Boggs Center News Letter June 4, 2018

grace and jimmy



Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Mackinac Gathering

The business and political elite gathered on Mackinac Island last week to determine ways that will advance their interests and solidify their political control. As reported, “Nearly 1,700 business leaders, politicians, and philanthropists headed to Mackinac Island to rub elbows, and discuss issues in the state ranging from education to transportation.

“Michigan’s political establishment decamps for this conference because they are drawn by the movers and shakers in the business world who come up here, and vice versa — the business people come up because there is easy access to Michigan’s political class.”

Each year the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the gathering, organizes panels and speakers around themes, or “pillars.” It is obvious that the rejection by Amazon of the Dan Gilbert/Detroit bid to entice its new headquarters here formed the backdrop of the gathering. The pillars were “Is Michigan Prepared?”; the “Mobility Disruption, and “Trust,” restoring confidence in government, news media and business. Transportation and education dominated the discussions.

Over the years these gatherings have been incubators for state level initiatives. This year is no exception. We should all be concerned about the intentions signaled by conference goers to continue to meddle in affairs where they are ill equipped to make decisions. Yet, with an astonishing combination of ignorance and arrogance, the conference provides a glimpse of the collective agenda to continue efforts to “privatize” public goods.

The disaster of our public education system is perhaps the clearest example. The head of the Chamber of Commerce, Sandy Baruah, said, “I think education has been one of those issues that we’ve been talking up on the island in one form or another for years now,” We always talk about it but we haven’t been able to solve it, and so that’s a continuing frustration for us.”

Mackinac gatherings have provided the backdrop for the development of schools of choice; efforts to use public money to finance private, often religious schools; the establishment of emergency management; standardized assaultive and abusive testing; increased police presence in schools; assaults on teachers unions; efforts to charge parents for children’s misbehavior; removal of social supports; resisting anti-bullying efforts because they included LGBTQ concerns; extension of time required in school; and eroding qualifications for teachers. These are just a few of the ideas floated on the island over the years. Many have become laws creating the some of the worst, most destructive and abusive school practices in the country.

Baruah assures us there is no end in sight to this commitment to the destruction of public education.

In part these destructive policies are nothing more than the enactment of neoliberal, austerity politics aimed at turning all public responsibilities into private profit centers. The Mackinac gathering is simply the place where people reassure one another that they are committed to “business as usual,” and making Michigan ever more business friendly.

But these policies do not emerge by accident. The Republican dominated legislature, governor and court system reflect the long standing influence of frequent island visitors such as right wing ideologue Betsy DeVos and family.

Last fall the Republican party gathered to celebrate their hold on state and national government, a government which right wing money like that of the DeVos crew helped establish.

The DeVos family has made at least $82 million in political contributions nationally, as much as $58 million of those dollars spent in Michigan — with $14 million in the last two years alone.

As Free Press writer Nancy Kaffer observed, “In Michigan, it’s difficult to find a significant state-level policy change the DeVos family hasn’t backed: right-to-work, pension reform, unfettered school choice.”

The conference may be over, but the consequences linger. They remind us of the urgent, persistent work ahead to create more human, caring, and creative ways of living.

Rojava, a Socialist-Feminist Bastion in Syria, is Under Siege

Join Sweet Water Foundation for the First Annual Juneteenth Celebration at the Perry Ave Commons to create, build, and celebrate freedom and community. Experience the richness of the Commons with Arts & Crafts, Music, Dance, Cooking Demonstrations, Food, Family, and Fun! The celebration will also feature SWF’s first farmers’ market of the season.

Breathe Free Detroit – June 2018 Updates

Please join us for the next
Breathe Free Detroit Community Meeting:

Wednesday, June 27, 2018
6:00 – 7:30 PM
Cass Corridor Commons, 4605 Cass Avenue
D. Blair Theatre (enter through red door at rear of building)
The meeting will include:
updates, including the release of our incinerator report and meetings with City officials
planning for fun summer Breathe Free Detroit activities!
discussion about what closing the incinerator means for our community
Bring a snack to share if you can, but just come!

