Boggscenter – Living For Change News – December 9th, 2019

December 9th, 2019

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Thinking for Ourselves

Water Warnings
Shea Howell

As thousands of people across the country participated in the December 6th Climate Strike lead by youth activists, many Detroiters were wondering if their drinking water was safe. Sketchy reports were surfacing about the collapse of the shore line holding land long contaminated with toxic chemicals, including uranium. The Wall Street Journal listed the site as one of “America’s forgotten nuclear legacy wastelands” in 2013. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health said in 2011 that the “potential exists for significant residual radiation” on the site.

But no one seemed particularly concerned until last week end. Having been passed along through a series of “owners,” including the city, only people with long memories thought of the piles along the river as the Revere Copper and Brass site. Few, including its current owners, seemed aware of the critical role the former pot and bearing company had played in the development of the Atomic bomb. But during the 1940s and through the 1950’s uranium was processed there. Between 1943 and 1944 , under the Manhattan Project, at least 1,220 tons of uranium were extruded on the site. Today we are told that the possibility of uranium contamination is slight, but there is no question that the soil contains a toxic mix of chemicals including mercury, PCBs and PAHs.

As various news outlets began to report on the collapse into the river, long-time activist and water plant expert Russ Bellant said:

The Detroit Free Press reported today that with the radioactive material entering the Detroit river “the news is concerning because the Detroit drinking water intake lines are nearby downriver.”  This is not true and thus needlessly alarming.

Detroit’s main intakes are at about seven miles upriver and therefore not subject to this material. The Detroit system has one intake on the Canadian side of the Detroit River that supplies the Southwest Water Treatment Plant in Allen Park. That plant feeds downriver communities. That plant should cease its intake and receive water for its customers from the huge Springwells plant. We are in a low demand season for water so shifting these loads is doable.

Of more concern are cities like Wyandotte, Monroe, Toledo and many Ontario communities that have their own intakes downriver from the spill. They need an aggressive investigation by EPA and EGLE and quick remedies, but their record to date is disconcerting. The Free Press reports that EPA did not know of the November contamination until the Windsor Star called them Wednesday, while EGLE says don’t worry. Neither agency shows the alarm and urgency required. The same attitude they had regarding Flint for far too long.

I urge folks to contact the Great Lakes Water Authority to urge protection of the downriver communities by shifting the load from the Southwest plant to the rest of the Detroit system until safe water can be assured for all their own intakes downriver from the spill. They need an aggressive investigation by EPA and EGLE and quick remedies, but their record to date is disconcerting. The Free Press reports that EPA did not know of the November contamination until the Windsor Star called them Wednesday, while EGLE says don’t worry. Neither agency shows the alarm and urgency required. The same attitude they had regarding Flint for far too long.

I urge folks to contact the Great Lakes Water Authority to urge protection of the downriver communities by shifting the load from the Southwest plant to the rest of the Detroit system until safe water can be assured for all.”

This most recent, predictable possibility of contamination to our water is a reminder of how urgent the message is of young people gathering on our streets to demand action on climate change.  Business as usual is what has brought us to the point where shifting sands can poison entire cities, where waters are rising, and the legacies of war, empire, and industry are threating all life. The  river reminds us that we urgently need to make broad, deep changes to how we are living if we are to find our way to the future.

Neighborhood on the Edge

Who chooses what happens to our neighborhood? This is the question posed by the multi-media installation, Neighborhood on the Edge, by Shaun Nethercott, activist, 2016 Kresge Arts Fellow and award-winning co-founder of Matrix Theatre Company in Hubbard Richard.  This Art X Detroit 2019 art experience will take place at the Mexicantown Latino Cultural Center, 2835 Bagley, Detroit, 48216.

December 8 – December 22

Installation visitors will encounter the voices and images of ten Hubbard Richard residents and hear them tell their stories, why they may stay or go and how the area has changed over the years. The installation is part of a city-wide, multi-disciplinary series featuring twenty-two newly commissioned exhibitions, performances and events developed by alumni Kresge Artist Fellows and Gilda Awardees.

Find out more at @mexicantowncdcdetroit

Boggs Center Living For Change – November 26th, 2019

November 26th, 2019

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Thinking for Ourselves

New Thinking about Development
Shea Howell

The Detroit City Council voted 6 to 3 to reject Mayor Duggan’s $250 million bond proposal. This is an encouraging sign of new leadership emerging. But the victory is likely to be short lived. Duggan will continue to push for a bond in some form. After the vote the Mayor told reporters , “I respect the other perspective, and so, we’re going to have to slow the demolitions down, temporarily. But we are going to sit with council quickly, come up with a process that people feel good about and hopefully move forward later in the year. I’m really confident that council and I can work out something that will take care of the problem.”
Duggan seems to have little grasp of just how much the majority of the people in the city reject and mistrust his leadership. Following the vote, the Detroit Free Press provided a strong analysis highlighting the growing lack of trust in the administration. Wide spread concerns for transparency and accountability, and  the fall-out from a growing number of criminal investigations are all taking a toll.

