Boggs Center News December 19th, 2017

Living for Change News
Jimmy and Grace

Grace Lee Boggs, “I Must Love the Questions Themselves” 1985

Loving your people and loving questions are, I believe, the two most important qualities that an individual needs today to help create the new kind of politics we need to bring about fundamental social change in our country. Even if the people of our respective communities or of our country are acting in ways that we believe are unworthy of human beings, we must still care enough for them so that their lives and ours, their questions and ours, become inseparable. At the same time we must love the questions themselves, first, because every time we act on our convictions, we create new contradictions or new questions; and secondly, because we have no models for revolutionary social change in a country as technologically advanced and politically backwards as ours.


December 19th, 2017

Jimmy No Way

With each day we are reminded of the legacy of James and Grace Lee Boggs as we see the seeds of their work across Detroit, our nation and the globe, and in the work that you are doing to bring to life beloved communities.

This year we are thinking about centuries as we commemorated the 98th birthday of James Boggs in May and Grace’s 102nd birthday in June. Where will we be in 2117? What do we long for our world to become?

These questions are at the root of the work of resisting the dehumanization of this present moment and our efforts to accelerate
visionary organizing throughout the country.

Please consider becoming a sustaining member of the Center.
Your ongoing support is critical to us.

You can contribute directly at our website

or mail a check to

Boggs Center
3061 Field Street
Detroit, MI 48214.


Thinking for Ourselves

Shea Howell
Business and Democracy

The undermining of democracy is accelerating in Michigan. A new frame is emerging from our business owners and their publicists. They are claiming business, supported by public money, is better for people than political decision-making.

The efforts by Dan Gilbert and Bedrock to use public money for their latest projects illustrate this dangerous shift. Major news media is celebrating Gilbert’s plans for the former Hudson’s Department Store. Gilbert is promising a million square foot development that will include 400 apartment units, the tallest building in Michigan, and a large complex of with retail markets and exhibition spaces.  laiming it will be a “city within a city” the space will offer a maker’s space for children, a market hall for encouraging new ideas, art, music, dance, and Ted Talks.

Behind all of this media hype are some troubling realities. First, an initial $250 million in tax money, collectable by Gilbert, thanks to the Michigan Legislature, supports the project. The right wing legislature has put into place a legal framework to allow corporations to collect income and property taxes in designated redevelopment areas. This initial public support for Gilbert’s projects is expected to balloon to $618 million over the next few years, including money that should go to public schools.

The developments, part of more than a dozen scheduled over the next year, are not governed by any substantial community benefit agreements. In fact the community is being told to be quiet, stop interrupting progress, and be glad you are getting some jobs, maybe.

The Detroit Free Press columnist John Gallagher, who considers himself liberal, uncritically embraces the development. He notes in passing that it will have a “big public assembly space.” What kind of “public space” exactly is he envisioning? Gilbert, who has both a large private security force and state of the art surveillance technologies positioned throughout his emerging fortressed area, has not exactly encouraged robust public discussion. Gallagher’s thinking about democracy appears to extend to offering suggestions of names for the new building. The point of his short article is to invite readers to send suggestions to him so he can pass them along to Gilbert.

Gallagher does say we “need to figure out what to do to ensure that Detroit’s recovery creates opportunity for all.” Opportunity, of course, is not the same thing as justice, and is a long way from sustainable, equitable development. His solution for opportunity is to give more tax breaks, this time for historic preservation.

A much more meaningful solution would be a real community benefits agreement. Last year Gilbert and his pals did every thing they could to sabotage a community led initiative. Many of those who fought for this substantial agreement gathered outside the fake ground breaking event to challenge this use of public money for private gain.

Predictably, instead of engaging seriously with the questions being raised by the group, Gilbert’s media mouthpieces resorted to name calling in an effort to delegitimize thoughtful discussion.

On the other side of the spectrum the Detroit News columnist Daniel Howes offered the view that business is better than democracy. Howes argued that Detroiters need to “embrace” business, because “commerce is often more likely to improve lives and build communities—not politics.”

This kind of framing is dangerous to all who care about democracy and justice. The idea that business interests, not public values, should be our only consideration has justified the genocide of indigenous people, the enslavement of millions of Africans for generations, and the continued assault on land and people everywhere.

