Boggs Center – Living For Change NewsLetter. October 23rd, 2018

October 23rd, 2018

grace and jimmy
Ward and Petty_Flyer

Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Attack in Brightmoor

Detroit has few friends in Lansing.  We have learned over these years of right-wing republican rule that a favorite trick of those in power is to withhold funds from a city or school district and to then declare a financial emergency which their actions have intentionally created.  This emergency becomes the justification for imposing an unelected, unaccountable overseer. This single individual supplants all democratic authority and rules in ways that benefit the rich and powerful. This was the bitter lesson of the Detroit Bankruptcy process, the experience of Benton Harbor, Pontiac, and the poisoning of Flint.  Emergency managers are bad for democracy, bad for cities, bad for schools, and bad for people who care about fair and equitable decision making.

Emergency managers are usually imposed with a rhetoric that explains the loss of political power is for our own good. We somehow have not “managed” our affairs well. We need the strong hand of state government to set things right.

All of us now know that Emergency Management is just one more way the Lansing Legislature and Governor have of shifting public money into the pockets of their friends. It is one more way to promote racial antagonisms to hide greed.

Even the Governor’s own commission charged with investigating the Flint water disaster  concluded that systemic racism is at the foundation of these efforts. Further, this commission joined the growing call to eliminate emergency management as a tool of state government.  They specifically suggested:

  • Replacing or restructuring Michigan’s emergency manager law.
  • Developing a plan of action to provide environmental justice to all Michigan residents.
  • Developing a deeper understanding of the roles of structural racialization and implicit bias, and how they affect decision-making throughout all branches of state government, and provide training on implicit bias to the Governor’s Cabinet, Mission Flint, and the staff of all state departments including DHHS and DEQ.

None of these actions have been taken.

So, when we again see an effort to impose an emergency manager, we should be very suspicious.

Almost two weeks ago a “mini manager” surfaced in a dramatic confrontation at Detroit Community Schools, a public charter school in Brightmoor. Sharon McPhail, who has been leading the school since 2012, was forcibly removed from the building.

McPhail had no warning, but the media had been alerted to be on hand. Subsequent reports border on a smear campaign, implying instability and corruption. In reality this appears to be a dispute over credentials, and a murky one at that.

A “conservator,” Nancy Berkompas, has been appointed to “Bring the school into compliance with state law by retaining a chief administrator with proper state certification, obtaining proper financing, addressing the penalties assessed by the Michigan Department of Education, and resolving other issues related to the college’s notice that it intends to revoke the school’s authorization.”

The school’s board has been removed from power. Berkompas is currently the governance specialist for Bay Mills college’s charter school office, which authorizes the school.

Maureen Taylor, a respected Detroit activist works at the school and witnessed the forced removal of Ms. McPhail.  She said, “There is something else going on here that attracts this level anger and disrespect. This crew alerted local media to be on hand for the event and they demanded to come in to film this disgraceful episode. Our students are 3rd on SAT scores in Detroit. We have a full complement of security staff to maintain safety on site. We graduate at a high level, insisting that ‘failure is not an option’.  We list all the 12th grade students who have been accepted into post-secondary education and so far, we have a 95% acceptance rate.

She said, “This is a move to destroy the school, to disrupt the positive progress toward educational excellence, to denigrate the CAO, and to deny the staff and students the peace and tranquility we have all worked so hard to develop over these seven years.  No efforts have been expended to help in those areas where we need support. It seems to me that this is about money or resources in some way.  Why any effort would be aimed at disrupting a school is suspect, so I am asking my community to step to this situation in full force.”

This is a call we all need to heed.


Design 2
What We’re Reading

Anita, Christine, and Me
The Media’s Moving On, But I’m Not
By Belle Chesler
It’s been three weeks since Dr. Christine Blasey Ford gave her testimony before the nation and I’m still struggling to move on. As talk turns toward the impending midterms, I find myself mentally pushing back against the relentlessness of the news cycle as it plows on, casting a spell of cultural amnesia in its wake. I’m still mired in the past, shaken by the spectacle of the Kavanaugh hearings, and pulled across the decades into the darkest crevasses of my memories. KEEP READING

Charlene Carruthers Flyer



Boggs Center Living For Change – October 16 th, 2018

October 16th, 2018

grace and jimmy

Design 2

Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Effecting the Children

This week the Michigan League for Public Policy released a new report on the crisis of education in our state. It identifies the failures of decades of so-called reforms and argues for a honest look at systemic racism embedded in these efforts

The report urges legislators, leaders and all concerned people to face “the inescapable truth of deep inequities in educational opportunities and outcomes for children based on race, ethnicity, place and income.”

