of celebrating Black history and culture! Enjoy incredible artists like Mollywop!, Nique Love Rhodes & the NLR Experience, Monica Blaire and so many more! Check out the Black History 101 Mobile Museum, play big board games, race one of the miniature race cars and enjoy the entertainment for free! For a nominal fee, go kayaking, take a bike ride or go paddle boarding.


This year, we are offering a 1 day roundtrip bus ride to Idlewild for ONLY $30! The bus leaves from Detroit at 8am on September 1st and leaves Idlewild to head back to Detroit at 830pm the same evening.
Limited bus seating available.

Get additional info and your day pass here


See you there!





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Detroit’s creative community has gained a valuable resource in the Riverwise Storytelling Workshops, which focus on grooming storytellers within the city. KEEP READING


Online Class by Visionary Organizing Lab



Many are marking 2019 as the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first captured Africans in Jamestown. So, even more than usual, we will hear chattel slavery referred to as the nation’s original sin.

It isn’t.



Boggs Center – Living For Change News – August 12th 2019

August 12th, 2019

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Field Street Block Club Clean Up & Meet Up

Saturday, August 17th
2514 Field St.

CLEAN UP: 9-noon

Thinking for Ourselves

Constant Sorrow
Shea Howell

This has been a week of constant sorrow. We have witnessed the murders of 31 people in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. As hospitals worked to save lives and repair people, brutal ICE agents rounded up nearly 700 people in Mississippi, leaving children sobbing uncontrollably for their parents. White supremacy and white nationalism are everywhere. By Sunday a young white man walked into a Mosque in Oslo with guns blazing.

These tragedies overwhelmed our hearts and saturated the media. The 74th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima on August 6th and on Nagasaki on August 9th went by with little notice. These nuclear weapons of mass destruction caused the deaths of 146,000 people in Hiroshima and 80,000 people in Nagasaki, changing the world forever. The US remains the only nation to have used these bombs, though each day the world comes closer to another such holocaust. Nor was there much space to publicly acknowledge and reflect on the five years that have passed since the murder of Michael Brown, even as the town of Ferguson calls on its artists to help heal wounds still raw.

The violence and brutality of this moment invades everything we touch. For many of us, the current President embodies the worst of it; encouraging hate, distorting lives, thoughts, and language, spewing hate.

In the midst of this, Toni Morrison left us. Her death marks the loss of one of the most vital and visionary thinkers of our time.  Her voice will be greatly missed. Angela Davis wrote in her tribute:

“Toni was cleareyed about the United States, about the lies it tells itself, about the truth of its dark side and about its potential, rooted in its traditions of dissent, to offer a better future. A student of history, she understood that nations come and go, but that human beings had the capacity for change, evolution and growth, and that a more just world awaits if only we would commit to bringing it into being.”

Tracy K Smith, former poet laureate of the US, wrote similarly of Ms. Morrison’s belief in the possibilities of America, fully knowing the brutality woven into us from the beginning. She said:

“I believe her subject is America, this place founded upon conflict and driven by the need to define one group against another. Her work asks: Who are we? What have we built and broken together? What does it mean to regard one another deeply, humbly, hopefully? And what are the consequences for our refusal to regard one another? Across Ms. Morrison’s novels and essays, these questions operate in the intimate spaces — in families, friendships, marriages — that serve to determine the terms of our engagement with the wider world. And the reverse is true as well: The terms of the wider world seep inevitably into the most private regions of our lives.”

Toni Morrison helps us all face the fact that the violence of today is an enduring part of our collective life on this land. Angela Davis said:

“Decades ago, she warned about the rising tide of authoritarianism in a series of astute and prescient lectures and essays. In 1995, she compelled us to heed the signs of people who “construct an internal enemy as both focus and diversion” and who “isolate and demonize that enemy by unleashing and protecting the utterance of overt and coded name-calling and verbal abuse.” These, she warned, were the first steps toward “a final solution.” These essays are as important today as they were when she wrote them. Perhaps even more so.

As with all of our greatest thinkers, she held up a mirror that shows us our capacity for tremendous evil as well as for good. In one of her late novels, “A Mercy,” she returned us to a period before racial slavery was consolidated, when a new nation might have made a different set of choices and everything was in flux and possible. She does not take us down the path of the devastating choice that was made. We know that. We are living it. She simply uses the power of imagination to remind us that at any given stage, we might have chosen differently.

Today the choices before us cannot be evaded. Terror is rising in ways that cannot be denied. Toni Morrison offers us deep wisdom. She challenges us to hold fast to our capacity to find our way to the choices of life rooted in love and longing.


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Calling all people with a disability or chronic illness living in the Detroit area!  Calling all caregivers
of a person with a disability or chronic illness – family, friend, aide, teacher, loved one or professional!

We invite you to join our process of exploring, listening, supporting, sharing, healing, reflecting, and transforming our lives in a community with others doing the same.

-Do you need assistance and resources for a more balanced life?
-Are you tired or feeling stressed from your day-to-day struggles in Detroit?
-Do you want to expand your support system and be a part of a caring community?
-Are you ready to share stories and strategies in a safe space?
-Do you want to have fun and meet new people?

Our monthly Community Care Circles will launch August 18, 2019, meeting the 3rd Sunday of each month, 2-4 p.m. at Delray Senior Housing, 275 W Grand Blvd. in Detroit.

Please RSVP here.
Click here for more details!



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