Gilbert responded to the demonstrators saying, “I don’t think they understand” and “I think they should do their homework.”  It is Gilbert and his cronies who don’t understand history and who should do some homework. If the moral arc of the universe bends toward justice, they are on the wrong side, and playing a disastrous game.


Shifting the Language: From Ally to Co-liberator
Tawana “Honeycomb” Petty

If you are a black person or another person of color, I am asking you to participate in ushering in a new narrative. I am asking you to relinquish your pursuit of white people as privileged beings. If you are a white person, I am asking you to relinquish the narrative that you live a privileged existence.

For those of you who made it through that first paragraph, we are well on our way towards visioning a more humane society. A society that allows everyone to show up in the conversation with their full humanity.

Discarding the narrative of privilege is not an invitation to ignore the brutality that black people and other people of color endure under the system of white supremacy. It’s an invitation to contribute to a dialogue that moves us beyond the false dichotomy of hierarchy we have been unintentionally fostering through our anti-racism organizing. It is an invitation to recognize the more connected to our humanity we become, the less we will tolerate the dehumanization of others.

I have participated in dozens of mixed-race discussions around racism that left me feeling even more dehumanized than I felt before the discussion began. I have witnessed testimony after testimony from white allies giving their white privilege testament under the auspice of acceptance by black people and other people of color into the anti-racism organizing circle. Not only did I leave feeling dehumanized, but I felt dehumanized for the white people who I believed came to the events either seeking their humanity, or in pursuit of some measure of transformation.

It’s complicated, I know. But, what has capitulating to the shrinking of blacks and other people of color as the underprivileged and white people as privileged actually done for the struggle against racism, or the dismantling of the system of white supremacy? I am personally exhausted by what has begun to feel like scripted performances by all parties.

At one of the recent gatherings I spoke at, a woman who identified herself as white stood up to counter my challenge towards the white privilege narrative. She described the ability to let her son walk “safely” two doors down from their home as a privilege. I was grateful that she provided her analysis of privilege, as it provided an opportunity for a deeper dialogue. A dialogue that moves beyond the misconception that there is some sort of magic bubble that protects you from the suffering in society if you just move far enough into the suburbs. One that removes the misconception that there is no suffering in the suburbs. A dialogue that challenges white people to take a deeper look at the impact racism and living up to the backwards standards of white supremacy, has on them. A dialogue that interrogates the sort of survival that encourages you to disconnect from the “others” of the world in order to have the perception you are moving up in it.

My assessment is that the ways in which we have been identifying privilege are very limited in scope. The privilege narrative does not take into consideration the rich history and culture that has been historically and actively practiced in black, brown and indigenous communities. A culture that is consistently borrowed by the mainstream while the people whose culture it belongs to are hated by that very same mainstream. The privilege narrative negates the perseverance and stick-to-itiveness that black people and other people of color have demonstrated to the world through some of the most inhumane conditions inflicted upon us. The privilege narrative invisibilizes the ingenuity, artistry, creativity and “make a way out of no way,” resilience that blacks and other people of color have employed in order to survive in a society that till this day has failed to recognize us as fully human. But, even with all the social ills inflicted upon us, we are not underprivileged. I’m not claiming that existence any longer.

That fact that black, brown and indigenous humanity has been subjected to the interpretation of a society that suffers from the detriment of white supremacy is an even greater reason not to succumb to that analysis. Enough is enough. We have known the brilliance of black people and other people of color for long enough. There is no reason to keep pleading with anyone to recognize us as human.

What is imperative now is that we stand together in our power to shift the language and the narrative, and encourage those co-liberators who are serious about struggling against racism and dismantling the system of white supremacy, to shift their language and analysis as well.
We will not rid the world of all the ‘isms that plague us by shrinking to them. None of us will.

I’ll end with a quote from a powerful Ancestor, Fred Hampton.

Black people need some peace. White people need some peace and we’re gonna have to struggle religiously to bring about some peace because the people we’re asking for peace, they are a bunch of meglamaniac war mongers! And we got to struggle with them to make ’em understand what peace means!

It’s time we moved onward and upward, together!

