Boggs Center – Living For Change News Letter -July 25, 2017

Jimmy and Grace

We are the Children of Martin and Malcolm…

We are the children of Martin and Malcolm,       

Black, brown, red and white,

Our birthright is to be creators of history,

Our Right, Our Duty   

To shake the world with          

A new dream!

July 25th, 2017

Thinking for Ourselves
From Contempt to Love
Shea Howell

Throughout the city people are talking about the Detroit Rebellion, now 50 years in the past. The debate between riot and rebellion still surges, igniting energy and argument. The meaning of it all is still analyzed, the images still inspiring. In all of these conversations, fear lingers. Will it happen again?

Many people comfort themselves by narrowing the cause of the 1967 rebellion to police brutality.  The story goes something like this. Detroit was becoming a majority black city, but the police department was 95% white. Many white officers had been recruited from the south, specifically because they were good at intimidating African Americans. It was excessive force and harassment, used against people celebrating the return of two Viet Nam veterans in an after hours joint that sparked what was then the bloodiest urban uprising in US history. Now, after Coleman Young and his efforts to integrate the police department, we no longer face the problems of police hostility.  All may not be perfect, but it is much better.

Others acknowledge the complexity of racism, white supremacy, deindustrialization, and a host of local, regional and national policies that combined to oppress and dehumanize people of color. Many recognize that these forces are still distorting and destroying the lives of people throughout our city. School closing, pension seizures, unemployment, shut offs of heat and water, foreclosures and police harassment are part of daily life.

What rarely gets openly discussed, however, is the underlying logic driving much of the corporate elite and the choices they are making in the name of developing our city. That logic is the same as it was fifty years ago. It rests on a profound contempt for the lives of poor people, especially African Americans and other people of color. Their very presence has to be controlled. Their lives made invisible, their hopes and dreams diminished.

Public officials today reflect this same contempt. It is the foundation to all of their responses to the problems we face. For example, in a recent article in the New York Times discussing the blatant disregard for the law in the foreclosure crisis, Mayor Mike Duggan is quoted as saying he would not consider reimbursements to people who lost their home because of unconstitutional city actions. Duggan’s position is people had a chance to appeal their tax assessments. If people didn’t take advantage of the opportunity, it is just too bad for them. It is their own fault that they lost their homes, not the illegal actions of the city.

This contempt for people around the foreclosure crisis is the same attitude Duggan takes on water shut offs. He said people should just pay their bills. His attitude was echoed by the former radical, former city council person Sheila Cockrel. She was more direct, telling people who wanted “free water” to grab a bucket and head for the river. Comments from suburban leaders are no different. Most famously this contempt was expressed by L. Brook Patterson in Oakland County, suggesting putting a fence around Detroit and throwing in “blankets and corn.”

Contempt is essential to the protection of privilege. It justifies the inhuman and destructive practices necessary to maintain relationships based on injustice.

In sharp contrast to these corporate elites, people throughout the city are fostering relationships based on love and respect. They are growing food together, caring for children, creating new forms of education and developing local means of production for local needs. They are telling new stories of our past and opening new possibilities for our future. Whatever fires come next time, our best hope is in these community connections forged in love.


Eyewitness to History: July 23rd, 1967
Carl R. Edwards (founding member of the Boggs Center and People’s lawyer).

Violence is the voice of the unheard.” – Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, July 23, 1967, I had just turned 20 years old.  I was born on Bastille Day, July 14, 1947, the date in 1789 that the French people rebelled and overthrew their economic and political rulers, the King and Queen of France and the French monarchy.  I had spent the day with my girlfriend at her parent’s home across the street from the old Olympia Stadium, home of Detroit’s professional hockey team, the Red Wings and its professional basketball team, the Detroit Pistons.

In the early afternoon, there was breaking news as we watched television: a disturbance had broken out in a lower west side neighborhood when the Detroit Police conducted a raid on an “after hours joint”.  As time passed there were additional television news flashes: violence and looting of stores and business spontaneously erupted all over the City of Detroit.  When I got ready to leave to return home, my girlfriend’s parents told me it was not safe to venture out and suggested that I spend the night and wait until the morning to return home.

I demurred.  I thanked them for their kindness and set off for home, a mere 2-3 miles north on Grand River Avenue.

However, nothing in my 20- year-old young life prepared me for what I was destined to encounter.  I was a witness to the apocalypse; a people’s primal scream for crimes committed by the white American and European race against African and African American humanity that shook the very foundations of the City of Detroit and the surrounding region, state and the nation.

It was both a riot and a rebellion. At that time, like so many other main streets in Detroit, Grand River was a beautiful avenue of retail stores, banks, grocery stores, gas stations, automobile sales lots, and all manner of large and small businesses.  I witnessed scores of African Americans, young and old, breaking windows and stealing the store contents: groceries and meat, furniture, refrigerators, washers and dryers, irons and ironing boards, mops brooms and buckets, clothing, and every imaginable consumer good, vividly comes to my mind. 

Although it was nearly midnight and the summer sun had gone to bed hours earlier, I recall the sky being “lit up” as if it were night and day at the same time. Bright red, yellow, orange, purple and black it was. Eerie. Flames danced up and up, higher and higher, to the heavens it seemed blotting out the dark night. To my young barely outside of mental adolescent mind, I said to myself: “This is what hell must look like”.

Why were people breaking into the stores and businesses stealing, and looting, I thought out loud. What my young, evolving mind could not yet piece together was the days and years of mistreatment, daily humiliations and myriad insults and degradations, heaped upon us all because of the color of our skin. I recall my father telling me that his stepfather was a dental school graduate but he could not practice in the dental profession because of the color of his skin.   He found work instead at the United States Post Office where he worked until retirement. These and other narratives that were worse occupied the daily lives of African American Detroiters. More, the white Detroit police force was tasked with the responsibility of instilling fear and control, especially for those African Americans who dared challenge the normal operation of the way “things just were”. On that fateful Sunday, a typical day of rest, quiet and peace, “All HELL BROKE OUT” and African American Detroiters, as had African Americans in other American cities, exploded, releasing pent up energy, for a trillion grievances, outrages and despairs.