The 12th Consecutive Annual Backpack Giveaway and Neighborhood Festival on August 4, 2018 is more than an event; it’s a celebration of Love, Hope and Self-Determination. We go extra hard because our people deserve an extra kind of love! We have been able to impact thousands of lives by giving a damn, and with the support of the people from different walks of life. Donations will go to support the following: 1) Backpacks, 2) School supplies , 3) Food (hot meal provided to each attendee as well as hot dogs and snacks all day long) 3) Children’s activities (bounce houses, games, art projects, face painting etc), 4) Live performances, 5) Water supply, 6) Prizes , 7) Portable stage , 8) Porta John, 9) Preparing the site for the event, 10) Dj & Sound system, 11) Photographer…




By Grace Lee Boggs

18th Annual Conference, Association for Community-Based Education

Alexandria, Va. November 11, 1993

It is an honor to be the keynote speaker at your 18th Annual Conference which is focusing on the issue of Community-based Economic Development. I have been a Movement activist for more than 50 years, but it is only in the last few years that I have made the struggle for community-based economic develop-

ment a priority. Since you have been organized around community-based education for so many years, I am sure I have a great deal to learn from your experiences.

Originally I was scheduled to make the Closing Address. So I was planning to listen carefully and base . what I had to say on what I learned from the actual proceedings. I am still planning to listen and learn over the next two days. But now that I have been asked to make the opening keynote, my responsibility is to provide a framework for your deliberations. So, after a telephone discussion with Chris Zachariadis, your Executive Director, we agreed that I should give you some idea of the movement towards commu­nity-based economic development which I see emerging and which I believe will, like NAFr A, require each of us to take a fresh look at who we are and where we stand.

In the late 1970s, when ACBE was founded, very few people had any idea how rapidly our cities and communities were being turned into wastelands by multinational corporations replacing human labor with robots and exporting jobs overseas where they could make more profit with cheaper labor. At the UN General Assembly in December 1972 Chile’s President Salvadore Allende had warned the world of the threat to the nation-state posed by transnational corporations. “The entire political structure of the world is being undermined,” he said, because transnational corporations organizations are “not account­able to or regulated by any parliament or institution representing the collective interest.” At the same time, in cities like Detroit people were huddling behind barred doors and windows because crime had spread so rapidly in the wake of the urban rebellions which had given a certain legitimacy to looting as a

form of struggle. So in June 1972 we put out this statement entitled CRIME AMONG OUR PEOPLE – in which we called upon people at the grassroots to begin rebuilding community by pledging among ourselves not to buy “hot goods.”

In November 1976 in a speech at the University of Michigan Jimmy described the dangerous situation we are in because we have for so long believed that our social and human problems could be solved by economic growth and advancing technology and because we have left all the decisions with regard to our economy and the government to the professional politician. “Our cities are mushrooming at the expense of the countryside,” he said. “Our economy is run by monstrous multinational corporations headed by executives and specialists who have no loyalty to this country or to any community. With every year more and more of our old people and our young people, especially, the black, the uneducated and the unskilled, are reduced to parasites. And we have become more afraid of each other than we used to be of wild animals. Each person has become a lonely individualist, narrowed down to a cog in a machine, with no individuality and no sense of citizenship.”

Since then the economic, political and social disintegration of Detroit and other cities across our country has been beyond our worst forebodings. All around us in the inner city young blacks with no hope of factory jobs making enough to raise a family have become increasingly desperate. As a result, with the invention of Crack in the mid-80s the conditions were ripe for the creation of the drug economy which has turned our neighborhoods into war zones where it is no longer safe even for children to go to and from school.