What We’re Reading

Comedian Jenny Yang on Grace Lee Boggs

What We’re Watching

For more than 30 years, Judith Heumann has been involved on the international front working with disabled people’s organizations and governments around the world to advance the human rights of disabled people.


Meet the People building Their Own Internet

Published on Nov 16, 2017

When it comes to the internet, our connections are generally controlled by telecom companies. But a group of people in Detroit is trying to change that. Motherboard met with the members of the Equitable Internet Initiative (EII), a group that is building their own wireless networks from the ground up in order to provide affordable and high-speed internet to prevent the creation of a digital class system.

Check out CNET’s channel for more:

Subscribe to MOTHERBOARD:

More videos from the VICE network:

Published on Nov 16, 2017

When it comes to the internet, our connections are generally controlled by telecom companies. But a group of people in Detroit is trying to change that. Motherboard met with the members of the Equitable Internet Initiative (EII), a group that is building their own wireless networks from the ground up in order to provide affordable and high-speed internet to prevent the creation of a digital class system.

Check out CNET’s channel for more:

Subscribe to MOTHERBOARD:

More videos from the VICE network:


Boggs Center News – December 4th 2017

Boggs Center News

James Boggs, “Liberation or Revolution,” 1978

“Why is that, having lived through one of the most momentous periods in human history, a period when millions of people were out in the streets, demonstrating their belief that there is another way for human beings to live together, most people today are far more empty, far more cynical, far more full of self-doubt than our parents were despite their worse condition? There are two main reasons for our present demoralization. On the one hand, once the system began handing out more crumbs and liberals began to win elections for themselves by encouraging people to ask for more crumbs, most people began to look to those in power to solve our problems rather than look to ourselves. On the other hand, those who consider themselves “movement people” began to grab political ideas that had worked for revolutionary struggles in other countries instead of doing the patient theoretical work necessary to work out the political ideas and political solutions that are based on our situation, our history, and our country.”

December 4th, 2017

Thinking for Ourselves

Shea Howell

First They Came for Detroit

The Michigan State Legislature is no friend to democracy. Nor is it a friend to cities. Dominated by right wing ideologues, the State Republican majority is once again mounting an assault on all those who believe in local democratic control.

Last week a series of bills were introduced aimed at taking control of local decisions about health care and pensions funded by local communities. These bills, in both the House and the Senate and are backed by Governor Snyder. They are being pushed by Republicans as a way to help municipalities meet pension and health care obligations. The 16 bill package gives sweeping powers to new emergency managers, takes aim at pensions and collective bargaining, and is clearly intended to provide a new mechanism to take over local governments, sell off assets to private interests, and destroy unions.

Under the guise of concern for underfunded retirement plans, the new Local Government Retirement Stability Board (LGRSB), consisting of 3 people appointed by the governor, would require all communities to submit to a five stage process beginning with the assessment of the viability of current pension funding. If funding is deemed inadequate, the community would be required to develop a plan of “corrective action.” If the LGRSB and the local government could not agree, the State Treasurer would declare a financial emergency and appoint a three pension team with powers similar to current Emergency Managers, including setting aside local elected officials, taking control of the budgets, selling public assets and renegotiating contracts.

Of all of the destructive actions taken by Governor Snyder and his right wing supporters, Emergency Management and the removal of local democratic control is the most horrific. It has been directly responsible for the poisoning of Flint, the killing of people, the destruction of public schools, unimaginable suffering through water shut offs, and the whole sale loss of municipal wealth as public assets slip into private hands.

This new wave of legislation, however, is not aimed primarily at large cities with significant numbers of African American citizens. Rather, the first two phases of the proposed legislation would affect more than 900 cities, townships, villages, counties, libraries and park authorities requiring them to turn over financial information to the State.  Senate Majority Leader Arian Meekhof, a republican from West Olive, said that about 85% of Michigan communities are at or nearly fully funded and would not require “corrective action.” About 30 communities across the state are now considered vulnerable, including Detroit, Lansing, Pontiac and Warren.

Aside from the flawed logic of requiring all municipalities to engage in a costly and cumbersome process that only affects 15% of them, the reality is that municipal financial distress has been directly caused by the actions and inactions of the State Republican Legislature. First they withhold funds, then they blame municipalities for not having enough money to balance budgets, then they declare a financial emergency and come in and raid the municipality, privatizing services and selling public assets.

