“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
June 5th, 2017
Thinking for Ourselves
Questions in Education
As the Michigan Elite gathering on Mackinac Island for their annual celebration of one another came to a close, another gathering took shape in Detroit. Actors, musicians, writers, poets, and cultural workers of all kinds gathered in the heart of the Cass Corridor for the 22nd annual Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Conference (PTO). Its theme was “Breaking the Silence.” Sessions explored storytelling and transformation, inclusion and collaboration. Conversations on language, power, choreography, and laugher flowed through the gathering.
The Saturday morning session focused on “The struggle for education in Detroit.”Simona Simkins and Rebecca Struch, of the conference leadership team were joined by Nate Mullen, Kim Sherobbi, Tawana Petty and me for a conversation about what people are learning in Detroit about the kind of education we need to shape a more human future. We were joined by two Detroit Independent Freedom School students who had participated in an earlier workshop and had much to offer the larger gathering. Chevon read her poem WHY (see below) and pressed us to think about the relationships between teachers and students. T. Jones, talked about young people becoming change makers.
I began the conversation with an overview of the role of the state in privatizing education and undercutting democratic decision-making. Since 1999 a combination of greed and hubris have taken a solid school system and twisted it beyond recognition into a form of child abuse that lines the pockets of folks like Betsy Devos and her friends. Kim Sherobbi emphasized the difference between education and schooling, and invited us to think about the many places we have for learning and growing in all aspects of our lives.
She also asked us to think more deeply about the question of what is education for? What is the purpose of education? Nate talked about the unique clarity we get in Detroit, where contradictions are so stark. Detroit makes it is clear that the old way of approaching schooling is dying. As a result, we have the opportunity to reimagine what we mean by education, by school, and by the development of children. Seeing children as capable of creating solutions to our common problems, rather than as empty beings that need to be controlled, he said, takes us in very different directions as we think about schools. Tawana Petty stressed that we need a new paradigm for education. We are not talking about personal problems or individual failings, but a system that is in collapse.
The dialogue with the audience began with a request by Rebecca for us to prioritize the voices of young people and Detroiters. The first person to come to the mic was a young woman from Detroit who recently graduated from the University of Michigan. She began by saying she wanted to acknowledge that this was the first time in her life that her status as a Detroiter and as a young person were honored.
In the course of the conversation people shared imaginative and creative possibilities for how we can learn and grow together.
The PTO supports “a world based on radical love and social justice instead of oppression and violence.” Inspired by the theories and practices of Paulo Freire and Augusto Boal, the gathering fosters “collaborative connections to share, develop, promote, and document liberatory theatre, popular education and other revolutionary actions.”
In his provocative essay on education and liberation, Friere offers us a perspective that is important for us to consider. He observes,“The power which creates an educational system in its image will never allow education to be used against it and therefore a radical transformation of the education system can never take place unless society itself is transformed.
And he challenges us to love the questions we face in this transformation, saying: Our hope lies in questions, whether in the school system or outside it. What must we do to promote liberation? How? When? With whom? For What? Against what? And in whose favor?
WHY are the schools closing?
Detroit Equity Action Lab (DEAL)
INFO DEMOCRACY TRAINING 2: PUBLIC RECORDS
TUESDAY, JUNE 6 FROM 6:00 PMTO 9:15 PM
Wayne State Law School (Keith Center for Civil Rights)
WHAT WE’RE READINGTurning Capital against Capitalism
Experiments in funding an equitable economy.
In These Times
From ‘Turtle Island to Palestine’: Black4Palestine Congratulates Palestinian Prisoners on Win
Shortly after Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails ended their hunger strike with nearly 80 percent of their demands agreed to by the apartheid state, organizers from the U.S.-based solidarity group, Black4Palestine, sent a message of congratulations.
WHAT WE’RE WATCHING
Living for Change News
May 30th, 2017
Thinking for Ourselves
No one thinks the budget proposed by the White House will get much support. The details will change. Various interests will do their best to protect vital programs and services.
But there is an element of casual cruelty behind these projections that we need to address. Our elders, our children, and the people who care for them are especially targeted as excess expenditures. These projections are a clear articulation of values and polices from an administration that delights in chaos, manipulation, and lies.
Called “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” the budget would completely eliminate 66 federal programs, with the biggest cuts aimed at Health and Human Services. Over the next decade the budget projects cuts of more than $3.6 trillion, mostly from Medicaid, Food Stamps, Social Security Disability and insurance for children. Military spending of all sorts escalates.