It continues, “While all children can learn and deserve a top-notch education, children of color and those living in low-income communities face barriers to educational success from cradle to career. Attempts to improve Michigan’s educational system without addressing those barriers will undoubtedly fail.”

The study puts the failure of state educational efforts into a broader context explaining that “educational disparities do not occur in a vacuum and can be traced to public policies that limit employment and housing options for many parents, fail to adequately recognize the added costs of teaching children who live in high-poverty neighborhoods, and view investments in teachers as a “diversion” of school funding away from children.”

The report concludes with a series of recommendations to law makers. These recommendations are not new, but they point to how inadequate recent legislatures have been in addressing the needs of our children.

The first step, the report says is for policy makers to “consider the impact of potential budget and policy decisions on children of color and low income communities.” It goes on to recommend investment in “efforts to reduce poverty and ameliorate the impact of poverty on learning.”

These first two recommendations should guide any decision, anywhere. The simple question, “how does this effect the children” should be a basic standard of judgment. By this standard most of the policies enacted by our city fail.  Water shut offs, foreclosures, punitive testing, lack of transportation, escalating rents, and the use of public money to build jails and entertainment center all fail to meet this basic standard.

As we consider this report, I was reminded of one published more than a year ago by the Michigan Civil Rights Commission. It was described at the time as “a searing 135 page report,” documenting the impact of “systematic racism” and the “complete failure of government.” The subject was the Flint water crisis. That report also “delved into the history of race and racism in Flint.”  It linked structural racism to emergency management legislation and “called for changes in the state’s emergency manager law and more training on racial bias at all levels of state government.”

“It is abundantly clear that race played a major role in developing the policies and causing the events that turned Flint into a decaying and largely abandoned urban center, a place where a crisis like this one was all but inevitable,”

The Flint report concluded with this warning. “We cannot predict what the next crisis will be, when it will occur, or in which decaying urban center it will happen. But we do know that unless we do something, it will occur, and it will disparately harm people of color.”

These reports are bringing to the forefront of public discussion a reality that most of us know every day in our bones. It is a reality that diminishes the lives of all of us, but especially those of our children. The urgency for deep, structural change has never been clearer. Care for the children. Advance democracy. Provide the basic necessities for life. Our challenge is to find new, collective ways to craft just futures for our children and ourselves.

dear ford

For Immediate Release
Coalition for Ensuring the Black Legacy at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

Community Coalition Challenges the C.H. Wright Museum Board over Controversial Jefferson Exhibition and Lack of Community Representation in Museum Leadership

A Coalition of 20 community organizations, bolstered by social media campaigns ( and that collected more than 17,000 signatures, has been rebuffed by the Board of Trustees of the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History (CHWMAAH) in its effort to win community representation on the Board, and prevent the hosting of the exhibition, “Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello:  Paradox of Liberty.”

Recently the Coalition wrote to the Museum Board to oppose installation of the Jefferson plantation exhibition during Black History Month, 2019. The exhibit seeks to represent the slavery experience in ways that delete or obscure the essential features of the plantation system: inhumane violence and terror. As such, the exhibit erases from history the sufferings of our ancestors, and fails to acknowledge their extraordinary capacity to overcome the oppression to which they were subjected. This falsification of history is offensive and inappropriate, given the heinous practices of slaveholders like Jefferson, and given the nature of current race relations in the U.S., where police violence and murder of our youth continue to plague our communities.  Thousands of signers have supported the Coalition’s insistence that such an exhibit should not be featured at the CHWMAAH, which was founded to uplift and inspire the African American community.

In a letter to the Coalition, the Museum Board has reiterated their determination to host the Jefferson exhibition.  They also rejected the Coalition’s proposal that there be community representation on the Museum Board and the CEO Selection Committee.  