Police cruisers, fire trucks and ambulances sped up and down Grand River Avenue.
For the hour or so that I walked up Grand River, I saw absolutely not a scintilla of activity that could be described as resistance to the suffocating reality of virulent white racism, white skin privilege, white supremacy and white control over every fiber of my existence as a young African American Detroiter born and raised locally, not yet legally an adult.  And it was white racism that caused this contagion.  The report of president Lyndon B. Johnson’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders (The Kerner Commission) was unequivocal when it concluded, I am paraphrasing, that white racism caused the “Uprisings” in America’s cities, including Detroit.  The Kerner Commission further stated unless drastic actions were undertaken immediately America was moving toward two societies, one black and one white, separate and unequal.

Yes, there was spontaneous unorganized resistance to the white police department when a largely white, Detroit Police Department attempted to quell the uprising by African American Detroiters against the symbols of white privilege and control in our largely racially segregated communities in Detroit.  But the uprising also spread to Downtown Detroit’s political and economic power center and headquarters to most corporate businesses.  It was only years later that I discovered there was also organized resistance by politically developed activist and revolutionaries in a few sectors of the uprising. However, and let me be absolutely clear on this point, there was no large-scale involvement of the masses of Detroiters with the goal or objective of organizing to seize control of private corporate property or power or state (governmental) property or power nor any aspect of same and negotiate with the moneyed or economic and political class for relief from the structures of white racist political and economic power in this city and region.

This statement should not be read, however, to support in any manner those apologist for the status quo as it existed for my entire young 20-year-old life in 1967. There has been a wealth of research, studies and books written on the history of race and racism as well as segregation and economic class domination in the City of Detroit. It is often loss to history that there was also a terrible racial uprising in 1943 that has been aptly documented by the national NAACP. Moreover, professor Thomas Segrue has documented this history of racial segregation and Jim Crow in the City of Detroit with his masterfully researched and written: “The Origin of the Urban Crisis”.  Additionally, “Detroit: I Do Mind Dying, A Study in Urban Revolution” by Dan Georgakas and Marvin Surken, is also a riveting account of the organized resistance and struggle against “Apartheid Detroit”, post-July 23, 1967.

In July 1967, a trillion pent up grievances, outrages and despairs exploded into spontaneous violence on a massive scale.  Businesses and property, private and public, were targets for the most part.  This is the definition of a riot.  Indeed, $40-45 million dollars was the estimated cost in 1967 dollars ($325 million in 2013 dollars).  This was the most destructive uprising and insurrection in United States history until the 1992 uprising following the not guilty verdict of the white Los Angeles police officers after their savage beating of Rodney King.

However, this eruption in mass violence by African American Detroiters was at the same time a rebellion, because although there was mass anger and revolt, the white owned businesses and property were the symbols of everything that was regarded as normal: the Detroit Public School system was racially segregated, with certain schools closed to African Americans; certain Detroit neighborhoods and homes were closed to African American Detroiters; the colleges and universities were also largely closed to African Americans, including those located in the City of Detroit and throughout the State of Michigan.

Jobs and employment, especially the skilled trades and white collar, salary, supervision and management, and all professional categories, also found it normal to exclude persons of color from their ranks.  Banking, home ownership, business ownership, the legal and political process and even the downtown Detroit restaurants were off limits to African American Detroiters.  In a word, whites reserved the “good stuff” and the “good life” to and for themselves.

African American Detroiters revolted and rebelled against this normal relationship of whites over blacks.  From July 23-28, 1967 “…the world was turned upside down”.

Tragically, the decisions of the economic and political dominant class and their handpicked African American Detroit junior partners and comprador leaders created the storm that has created the legitimate grievances of African American Detroiters.

All too often these African American Detroit economic and political educated leaders and junior partners to white economic and political power elite served their individual interest first and the interest of their family members, friends and peers, rather than the interest of ordinary African American Detroiters, the people.

In a similar context in Africa, the iconic Dr. Kwame Nkrumah has referred to these individuals as “neocolonialist”: Africans whom serve the interest of white European and American economic rulers in power and not the interest of ordinary Africans.  See “Kwame Nkrumah, The Conakry Years”, his life in exile in Guinea, Africa, after he was removed from office as President, Ghana, Africa, by his then Ghana Africa educated and military elite in collaboration with the United States and European powers; see also “The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born” by Ayi Kweiarmah, for a description of the lives of ordinary Ghanians under the rule of black Ghana, Africa, Junior partners to the United States and England economic powers, after independence when Britain was thrown out of Ghana.  The replacement Ghana Junior partners treated ordinary Africans no better than their white former colonial masters, the English; and the values of these black African Ghanians remained fundamentally as they had been under British rule: worshipping at the altar of extreme materialism.

Martial law was declared in Detroit. The Constitutional protections and the Bill of Rights were locked away and placed in cold storage and the counter-revolution was unleashed with full fury and effect on African American Detroiters, men women, teenagers and, yes, even children. 

In 1967, I was working as a janitor at Fred Sanders Bakery in the City of Highland Park, just outside Detroit on the afternoon shift. I was a sophomore at Michigan Lutheran College in Detroit attending day classes. I recall having to walk miles in order to make it home after my work shift ended at 10:00pm. An 8:00 pm curfew was in effect so we asked our supervisor if we could leave work in time to avoid being in violation of the curfew. We were told by our boss that as long as we possessed a permission slip from our job we could be out after the curfew went into effect. I decided to move back into my parents’ home located near Livernois and Warren Avenues because there was less public and private property destruction than there was in the Grand River Avenue area where my apartment was located. On day one after martial law was declared a coworker dropped me off on Livernois. As I walked passed the Detroit Police Department 10th precinct at Elmhurst and Livernois I saw a stunning spectacle that literally rattled me from my head to my soul. Scores of public buses were parked stuffed with African American Detroiters. No restroom there to relieve one’s self. No privacy whatsoever. No food, water, ability to buy a bag of potato chips or a soda pop. And this was the circumstance all over the City of Detroit. Every Detroit Police Department precinct mirrored what I witnessed at the 10th precinct. More, Detroit Public Schools football and baseball fields were converted into “ slave holding pens” and “concentration camps”. Later when the 82nd and 101st Airborne United States Army divisions and tanks moved into Detroit some of these playgrounds were also converted into military commands and stations. Even Detroit’s beautiful Belle Isle Park, at the time called the 8th wonder of the world, had its historic Bath House commandeered and converted into a modern day “slave holding pen”. 