No where is the relationship between budgets, priorities and values clearer than in the projections for education. Betsy Devos proposed $10.6 billion in cuts to educational programs. She wants to cut funding for Special Olympics, parent support programs, teacher training, and academic and psychological support for students. While cutting public education, Devos proposes increasing funding for charter schools by 50% and she intends to encourage corporate incentives to support her “school choice” schemes.
These schemes are not some effort to “transform education.” They are a deliberate effort to shift public money to private, primarily religious schools. In the process, they would further enrich the Devos family and friends. As Michael Sainato wrote recently, “Devos’ approach to the United States Education System is to benefit the private corporations that have leeched off it for personal profit at the expense of the public. From the student debt collecting agency she was personally invested in, to the for-profit schools that benefit from tax credits, vouchers, and other financial incentives, Devos is further increasing the polarizing class divide in the education system to benefit those already wealthy and powerful.”
Nor are these schemes motivated by religion. Rather, they cynically use religion to protect and promote white supremacy. The drive to private, Christian Academies supported by Devos has its roots in the backlash against desegregation of public schools. Between 1964 and 1972 hundreds of white Christian academies were set up, “in response to anticipated or actual desegregation orders.”
In an editorial opposing the Devos appointment, Felicia Wong of the Roosevelt Institute, said:
“An estimated half-million white students left public schools between 1964 and 1975 to enroll in schools that were known as ‘segregation academies.’ This move to private schools was part of a larger ‘white flight’ movement. White flight was one of the greatest demographic shifts in American history. Millions of whites nationwide moved out of cities and into racially isolated suburbs. Scholar Kevin Kruse has called white flight ‘the most successful segregationist response to the moral demands of the civil rights movement and the legal authority of the courts.’ The character and quality of most American schools today, like the neighborhoods in which they are found and which they shape, have a racial past.”
Across the country people are organizing to resist this assault on our children. The #WeChoose campaign is now in 35 cities. #WeChoose demands:
“A robust, rigorous and relevant curriculum, support for high quality teaching (smaller classes, teacher aides, effective professional development), wrap-around supports for every child (nurses, counselors, clubs, after-school programs), a student-centered school climate, transformative parent and community engagement and inclusive school leadership. The result: sustainable, community schools.”
The Detroit Independent Freedom Schools (DIFS) are part of this effort. Join us as we begin a summer of growing and learning together.
A quick note from El Kilombo
the EZ communiques announcing “the Candidate” or, that is, the announcement of a proposed indigenous governing council for Mexico with an indigenous woman as its spokesperson.
Dudley Street is Re-imagining its future
After returning from North Carolina where I had the privilege to spend time with comrades and friends like El Kilombo and Nelson and Joyce Johnson of the Beloved Community of Greensboro, I was lucky to visit my daughter, Emma, where she is a second grade teacher at Dudley Elementary-Community School. This school is located in a neighborhood where folks have been “putting the neighbor back in the hood.”
My wife Janice and I spent two days with the class as they engaged in writing, math, recess and shared stories on the carpet. The patience, love and challenges I saw were truly a learning experience. As I read the letters that each parent wrote to his/her child about their hopes, dreams and high expectations, I was again reminded me how deep our responsibility is to keep those dreams & expectations alive.
During the short visit, we had a chance to see the Dudley Community Center and visit the area urban gardens and mural, that demonstrated both history and a daily commitment to turn vacant lots into community safe spaces. Some of the current organizers from the Dudley Street Community Initiative were raised in the neighborhood, as are some of the students from the school.
I learned more about the Community Land Trust initiative, which has proved to be an antidote to the foreclosures which have been rampant across the city for the past decade. Dudley hasn’t been as hard hit because of a commitment of interdependence that states, “The community cares about each other and protects each other.” Almost all the stores in the neighborhood had written signs stating, “No One is Illegal.” These signs were from the children who marched last week in a demonstration welcoming all immigrants and opposing Trump’s Bans and Walls.
As I walked with the second graders in the rain around the Dudley area, it reminded me of Detroit and the community gardens, urban farms, murals, and placed-based schools. It reminded me of the Boggs tour: From Growing Our Economy to Growing Our Souls.
The Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative’s vision was crystallized in a “Declaration of Community Rights.” The declaration, produced by the Human Development Committee, highlights fundamental DSNI objectives in all areas of community development.”
We – the youth, adults, seniors of African, Latin American, Caribbean, Native American, Asian and European ancestry – are the Dudley community. Nine years ago (1993), we were Boston’s dumping ground and forgotten neighborhood. Today, we are on the rise! We are reclaiming our dignity, rebuilding housing and reknitting the fabric of our communities. Tomorrow, we realize our vision of a vibrant, culturally diverse neighborhood, where everyone is valued for their talents and contribution to the larger community. We, the residents of the Dudley area, dedicate and declare ourselves to the following:
We have the right to shape the development of all plans, programs and policies likely to affect the quality of our lives as neighborhood residents.
