Living for Change News
November 14th – November 21st
We Have Just Begun To Fight
Grace Lee Boggs, August 18, 2013
(written after Detroit was taken over by an emergency manager and plunged into a corporate-styled bankruptcy.)I‘ve been a Detroiter for 60 years and this is the first time in my experience that so many different organizations with different ideologies and personalities have recognized that the time has come when we must join together to resist and defeat the growing counter-revolution.
This counter-revolution is very unprincipled, very dangerous and taking many forms, Therefore its defeat will take a lot of cooperation, courage, and principled struggle.
Rooted in race, and the search for the American Dream, it began at the end of World War II when white people moved to the suburbs to escape blacks in cities like Detroit where whites were becoming the minority. Taking with them their schools, their businesses and their taxes, they impoverished the cities and attracted the attention and money of extreme right-wingers like the Koch brothers.As a result, over the years the suburbs have become increasingly reactionary. They have elected governors like Scott Walker and Rick Snyder. They have passed anti-union right to work, anti-women, and anti-black “Stand your ground” laws, which have given men like George Zimmerman permission to kill teens like Trayvon Martin as if they were roaches.It is also mushrooming on college campuses. Professors are writing books celebrating Senator Joe McCarthy, claiming that his red-baiting witchhunts were actually early warnings against the big government that Obama is trying to force on us. Every year the ultra-conservative Phyliss Schlafly hosts a nationally-telecast Collegians Summit at the Heritage Foundation to provide these professors with a youthful audience.
As a result, on some campuses white students warn black professors not to flunk them – or else. At UCLA’s medical school Dr. Christian Head, a black surgeon, was assaulted by a flyer depicting him with the body of a gorilla being sodomized by another professor. He sued and was awarded $4.5 million.
With growing unemployment, the crisis in the Mideast, and the decline in this country’s global dominance, we have come to the end of the American Dream. The situation reminds me of the 1930s when good Germans, demoralized by their defeat in WWI, unemployment and inflation, followed Hitler into the Holocaust.
These days, in our country, a growing number of white people feel that, as they are becoming the minority and a black man has been elected president, the country is no longer theirs. They are becoming increasingily desperate and dangerous.
We need to address their fears, and at the same time invite and challenge them to join with us in creating a new American Dream.
It will not be easy. It will take the willingness to risk arrest that North Carolinians are demonstrating in the Moral Mondays movement.
It will take the kind of militancy that students are exhibiting in sit-ins against ‘’Stand your ground” legislation.
It will take the kind of courage and persistence that Texas State Senator Wendy Davis demonstrated when she carried out a 13 hour filibuster against a bill that would have denied women the right to choose.
We have just begun to fight….
Thinking for Ourselves
The victory of Donald Trump has sent chills through many of us. Shock, grief, and fear, are giving way to a deepening resolve to resist the onslaught of violence that is sure to come.
What America will become in the next 50 years depends on what we do now, individually and collectively. There are no simple answers, no quick solutions, and no going home again. We have to find new ways forward. This will require deeper thinking and more thoughtful actions than ever before. The stark choice between revolution and counter-revolution is here.
This choice has been evolving for a long time. In 1955 the Montgomery bus boycott broke the right-wing grip on America that controlled the life of most people. Following the Civil War, after a brief flowering of African American freedom, the forces of counter-revolution reasserted themselves. In the South, white supremacists used a combination of violence and legislation to restore their power.
In the rest of the country, whites did the same thing, often rioting and attacking vulnerable communities. From Maine to Oklahoma mobs drove African Americans out of their homes, creating thousands of “sundown towns” for Whites Only. Immigration was tightly controlled, queers were killed for sport, people with disabilities were hidden in institutions, indigenous rights were violated, sexual exploitation was commonplace, and working conditions for most were often deadly. As we endured the World Wars, intellectual life was degraded by a virulent anti-communism, given voice by Joseph McCarthy whose campaign destroyed art, culture, and compassion. As Martin Luther King observed, America was “the greatest purveyor of violence,” and much of that violence was directed at one another.