Army tanks randomly machine-gunned apartment buildings all over the city including in the areas where the uprising occurred. The “Dogs of War” were unleashed on a largely compliant African American Detroit citizenry. Legal murder and death were savagely committed against African American Detroit citizens by the United States military and local Detroit Police Department. Both were populated by white Americans raised on the toxic brew that we were their “inferiors”. Like their ancestors before them society gave these white citizens the privilege and powers and the right to control their darker brethren in any manner that they chose, including murder and death, including my death.   A bestselling book was written by noted author, John Hersey, entitled: “The Algiers Motel Incident”, concerning the savage, cold-blooded death of three African American teenagers at the hands of white Detroit police officers.  It was an open secret that Detroit’s economic and political power brokers went to the southern states and recruited white males to become police officers.  So too, the United States military has been historically disproportionately comprised of white males from the south.  These “good old boys” were born and raised with the powerful ideas that their darker citizens were “inferior” and it was their solemn, sacred duty “…to put and keep the “niggras” in their place”.  Unlike their white northern brethren who dressed up, disguised and prettified this same system and personal white supremacy feeling and mental thinking, including the northern educated “liberal racist” socioeconomic class.  For many years I have wondered why the towering Frederick Douglas sought personal independence from the white northern liberal abolitionist of his day, including establishing his own anti-slavery newspaper, “The North Star”.

For two nights, I trekked along Livernois Avenue the several miles to my destination, my parents’ home. During those harrowing nights, each step I made and each breath I took was anxiety filled as countless police cruisers and military vehicles sped by me. I carried the obligatory pass in my right pants pocket. But the fear of the “slave catchers” occupied my every young, innocent thoughts. 

On night three my luck ran out. A police cruiser occupied by four Detroit Police Department officers, (nicknamed “The Big 4”), pulled alongside me as I walked home.  I was ordered to stop. I froze in fear for what seemed like eternity. The first officer to exit his vehicle was particularly aggressive: “Nigger what are you doing out here. There is a curfew? Niggers are not to be on the streets”. In a nanosecond before I could provide an answer I see his right-hand move and he pulled out what appeared to my unschooled mind in weapons the biggest hand gun I had ever seen. Before I could say a word the barrel of this big, black pistol was pressed hard to my temple. I told the white officers I was heading home from work and I had a pass from my employer to be outside after the curfew. I reflectively went to reach into my right side of my pants pocket to show the white police officer my pass. I took a quick look out of the side of my eyes and saw and heard him pull the hammer back and hold it to the side of my head. My mind thought also reflexively this is my last seconds on this earth. I felt my heart racing, I was sweating profusely, a cold sweat on an extraordinary hot, Detroit, July summer day.

The white police officer holding the gun to my head grabbed my right hand and removed my paper pass from my pocket. He read it out loud and said words, I am now paraphrasing because of time and distance: “Nigger, this is just a piece of paper.  It don’t mean shit. If we catch your black ass out again after the curfew we will kill you”. I watched as the crumpled paper pass was picked up by the wind and blown a half block distance.  My hand still shakes as I recount this unspeakable experience 50 years later.  I still suffer from the “guilt of the survivor” syndrome.

I was one of the fortunate young black men that July day and of that time. Many African American young men faced the wrath of the modern-day police state and it cost them permanently, with their life or their freedom, as it had cost millions of our ancestors. Our creator had her arms wrapped around me. She had a different purpose for my earthly life. I am certain that the seeds of what I was later to become were clearly planted with that harrowing life and death encounter with the modern day “slave catchers”: A trial lawyer, activist, humanitarian and freedom fighter.

July 23, 1967 was both a riot and a rebellion. Tens of thousands of young men and women of my generation heard and headed Malcolm’s call and challenge, a challenge that is just as urgent today:

“Wake up, from your oppressed status at the bottom of the economic, social pyramid; Clean up, mentally, spiritually and physically from your woeful miseducation concerning your history;  you are not an inferior person or people; we are all exceedingly flawed and imperfect human beings but we have this incredible power that lies within, the power of choice and redemption; to choose to become a responsible citizen and purpose driven human being; and Standup; be a ‘man’ not a permanent ‘boy’, a woman, not an adult girl and stop being complacent to injustice in the face of what seems like an impossible challenge and odds.”

July 23-28, 1967 also confirms the enduring principle of the towering titan Frederick Douglass when he intoned: “Power concedes nothing without a demand; and that demand will be by words or sometimes by blows or both; the limits of tyrants are governed by the degree endurance tolerated by the person or persons they oppress and deprive of basic natural rights”. 

July 23-28, 1967 was an insurrection. African American Detroit and African Americans in other sister cities both rioted and rebelled against the status quo and system of African American and black inferiority in every aspect of American and European life, imposed by white supremacy, white skin privilege and white control, circumstances which were considered normal by white Detroiters, white Americans and indeed white Europeans.  Sadly, this normalcy fundamentally still persists today, 50 years later.

On April 4, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King spoke to the violence that was occurring all over America in her cities shortly before Detroit exploded July 23, 1967.  In a riveting passionate speech against the Vietnam War, delivered at Riverside Church in New York, Dr. King reminded America that violence is the language of the unheard and the poor.  More, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated America urgently needed a revolution in values.  He challenged America to shift from a “thing” oriented society to a “person” oriented society.  Dr. King stated that “machines and profits cannot be more important than the people”.  He warned America that it was headed for spiritual death unless it reversed course from worshiping at the altar of “…racism, extreme materialism and militarism”.