For a while many people had the illusion that only the jobs of the unskilled and uneducated were being eliminated and that there would be plenty of work in the service and information industries for those who stayed in school and got their degrees. In other words, the inner cities might suffer but the suburbs would continue to prosper. However, in the last few years corporations like IBM, Xerox, Kodak, Ameritech et al have been laying off technicians and management personnel by the tens of thousands. Between 1979 and 1992 4.4 million employees of Fortune 500 companies received pink slips. This year, for the first time, white collar unemployed – mostly permanent job losers -outnumber blue collar unem­ployed. It is estimated that in the next decade 30-40% of the remaining 7 million middle management jobs will become obsolete. The New York Times regularly carries articles like these with the headline:

THE PHDS ARE HERE BUT THE LABS AREN’T HIRING.” And a cartoon last spring showed university graduates in cap and gown walking across the platform to receive posters saying “Will Work for Food” instead of diplomas.

All across the country there is a growing realization that we can no longer depend upon big corporations to provide us with jobs and that small local businesses not only provide more jobs but are more loyal to communities. The stubborn popular opposition to NAFrA despite tremendous pressures from eco­nomic and political elites is a sign of deep-rooted resentment of the role that multinational corporations and a global economy are playing in subjecting us to the untender mercies of the market place, robbing

us not only of jobs but of any control over our own destinies.

We have arrived at a new historical conjuncture. For the first time in human history ordinary people in all walks of life, men and women of all ethnic groups, the skilled and educated as well as the unskilled and uneducated, are facing the question “How do WE make our livings now that we can no longer depend upon ‘the Man’ for jobs?” At the same time because our families and our communities have been falling apart while we were making what we thought were good livings, we also face the question of how to rebuild our f arnilies and our communities. And because our addiction to consumerism is causing global warming, deterioration of our forest and arable soil and extinction of species, we face the challenge of making drastic changes in our way of life if we are to save our planet.

Meanwhile, because we accumulated a $4 trillion debt in order to defeat Russian Communism, we now need a daily injection of $18 billion from Saudi Arabia, Belgium, England and Japan just to maintain the status quo. Domestic programs are being eroded, not expanded. So we can no longer depend upon government to resolve these questions for us. We must rely on PEOPLE POWER. We must become more self-reliant.

Thus as we come to the end of the 20th century the conditions are ripe for creating a movement that goes beyond all the movements of the past. The issues we face are not just those of Class which led to the struggle for the dignity of labor and the creation of the labor movement in the 1930s. Class exploitation still exists but instead of Labor freeing itself from Capital, Capital is now using hitech and its mobility to free itself from Labor. Nor are the issues just those of Race which led to the creation of the civil rights and Black Power Movements in the 1950s and 1960s. Racism still exists and we are experiencing some very ugly manifestations of it. But it is no longer possible to build a movement against Racism (1) because it has already been delegtimized by the struggles of the 50s and 60s; (2) because the contradic­tions within the black community are now obvious; and (3) because the main questions being asked by blacks do not center around race but around economics. Equally important, because of the huge immi­gration from Asia, Latin America and the Middle East in recent years, it no longer makes sense to think of this country in terms of blacks and whites or in terms of majority and minorities. By the middle of the next century Euro-Americans and African Americans will be minorities like other minorities.

WHAT IS A MOVEMENT? We may not all have the same textbook or dictionary definition but most of us have a sense of what Movement is. Thus, when youth volunteers were asked “What is a Movement?” at the first session of DETROIT SUMMER this year, these are some of the answers they gave.

A Movement is  to change things. to make a better society for everyone.

dialoguing, coming up with a vision, and then fighting for it about changing values and learning to see different points of view. something we can take back home and spread around. Projects end, but Detroit Summer goes with us.

What all these comments have in common is the sense that a Movement is not just for the purpose of correcting particular injustices or inequities. A Movement advances Humanity to a new plateau of consciousness, self-consciousness, creativity and political and social responsiblity. It creates a new dream, a new sense or vision of what it means to be a human being, a new basis of unity between differ­ent groups. A Movement does not necessarily begin with this new vision, but in the course of struggle the vision has to become increasingly clear to the participants and be made increasingly clear to the rest of society both in actions and words. For example, in the 1770s we had both the Boston Tea Party and the Declaration of Independence. In the 1930s we had both the plant sit-ins and John L. Lewis’ speeches. In the 1969s we had both the boycotts and sit-ins and Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech.