All of that was shattered by the power of the liberation movements launched by ordinary people in Montgomery. Over the next two decades, America became a more human place. We became more aware of one another and our responsibilities for the sustainability of life on our fragile earth.
But the forces of white supremacy did not go away. They continued to organize, to evolve, and to challenge every hard fought gain of the last 50 years. There is a long line from Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump. And Regan and Trump embody the sensibilities of those who came before like Bull Conner, David Duke, George Lincoln Rockwell, Fred Phelps, Rush Limbaugh, Phyllis Schlafly, George Wallace, Huey Long, Father Coughlin, Orville Hubbard, Robert Welch, Lester “Ax Handle” Maddox, Coors and Koch, Andrew Jackson, and Nathan Forrest. Trump is no foreign fascist. He is part of a shameful American history of violence in support of power. It is a history we can no longer evade if we are to create a more human future.
The majority of us rejected Trump. But we must now face the forces he has unleashed. We know that they will try to take our homes, seize land, shut off water, pollute our air, close schools, lock up our children, defile our sacred places, bomb our homes, terrorize us in bedrooms and jail cells, ridicule our beliefs, risk our futures, incite riots, infiltrate our organizations, round us up, limit democracy, beat us, and kill us. We know this because this is what they have done. This is what they are doing. This is what they will do with renewed force.
Already the KKK is marching. Young men are shouting obscenities, high school students have erected walls against immigrant children, and countless acts of aggression are recorded daily.
After more than 50 years of political struggle for better lives, one thing should be clear. Only love can overcome this violence. As Dr. King said, “When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response…Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality…Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in individual societies. We must find new ways to speak and act of peace and justice…If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight…Let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter—but beautiful—struggle for a new world.”
We need to take the time to grieve together, for it is this grief that grounds us in our best hopes for the future. And then we must turn to one another to ask what now affirms life, what moves us toward ways of living that expand compassion and creativity? We are not alone in facing these questions. We have a collective memory of those who came before, struggling against racism, materialism, and militarism and for a vision of loving communities to enrich our thinking. Together we will find ways to open our hearts and imaginations.
Today, we welcome the resistance to this violence. But much more is required. We must draw upon our deepest spirits of love, honesty, courage, and hope if we are to create a world worth preserving.
After the Blame
The past several days have been a bit of a blur for me. I sat down to write out my feelings several times immediately following the election to no avail. So, I finally decided to sit with my thoughts for a few days and listen to what others had to say.
During my moment of reticence, I heard numerous explanations regarding why the next President of the United States is going to be Donald Trump.
As a lifelong Detroiter, I expected and heard the narrative that Black Detroiters cost Hillary Clinton the election. Then I heard the story of how the arrogance of the Democratic Party cost Hillary the election. Then it was that white men who weren’t being heard by President Obama or Hillary Clinton voted for Donald Trump and that their wives simply voted with their husbands. I also heard that many Trump supporters’ feelings were hurt because Hillary called them “a basket of deplorables,” so that solidified their votes for Trump. I have listened to folks say that all Trump supporters are rape apologists, racists, misogynists, women haters, self-hating women, self-hating Latinos, and self-hating Blacks. I have witnessed Trump supporters say that supporters of Hillary are stupid. I have listened to 3rd Party supporters say that both sides are stupid for voting for Trump or Hillary and I have heard non-voters call all three stupid for buying into a system that has failed to represent them.
My point is that there is enough blame to go around and according to everybody, somebody else is to blame for this recent election and our current conditions in America.
On April 4, 1967, one year before his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered what was in my opinion, one of his bravest and most profound speeches, Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.
In that speech, Dr. King said in part:
Dr. King knew that, not only did Americans need to make a radical shift in their thinking and ways of being, but that they needed to be challenged to challenge a system that would create beggars in the first place.
This, I believe, is where most of us have failed. It is not about who can get more of the pie, or a piece of the pie, at all. It’s about the illusion that the pursuit of the pie holds the key to our liberty and justice. It’s about the fact that conditions of oppression and struggle have been fostered in far too many communities through oppressive policies, so that we have folks scrambling all over the globe to find sanity at the expense of other human beings. It is about our internalization of materialism in such a way that even poor folks seek to oppress other poor folks. It’s about our internalization of the sort of individualism that would allow us to go on about our days while tens of thousands go without food, clean water, or a roof over their heads. It’s about our blatant disregard for the earth for our personal benefit.
