Conversations in Maine New Edition – Order your copy

 Conversations in Maine

A New Edition

2018

Authors: Grace Lee Boggs, Jimmy Boggs, Freddy Paine, and Lyman Paine

Foreword by Shea Howell and Stephen Ward
Afterword by Michael Doan

Order your copy today

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Meditations on activism following the turbulent 1960s—back in print

Following the Detroit Rebellion of 1967, four veteran activists, Grace Lee and Jimmy Boggs, and Lyman and Freddy Paine, came together to rethink revolution and social change. Posting tough, thought-provoking questions, the recorded dialogue among these four friends ultimately serves as a call to all citizens to work together and think deeply about the kind of future we can create.

Conversations in Maine was an essential text for my generation of radicals.

Robin D.G. Kelley

Boggs Center – Living For Change News Letter November 5th, 2018

November 5th, 2018

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Adult allies are needed to assist We the Youth of Detroit in testing water across the city.

MORE INFO HERE

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Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Against the Darkness

This is a time of accelerating homegrown terrorism. The Massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburg followed closely behind the shooting deaths of two people in a Kroger parking lot in Kentucky. The killer had gone to the store after being unable to enter the First Baptist Church.

These killings, coming so closely after pipe bombs were sent across the US, along with the emerging details of the state directed murder of Jamal Khashoggi, led me to ask students in my university classes if they wanted to have conversations about these events.

I often take time in classes for reflection on current issues. So, I was unprepared for the response this time. In two separate classes most students said they really didn’t want to talk about any of this. They said they were numb. They did not want to think about it. They didn’t like that they were so shut down, but they were afraid. It felt like nowhere was safe.

This kind of reaction to the violence that is becoming normal in our public life is as dangerous as the violence itself. It is the necessary grounds for fascism to flourish. Fascism depends upon our disconnection from each other and from our selves. It not only requires that some of us be willing to commitment unspeakable horrors against each other. It requires that most of us give up reacting to these horrors. It requires we no longer feel it matters if we care.

This is why I was especially glad to see that some students were organizing a public response to these killings. At my university students organized a candlelight vigil. “Our student leaders came up with the idea and the event has grown organically over the past 48 hours to the point where we have Christian, Muslim and Jewish groups working together to participate in the vigil,” said Senior Director, Office for Student Involvement, Jean Ann Miller. Well over 200 people attended the event. People of Catholic, Protestant, Muslim and Jewish faiths spoke about connection, courage, and the need to care for one another.

This group was one of thousands, large and small that have come together to publicly stand against hate, violence, and fear.
Speaking to the overflowing crowd of the small Newton Massachusetts synagogue, Rabbi Robbinson said, “Each of you who made the choice to come here tonight, to stand together, to pray together, are angels of peace. Let us raise our voices against the darkness.”

Trump’s words foster fear and violence.  They matter. As Henry Giroux recently observed:
“Trump’s language is neither harmless, nor merely a form of infantilized theater. It is toxic, steeped in a racist nationalist ardor that stirs up and emboldens extremist elements of his base. It adds fuel to a culture capable of horrific consequences, …It is also the language of silence, moral irresponsibility and a willingness to look away in the face of violence and human suffering. This is the worldview of fascist politics and a dangerous nihilism — one that reinforces a contempt for human rights in the name of financial expediency and the cynical pursuit of political power.”

But our word matter much more. Through our words we can foster connection and love. Our words, openly offered in the public sphere, become the strands to weave a new democracy, rooted in life affirming values.

The Tragedy in Pittsburgh
Richard Feldman

The tragedy in Pittsburgh is a wake up call to our nation and to our souls.  As a country we have a history drenched in blood. Beginning with the massacres of Native Americans to the enslavement of African Americans to the internment camps, to our prisons, we have step by step put economic gain over human dignity. Our Constitution put slavery above human and social values. These choices continue as our current President abuses immigrant children.

We are able to continue to evade the consequences of our actions because we make people most affected by them invisible. We put folks with disabilities in prison like institutions, we declare the children of Flint fine, we deny the human dignity of gay, lesbian and transgender folks. At every turn, our nation has chosen economic development at the expense of human beings and the earth.

It is easy to say that Trump has blood on his hands. It is more difficult to say that our historical silence has come home to roost.  We would rather talk about healing and guns than look at ourselves and the cost that most of the world has suffered so that “typical Americans” can pursue our daily happiness.

What we are experiencing is not an individual mental health problem.  It is a social health problem.  This is not only about hate and violence. This is an historical problem that we have created in our pursuit of the evil triplets of racism, materialism and militarism. In Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech: Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence he calls upon us to acknowledge that we are the “greatest purveyors of violence” and to create a radical revolution in values.

Most Americans believe a fantasy story about our past that tells us we are special, entitled to what we have, and are the best country in the world.

As James Baldwin said: “America will never know its name until it knows my name.”

This tragedy cries out for us to look beyond simple answers. It is not about guns or the acts of a deranged person. It is about the violence rooted deeply in our past and our present. It is the violence that has led us to believe some of us are superior to other people and to the living world on which we depend.

Our country will not heal until it faces our past and grapples with the challenge of Dr. King when he said that when faced with such violence, “I cannot be silent.” Silence is betrayal.

Let us engage with each other and develop new truths about who we have been and who we wish to become.
What We’re Watching
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Boggs Center – Living For Change NewsLetter. October 23rd, 2018

October 23rd, 2018

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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

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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.


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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 (MoveOn.org and ColorofChange.org) 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 (epeterson@thewright.org) and Interim COO, Mr. George Hamilton, retired Dow Chemical Executive (ghamilton@thewright.org).  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

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Free – Riverwise Edition #8 Just issued

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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.

 

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Imagine

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

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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
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