In order for a Movement to be built, large numbers of people who are critical to the functioning of the society must have reached the point where they feel they can’t take the way things are any more. So if you have your ear close to the grassroots you begin to hear people asking “WHY” and “How” questions which are not easily answerable. For example, after World War II which was supposed to have been fought for Democracy black folks began asking “Why do white folks treat us this way?” with a new urgency. In the 1960s in Detroit black folks began asking why white folks should hold political power since blacks were fast becoming the majority in the city, And these days in Detroit and other cities across the country the main questions being asked at the community level are “What is happening to our young people? Why are they killing each other so mindlessly? How can we begin creating jobs for ourselves?”

These were not the questions being asked 20 years ago in Detroit when the Black Power Movement culminated in the election of Coleman Young. Detroiters were full of hope and pride because through struggle we had achieved what was right and just in a city which was majority black – our first black Mayor. Little did we suspect that we would soon be faced with new, much more difficult contradictions because we had entered a new economic era in which jobs would be exported overseas or done by robots. Changing the color of the Mayor did not, could not reverse this de-industrialization. Over the last 20 years, like other Mayors, Mayor Young has tried to bring back jobs by offering tax abatements

to corporations, sponsoring megaprojects which mainly enriched the developers whose contributions swelled his campaign chest; and offering Casino Gambling as a new industry that would create 50,000 jobs. But corporations and jobs have continued to leave Detroit.

But at the same time, step by step, year by year, in response to reality and through struggle over local issues, a new movement has been in the making. The first sign of this new movement was the founding of SOSAD (SA VE OUR SONS AND DAUGHTERS) in 1987 by Clementine Barfield and other moth­ers who had lost their children to street violence. Some of these mothers had been teenagers in the South in the 60s. Now they were ready to go beyond mourning to organize programs for positive change with the goal of creating a movement which would do for our time what the civil rights movement had done for the 50s and 60s.

Then, in 1988 when Mayor Young began urging Casino Gambling as the means for economic develop­ment of the city, a broad coalition of clergy, political leaders and community activists came together and organized UNITED DETROITERS AGAINST GAMBLING (UDAG), among other reasons be­cause we realized that Casino Gambling would increase the fast-buck, quick-fix mentality which was already destroying our young people. After we won the referendum we stayed together as

DETROITERS UNITING to explore alternatives. “Our concern,” we said, “is with how our city has been disintegrating socially, economically, politically,morally and ethically. We are convinced that we cannot depend upon one industry or any large corporation to provide us with jobs. It is now up to us – the citizens of Detroit – to put our hearts, our imaginations, our minds and our hands together to create a vision and project concrete programs for developing the kinds of local enterprises that will provide meaningful jobs and income for all citizens.” In 1989 members of community groups from all across the city came together to carry on weekly anti-crackhouse marches in different neigh-horhoods. Calling ourselves WE-PROS (WE THE PEOPLE RECLAIM OUR STREETS) we warned drug dealers they had “better run and hide, ’cause people are uniting on the other side.”

In the summer of 1990 Mayor Young announced his decision to tear down Ford Auditorium so that Comerica Bank could build a new high rise office building. DETROITERS UNITING again rose to the challenge and under the slogan “Civic Pride, not Corporate Greed” mobilized tens of thousands of Detroiters from all across the city to demand a referendum on whether or not to re-zone a public center for commercial development. On April 23, 1991 a majority of citizens voted a resounding NO! “Detroiters send the Mayor a message on DEvelopment,” the Free Press editorialized. “It was a good week for Democracy,” according to Free Press Development columnist John Gallagher.

In November 1991 to reinforce the new public spirit emerging in the city a group of community organi­zations and activists organized the Peoples Festival, “a multi-generational, multicultural celebration of Detroits, putting our hearts, minds, hands and imaginations together to redefine and recreate a city of Community, Compassion, Cooperation, Participation and Enterprise in harmony with the earth.”