These public perceptions are fueled by everyday experience as people see projects Duggan touted fail to address daily needs.  Public transportation is a continuing disaster and the Q line is an embarrassing , costly joke, plagued with delays. Land around LCA remains undeveloped. Water continues to be shut off with a growing cumulative effect in the city, touching nearly half of the population. Evictions continue as far too many people cannot meet existing tax burdens. Home owners, who should have received assistance from the Hardest Hit funds, struggle to keep homes functioning. Rents are escalating and increasingly our houses are owned by people who neither live in the city or the country. Meanwhile, basic repair and restoration of the city seems to bring in mostly white suburban contractors, with little representation of the majority of the people who live here benefiting.

The failures of the Hardest Hit Fund money to be directed to preserving home ownership is an especially clear example of the Mayor’s questionable use of federal money . He chose to tear down homes instead. In the process it seems a lot of people who don’t live in the city made a lot of money, while Detroit and especially African American owned firms, received little. Meanwhile, the costs of demolition have more than doubled. Basic concerns for the health and safety of neighbors have been ignored as demolition accelerated.

All of this has provided the context for a No vote from the majority of the council and growing numbers of citizens.

It is time to rethink where we are and what values we need to guide the choices we are making about how to advance our city. Instead of trying to strong arm council or push through a bond proposal, the Mayor should announce a moratorium on water shut offs, on foreclosures and on tax breaks to corporations. He should make all public transportation free to encourage its use. He should halt all demolition.

This would give us an opportunity to come together and think in new ways  about how to restore, protect and recreate city life. We can develop our people as we redevelop our neighborhoods. To do this we need comprehensive, connected, compassionate, and imaginative ideas about our future. This current vote gives us an opportunity to accelerate  this kind of new thinking.



University of Michigan students, faculty and community members discussed discrimination and “sham” investigations at the “UM: Corruption, Complicity, Coverups” town hall in Weill Hall Sunday night. The event was hosted by UMich is Complicit: a movement dedicated to combating discriminatory hiring practices and sexual misconduct policies at the University.


The panel featured Scott Kurashige, former director of the Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies Program and tenured professor at U-M, and his partner Emily Lawsin, a lecturer in the departments of Women’s Studies and American Culture. They filed a discrimination lawsuit against the University under the Michigan Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act in December 2016. KEEP READING

If you are a sibling or have a family member with a disability check out this video.?


Please take a moment to fill out the MI Roundtable for Diversity & Inclusion:
Needs Assessment Survey


Leaders and Best? Questioning the UM “Detroit Center for Innovation”

If you are a sibling or have a family member with a disability check out this video.?


Please take a moment to fill out the MI Roundtable for Diversity & Inclusion:
Needs Assessment Survey


Boggs Center Detroit – Living For Change News – October 29th. 2019

October 29th, 2019

A Radical New Sharing Economy


Thinking for Ourselves

Sharing Peace
Shea Howell

Detroit has a long history in developing international relationships. During the cold war era, citizens created friendship associations with the then USSR, China and later Cuba. These early people to people exchanges formed a context for political leaders to challenge official U.S. policy. Detroit elected officials were among the first to participate in civil disobedience against the apartheid South African government. We established official sister cities around the globe and sent delegation to Pan African conferences. As one of the first places in the U.S. with elected African American leadership, we became a symbol of liberation, attracting visitors engaged in struggles against colonial empires.

This legacy was very much on my mind as a small group gathered for a conversation with the Rev. David Latimer and his wife Margaret. They had travelled from Derry, in Northern Ireland to visit with Hush House and to exchange ideas with Professor Charles Simmons and Rev. Sandra Simmons. This was an extension of relationships begun over the summer when the Simmonses travelled to Derry to share their experience around establishing a community museum honoring the Black Freedom struggle in the US.

The Rev. David Latimer is no stranger to controversy. He played a critical role in the Irish peace process as he established an improbable friendship with former Sinn Fein deputy first minister Martin McGuinness. Their friendship evolved out of efforts by Latimer to create peace and stop the violence surrounding Latimer’s church. During the most violent stage of the conflict in Ireland, called “the Troubles,” First Derry Presbyterian Church was frequently attacked. In 1983 a section of the church was bombed.  Five members killed by the IRA were buried from the church over the years. In 2006 attacks compelled Latimer to reach out to find another way. After a radio appeal for Martin McGuiness to use his authority with the IRA to stop the assaults, Latimer was stunned by a phone call requesting a meeting. From that moment, the friendship between the two men grew to one of respect and affection.