I am a proponent of Black Lives Matter and, yes, I do believe that the dangerous terrorism narrative that has been allowed to permeate the media and households across the globe has put far too many activists in danger. Yes, I do believe that the hatred that has been perpetuated during this election cycle towards Muslims, Black people, people with disabilities, the LGBTQIA community, Mexicans, and women has sparked a nasty violence reminiscent of a society that I have to believe most of us do not want to revisit. I also believe that fear, just as much, if not more than hatred is responsible for most of the violence we have witnessed the past several years and I believe that the constant bombardment of ratings-inspired sensationalism in the media has fostered this fear which is emblematic of a lack of imagination and a resolute opposition to human beings coming together for the good of all humanity.
It’s time we checked ourselves, Democrats, Republicans, Third Parties, non-voters … all of us, because we have yet to actually witness a true democracy and a vision for this country that represents us all.
This failure is all of ours to share as a burden. We have not undergone the radical revolution of values Dr. King called for. We have not begun the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. We have failed to put people before profit and, for that, we have struggled at every turn to humanize our society and make conditions more livable for everyone and the earth.
Dr. King was right about the struggle ahead for Black people in America. But, as another Ancestor James Boggs argued: “I love this country not only because my ancestors’ blood is in the soil, but for the potential of what it can become.”
“We who believe in freedom” cannot think about this country as a corporation or as an organization we reluctantly belong to. We have to shed the culture of violence that this country was founded on. We have to shed the character of a country that would make invisible the Indigenous population even as they struggle for their lives at Standing Rock. We have to start thinking as the 99% while rejecting the values of the 1%. We have to become a country that makes it moot for Black people to have to affirm their lives. It’s time we started thinking about this country as a place filled with people trying their damnedest to figure out what it means to be human.
The giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism must consistently be struggled against and it is going to take all of us tackling the parts of these systems that each of us has internalized.
This election cycle has indeed been brutal, but not nearly as brutal as we have become towards one another. It’s time we all did better.
It’s Our Time or Their Time…
As we feel, reflect and share our thinking, I hope we do not panic, become demoralized, nor label, nor simply react, nor look for 20th century answers.
This can be our time to learn from each other, our history and our work to create caring communities.
We too often use words of system change/structural change, but now we can develop practice that moves from our movement of rebellion and uprisings to revolution and truly create engagement with ALL of America giving meaning and form to MLK’s 1967 call to challenge the evil triplets of racism, materialism, militarism with a radical revolution in values. Or as a friend recently said when she called, ;As James Boggs often said, “Love American Enough to Change IT” and “Change Ourselves to Change the World”.
Let us think dialectically, and historcially seeing hope and vision in our day to day work, engagements and imaginations. The political revolution or the counter-revolution is not electoral politics, it is the emergence of our new identity as a human race.
The purpose of revolution is the evolution of human kind. Trump’s victory challenges us to truly move beyond protest to vision and resistance.
Freedom School: America Elects a New President 2016
Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History
Detroit, Michigan USA
Fifteen Detroit Middle School children, with four mothers adding powerful intergenerational substance to our discussion, evaluated the recent presidential election. There were no right or wrong answers or bad questions. Someone asked “Where and how do we find our power?” An answer: “Step 1: Learning to accept and love yourself.”
Power to do what we need to do; power over us and others.
“Stop mass incarceration and police brutality. It’s a big deal.”
The ways we use language; we know better, and when you know better, you have to do better
What is “gerrymandering”? What is the electoral college?
Amaniyea: Nobody will get hurt, no violence, no terrorism.
Colin: Everybody gets the same amount of food, nobody gets left behind
OTHER PLATFORM PLANKS:
Help people: money, water, food, clothing
INDIVIDUAL WORK SHEETS/QUESTIONS:
Yes: 3 No: 5 Sometimes: 1
[yes] I don’t OK nothing, I just circled it
Give people a second chance
Thanks to Doc Richey for the two social studies sessions with several of these children before the election, Piper Carter for such sensitive and brilliant assistance, and Mama Aneb for lesson plan development assistance.