In 1992 DETROITERS UNITING, along with about a dozen other local community organizations, including ACBE member, the WARREN CONNER DEVELOPMENT COALITION, issued a Call for DETROIT SUMMER inviting young people to come to our city from all over the country to work with local youth on community projects, e.g. creating community parks out of vacant lots, planting commu­nity gardens, painting murals and rehabbing homes. We were confident that just as the young people who joined MISSISSIPPI FREEDOM SUMMER in 1964 had taken the civil rights movement to a new plateau, youth volunteers working with grassroots community groups could now create a new spirit and

__         a new sense of direction for Detroit and other cities across the country which have been devastated by multinational capitalism.



Through DETROIT SUMMER, we have discovered that there is a new generation of young people who are very different from the 30 and 40 somethings who came out of the movements of the 60s and 70s. They are more ready to work with and learn from the various ethnic groups who represent the rich cultural diversity of the modem city. For them the main challenge is to make the cities where they live livable. It is not racism. They are also eager to create new bonds between the generations and especially with their elders. They also seem eager to break with the elitist, one-dimensional educational philoso­phy which divorces cognitive learning from practical work and prepares young people for individual upward mobility – and to embrace a new philosophy best expressed by Gandhi who believed that educa­tion has to be of the Heart, Head and Hands and that the three main resources for education are the Community, the Natural Environment and the Work Environment. In other words, they are ready to create a Multicultural, Multigenera-tional Movement to ReBuild, ReDefine and ReSpirit the city from the ground up.

Unlike the young people who pick up litter lackadaisically as a summer job, DETROIT SUMMER youth are volunteers. As 15 year old Tracey Hollins put it in her article on DETROIT SUMMER, “A paycheck continues to cloud the minds of young adults who have been taught that money is everything. Teens continuously walk the streets, not noticing the trash and not caring about the graffiti. Most don’t realize the importance of putting a paper in its right place. Detroit Summer had a special way of making you forget the fact that you weren’t getting paid. It filled your head with answers to questions that you’d

had all of your life and questions that no one can answer. It made you feel that you were an important part of the changing molding of future generations. It made you see that the hole you dug, the garden you watered or the swing set you painted made a difference.”

There are other signs of the growing movement in Detroit. For example, the Detroit-Windsor Labor Community Anti-Nafta Coalition is taking advantage of the Anti-Nafta Struggle to project the creation of a new community-based economy in which we produce for our own needs by growing food, creating fish farms, producing glass and new light-rail and micro-bus transport. As this leaflet says, NAFf A DEMANDS THAT WE WAKE UP AND BEGIN TO CREATE THE FUTURE. WE CAN’T DEPEND ON THE GOVERNMENT OR ON THE CORPORA TIO NS TO PROVIDE WORK OR HOPE FOR OUR YOUNG PEOPLE.

On November 30 Channel 56, our local public broadcasting station, and the Wayne State University College of Urban, Labor and Metropolitan Affairs are sponsoring a community forum to make Detroiters aware of how hi-tech is eliminating traditional jobs and therefore the need for us to develop new forms of work and new strategies of Self-Reliance. Throughout the month of January 1994 Channel 56 will be broadcasting programs on this theme, including programs on DETROIT SUMMER.

And it is not only Detroit. Over the last few years I have collected hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles on community rebuilding efforts all over the country. Here is one from the September 22 Lex­ington, Ky Herald-Leader. The headline reads: IN OREGON TIIE FUTURE LIES IN REBUILDING COMMUNITIES. The article tells the story of how the people of Burns, Oregon, a little rural town of 3000, having concluded in 1990 that recruiting businesses, the dominant form of economic development in Kentucky and Oregon, is a failed policy, decided to write their own community plan. In the three years since then, some of their projects have succeeded and others have not. But every Monday at 7 a.m. 20-30 people still meet in a local restaurant to continue the job of creating and recreating Burns’ future.

The article also lists 20 clues to rural community survival which are used by the Heartland Center for Leadership Development, a Nebraska organization. They include:

Evidence of Community Pride

Emphasis on quality in business and community life.