Finally, James and Grace Lee Boggs followed the words and example of Dr. King.  They repeatedly called on us to struggle and fight to save the soul of America, not because we hate America, but because we love her so.


No water for poor people:
the nine Americans who risked jail to seek justice

Drew Phillip

4500 2

(Marian Kramer and Rev Bill Wylie-Kellermann stand beneath Transcending, the monument built to honor Detroit’s Labor Movement. Photograph: Garrett MacLean for the Guardian)


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:

You can contribute directly at our website:  –  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

Boggs Center – Living For Change News Letter -July 17, 2017

 Jimmy and Grace  

“We still survive, in the culture of estrangement, for how much longer no one knows. Yet to change that culture intelligently, we must understand it, trace its roots, know its history – not because estrangement is the lineal descendent of one particular historical event or time, but because the past is still alive in the present.”

Burning Times – Dreaming The Dark – STARKHAWK


Living for Change News
July 17th, 2017
Thinking for Ourselves
Beyond Boundaries
Shea Howell
Across the country people in small towns and cities are experimenting with new ways to create change. While we have experienced a national catastrophe on the presidential level, municipal governments are showing a deep resilience as citizens find ways to address income inequality, climate catastrophe, and basic needs for health, welfare, and education.

Writing in the Nation, John Nichols talked about the “radical experiment in community-guided governance and cooperative economics” emerging. Along with the election of Chokwe Antar Lumumba in Jackson, Mississippi, Nichols documents progressive victories from “Cincinnati to St. Louis to South Fulton, Georgia.”

“The list of victories thus far on this year’s long calendar of contests—mayoral, City Council, state legislative, and even statewide—is striking.” Nichols argues.  “Many of them are unprecedented, and most are linked by a growing recognition on the part of national progressive groups and local activists that the greatest resistance not just to Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan but to right-wing governors could well come from the cities and states where the day-to-day work of governing is done. Municipal resistance is crucial.”

These victories begin by saying “no” but they do not end there. Instead, Nichols explains, “They recognize that an alternative vision can be proposed and put into practice in communities where taxes are levied, services are delivered, commitments to fight climate change are made, resolutions to establish sanctuary cities are adopted, and questions about poverty, privatization, and policing are addressed.”

He continues, ”These victories make a powerful case that a new resistance-and-renewal politics is sending a signal to conservative Republicans and cautious Democrats alike about the ability of bold progressive populists to win in every part of the country.”

The radical potential of local governments to create new forms for enacting values of cooperation, care and commitment to sustainable ways of living is precisely why the right wing is assaulting the very idea of local government.

In Michigan we have seen violent attacks on local sovereignty. Embedded in right wing republican thinking is the idea that local governments exist only at the behest of states. Michigan Attorney General and would be governor Bill Schuette said in defending Emergency Manager Laws that people “do not have a constitutional right to local self government.”

Current Governor Rick Snyder demonstrated this notion recently as his Receivership Transition Advisory Board (RTAB) overrode a unanimous city council vote in Flint to place a moratorium on liens on homes with delinquent water bills.

As journalist Curt Guyette explained, “The decision to strike down the moratorium highlighted yet another prong of an anti-democratic receivership law—the same law that created “emergency managers”—that also resulted in the lead contamination of the city water supply and a prolonged, deadly outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease…The RTAB has complete authority to reject budgets, revenue decisions and major contracts approved by the elected council and mayor. Calling it an “advisory is really a misnomer.”

We are in the midst of a struggle for the soul of our country. What values will we live by? Will we care for one another and our earth or will we continue a system of survival of the greediest and most vicious, destroying people and places for the benefit of a few?

Communities that care for one another are providing real alternative directions toward a better future. But these communities are vulnerable to the whims of state governments in the hands of right wing politicians funded by corporate dollars. Thus, as we create new forms of local governance, we need to be forming new associations of support and resilience, creating ways of linking our selves together beyond the boundaries of the State.

Become a Warrior for the Human Spirit


Organizing in Detroit: Why it Matters to Me
Tawana “Honeycomb” Petty

I am a social justice organizer who enjoys introducing conferences and other social justice initiatives to my great city, Detroit. However, it’s more than just organizing. It’s a responsibility that I find as difficult as I find rewarding.

Detroit is a city that is over 80% black. It is a city that was disinvested from for many decades and, in many neighborhoods, is still being disinvested from. It’s? a city that has suffered under a half century of propaganda assault. Because of this systematic propaganda assault, many folks who travel to Detroit have preconceived negative notions about the mostly-black city. Even well-meaning people succumb to this bias.

This makes bringing conferences or any diverse gathering into the city challenging. A lot of black residents are skeptical of whites who enter the city because of the sordid history of white flight and the racial tension that still permeates the fabric of the city and the United States. The tension that had the perception of bubbling under the surface has been unearthed with the emergence of the Detroit “comeback narrative” and the “Make America Great” call to the country from the current administration. The comeback narrative has reinforced the perception that black residents are less than and incapable of caring for where they live.

As a student of history and the present, as well as a poet and visionary organizer, I am cognizant of the type of environment I am inviting conference participants into. It’s an undertaking which sometimes presents quagmires that aren’t sorted out before a conference leaves the city.

Nonetheless, I have made a commitment to analyze the conference invitations that I am approached with, to engage other organizers with similar interests in the city around the invitation, to invite panelists, artists and presenters who live in, love on, and have a historical analysis of Detroit to present, and to challenge the dominant narrative that still haunts this great city. This is a task that holds even greater significance as we approach the 50th anniversary of the Detroit Rebellion.

The Rebellion was a response to police brutality and racism in 1967. Identifying it as a riot minimizes the righteous indignation exercised by a community that was living under constant violence and profound neglect. The lack of reference to the 1943 race riot is also telling and contributes to a lopsided narrative around Detroit history.