In Love and Struggle Book Release!
(PHOTO BY: Leona McElevene. Stephen Ward reading from his new book, In Love and Struggle)
Video from the event, by Leona McElevene, can be seen here.
Nearly 100,000 voters stepped up to support communuty benefits
The grassroots community coalition Rise Together Detroit, managed to get almost 100,000 Detroiters to defend their right to negotiate community benefits when billionaires get massive public subsidies.
WHAT WE’RE LISTENING TO
(From the Veterans of Hope Project)
Repair The World: Detroit, The Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership, and Voices For Earth Justice are partnering to host a screening of the documentary “The Amor of Light” at the Repair the World Workspace on 2701 Bagley Ave this Friday, November 18th at 6:15 pm.Please come out for a great film on the intersections between faith, religion, gun control, gun violence, and politics. There will be light refreshments and snacks, and small group discussion after. The film is a little less than 1.5 hours.
The Boggs Book Shop is open and waiting for you!
Among many other titles, don’t miss…
Ron Scott’s – How to End Police Brutality
evolution in the 21st Century Anthology
…or the classic, Conversations in Maine
by Frithjof Bergman
Bergman_ real_book click here
From the first day we took the view that the Job System was only one and a problematic and passing way to organize and structure work. We emphasized that the vast majority of people did not work in jobs for thousands of years, but that they worked on farms. The peculiar form of work that we call “jobs” is roughly only two hundred years old, as old as the Industrial Revolution, and even when that system was first introduced many were skeptical and announced ominous predictions. By now the Job System suffers from a manifold and virulent pathology, and the time has therefore come to organize work anew, from the ground up: the Job System is now dying and the next system, New Work has to be created. 4
What is New Work? This book is a long and complex answer to this question. But, here, by way of introduction is a very short reply. Central to New Work is a reversal. You can express it first in the language of means and ends. In much of the past the task to be performed, was the goal, the end, the purpose. The human being was used by others, or also by himself, as the tool, the instrument, the mere means for the achieving of this end. We, human beings, subordinated ourselves. We placed ourselves into the service of work that needed to be done.
New Work is an effort, that has now gone on for over twenty years, to reverse this: we should not be serving work, but work should serve us. The work we do should not drain and exhaust us, it should give us more strength and more energy, it should develop us into fuller human beings.
Boggs Center Reading Book List
From Grace Lee Boggs
Phenomenology of Mind by G.W.F. Hegel
Science and the Modern World
By Alfred North Whitehead
Dreaming the Dark: By Starhawk; Appendix-”Burning Times”’
Staying Alive By Vandana Shiva
Death Of Nature By Carolyn Merchant
Small Is Beautiful By E.F. Schumacher
Leadership and Modern Science –
By Margaret Wheatley
Healing Civilization – By Claudio Naranjo
Permanence and Change By Kenneth Burke
Aquarian Conspiracy –
By Marilyn Ferguson (re Paradigm Shift)
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions By Thomas Kuhn
The School and Society By John Dewey
Community Based Education
By Gregory Smith & David Sobol
The End of Education By Neil Postman
The Disappearance of Childhood
By Neil Postman
Centuries of Childhood By Philippe Aries)
Handbook of Social Justice in Education –
ed: Ayers, Quinn and Stoval
(articles on Emancipatory Pedagogy)
I Call Myself an Artist – Charles Johnson
Listening To Africa – By Pierre Pradervand
Challenge From Africa – By Wangari Maathai
Food Movements Unite – ed. Eric Holt Giminez
BLACK /ANERICAN HISTORY
Testament of Hope Essential Writings and Speeches,
Martin Luther King, Jr. Ed: James Melvin Washington
Autobiography of MalcolmX, with Alex Haley
The American Revolution – By James Boggs
Black Odyssey By Nathan Huggins
Ghosts In Our Blood: With Malcolm X in Africa, England
and the Caribbean By Jan Carew
Citizen Douglass by Nathan Huggins
Malcolm X at The Oxford Union –
by Saladin Ambar
James Boggs: Pages From A Black Radical’s Notebook – ed. Stephen Ward
The Modern World System By Immanuel Wallersteiin
Utopistics: Or Historical Choices of the Twenty-First Century By Immanuel Wallerstein