The recent ouster of CEO and President, Ms. Juanita Moore, prompted the Black community’s concerned response.  Ms. Moore was dismissed suddenly, despite her stellar record of creating financial stability for the Museum, and raising the programming of the Museum to a level of national recognition and enthusiastic community support. Within two months of her leaving, the Board appears to be moving towards other staff changes, alerting the Coalition that the Board intends a new direction in policies and programs.  We are concerned that this new direction is intended to accommodate corporate/private, White supremacist interests –like the Jefferson exhibition — rather than those of the African American community at large.

Indeed, it appears that the Board member who is taking the lead in imposing the Jefferson exhibition is Euro-American attorney James P. Cunningham of Williams Williams Rattner and Plunkett law firm, Birmingham, MI. The other Board members appear indifferent to the outrage of 17,000 individuals who have signed the petitions against the exhibit.  

Are the Board Members aware that Jefferson made an enslaved child, Sally Hemings, the bearer of seven of his children (only four of whom survived to adulthood)? Are they aware that for over a century, white historians in the U.S. attempted to cover up this history, dismissing the claims of African American descendants of Hemings and Jefferson, until DNA science made it impossible for them to do so?  Having no alternative now but to recognize Thomas Jefferson’s outrageous hypocrisy as a slaveholder, such historians now want to recast Sally Hemings, the enslaved child, Jefferson’s victim, in the following contradictory ways: “…Negotiator. Liberator. World traveler. Enslaved woman. Concubine. Inherited property. Mystery.” (Press release, Office of Cultural Affairs, City of Dallas)  What unmitigated deceit!

At a community meeting held at Sacred Heart Church on September 19, 200+ activists carried out a nomination and election process to vet 10 community representatives to join the Museum Board, and four community representatives to join the CEO Selection Committee.  The following were the criteria for nomination:

  1. Ten or more years of ongoing engagement in community service or organizing to advance and protect the rights and well being of the African American community
  2. Demonstrated leadership and trust of community
  3. Interest in, knowledge and advocacy of African American history and culture
  4. Readiness to collaborate to generate resources to maintain African American institutions

The following well-known community activists were elected:

Museum Board

Ms. Theo Broughton
Mr. Jamon Jordan
Ms. Marian Kramer
Mrs. Helen Moore
Ms. Monica Patrick
Ms. Tawana Petty
Prof. Charles Simmons
Ms. Maureen Taylor
Mr. Paul Taylor
Mr. Malik Yakini
Alternate:  Mr. Khary Frazier

CEO Selection Committee

Atty. Jeffrey Edison
Dr. Gloria Aneb House
Mr. Michael Imhotep
Rev. JoAnn Watson
Alternate:  Dr. Kefentse Chike

The Coalition will continue to demand that these elected community representatives be included on the Museum Board and the CEO Selection Committee.As the corporations and their allies in government and public agencies continue their ruthless gentrification of Detroit, dispossessing African Americans and other people of color through home foreclosures, illegal property taxes, water shutoffs, toxic water and school closings, and as these forces insist on building yet another jail to facilitate the school-to-prison-pipeline for our youth, the Coalition will take all actions at its disposal to ensure that the CHWMAAH remains a center of our community, governed in the interest of the community.

The Coalition is appealing to everyone who treasures the Museum, both locally and nationally, to speak out, send letters and texts to the Board Chairperson, Mr. Eric Peterson ( and Interim COO, Mr. George Hamilton, retired Dow Chemical Executive (  Demand that the elected community representatives be seated on the Museum Board and on the Selection Committee for the new CEO, and that another exhibit, representative of our people’s hopes and strivings, be brought to the Museum to celebrate African American History Month, 2019.

The next meeting of the Coalition will be held at 6:30 p.m. on October 10th at West Side Unity Church, 4727 Joy Road, Detroit.  