During the week of June 1st – 4th, the Pedagogy and Theatre of Oppressed Conference was held in Detroit. I accepted an invitation from my neighbor and comrade Reg Flowers several months prior to join the planning team because I am an artist who believes in Toni Cade Bambara’s challenge to artists to “make revolution irresistible,” and I believe art, education, and theatre centered on Paule Freire’s and Augusto Boal’s ideologies are good opportunities to do just that.

I had also worked with Reg in the past and had grown to admire him and his work, as well as his compassion for humanity.

The conference was not without challenges, but there were moments of reflection and transformation throughout that encourage me to continue to analyze and accept some of the invitations I receive to co-organize and expose Detroiters to new conference experiences that are rooted and invested in social and environmental justice. It is also an opportunity to engage visitors to Detroit in a new, more humane way of seeing my city by sharing with them the brilliance and innovation of the residents who loved on Detroit when she was left for dead, and still love on Detroit today.

Of course there are many conferences held in Detroit. Some conferences are organized by kick-ass organizers with similar commitments, others are facilitated in ways that reinforce harmful stereotypes and narratives. I am grateful that the PTO Conference succeeded in challenging those harms while planting seeds of humanity in its participants.

The reflection below from Pedagogy & Theatre of Oppressed, Inc. board member Rebecca Struch is a touching reflection and why it was worth it to expose diverse voices to Detroit.

I am still processing the many gifts of my time in Detroit at the 22nd Annual Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Conference. My heart expanded with our collective commitment to create a better world through theatre, education, and community leadership. Building on the historical legacy of the Cass Corridor Commons (Shea Howell taught me the Parlor Room was the first place in the city where black and White folks could gather together to read), we spent our days laughing, crying, questioning, disagreeing, dreaming, and scheming—all in an effort to lay siege to systems of oppression that seek to destroy our communities from within. We will not be fooled. Detroiters have taught me the power of true intersectional organizing.

We can’t talk about education without talking about water shutoffs. We can’t talk about school closings without talking about emergency management and the intimate relationship between racism and capitalism. We can’t build a revolutionary movement without ensuring access to healthy foods. Detroit is where it’s going down, y’all. Watch, listen, and support in any way you can.

I know I intend to carry the seeds of my new knowledge into all the work I do back home. It seems to me that cultural resistance—something so economically “useless” as community-engaged theatre—is the best hope we have for mocking and dismantling neoliberalism and the structural oppression that supports it. Liberation is ours to create. We must. We will. #wagelove #resist

Rebecca’s reflections are significant in recapturing the spirit of Detroiters who never stopped loving Detroit. It’s easy to find value in the “comeback” areas of Detroit. It’s more significant if your love for Detroit encompasses the full scope of her being and survival when the rest of the world turned its back on her.

I am committed to nurturing an understanding of the city that raised me, but never at her expense. If you come to Detroit, try not to bring the seeds of propaganda with you.

Join us for the FREE premiere of DETROITERS on June 22nd at 6pm. Detroit’s story is still being told.



Noble Folks’ spirit linger

Prosy Abarquez Delacruz, J.D.

“Another time, we had Grace Lee Boggs in our house, celebrating her octogenarian birthday. A bunch of students and friends were at my house sharing stories. Grace was quick in her wit and she had a longer view of the world to share. It was always about hope, it was about how empowered we were. But most especially, how to care for the other person at the other side of the world. What time would it be for them, as opposed to simply a focus on our time here in the US? It was a source of bewilderment for me for a long time, but the more I think about time in the other side of the globe, I got to think more about how they lived in that part of the world, and how each moment becomes a struggle to live one’s humanity.?..”



How Does a Community Internet Organizer Work?

Diana Nucera runs an organization that promotes digital literacy and internet access in Detroit.


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:

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The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214

Independence Day, 2008 Grace Lee Boggs

Independence Day,  2008
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, July 13-19, 2008

“There is nothing like the threat of execution to focus the human
mind.” (G.K. Chesterton, author of the Father Brown mysteries).

In 2008,  our “threat of execution” is taking the form of high gas
prices, floods in Iowa, wildfires in California, the cyclone in Burma
(Myanamur) and earthquake in southwest China, melting icecaps, rising
seas and a sinking economy.

That is why, decades from now, if the human race survives,  this
year’s Fourth of July may be remembered as the one when holiday
celebrations went beyond beer and barbecuing to include stories of the
steps that we and others are taking and can take to change the way we
are living to stop global warming.

This year we realized that we are the masters of our fate and the
captains of our souls.  Instead of viewing ourselves as subjects who
can’t stop driving SUVs, we began viewing ourselves as citizens with
the right and responsibility to care for our planet and our posterity.

Decades from now, as our grandchildren and great-grandchildren gather
in backyards with friends, families and neighbors to celebrate their
Independence Day, I can imagine them toasting each other as Sons and
Daughters of the Second American Revolution. Once upon a time, they’ll
be toasting and boasting, it was our grandparents and
great-grandparents who began biking or taking the bus to work. It was
our grandparents and great-grandparents who urged others to do the same
instead of just griping. It was our grandparents and great-grandparents
who brought  about a historic decline in the number of  floods,
hurricanes, droughts and wildfires by changing their own gas-guzzling
way of life. It was our grandparents and great-grandparents who
organized the  demonstrations which persuaded city governments to
create one or two carfree days every month and provide completely free
public transportation to discourage people from driving cars.

I have little patience with the prophets of Doom and Gloom.  I know as
well as they do that our whole climate is changing, that water
shortages, crop failures, increasing damages from extreme weather
events, etc. threaten a breakdown in infrastructures and democratic

But doomsayers breed and deepen despair. They apparently believe that
the only way to avoid total collapse is by changing the whole system
with one stroke –  as if human beings were like a school of fish who
all change direction at the same time or as if changing the whole
system was as simple as rubbing out some misspelled words on a

Meanwhile, there are a lot of people who, alarmed by rising food
costs, last year’s spinach and this year’s tomato crisis,  are taking
small steps that can become big ones.  They are choosing of their own
free will to eat locally, to become locavores. This year there has been

a giant leap in the number of grow-it-yourselfers. These days  the
urban agricultural movement is the fastest growing movement in the
United States.

