Boggs Center Living for Change Newsletter – Changing Time , Shea Howell

Changing Time , Shea Howell

Boggs Center Living for Change Newsletter (boggscener.org)

December 29, 2019

We are at the beginning of a new decade. Across the political landscape, people are reflecting on the 2010’s and the first decades of the new millennium. Among liberal and progressive voices, despair seems the primary result of these musing. The New York Times year end editorial explains “Fear and distrust are ascendant now.”  They cite the 16 year high in hate crimes, growth of nationalism,  attacks on civil rights and democratic institutions, climate catastrophe, and distrust in the mechanism we have established to create more human and just futures  as the accumulated  results of our actions and inactions.

 

What is most obvious is how little these reflections offer guidance in the present or help us think about  the future. The concerns that dominated the first decade of 2000 did little to prepare us for the viciousness of the next ten years. Today, the depth of crisis we face is far deeper than the problems of new technologies or recurring outbursts of anger and fear. Short term thinking, even attempts to look at the cycles of our own short history, as the Tmes does, are efforts to evade the magnitude of the changes we must make, the choices that are in front of us.

 

Grace Lee Boggs helped us understand this as she often explained we are in a moment of transition “as great as that as the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture or from agriculture to industry.” These changes happen rarely in human experience, and our consciousness of them is only beginning to emerge.  Living in the midst of  epoch change makes it clear that  attempts to strengthen old ways of thinking and acting only compound the problems we face.

 

Instead we need to think about how the cornerstones of the industrial era: the deadening of the natural world, extractive  cultures and industries, mass production, corporate organization, representative democracy, hyper rationalism, and hyper individualism, have all brought us to the point where this could well be the last millennia of the human experience.

 

So much of our attention turns toward what is slipping away. We have only weak frameworks to understand what is emerging that is life affirming, holding the possibilities of a future.  That is why I think it is important for those of us working toward a just future to spend some time revisiting Marx and the Communist Manifesto.Marx, perhaps more than any other philosopher-activist, captured the emergence of the new industrial era out of the old dying feudal arrangements. Consider this passage:

The foundation of the dying epoch was the separation of human life from nature, the turning of natural world into “resources” for economic profit. The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones.

 

Marx goes on to say, in what was one of Grace Boggs’s favoriate passages:

All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

This is why Detroit matters so much as a touchstone toward a better future. Here, as one of the first places shaped and reshaped by the industrial era, and one of the first to be utterly abandoned by capital, we have been forming a future on values that emphasize our connections with one another and the earth on which we depend. What we do matters. And in times of great change, what each of us does can and will have profound, unpredictable effects.

 

The Revolutionary Soul of Ron Scott by Barbara A. Stachowski

The Revolutionary Soul of Ron Scott

by Barbara A. Stachowski

In contemplating the life of my friend and comraderon-barbara

Ron Scott, I’ve struggled to encompass all the

aspects of the man that I saw embodied as he

walked in the world.

Ron Scott was a soulful man, always expressive

of deep feeling and emotion. Ron Scott was a

revolutionary, a man committed to changing what he believed needed change.

And, Ron Scott was a man of rich faith rooted in the Christian tradition. Ron was unique. He had

the wisdom to set aside theological dogma and advocate for peace in communities with a spirit of

ecumenism and inclusiveness embracing all faith traditions. Even if there seemingly were no faith

traditions in a situation he encountered, he was able to intuit the “tradition” at hand. He would effortlessly sense the dynamics of the moment and elegantly craft his response to the crisis. The “tradition”, very often, was that of the streets

that so many live with and in.

His talent to de-escalate a situation most certainly saved lives when people, hurt and desperate

to react in a moment of utter pain, were drawn to his words of peace and logic. Ron’s soothing,

yet piercing, logic was critical in advocating for generations of individuals engaged in what he

called the “War on Mack”. Ron knew that Detroit’s most crucial challenge was to teach people to

de-escalate volatile situations within the community before calling law enforcement. This was

the foundation for Ron’s work to establish Peace Zones for Life.

I have imagined Ron’s transition into the spiritual realm and have taken comfort in believing that

his life work would gain eternal recognition from the great leaders in the afterlife.

Joseph Campbell, an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, best known for his work “The

Hero With a Thousand Faces”, describes a hero as “someone who has given his or her life to

something bigger than oneself.” Campbell taught that myths represent the stories of the hero’s

journey that transcend all cultures. He describes the hero’s quest: “You leave the world that

you’re in and go to into a death or a distance or up to a height. There you come to what was

missing in your consciousness in the world you formally inhabited. Then comes the problem

either of staying with that, and letting the world drop off, or returning with that boon and trying to

hold onto it as you move back into your social world again. That’s not an easy thing to do.” Ron

took on this hero’s quest selflessly, knowing, all too well, the costs. His decision to walk a hero’s

path was not one he would have described as heroic: he walked with humility.

Ghandi’s favorite Hindu devotional song was “Vaishnava Jana To”, a

15th century Gujarati hymn he included in his daily prayer. In it, a

vaishnava is described as someone who “feels the pain of others, helps

those who are in misery, but never lets ego or conceit enter their mind.