Boggs Center – Living For Change. October 8th, 2018

October 8th, 2018

grace and jimmy

Free – Riverwise Edition #8 Just issued


Thinking for Ourselves

Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
One Water

The push for local and state-wide policies to protect our water is accelerating. This past week saw both a successful student walk-out on count day in Detroit emphasizing the crisis of safe water in the schools and the need for a water affordability plan and a declaration of faith in support of water as a human right by people of faith.  On Oct 4th people gathered at the Spirit of Detroit to celebrate over 240 signatures of faith leaders in a call to all people of good will to become stewards of our waters. Faith leaders declared they will continue to organize to stop water shut-offs, get those who have been shut-off reinstated, and for a water affordability plan that allows people to pay for water based on percentage of income.

Throughout the state the weekend saw sermons and worship services aimed at raising with congregations our moral responsibilities to one another and the earth.  Organizers declared, “This is a critical moment. The faith community can add its prolific voice and use its formidable influence to change the course of history by helping to pass a water affordability plan in Detroit. This would allow people to pay their water bills. The plan would bring in more revenue than the shut-offs. Philadelphia and other cities have adopted a water affordability plan. The plan Philadelphia implemented was first drafted for Detroit.”

On October 10, Flint Strong Stones and We the People of Detroit will again join forces for the 4th annual Imagine a Day Without Water. People of faith, activists, and community leaders will discuss how to advance efforts to protect water and the lives that depend upon it.

This year’s event is be hosted by First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church in Flint.

People are gathering with a renewed sense of urgency because of the recent recognition of the widespread contamination caused by PFAS in drinking water around the state. Michigan was forced to declare a state of emergency over water contamination in Kalamazoo

The Department of Environmental Quality found that more than 1.5 million people have been drinking water with some level of contamination by PFAS.

SaginawGrand Rapids, Wyoming, and Ann Arbor, all show levels of the so-called “forever chemicals.”

Reports noted, “The sheer scope of contamination is highlighting concerns about the adequacy of that level and prompting calls for rigid controls on the chemicals, which are not regulated in Michigan public drinking water systems.

Since the first wave of water shut-offs in Detroit and the poisoning of Flint, community activists, people of faith, human rights workers, United Nations officials, students, parents, scientists, public health officials, and school personnel have recognized that we are in a deep crisis over the protection of the most essential element of our lives. Only elected officials seem oblivious.

Organizers of Imagine a Day without water said, “We demand as residents, as parents, as tax payers, as homeowners, as fishermen, as students and stewards, to bring forth the most visionary plan for our future generations. We are One Water from Keweenaw Bay to Saginaw Bay, from Detroit to the Soo.”

It is our responsibility to insist by every means necessary that water and the life that depends upon it be protected.


no water


No water to drink, or even to make coffee with. No water to shower, flush the toilet, or do laundry. Hospitals would close without water. Firefighters couldn’t put out fires and farmers couldn’t water their crops.

Some communities in America already know how impossible it is to try to go a day without our most precious resource: Water. But many Americans take water for granted every day. Imagine a Day Without Water 2018 is the fourth annual day to raise awareness and educate  America about the value of water.

Last year, over 750 organizations came together. Will you join us this year


Design 2

What We’re Reading

Howard Zinn: Don’t Despair about the Supreme Court

It would be naive to depend on the Supreme Court to defend the rights of poor people, women, people of color, dissenters of all kinds.
Check in with the Michigan Poor People’s Campaign

Boggs Center – Living for Change News Letter – August 20th, 2018

August 20th, 2018

grace and jimmy

On September 8, Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition will host its 3rd Environmental Justice Statewide Summit in Flint MI, seeking to bring 200 EJ Activists to testify, visualize and strategize for a just and equitable future. We’ve been through a lot over the last 8 years, and, it’s not over. It’s time to CHANGE THE NARRATIVE. As a new administration heads in Jan. 2019, we must define what it means for all living beings to have clean and affordable access to water, air, land and make a way to take decisions about our own future in the critical times of climate change.  REGISTER

Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Future Water Plans

Children working with the Detroit Independent Freedom Schools (DIFS) have been harvesting eggplant, tomatoes, greens, herbs and other vegetables at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. This is the second summer of the garden celebrating the agricultural expertise of African Americans and fostering skills needed for the burgeoning urban agricultural movement that shapes much of Detroit. Next summer the garden will be part of a visionary landscape, designed to emphasize water as a human right and a public trust.