Latimer speaks often now of how McGuiness gave him the confidence to believe that people can change. Latimer wrote,

“Changing so dramatically to become the person he became and refusing to deviate, fluctuate or even hesitate on his onward journey furnishes us with evidence of God’s amazing grace…By so doing he was paying attention to the present knowing if you improve upon the present what comes later will also be better. And he wanted the future to be markedly different especially for children growing up in every city, town and village.”
Rev. Latimer continues to press for peace. He told us of his latest project, engaging almost all the schools in his city in writing peace pledges. Students were asked to develop a 25 word statement on what peace in their schools means. The young people are probing question of what is peace? How is peace shattered? How is peace re-established?

Through this process, Latimer believes young people are encouraged to think about “what we need to be doing to make life better together.” He has 415 of the 417 schools working on the project and 11 County Councils have joined in.

In late November each pledge will be inscribed on a metal leaf, attached to sculpted tree, “offering a vision of peace for the future.”

The work of Rev. and Margaret Latimer and Professor and Rev. Simmons offer strong direction for the kinds of actions we all need to engage in if we are to find our way to the future.


What We’re Studying…braidingcare
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What We’re Studying…




Boggs Center Living For Change News – October 15th, 2019

October 15th, 2019
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 Thinking for Ourselves

Rising Waters
Shea Howell

Water protectors continue to push the Mayor and his administration to develop a comprehensive policy reflecting two fundamental principles: water is a human right and a sacred trust. This week two reports underscored the need for us to think more deeply about the waters that give us life.

First, the Army Corps of Engineers provided their predictions for Great Lakes water levels though 2020. It appears that we will once again be facing high waters throughout the region. Currently, all of the Great Lakes are well above normal, reaching 100 year highs. For this month, Lakes Huron, St. Clair, and Erie are all around 3 feet higher than normal.

Across Detroit this has meant flooded homes and streets, washed out roads, flooding on Belle Isle and other city parks, and shoreline erosion. Hazardous sink holes are appearing on roads and walks. Blocked catch basins increase dangers to health and well-being. And the city offers little coordinated response. It is shifting the burden to home owners and has little more to offer than a sand bag strategy depending on volunteers. This is not only inadequate to the level of climate change we are experiencing, it is courting disaster.

The second study illustrates additional concerns about the high water levels. Erosion caused by water flow and the coming ice packs increases the disruption of toxic sediment.

Representatives from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) offered this assessment, “The entire Detroit River shoreline needs remediation.” This conclusion is based on nearly 900 samples taken from along the shore line. “Significant amounts of mercury, lead, asbestos, cyanide, chromium, pesticides and more were found.”

The highest levels of contamination are near the old industrial sites. While the buildings are now gone, their legacy lingers deep in the soil. At the river bend an old copper facility and fuel dock have left behind the highest concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHS), toxic chemicals released from burning trash. A bit further down, the Uniroyal Tire site is now covered with grasses and has the highest concentration of a range of poisonous contaminants. A sediment sample taken from the river bank was left unanalyzed over one weekend and eroded its polycarbonate container.

This degradation of the land and waters is the result of the ways of thinking that dominated the extractive, industrial culture that shaped our city. To pretend that we can simply go about business as usual only intensifies the depth of the climate crisis we face. After two hundred years of industrial production and waste, we need to systematically work to revitalize the soil and waters upon which we depend.

Water protects of We the People and the Peoples Water Board are continuing to press for a deeper understanding of our need to think in holistic, interconnected ways about the qualities necessary for life in our city. Central to these questions is restoring and regenerating the waters that give us life, ensuring that all of us have access to safe, affordable, protected and cherished waters.

Every day the Mayor ignores these deeper questions brings us closer to disasters of his making. In 1920 it was possible to believe that water and land were simply backgrounds to the stuff of city life. But today, on the eve of 2020, such thinking is no longer acceptable. It belongs to a dangerous, destructive past.

We can imagine a future that holds water and life sacred. It requires only the  political will to bring this vision into being. Waters are rising.


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Grace Lee Boggs (June 27, 1915 to October 5, 2015)

Today we honor the 4th anniversary of the day Grace Lee Boggs (June 27, 1915 to October 5, 2015) joined the ancestors after her 100 years and 100 days of a remarkable life that has left an enduring imprint on humanity. Of the many great tributes to Grace, we are reposting this must read article from historian Barbara Ransby.

About this website

Boggs’ love for humanity ran strong and deep, serving as a generative force for creating change.

“We must join together to resist and defeat the growing counter-revolution.” Grace Lee Boggs (2013)

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