Ron was a vaishnava in this sense. He was especially adept at

embracing the pain of mothers and fathers who had lost children,

whatever the situation.

Buddhists describe a bodhisattva as “an enlightened being who, out of compassion, forgoes

nirvana in order to save others.” Ron was a bodhisattva whose heart ached with compassion.

Ron was a hero because he had the strength to blend what he knew about faith, philosophy,

politics, media, human nature and suffering and hone a message that encouraged people to be

the best they could be. He challenged all of us to think about what we “bring to the table” and he

challenged all leaders to ask the question, “Who is at the table and who needs to be at the

table.”

Ron’s commitment was 24/7. When a tragedy happened, Ron was often the first one called.

This weighed heavy on a soul so committed to his work. But Ron never said, “No. I’m too tired.”

Ron kept going until the end of his life on this earth. And now…

Rest in peace, Ron: son, brother, partner, friend, comrade, hero, mentor, disciple of peace,

vaishnava, bodhisattva, and revolutionary soul. Rest in peace, dear friend, at last, rest in

eternal peace.

 

Boggs Center – In Memory of Ron Scott, Spiritual Warrior

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In Memory of Ron Scott, Spiritual Warrior
James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


Lifelong community activist Ron Scott died on Sunday, November 29, 2015 after a difficult battle with cancer.  We mourn his passing and will greatly miss his voice and insights.

ron-scott

Ron was a board member of the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership. He first met Grace and James Boggs when he was 16 years old and exploring the ideas of Black Power and Community Control. A founding member of the Detroit Chapter of the Black Panther Party, Ron remained a comrade and friend of the Boggs’ for the rest of their lives. Since the early 1970s he worked with members of the Boggs Center in organizing Detroiters For Dignity, We Pros, SOSAD, and Detroit Summer.

A gifted television personality, his love of young people lead him to Project BAIT, where he helped develop a generation of young people in video production. He was an independent film-maker, writer, speaker, radio host, and organizer. He was a media pioneer, hosting Detroit Black Journal, often bringing the voices of radical thinkers and activists to larger audiences.

Over the last 20 years, Ron has been a primary spokesmen and intellectual force for the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality. Through the Coalition he was a tireless advocate for peace in our communities.

Richard Feldman of the Boggs Center said, “Ron was honored that he came from a family of teachers, ministers and working folks with many varied ideas.  He was loved by Diane Reeder, dearly respected by Congressman John Conyers, and by hundreds of young people whose lives he protected and whose dignity he fought for. He reminded us to respect elders who were engaged in the “struggle” and to understand that we all build on the work of earlier generations.  Ron had enormous faith in people and believed “everyone could change”.

Myrtle Thompson-Curtis of the Boggs Center and Feedom Freedom Growers said, “I am truly glad to have worked along side Ron Scott. He was always a teacher and healer.”

“Ron was a spiritual warrior who clearly acknowledged the media wars and the war between moving forward and being “stuck” in old ideas of revolution.  He believed every institution in our country needs to change. Changing ourselves and becoming more human, human beings, thinking dialectically, not biologically were essential to his efforts of uniting the long haul with the urgency of now,” Richard Feldman said.

Ron always asked, “Who is not at the table?  Which youth are we talking about and trying to reach?” He believed in community as the foundation of safety and argued that the only purpose of the police is to serve the people. He never doubted that it was our responsibility to create Peace Makers and turn War Zones into Peace Zones.”

Over the last several months, while dealing with illness, Ron felt a responsibility to speak to the young activists emerging in the Black Lives Matters Movements. His recently finished a book, Guide to Ending Police Brutality published in the fall of this year. It is available at the BC website.

We will miss Ron’s leadership and passion, his commitment, and continual probing of what it means to be more human.

Ron was committed to his beliefs, his journey towards transformation, and his desire to contribute to young people, our city, our region, and our nation.  He truly believed, “A Community That excludes even One of its members is No Community at All.”

We join his family, friends, and many comrades in acknowledging his life of commitment to creating a more just and peaceful world.

Boggs Center – Living for Change News – Martin Luther King jr Day

  Jimmy and Grace  
Our mission is to nurture the transformational leadership capacities of individuals and organizations committed to creating productive, sustainable, ecologically responsible, and just communities. Through local, national and international networks of activists, artists and intellectuals we foster new ways of living, being and thinking to face the challenges of the 21st century.
Living for Change News
MLK Day
Thinking for Ourselves
Breaking Silence
Shea Howell

This year there is a poignant urgency to the celebrations of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Across the country people are gathering to celebrate, honor, and remember the movement and vision that called our country to find its best traditions and just promise. Everyone is mindful that these gatherings are happening in the shadow of the inauguration of a man who is the antithesis of all Dr. King represented.

King would be 88 years old now, an age where many are still offering wisdom and counsel. Yet because of the kind of wisdom and counsel he was compelled to give us, he was killed. That wisdom is best captured in his speech given at Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, “A Time to Break the Silence.” That was 50 years ago. It was his most searing indictment of the war in Vietnam, his deepest call to creating beloved communities.