In a recent article explaining why the Charles H. Wright Museum thought it important to include gardening on its plaza, Vice-President Charles Ferrell said, “The whole spiritual concept of planting something and removing the weeds and nurturing it and seeing it grow and then being able to eat, it’s a way for not only the children, but the parents to know that you have to have a place where you can grow your own food.  You know it’s clean, it’s organic. There are multiple reasons why this sends a higher message to the community around self-determination.”

Mr. Ferrell’s understanding was echoed by recently retired CEO Juanita Moore who observed, “The broad need to educate these young people…not just about what they should learn in the classrooms, but the broader lessons about how to live complete lives; the health and wholeness of their bodies; the longevity and quality of their life and the lives of families and other people around them. A lot of that revolves around food, especially in our community and especially in Detroit.”

As this year’s harvest accelerates, plans for next year are taking shape.   They include a much more ambitious partnership extending to the Michigan Science Center. The two museums, along with community partners like DIFS are envisioning a new outdoor space intended to provide a visible, tangible, model of sustainable, regenerative water practices.

The neighboring museums are joining forces to conserve water by using porous pavers, bioswales, plants and gardens designed to store storm water.  By keeping rain water out of sewers, the new landscape will reduce the pressure on Detroit’s aging system and help reduce flooding.

In part, this vision emerged out of necessity. Museum complexes face the pressure of high sewerage rates for run off. Detroit is currently facing rates that are almost three times more than the water bills. These bills are already impossible for many to pay.  Increased sewerage bills mean not only will home owners suffer, but businesses, churches, and meeting spaces are concerned about losing property to unpayable bills.

But this effort is more than about saving money. It is about helping people to think differently about the serious questions raised by the water crisis in our city.

People are recognizing that urban centers have intensified the global water crisis. And they are responding in visionary ways. Philadelphia, New York, Portland, Copenhagen and the “Sponge Cities” of China are all evolving imaginative ways to coordinate wetlands, tree planting, green and white roofs, and other green stormwater infrastructure to create resilient, coordinated, and sustainable approaches to water.

Here in Detroit a strong array of community organizations and some forward -thinking foundations are supporting these experiments. However, our current administration, locked into efforts to prevent a human, sensitive, and sustainable approach to ensure that water is affordable to all and cared for with an eye to the future, is holding us back. Hopefully, by next summer, the Mayor and his administration will learn from the children about what needs to be done to protect our water and our people.


Petty Propolis Flyer_Ocean

Professor john a. powell, one of the world’s most important thinkers and scholars on civil and human rights, Director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at U.C. Berkeley, explores how we can better understand the spaces we currently inhabit and strategize to co-create alternative spaces where real healing can truly begin.


RETC- What is truth? James and Grace Lee Boggs





What is the Truth?

“We can only deal with these questions when we understand that

ideas themselves are not permanent. Ideas which were once solutions

become barriers to advance at another stage of development. There

is no such thing as “the truth.”

To clarify the question of “the truth,” we must first make a

distinction between three categories which are usually linked


218         James and Grace Lee Boggs


together as “truth.” They are scientific truth, factual truth, and the

ideas called “truths” which are actually convictions held by people

as to what it means to be human.

First, it is clear that science has discovered many valuable facts

about physical realities. Yet someday, someone is going to discover

that something even in this sphere (for example, that the speed of

light by which everything is measured) is, in an Einsteinian sense,

relative, and then all scientific facts will have to be re-evaluated.

Next there is the category which Hannah Arendt has called

“factual truth” in her important essay “Truth and Politics.” Factual

truth involves statements about events and circumstances which

have occurred or are occurring to human beings. The opposite of

factual truth is not error or illusion or opinion, but the falsehood or

lie, either of commission or omission, i.e., the deliberate attempt to

deceive. Lying even in trivial matters reveals the arrogant belief that

facts are deniable or can be made “inoperative.” Hence the

inevitable degeneration of any individual, nation, or organization

which has a careless attitude to factual truth.

Finally, there is the category of truths which has to do with the

nature of man/woman. Is Man the son of God? This is the sort of

thing people argue over. In this sphere there are no absolutes. Yet for

hundreds of years, most people, and not only religious people, have

believed in “the truth.”