We have the right to quality, affordable health care that is both accessible to all neighborhood residents and culturally sensitive.
We have the right to control the development of neighborhood land in ways which insure adequate open space for parks, gardens, tot lots and a range of recreational uses.
We have the right to live in a hazard-free environment that promotes the health and safety of our families.
We have the right to celebrate the vibrant cultural diversity of the neighborhood through all artistic forms of expression.
We have the right to education and training that will encourage our children, youth, adults and elders to meet their maximum potentials.
We have the right to share in the jobs and prosperity created by economic development initiatives in metro-Boston generally, and in the neighborhood specifically.
We have the right to quality and affordable housing in the neighborhood as both tenants and homeowners.
We have the right to quality and affordable child care responsive to the distinct needs of the child and family as well as available in a home or center-based setting.
We have the right to safe and accessible public transportation serving the neighborhood.
We have the right to enjoy quality goods and services, made available through an active, neighborhood-based commercial district.
We have the right to enjoy full spiritual and religious life in appropriate places of worship.
We have the right to safety and security in our homes and in our neighborhoods.
WHAT WE’RE LISTENING TO
Patrisse Cullors and Robert Ross— The Spiritual Work of Black Lives Matter
Revolution and Evolution
by James and Grace lee Boggs
“Technological man/woman developed because human beings had to discover how to keep warm, how to make fire, how to grow food, how to build dams, how to dig wells. Therefore human beings were compelled to manifest their humanity in their technological capacity, to discover the power within them to invent tools and techniques which would extend their material powers. We have concentrated our powers on making things to the point that we have intensified our greed for more things, and lost the understanding of why this productivity was originally pursued. The result is that the mind of man/woman is now totally out of balance, totally out of proportion. That is what production for the sake of production has done to modern man/woman. That is the basic contradiction confronting everyone who has lived and developed inside the United States. That is the contradiction which neither the U.S. government nor any social force in the United States up to now has been willing to face, because the underlying philosophy of this country, from top to bottom, remains the philosophy that economic development can and will resolve all political and social problems.”
Living for Change News
May 22nd, 2017
Last month, The Michigan Coalition for Human Rights honored Dr. Gloria “Aneb” House with a lifetime achievement award in recognition of her contributions to justice. She offered this poem in response.
Thinking for Ourselves
A few days after the national reflections on the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s call to break the silence and engage in a radical revolution of values against racism, materialism and militarism, Rev. Dr. William Barber II announced a renewed Poor People’s Campaign.
I was part of the first campaign. Announced by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in December of 1967, Dr. King had called for a nationwide march on Washington on April 22, 1968. Massive civil disobedience was envisioned, combined with a Resurrection City, a permanent encampment on the Mall until demands for full employment, better housing, health care and educational opportunities were met.
The Campaign was thrown into chaos with the murder of Dr. King. What began as a plan to reinvigorate direct action and non-violent confrontation to humanize the country ended in despair and confusion. The broad coalition of African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and whites never materialized. After a few weeks of mud, conflict and lack of leadership, the murder of Robert Kennedy on June 5th removed the last vestiges of hope.
I welcome this renewed effort. Almost everyone knows the conditions that propelled this movement a half century ago are with us today. A study by Pew Research concluded: “The economic gulf between blacks and whites that was present half a century ago largely remains. When it comes to household income and household wealth, the gaps between blacks and whites have widened. On measures such as high school completion and life expectancy, they have narrowed. On other measures, including poverty and homeownership rates, the gaps are roughly the same as they were 40 years ago.”
The study also found, “Black men were more than six times as likely as white men in 2010 to be incarcerated in federal and state prisons, and local jails, the last year complete data are available. That is an increase from 1960, when black men were five times as likely as whites to be incarcerated.”
This new campaign has the potential to help us confront our past and to ask what kind of future we want to create together. What values should define our relationships to one another, to other peoples and to the planet?
He continued, “Americans across the country are crying out in defiance?—?and for change. Bringing this cry into the public square, a Resistance has emerged: The Fight for $15, the Movement for Black Lives, Moral Mondays, the Women’s March, The People’s Climate March and No Ban/No Wall protesters have taken to the streets.”
He said, “At such a time as this, we need a new Poor People’s Campaign for Moral Revival to help us become the nation we’ve not yet been.”