Deliberate transition of power to a younger generation of leaders. Acceptance of women in leadership roles.

Strong multigenerational family orientation. Careful use of fiscal resources.

Conviction that in the long run, you have to do it yourself.

I hope I have said enough to give you a sense of a growing movement towards community-based economic development so that you are asking yourselves the question “How do we as ACBE members relate to this movement?”

Let me give you a couple of examples. All over the country a bitter political struggle is developing between developers who are projecting Casino Gambling as the cure-all for the economic survival of particular cities and local community people who instinctively recognize that this quick-fix solution will destroy what they treasure most about their home towns but who are not yet clear that the only alterna­tive is putting our hands, hearts, minds and imaginations together to build community-based enterprises. How much energy  heart of everything you and we stand for?

Another example. In Detroit I live on the east side very close to the offices of the Warren-Conner Devel­opment Coalition. I own a share in their development corporation and I helped campaign for Deputy Director Angela Brown in her recent bid for a position on City Council. Warren-Conner, like other community development organizations, signed up as a local co-sponsor of DETROIT SUMMER. But its participation was minimal because it apparently had too much invested in its own agenda and because it is not a volunteer organization. Yet I feel that everyone – DETROIT SUMMER, Warren Conner and our community and city – would have much to gain if Warren Conner caught the Movement spirit of DETROIT SUMMER and helped to spread it. Should that be? Can it be? I hope that you will explore these questions with the seriousness that I believe they deserve.


March For Our lives Detroit – Grace Lee Boggs

March for Our Lives – Detroit, MI

Rivard Plaza

1340 E Atwater St
Detroit, MI 48207

3.1 mi away

When: Saturday, March 24, 11:00 AM

The Detroit March for Our Lives is an inclusive student-led march being organized by a coalition of very dedicated metro-Detroit high school students, with support from a large group of university students and adult allies. People of every age, race, ethnicity, citizenship and gender will come together for this cause, and all are welcome. On March 24, students and community members of ‘March For Our Lives’ will take to the streets of Washington, DC and nearly every other major city in the United States to demand that their lives and safety become a priority. Detroiters will march at the Riverfront in view of and only .5 miles from Canada, a country that has 51 times fewer gun deaths than the United States. We need your help to deliver the message that mass shootings must stop in this nation and that governing action on gun laws must be taken. Our collective voices will be heard!

The Why and How of Visionary Organizing By Grace Lee Boggs Sept 29 – Oct 6 2012

The Why and How of Visionary Organizing By Grace Lee Boggs Sept 29 – Oct 6 2012

“At this time on the clock of the {R}evolution, movement activists need to discuss and struggle around different forms of Organizing. Jimmy’s Boggs were in the plant and the community. From his experiences as an organizer he had learned that human beings are individuals and not just masses or members of a class or race.

For example, as he used to say. “ Some workers organized the union; others had to be whipped into it. “

In “Going where we’ve never gone before” and “Building Community: An Idea whose time has come, ” Jimmy recognized that while many, perhaps most people have been demoralized or immobilized by our disintegrating communities, there are also some who want to or are already trying to rebuild our communities.

That is what a Visionary Organizer does. S/he devises methods of Self-Selection through which visionaries can identify themselves and join with others.

That is why in the early 1990s, we created Detroit Summer, a multicultural intergenerational program to Rebuild, Redefine and Respirit Detroit from the ground up to bring together individuals who wanted to or were already doing this..

Only a few dozen people became involved in Detroit Summer but these few were individuals with the energy and the drive themselves to do something positive. Given the opportunity to work with others on different programs these natural leaders not only developed themselves and each other. They also inspired and developed us. Moreover, most of them became lifelong activists and leaders in the city of Detroit.

That is how Visionary Organizing works. It is a method for identifying and helping leaders to develop, a process of Self-Selection and Self-Development . Movement organizers can help that process along but it has to be Self-Initiated.

Those movement organizers who do not understand or engage in this process are likely to begin acting like politicians, trying to impress or attract victims of the system by providing them with the needs and services denied them by the system.”