The concept that all truths which deal with human identity are

relative and not absolute is indispensable to the revolutionist. In

order to make a revolution, you have to discard the notion that

anything one has previously regarded as truth about human beings is

necessarily true. Revolution is an effort to discover or to create truth,

not to prove what is true. It is hard to Persuade most radicals of this.

You question their personalities if you question what they live by.

Being a revolutionist for them is living by certain truths, rather than

discovering or creating new truths. The New Left–as distinguished

from the Old Left–started out by trying to discover rather than

prove. But they were empirical and pragmatic in the extreme. The

Old Left had a body of ideas which the masses of people are

supposed to prove for them. So they are happy, gratified, satisfied

whenever the masses do something to prove what they already

believe. All this has nothing to do with being a revolutionist.

Revolutionists do not believe in absolute truth but they do have

Changing Concepts for Changing Realities 219

strong convictions, thoughts which move them. How can you have

strong convictions which possess and move you, and yet develop

them in relation to struggle, to practice, and to developing reality?

The highest level of human creativity is the constant developing and

advancing of your vision. But this is a dialectical process, involving a

creative relation with reality, which is very different from syllogistic

thinking. Syllogistic thinking is a way of proving a statement rather

than a way of advancing a vision (e.g., “All men are mortal, Socrates

is a man; therefore Socrates is mortal” is a syllogism).

Vision is more than thought. Vision adds to the rational process of

thought all the instincts, intuitions, and other untapped qualities in

people. That is why vision can’t be analyzed in the way that thought

can be.

In the attempt to grasp what vision is, we approach the realization

that a human being is infinitely more complicated than we have been

ready to recognize. The more complicated human beings are, the

harder it is to organize, to dominate, to use them. What has

distinguished great creative individuals from all others is that they

have been willing to accept the challenge of the complicated nature

of a human being. Maybe that is why there have been only about two

thousand great individuals in five thousand years. Some people are

defeated by this complexity; some are illuminated by it; some are

challenged by it. This complexity tells us that the evolution of

hunankind is still going on and will continue to go on. The nature of

man/woman, our human identity, is still being discovered, still being


So when we are asked “What is truth?” we must make clear that

there is no such thing as truth. There are different kinds of truth.

There are truths which are really scientific facts, used for technical

purposes. There is factual truth, or truth-telling as opposed to lying.

And then there are truths which are really convictions, having to do

with human beings, with change, with development, with values.

Convictions are relative, not absolute.

That they are relative means that they are extremely important. It

is hard for people to accept this because in the Western intellectual

tradition, absolute truth has come down to us as a Positive goal to be

striven toward, while relative truths have come down as “merely

relative,” and therefore, by implication, mean, material, negative.

This started with Plate, whose anti-mass bias was clear. It was

220         James and Grace Lee Boggs

extended by Christianity (to save the souls of the meek and humble).

Then science gave it new life. Therefore, it is hard to get people to

understand that truths are constantly being created, and that this

creativity is in fact the greatest achievement of humanity. We tend

to speak of ideas as “only relative” or “merely relative” implying that

what is relative doesn’t matter too much because it is not fixed, as if

only fixed truths were important.

A constant evolution takes place in our concepts, in truths. God

was a concept created by human beings. The first gods that men and

women created were closer to nature because at the time people

lived closer to nature. As we progressively departed from nature,

beginning to master nature for the first time within the last few

hundred years, we created other, more complicated gods. As we

were enhanced in one direction, we were dulled and diminished in

another. This is the contradiction, the duality in man/woman. When

we crossed “the threshold of reflection,” in Chardin’s phrase, we

began to discover things about our own developing nature. We may

think that we have discovered the final truth about the nature of

human beings, and therefore we know who and what man/woman is.

But we don’t. The nature of a human being, present as well as future,

is infinitely more complicated than we have permitted ourselves to

recognize or to express.

A revolution is to create new truths about human beings and

society. There is no proof really that the road you are taking is the

“true” one. You have to make it true. Revolution creates new bases

of tensions, new unities which will split again into new dualities.”