The huge changes now necessary to avert a planetary catastrophe will
probably come about from an accumulation or culmination of such small
changes,  through a combination of Necessity (being kicked from behind)   and Freedom (choosing to do the right thing).

It was not because of abstract idealism that Detroit’s “Gardening
Angels”  sparked the  urban agricultural movement that is pointing a
direction for 21st century cities.  The sight of all these vacant lots
(in the wake of de-industrialization) inspired these elders who had
been raised in the south to plant community gardens.  These gardens,
they thought, would not only grow food.  They would give young people
raised in the city a sense of process.

As columnist Ellen Goodman put it in a recent article, gardening
“doesn’t have the marching sound of John Philip Sousa. It doesn’t have
the patriotic salience of a flag. But in dicey times, the idea of
growing just a bit of your own food carries the real flavor of July
Fourth. It smacks a lot of independence.”

Boggs Center – Living For Change News Letter – June 26, 2017

Jimmy and Grace

Grace Lee Boggs 102th Birthday. Grace our comrade, mentor and friend past away October 5, 2015.  Grace and Jimmys legacy continues.  

“People are aware that they cannot continue in the same old way but are immobilized because they cannot imagine an alternative. We need a vision that recognizes that we are at one of the great turning points in human history when the survival of our planet and the restoration of our humanity require a great sea change in our ecological, economic, political, and spiritual values.” GLB

Living for Change News
June 26th, 2017
The Revolution Starts With Us

Scott Kurashige’s presentation to the Allied Media Conference Opening Ceremony (Detroit: June 16, 2017)

BILL MOYERS: Let me take you back to that terrible summer of 1967, when Detroit erupted into that awful riot out there.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I ask you to think about your calling it a riot. We in Detroit called it the rebellion because we understood that there was a righteousness about the young people rising up against both the police, which they considered an occupation army, and against what they sensed had become their expendability because of high-tech. That what black people had been valued for, for hundreds of years, only for their labor, was now being taken away from them.

And what we tried to do is explain that a rebellion is righteous, because it’s the protest by a people against injustice, because of unrighteous situation, but it’s not enough. You have to go beyond rebellion. And it was amazing, a turning point in my life, because until that time, I had not made a distinction between a rebellion and revolution. And it forced us to begin thinking, what does a revolution mean? How does it relate to evolution?  

(Edited transcript from Bill Moyers Journal:

It is truly a wonderful honor to be with you. I know that half of you are Warriors fans. Having lived in the Midwest for 14 years, I have to admit that I’m part of the other half that’s just happy to see Dan Gilbert lose.

I want us to reflect on why have we all come together, right here in this historic theater, on Woodward Avenue, just steps away from the QLine, the sparkling new electric railway that can whoosh by at up to 35 percent the speed of a municipal bus.

Why are we here today in this city, where the 1 percent class has developed a new formula called “emergency management” to combine political disenfranchisement with racism and economic dispossession?

Here, in this country, where we are sinking deeper into a constitutional crisis with each and every tweet?

And here at this moment in time—50 years after the urban rebellions against rampant police brutality, persistent racial discrimination, entrenched segregation, and structural poverty in Detroit and dozens of other cities; and 50 years after the global rebellions against white supremacist colonialism? That rupture a half-century ago marked the beginning of the end of the capitalist system.

We are here because we have been awakened to the truth about the city, the nation, the world, and the times we live in.  

The truth is that we have a short window of opportunity to respond to mounting catastrophes on an epic scale.

The truth is that there is no such thing as equality under capitalism.

The truth is that this system is not salvageable because it was not built on sustainable principles. It was never intended to integrate all of us who comprise the wretched of the earth—that was the underlying truth of the rebellions.

At first the rebellions raised expectations. In 1973, Detroit elected Coleman A. Young, the city’s first black mayor. His triumph was a symbol of pride, promise and, what’s that word I’m looking for… HOPE. In response, he was called “divisive,” “racist,” and “socialist.” White Democrats flocked to the suburbs and became Republicans. Any of this sound familiar?

2016 proved, once again, the ultimate validity of the great American melting pot theory: those on the bottom get burned and the scum rises to the top.

And so our generations now grasp the crucial political lesson our elders learned. Every revolution must overcome the counter-revolution. There are reactionaries in this country who want to tear down mainstream politics, economics, science, media, and environmentalism. Their ultimate goal is to create a new system worse than capitalism.

So we must vote, but that’s just a start.

We must resist—from Stonewall to Standing Rock, from Ferguson to Flint, from Palestine and Puerto Rico. Everywhere oppression rears its ugly head, we must resist, but we can’t stop there..

The revolution starts with us. Our revolution is a two-sided transformation of our selves and our structures because there’s a direct connection between consumerism and militarism, domestic violence and police brutality, ableism and homelessness, transphobia and access to health care, individualism and opportunism.

We can witness the revolution starting right here because the collapse of the industrial economy and end of liberal reform has challenged Detroiters to build the foundations of a whole new culture and a radically new social order, one exemplified by:

  • Freedom Schools that empower youth (in partnership with their teachers and elders) to think critically, solve problems collectively, and build community.
  • Urban farms that promote food sovereignty, valuing land and harvests as social goods rather than commodities.
  • A model of community safety that works to end police brutality, but recognizes, as Grace taught us, that the only way to survive is by taking care of one another.
  • A new model of work, moving beyond the demand for jobs that serve corporate overlords to creating cooperative forms of ownership and production for self-reliance and ecological sustainability.

And in the D, the crisis of representative democracy is a challenge to build participatory democracy: we the people must understand and reshape the laws, the budgets, the social policies and institutions that will define our destiny. That is our mission. And that’s why I’m so excited to be right here with you—the beloved community of the AMC.