Conversations Between Grace Lee Boggs and Wallerstein (pamphlet)
The Great Transformation By Karl Polanyi
The Third Wave By Alvin Toffler
The City in History By Lewis Mumford
Revolution and Evolution in the 20th Century – By James & Grace Lee Boggs
The Next American Revolution – Grace Lee Boggs with Scott Kurashige
Thomas Jefferson The Declaration of Independence -By, Michael Hardt
Multitudes – Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri
Blessed Unrest By Paul Hawken
Collected Poems – author, T. S. Elliot
New Work, New Culture – By Frithjof Bergman
Re-IMAGINING WORK IN THE MOTOR CITY By Olga Bonfiglio
The Reinvention of Work – By Matthew Fox
Environmental Crisis or Crisis of Epistemology – By Bunyan Bryant
WITH Earth In Mind: On Education, Environment and the Human Prospect – By David Orr
From the new pamphlet Another Education is Happening, published by the Boggs Center and available from the Boggs Center Bookstore.
Education is in crisis everywhere. Cities and suburbs alike face dwindling support for schools, concern for safety and a growing feeling that our children are less prepared than ever to assume the responsibilities of adulthood.
For much of the past century the growing racial divisions between cities and suburbs masked the nation-wide crisis in education. Conventional wisdom said that suburban schools were doing fine; only urban schools, faced with ever increasing poverty, were in crisis.
Today it is clear that the schools system is not working well for anyone. After decades of telling ourselves that the purpose of education is to get a job, we are in an era when even the most highly educated people are unemployed. Moreover, striving for academic achievement in order to seek success elsewhere has accelerated the erosion of the community ties and bonds that give our lives texture and meaning.
This crisis is a rare opportunity for us to redefine the purpose of education. It is an opportunity to draw upon the best moments in our history to re-examine the belief that the purpose of education is simply to get a job and climb the economic ladder. It is an opportunity for students, teachers, parents and neighbors to discover together how we can create a thoughtful, socially responsible new generation of citizens through public education.
The Freedom Schools created in the South during the summer of 1964 provide an important insight into the kind of education we need today. It was obvious then that schools in the South had been structured to instill the inferiority and passivity of second-class citizenship in African American children. Freedom Schools countered that structure, intentionally creating programs where students and teachers together democratically decided what they needed to learn in order to improve the lives of their community.
As the Civil Rights struggle evolved over the next two decades, African Americans began to take control of governments in cities where they were increasingly the majority. Many of these struggles were aimed at taking power away from white school boards and replacing white superintendents and white teachers with people of African descent.
Yet even as those in control began to look more and more like the children they served, education continued to deteriorate. In the inner cities dropout rates skyrocketed. In the suburbs, teen suicides and drug abuse soared.
In the 1980’s Ronald Reagan came to national power promising to restore the American Dream of individual economic prosperity. For many European Americans that dream had been shaken by the gains of civil rights, black power and the movements they unleashed. Reagan also declared that our educational system made us “A Nation at Risk.” Thus he began the push toward national standards, punitive testing and the shifting of public education into private hands.
These efforts continued under Presidents Clinton and Bush, culminating in George W. Bush’s horrific No Child Left Behind (NCLB) . Many of us hoped that this punitive and diminished view of education would be reversed with the election of Barack Obama. Instead, we now find ourselves facing an even more draconian federal program called Race to the Top. This scheme pushes constant testing, pressuring children and schools to perform to narrow standards, closing those schools that fall behind. It is clearly the continuation of efforts to turn our children into obedient, unthinking consumers, rather than socially conscious, active citizens.