Barber’s faith in our future comes from an understanding of our past. He explained, “Throughout America’s history?—?from abolition, to women’s suffrage, to labor and civil rights?—?real social change has come when impacted people have joined hands with allies of good will to stand together against injustice. These movements did not simply stand against partisan foes. They stood for the deep moral center of our Constitutional and faith traditions. Those deep wells sustained poor and impacted people who knew in their bones both that power concedes nothing without a fight and that, in the end, love is the greatest power to sustain a fight for what is right.”
“This moment requires us to push into the national consciousness a deep moral analysis that is rooted in an agenda to combat systemic poverty and racism, war mongering, economic injustice, voter suppression, and other attacks on the most vulnerable.”
Living for Change News
May 16th, 2017
Thinking for Ourselves
I have always loved streetcars. As a child, my bedroom window overlooked the last stop of the line that brought miners and mill workers to the top of the hill every morning. I was fascinated by the turn around of the car, achieved by men and muscle in those days. I imaged growing up to be a streetcar driver. So I wish I could find more joy in the new M-1 rail line that opened last Friday to incredible fanfare. Even the automobiles on the tracks, broken signals, delays and malfunctions of the first day could not diminish the enthusiasm of its backers.
Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans, who sank money and energy into the project and bought the naming rights, dubbing it the Q Line, said to the Detroit News, “QLine has already spurred billions of dollars of investment with billions more to come. “It is more than a transportation machine, it is a jobs-creating machine.”
Columnist Daniel Howes surpassed Gilbert’s enthusiasm, calling the line a “symbol of Detroit’s reinvention.” Howes argues that the 3.3 mile track reflects the “long game” of “powerful business and philanthropic interests” dedicated to the “revitalization of a downtown that a lot of Detroiters—in the city and in the suburbs—long ago gave up for dead.”
It is precisely this kind of enthusiasm that makes it difficult to celebrate the new streetcar. Howes, Gilbert, Penske, Rapson, Duggan, and Snyder cannot put their actions in perspective. Instead they use every opportunity to repeat the worn out narrative that some new downtown project will benefit the majority of the people of the city. They do this despite the fact that the majority of the people of the city know full well we are increasingly unwanted in their whiter, wealthier downtown serviced by these new cars.
The constant casting of criticism as “righteous cynicism” by people like Howes is especially reflective of the lack of vision of the power elites in their drive for self congratulations. Howes says of those who raise concerns, “How ’bout giving the venture a chance, and letting the real people living and working along downtown’s central spine have their say. It’s them, not the voices lobbing cheap shots from the comfort of their keyboards, who will decide whether the big bet will pay off.”
Real people, beyond Gilbert and his cronies, know this tiny line does nothing to touch the real challenges facing our city. Mason Herson-Hord, who was on hand at the opening festivities with the Motor City Freedom Riders to call attention to the limits of the Q as a transportation vehicle pointed out, “Most employed Detroiters have a job north of 8 Mile and for the thousands of Detroiters who need to use the bus system to get to work, that can be a pretty serious hardship because there aren’t many consistent lines that are moving across 8 Mile.”
The need for a real regional transport system is obvious. Q backers claim it is the first step. But this rings hollow as they were missing in action last fall when yet another ballot initiative to achieve this failed. One commentator argued, “The failure to wage an overwhelming campaign in support of the ballot proposal should be regarded as one of the biggest political misfires in Detroit history.” Much of the defeat rested with those who welcome Howes’s racist narratives and who will do anything to keep Detroiters from moving freely around suburban areas.
The QLine does symbolize the “long game” of the corporate elite. That “game” is nothing less than the remaking of the city as a playground for the white and wealthy. It is another effort to substitute public relations for serious debate. It evades the real questions of how to create a just city reflecting our best future.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Global Left vs. Global Right: From 1945 to Today
The period 1945 to the 1970s was one both of extremely high capital accumulation worldwide and the geopolitical hegemony of the United States. The geoculture was one in which centrist liberalism was at its acme as the governing ideology. Never did capitalism seem to be functioning as well. This was not to last.
The high level of capital accumulation, which particularly favored the institutions and people of the United States, reached the limits of its ability to guarantee the necessary quasi-monopoly of productive enterprises. The absence of a quasi-monopoly meant that capital accumulation everywhere began to stagnate and capitalists had to seek alternative modes of sustaining their income. The principal modes were to relocate productive enterprises to lower-cost zones and to engage in speculative transfer of existing capital, which we call financialization.
WHAT WE’RE WATCHING
Click Here to watch Michelle Alexander and Naomi Klein Talk About What Is Needed for A Revolution of Spirit, A Revolution of the Mind, and A Revolution in America.