Thinking for Ourselves

Puerto Rico and Detroit
Shea HowellThis year the Allied Media Conference offered a space for gatherings prior to the opening session. I participated in the Puerto Rico/Detroit Solidarity exchange.  The purpose of the gathering was to give people an opportunity to learn together about our mutual experiences as targets of financial attacks under the guise of bankruptcies. We hoped that by talking together we would be able to “imagine new pathways toward the liberation of our communities and build relationships that we will need to continue working together.”

Peter Hammer of the Damon Keith Center for Social Justice opened the conversation by raising the questions of how to change the narratives about the bankruptcy process and the development of our communities. He asked, “How do we challenge the belief systems underlying the entire conversation?” He especially identified the morality play embedded in concepts of debt. Debtors, he explained, are “cast as blameworthy and somehow deserving of punishment.”  Thus the creation of debt is a mechanism of social control.

Whether in Detroit or Puerto Rico, the debt intentionally created by refusals of elites to invest in social goods forces governments to borrow to meet basic responsibilities. This created debt burden justifies the demands to cut services, privatize public assets, limit democratic decisions, and attack pensions. Historic structures of racism and decisions to shrink governments, lower taxes and protect power for a wealthy few form a logic of fiscal austerity that has been evolving since the 1980’s under leaders like Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.  Built over decades, Hammer said, “There is no easy way out,” but,  “We must think in the long term and talk about public good, public action and radical transformation.” We are not alone in this effort, as globally people have been developing forms of resistance and push back. In the discussion of this presentation people identified solutions beyond colonialism and capitalism.

Activists from Puerto Rico and their diaspora shared efforts at resistance that are rarely reported. Yasim Hernandez invoked images of water, migration, and connectivity. She explained that as an island nation the people of Puerto Rico have an understanding of themselves as a migrant/divided people “embodying fluidity and culture as resistance and a survival weapon.”  She shared the work of “decolonial love” that begins with “self-work first” so that “we will become ungovernable, like water.”

Tara Rodriguez Besosa shared her experiences in the food sovereignty and agricultural movement explaining that decentralizing agriculture and emphasizing local food production are “at the root of a political reframing” and new social reconfiguration of the island. Resisting efforts by the Department of Agriculture and seed producers like Monsanto to centralize and control food production; agricultural activists are making land for food and natural diversity priorities.

Melanie Perez shared the role of students and professors at the university who were engaging in public demonstrations and strikes to resist cuts to education. She talked about the increased efforts by authorities to crackdown on dissent and the bravery of students to stand up against this.

As people shared these experiences it was clear to all of us that we have much to learn as we create new stories of liberation. Monica Lewis Patrick of We the People summed up the Detroit experience saying, “They created the bankruptcy to give a death blow to organized labor and then to take control of the largest water system in the whole world. It is a psychological warfare.” She concluded, “This transformational moment is yours. Every generation has to confront the tyranny of their day. This is yours.”  

It is a moment for all of us who care about justice. If we put our faith in one another, in our capacities to care and create, we can create a better future.


Shane Bernardo

In new Food Justice Voices issue Pathology of Displacement: The Intersection of Food Justice and Culture, storyteller, healing practitioner and food justice organizer Shane Bernardo tells his story about how displacement has affected his ancestors and family within the Philippine diaspora, and how he is working to reclaim ancestral subsistence practices that connect him to land, food and his roots. In this piece Shane breaks down what was lost due to colonialism and how we can fight to get it back to truly achieve a real “food justice” movement.



Wage Love to End Debt’s Stranglehood

Sarah Van Gelder


Debt is an age-old means of shaming and controlling poor people. The practice is so commonplace, we hardly notice it.For many, going into debt is the only way to get an education, buy a home, or survive a medical emergency. Shaking off that debt can be impossible for those living on low-wage and insecure jobs, and those targeted by predatory lending. Still, many accept the story that debt is their fault.

image_14At this year’s Allied Media Conference in Detroit, Michigan, residents of the city and those of Puerto Rico gathered to compare notes on how debt and default have affected their regions. (Photo: Ara Howrani via Allied Media Projects / Flickr)
Citizens of cities and even countries are shamed for their debt, and blame is used by those instituting emergency management to justify loss of self-rule, privatization of public services, and extraction of community wealth.At this year’s Allied Media Conference in Detroit, Michigan, residents of the city and those of Puerto Rico gathered to compare notes on how debt and default have affected their regions. Both have experienced economic hardship, both are predominantly made up of people of color, and both are seeing debt used as an excuse for the selling off their common assets and to undermine their rights to self-governance.In Detroit, the loss of industrial jobs to low-wage regions, coupled with federally subsidized white flight has left the city with the costs of operating urban services that benefit the entire region without the tax base needed to pay for them.The 2008 financial crisis hit the city—and its African American families in particular—especially hard. Residents had been targeted for subprime mortgages, which accounted for 68 percent of all the city’s mortgages in 2005, compared to 24 percent nationwide, reported the the Detroit News. Today, more than three quarters of foreclosed homes financed through subprime lenders are in poor condition or tax foreclosed.



The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214

Boggs Center – Living For Change News Letter – June 19th, 2017

Jimmy and Grace  

“These are the times to grow our souls. Each of us is called upon to embrace the conviction that despite the powers and principalities bent on commodifying all our human relationships, we have the power within us to create the world a new” Grace Lee Boggs                             The Next American Revolution –

Living for Change News
June 19th, 2017
Victory for Homrich 9 Spurs Group to Continue Fight Against Water Shutoffs
Nearly three years of legal chaos results in dismissal of all chargesDETROIT- After almost three years of chaotic, rambling and ultimately failed prosecutorial legal proceedings, all charges against the Homrich 9 have been dismissed by the court because of the government’s dismal failure to comply with the constitutionally guaranteed right to a speedy trial. Members of the Homrich 9 and their counsel will declare victory at a Tuesday afternoon press conference.