Living by the Clock of the World: Grace Lee Boggs’ Call for Visionary Organizing By:  Matthew Birkhold Date Published:   April 17, 2012

“In contrast to rebellions, revolutions create new societies because they begin with “projecting the notion of a more human human being” whose development has been limited by structural conditions.  Revolutions are not significant simply because they involve seizing state power but because they create societies more conducive to human development. A revolution is not for the purpose of resolving past injustice.  Rather, “the only justification for revolution is that it advances the evolution of man/woman.” Understanding revolution as “a phase in the long evolutionary process of man/woman,” that “initiates a new plateau, a new threshold on which human beings can develop,” the Boggses saw revolution as a period when human beings rapidly advanced. “
“We are at the point of a cultural revolution in ourselves and in our institutions that is as far-reaching as the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture 11,000 years ago, and from agriculture to industry a few hundred years ago. How do we reimagine education? How do we reimagine community? How do we reimagine family? How do we reimagine sexual identity? How do we reimagine everything in the light of a change that is so far reaching and is our responsibility to make? We have to think beyond capitalist categories. We can’t expect them to make it. We have to do the reimagining ourselves.” GLB
How Do “We Reimagine?
We reimagine by combining activism with philosophy. We have to do what I call visionary organizing. We have to see every crisis as both a danger and an opportunity. It’s a danger because it does so much damage to our lives, to our institutions, to all that we have expected. But it’s also an opportunity for us to become creative; to become the new kind of people that are needed at such a huge period of transition. That’s why it’s so wonderful to be here today—that we dare to talk about revolution in such fundamental terms.”



Boggs Center – Living For Change News February 12th & 19th 2018

February 19th, 2017
grace and jimmy

“As an organizer, I was taught to recruit people into the movement and to support them to stay involved. But I wasn’t taught how to repair relationships or to prevent harm. Many of us aren’t taught these skills.”



Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Thanks to Jackson

This week a group of us from the Boggs Center attended the North Dakota Study Group’s (NDSG) 46th annual gathering. The NDSG is a loose collective of progressive educators, artists, activists, authors, teachers and students who “come together annually to engage in an ongoing seminar on democratic possibilities in the U.S. and world education.” Its members have persistently and consistently pressed for deepening democratic theory and practice in education and in our communities.

This year we gathered in Jackson Mississippi and will do so again next year. The decision to go to Jackson was deliberate. It marked a commitment to our collective journey to eradicate white supremacy.  We understand white supremacy  is destroying our children and distorting our humanity. We turned consciously to Jackson to draw on its strength, wisdom, and rich history of struggle as we face forces that are intent on destroying our children’s minds, hearts, and spirits.

What could we learn from those who struggled over centuries for full humanity and the possibilities of controlling their own lives. What do learn in a place steeped in violence and tragedy as well as triumph? How will these lessons help us move our country forward? What do we need to do individually, collectively in this moment?

In his opening letter to the gathering Albert Sykes, Executive director of IDEA and co-chair of the gathering challenged the nearly 150 participants. He said this would not be a typical gathering. He explained, “Beloved communities do not just appear; they have to be built. We are asking you to commit to building one. Jackson will not be easy. The history will not be diluted to ease the conscience of the guilty; the work will not be diverted to comfort the fragile and the urgency of this work will not be tempered. As time and the country changes, we much challenge ourselves to change as well. We ask in love and have faith that participants will be receptive to much needed growth.”

Mr. Sykes explained, “Mississippi’s history is not limited to a single person or story. We will be greeted, introduced to and addressed by various individuals who have made life-changing contributions for the greater good for all. We will explore the confederate flag and other symbols of hate; explore the mechanisms by which racism is carried out and explore the places, where many sacrifices have been made in Mississippi. Our conversations this year are designed to be both hard and healing. There is no intent to shame, silence, ridicule, disrespect, or demolish any person who participates with us.” Mr. Sykes and the other volunteer organizes did their very best to provide this opportunity for all us.  All too often many of us fell short of meeting his expectations of us and our own. But often too, we found our way to courageous conversations, deep insights, and the capacity to continue to challenge ourselves and one another.