But ever since those days in Mississippi when the first Freedom Schools opened, some educators, teachers, community activists, parents and children have been developing democratic, grass roots, locally-driven efforts to educate our children while also reviving our communities. Resonating with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., people across the country have been creating forms of two-sided transformative education, engaging schoolchildren in activities that change both themselves and their communities. Sometimes these efforts happen within schools, sometimes in community-based organizations.
In the early 1990s in Detroit, we called upon the legacy of Freedom Schools to create Detroit Summer because we recognized that the crisis in our cities required new thinking and new forms of political organization. Detroit Summer engaged the energies and imaginations of young people to rebuild, redefine and respirit our city from the ground up, by planting community gardens, painting public murals, and rehabbing houses.
In the spring of 2010 Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Detroit Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb announced plans to shrink the city and to oversee the largest urban school closing in history. Many of the schools slated to close were among the most visionary and effective in the city. Over half had urban gardens, often central to the curriculum. Many housed community organizations, active parent groups and volunteers who enriched the learning experience and who supported the work of teachers and principals who understood that their buildings were often the primary community anchor.
In response to the Bing/Bobb schemes, Detroiters organized in rallies, protests, citizen campaigns and public meetings to prevent school closings and to begin a deeper conversation about the nature of education.
This pamphlet is a resource for thinking about and accepting the responsibility that we all have to redefine and re-imagine education.
Here are visionary voices of resistance, proposing new practical alternatives for education in the service of community and democracy.
We begin with the “Lifelong Search for Real Education “ by Julia Putnam who at 16 was Detroit Summer’s first volunteer. Next come the Michigan Citizen “Thinking for Ourselves “ columns on the current struggle by Oakland University Professor Shea Howell and “Living for Change” columns by Grace Lee Boggs, which include a summary of James Boggs “ The Next Development in Education.” Emma Fialka-Feldman then helps us understand the importance of inclusive education, and Invincible and Jenny Lee share their LAMP (Live Arts Media Project) experiences using Hip Hop to empower young people.
We conclude with an introduction to Place-based Education by Shari Saunders who teaches Educational Practices at the University of Michigan and an essay on why “Another Education is Necessary” by Bill Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and author of many books on education.
—Shea Howell and Grace Lee Boggs
June 15, 2010
Click the image above to download the order form (PDF).
Born in the rural American south, James Boggs lived nearly his entire adult life in Detroit and worked as a factory worker for twenty-eight years while immersing himself in the political struggles of the industrial urban north. During and after the years he spent in the auto industry, Boggs wrote two books, co-authored two others, and penned dozens of essays, pamphlets, reviews, manifestos, and newspaper columns to become known as a pioneering revolutionary theorist and community organizer. In Pages from a Black Radical’s Notebook: A James Boggs Reader, editor Stephen M. Ward collects a diverse sampling of pieces by Boggs, spanning the entire length of his career from the 1950s to the early 1990s.
Pages from a Black Radical’s Notebook is arranged in four chronological parts that document Boggs’s activism and writing. Part 1 presents columns from Correspondence newspaper written during the 1950s and early 1960s. Part 2 presents the complete text of Boggs’s first book, The American Revolution: Pages from a Negro Worker’s Notebook, his most widely known work. In part 3, “Black Power—Promise, Pitfalls, and Legacies,” Ward collects essays, pamphlets, and speeches that reflect Boggs’s participation in and analysis of the origins, growth, and demise of the Black Power movement. Part 4 comprises pieces written in the last decade of Boggs’s life, during the 1980s through the early 1990s. An introduction by Ward provides a detailed overview of Boggs’s life and career, and an afterword by Grace Lee Boggs, James Boggs’s wife and political partner, concludes this volume.
Pages from a Black Radical’s Notebook documents Boggs’s personal trajectory of political engagement and offers a unique perspective on radical social movements and the African American struggle for civil rights in the post–World War II years. Readers interested in political and ideological struggles of the twentieth century will find Pages from a Black Radical’s Notebook to be fascinating reading.
Stephen M. Ward is assistant professor at the University of Michigan in the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies (CAAS) and the Residential College.
BOOK INFORMATION: Forthcoming!
Pub Date: November 2010
7 x 10, 488 Pages
Call: (800) WSU-READ or visit wsupress.wayne.edu