King said, “When I speak of love I am not speaking about 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 their individual societies. We must find new ways to speak and act for 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.”

The “dark and shameful corridors” are pressing in on us. And so Dr. King’s call to action is fiercely urgent. He asked us to “rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter—but beautiful—struggle for a new world.”

It is this call that is animating renewed energy in our country. Thousands of people are gathering in Washington D.C. and communities across this land to publicly declare opposition to the policies and practices that threaten to poison our souls.

Dr. King said, “It is the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation and for those it calls “enemy,” for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.”

In this spirit Movement for Black Lives has called for a Pledge of Resistance and a week of non violent, direct action stating, “The Movement for Black Lives continued in the tradition of civil disobedience and direct action to reclaim the narrative of the Civil Rights Movement from corporate America, Hollywood, and others bent on sanitizing Black history rooted in radical tradition. #ReclaimMLK is a call to connect our contemporary movements, and to eschew respectability in order to embrace the radical courage of our people in the present. Today, as many ask us to “wait and see” and “respect” politicians aimed at hurting us, that original call is even more urgent.”

The National Council of Elders is calling for people to move with this courage to organize public readings of “A Time to Break the Silence” and ask hard questions about what it means for us today.

In this last year of life, Dr. King was becoming increasingly aware of the need for revolution. He said, “We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values…When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

Our country is at a turning point. Dr. King reminds us, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable…Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” Now is the time to give new and renewed voice to determine our future together.


PTOflyer

Call for Session Proposals
THE 22nd Annual Pedagogy & Theater of the Oppressed Conference
Breaking the Silence: From Rebellion to Waging Love”

Submit proposals by Friday, January 20th, 2017.

WHEN: June 1st – June 4th, 2017
•    Pre-Conference with Julian Boal May 30th-June 1st
•    Welcome Event on June 1st
•    Workshops June 2nd-4th

WHERE:  Cass Corridor Commons, 4605 Cass Avenue, Detroit, MI, USA, a city with a rich history of activism and organizing.

WHAT: A chance to LEARN, SHARE, QUESTION, and CONNECT through interactive techniques developed by Paulo Freire, Augusto Boal, and other people working to fight oppression and create justice. Learn more about Freire and Boal and their work at ptoweb.org.

WHO: YOU. Students, teachers, scholars, artists, activists, organizers. People of all ages, places, identities, experiences. If you want to build dialogue and make a more just world, you are invited, you are welcomed, and you are NEEDED.

WHY: The 22 Annual Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Conference will be held in Detroit, MI commemorating the 50th Anniversary of 1967 Detroit Rebellion and Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech, Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence – in which he called for a radical revolution in values in the struggle against the evil triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism—and looking toward the future. Read more here.


Detroit Visionary Resisters
Tawana Honeycomb Petty

As the country experiences the turmoil that is American politics, many people in Detroit are showing visionary resistance to the status quo.

Whether it’s Pastor Barry’s call to action, artist, educator Walter Bailey’s hope to transform nature through art, Complex Movements building better futures, or Halima Cassells, Jerry Hebron and others making a life without money, Detroiters are once again exhibiting brilliance and resiliency in the face of adversity.

In 1964, Dr. King said, “Now, this economic problem is getting more serious because of many forces alive in our world and in our nation. For many years, Negroes were denied adequate educational opportunities. For many years, Negroes were even denied apprenticeship training. And so, the forces of labor and industry so often discriminated against Negroes. And this meant that the Negro ended up being limited, by and large, to unskilled and semi-skilled labor. Now, because of the forces of automation and cybernation, these are the jobs that are now passing away. And so, the Negro wakes up in a city like Detroit, Michigan, and discovers that he is 28 percent of the population and about 72 percent of the unemployed. Now, in order to grapple with that problem, our federal government will have to develop massive retraining programs, massive public works programs, so that automation can be a blessing, as it must be to our society, and not a curse.

Then the other thing when we think of this economic problem, we must think of the fact that there is nothing more dangerous than to build a society with a segment in that society which feels that it has no stake in the society, and nothing more dangerous than to build a society with a number of people who see life as little more than a long and desolate corridor with no exit sign. They end up with despair because they have no jobs, because they can’t educate their children, because they can’t live in a nice home, because they can’t have adequate health facilities.”

As we look around at the conditions that plague our communities some 53 years after Dr. King gave this speech, we now know that our dignity and our humanity lies within the hands of those willing to struggle towards Dr. King’s later call for a radical revolution of values.

We now know that we must create while we resist.

“I don’t know what the next American revolution is going to be like, but we might be able to imagine it if your imagination were rich enough.” – Grace Lee Boggs

Luckily, we know a lot of visionaries.

 

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


The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership

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3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214
US

Election Reflection By Shea Howell – November 12, 2016

Thinking for ourselves

Election Reflection

By Shea Howell

November 12, 2016

shea25The 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 erect 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.