I was deeply and unexpectedly moved by this experience. Approaching the home of Medgar Evers I found it difficult to step onto the driveway. This is the place where he was shot, where his blood flowed as he crawled to the door to reach his wife and children. I know that blood is still in the dust rising as we walked. My tears of gratitude and sorrow now mix with those of countless others there.

Mr. Sykes gave us this charge, “We invite you to open your heart and mind, to lock your arms and hands in order for us to walk into a reckoning and walk out together on the other side of a renewal.”

This is our hope not just for the gathering, but for our country. We have much work to do.  Mayor Chokewe Antar Lumumba called us to believe that “Together we will make (Jackson) a symbol of unity, prosperity and progression.”  In the process, we have the opportunity to change our people and our country as we change the places that hold our lives.
“We must make a preemptive strike to replace the job system with a life system.”



Will Makers Change Everything?


February 12th, 2017

Documenting Puerto Rico from the Ground Up

Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
The Year with Betsy Devos

Betsy DeVos has completed her first year as the head of the Department of Education. Some have argued that she has been ineffective in carrying out her right wing agenda. Some take comfort in her foolish public statements; arguing for guns in school in case a bear wanders in, comparing schools to taxicabs and food trucks, and claiming Margaret Thatcher as her idol.

But Devos is not naïve. She has a relentless political agenda that she has been advancing in Michigan, in states around the country, and now on a national scale. Given the fact that the federal government only contributes about 10 percent of the cost of running schools, her impact will not be on visible issues of funding. Rather she is subtly changing the foundations of education through shifting priorities within the Department of Education and stripping away federal protections of all kinds. She is accomplishing this through sophisticated and subtle changes that are largely happening outside of public scrutiny.

First consider the case of vouchers, a funding mechanism designed to provide families with public funds to subsidize placing their children in private schools. These have long been sought by DeVos as part of the right wing agenda of shifting public money to mostly white, right wing Christian schools. Vouchers have been resisted at state and local levels, including here in Michigan. They violate fundamental concepts of the separation of church and state. They are a central strategy in undermining public education.

Now, with barely a public comment, the new republican tax bill passed last December gives parents the ability to use college saving plans for private k-12 schooling. It allows $10,000 tax free withdrawals every year per child. As a recent article in the Atlantic explained, “This new provision effectively operates the same way a voucher program would, but without the name: While vouchers distribute funds directly to parents to pay for private school, the new law uses the tax code to facilitate private-school attendance.”

The National Education Association estimates that over the next 10 years, this provision will take $150 billion from state and local revenues for schools.

DeVos has slipped in legislation to promote and finance her dream of “schools of choice” without having to debate or defend the idea. She simply provided enabling taxing mechanisms.

As the #MeToo movement brings welcome attention to widespread sexual violence in our culture, DeVos eliminated protections on college campuses for victims of sexual assault. Echoing Trumps recent tweets, she has stressed concern for the men being victimized by false accusations. She has increased support and counseling for them. She has also eliminated guidance aimed at protecting people based on gender identity.

She has sided with banks and business over student interests. She has made it more difficult for students who have been defrauded by for profit schools to seek loan forgiveness. She has appointed Carlos Nuniz to be General Counsel for the department. He is most famous for having argued that his home state of Florida should not participate in legal action against Trump University for fraud.

Sometime this week her latest nominee, Kenneth Marcus, will likely be confirmed as the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights. He is well known for “threatening academic freedom generally, as well our civil rights as women, immigrants, Muslims, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people.”

DeVos is not ineffective. She is patient, persistent and deadly. She has no respect for students, teachers, or education. She is dedicated to schools of choice as an essential element of a broader right wing strategy to protect power and privilege by undermining democracy.

All of us who care about the importance of education need to look beyond her rhetoric. More importantly, we need to create places and where our children can grow in their unique capacities for creativity, critical thinking, and social responsibility.
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