Members of Homrich 9, Supporters and Legal Team
Marian Kramer
Bill Wylie-Kellermann
Julie Hurwitz, attorney

What: Press Conference – Victory Water Warriors, Fight for Affordable Water Continues
When: Tuesday June 20, 3:00 p.m.
Where: St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 1950 Trumbull, corner of Michigan, Detroit

It was July of 2014 that the group blocked trucks of the Homrich Corporation for several hours, preventing the private company hired by the City of Detroit from depriving Detroit families of water during that time. After being charged with disorderly conduct, a simple misdemeanor, members of the Homrich 9 declared in court that their act of civil disobedience was not a crime, that they did not commit disorderly conduct and that they stopped a greater harm which was people being denied access to clean and affordable water.

Despite the defendants’ persistent efforts to be heard by a jury and/or a trial judge, their cases languished for months at a time while the City of Detroit Law Department appealed every ruling, repeatedly sought stays of proceedings and met privately with the appellate judge; all while the appellate court sat on the appeals for nearly a year before issuing its decisions (all in favor of the City). On June 14, 2017 — three judges, two court venues and one interrupted jury trial later — 36th District Court Judge Ronald Giles dismissed all charges, finding that the defendants’ constitutional right to a speedy trial were violated by the “…numerous unexplained and unjustified delays.”

Victory for the water warriors in this case is an inspiration to continue to seek victory for the tens of thousands of Detroiters who continue to struggle without water and who desperately need a viable Water Affordability Plan. Economists have shown such a plan would bring in far more revenue especially compared to the $6 million the city has spent contracting with Homrich to cut off Detroiters’ water access.

Thinking for Ourselves

Collective Ferocity
Shea Howell

Shortly after the national elections, the organizers of the Allied Media Conference
(AMC) in Detroit issued a statement “Get Ready Stay Ready.”  They said, “We offer the AMC as a space for our movements to converge and explore how we can use media-based organizing to dig up the roots of systemic hatred and violence. We offer the AMC as a space to create art that detoxifies the soil of this culture, so we can grow without its centuries of poison.” After nearly two decades of patient building, the organizers recognized that they had created a unique and important space to help all of us think together about how we can most intentionally respond to this political crisis.In the Welcome to the AMC the organizers said, “We are gathering with an urgency to share the skills and strategies of visionary resistance.” Acknowledging the uncertainty of this moment, they went on to say, “We do know that an incredibly powerful community will be assembled in Detroit…We know that in the space of four days at the AMC we will share the energy, the love, and the vision we need to b ready for whatever is happening and whatever comes next.”

Sprawling across the campus of Wayne State University north to the Jam Handy and New Center Park down to the MOCAD, thousands of media activists came together last weekend to forge a new future. For those of us at the AMC, we could see the future emerging around us in workshops, plenary sessions, hands on activities and the joyful, intentionally caring ways people moved and worked with one another. Community dinners, raucous parties, quiet reflections and provocative plenaries pushed all of us to think in new ways about the possibilities of birthing a world based on justice and love.

One of the early plenary sessions was about the relationship between stories and movement making called “Stories Become Movements, Become Stories.” In many ways this session went to the heart of much of what motivated the conference this year. Stories shape and change our world. Malkia Cyril of the Center for Media Justice reminded us that “disorganized truth can be overcome by an organized lie.” We need to organize our truths with the understanding that stories have the power to “move people past fear to action” as people strive for “meaning.”

Panelists explored the question of what stories do we need now?  Paige Watkins co-founder of the Black Bottom Archives and the Detroit chapter of Black Youth Project 100 talked about the power of community driven, collaborative story telling and highlighted Riverwise as an example of the kind of storytelling that gives us a vision of the possibilities of local actions that enable us to not only survive, but thrive.

Thenmozhi Soundararajan, founder of the media training organization Third World Majority, reminded us that stories are the way we are able to imagine a future for all of us us, saying that “darkness can be a tomb, or a womb” and that this moment requires a “collective ferocity” grounded in the belief that we as a species have the capacity to create an interdependent, liberated future. The first step, speakers said, was to listen to one another with our hearts.

The Hush House Black Community Museum and Leadership Institute for Human Rights
invites you to its 2nd Annual Black Family Festival happening in Detroit on July 15-16th, 2017!

This and every year, we are celebrating black family life and vision because we love our children, period! The Hush House chooses to continue our mission of inspiring leaders from the “roots” up. We love our collective black family, as tore down to the floor down as we may be, but we are all we have.  And now it’s time to find ways to save ourselves, and our children.  We want you to know that we understand that it is the community of black experience, all of us, who have the vision and the answers to help inspire our youth, our brothers, and our sisters. No matter how we make up our “tore up” family structures, we love our children and no matter what our lively hoods, no matter how we put food on the table, or how we dress, or how we walk, or talk or how much or how little education we have: we love our children, period. Still, we have hope, even these, especially these, can and will lead us.

The 2nd Annual Black Family Festival will center on celebrating US and our youth. We will have family centered arts and crafts, fun games and dancing, open mic, tours of our community museum, black films and real talk discussions on community affairs. We hope you can join us!

We are asking for your assistance as we bring this much needed celebration to our community. We are searching for black business vendors to sell their unique products as well as to teach and show their entrepreneurship capabilities to the community. We are also in need of volunteers; a dedicated staff of leader-servants who are willing to help make this celebration a success! Please see the attached forms for both vendors and volunteers. Feel free to pass along to those who will be interested!

As always, we want to thank our neighbors, our family, for your enduring support and we want to honor your loyalty to us and to our community. We are grateful for all of the support the community has provided us throughout our years. Without you, our programs and community efforts would not be possible!
We are excited to see you in July!

Please contact Lea, our Hush House Leadership Fellow, with any additional questions:

The Hush House Museum & Leadership Institute
(313) 896-2521





Doors @ 5:30pm
Screening @ 6:00pm

Panel Discussion moderated by Soledad O’Brien and Miles O’Brien 7:30pm


The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214