Consider that these bills go far beyond the recommendations of the Governor’s own task force empowered to review pension plans in the state. A majority of Task Force members were opposed to the establishment of requirements for all local governments to submit to an emergency process, believing that the local unit, through the collective bargaining process, should have the flexibility to agree upon what works best within their communities.
Right wing Republicans do not believe in local control. They have argued that there is no “constitutional right to local self government” and view it as a threat. Since 2002, Michigan has cut state support for cities more than any other state in the country, reducing funding by 57%.

First, Emergency Managers came for Detroit, Flint, Pontiac, Benton Harbor and Highland Park. Now they are coming for the rest of Michigan. It is clear we who believe in local democracy as both our right and responsibility have much work to do together.

Anti-Racism Organizing has Stalled
Tawana “Honeycomb” Petty

During this period in my life, I have found myself committed to participating in anti-racism organizing efforts that move beyond black people and other people of color trying to convince white people that they have privilege and white people admitting to that privilege.

Those of us committed to anti-racism organizing need an entirely new conversation, one that has white people digging deeper into the impact racism has had on their own humanity. Drug abuse, domestic violence, suicide, mass murders, etc., are results of the same system that causes intraracial violence within black and brown communities.

I recognize that it is difficult for many to accept that the conditions faced by whites are tied to racism. Racism is a painful existence for blacks and other people of color, and anti-black racism is a deeper level of racism that blacks face, even within “allied” relationships.

As a black woman born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, a city that has suffered under a half-century of propaganda assault because of its predominately black racial demographic, I cannot ignore the impacts of anti-black racism. Anti-black racism has had a direct psychological impact on me and I have witnessed the impact it has had on my city, my entire life.

However, as I have begun to envision and work towards trying to realize the type of world I wish to live in, I have taken note of the impact that participating in such a dehumanizing system has had on well-meaning whites.

Although too many deny it, it has also become easy to take stock of the visible correlation between racism and capitalism.
When whites go into banks and other institutions that have built their wealth on the selling of black bodies through slavery, and are afforded loans and other resources that are quite often denied to the descendants of slaves, that is an obvious connection between racism and capitalism.

When black and brown residents are uprooted from their neighborhoods and their homes replaced with stadiums and upscale hotels or businesses that cater mostly to a white population, those are obvious connections between racism and capitalism.

But, what is less obvious is the psychological impact participating in this capitalistic racism has had on whites. The imaginary bubble that one must create around themselves in order to falsify a peaceful (often suburban) existence from the undesirable (black and brown) population, lends to a level of dehumanization in white people that many don’t speak about.

Instead of confronting these realities in a systemic way, blacks, other people of color, and whites have allowed themselves to participate in a seesaw that reinforces a false hierarchical narrative. Black people and other people of color are on one side of the seesaw and whites are on the other side. This false dichotomy is the privileged and underprivileged seesaw.

This type of rhetoric cannot exist within anti-racism organizing. It will not create the world many of us wish to live in someday. It is the dominant narrative, not the counter-narrative. We need to be committed to the counter-narrative.

If white people don’t begin to look at the impact the system of white supremacy has had on white people, those who have committed themselves to anti-racist organizing will continue to pursue undoing racism as a pet project they can pick up and put down. Undoing racism has to become a lifelong commitment white people make in order to humanize themselves. It cannot be something they do in the black community. Racism is not a black and brown community problem. Racism is something that is inflicted upon the black and brown community.

It is true that unarmed white people are not being gunned down by racist police the way that black people and other people of color are being gunned down. It is true that white people are not being redlined in order to allow for blacks to move into their neighborhoods. It is true that white school districts are not suffering massive school closings and disinvestment at a level that you see happening in black and brown neighborhoods. The system of white supremacy and the policies that are enacted in order to continue that system are vicious and unyielding, and we must do everything in our power to struggle against those policies and supporting forces. In order to do that, we need everyone in the struggle for racial justice to be doing so. This is why forcing well-meaning white people to shrink under white guilt and the false notion of privilege serves the movement for racial justice no real purpose.

Participating with the system of white supremacy is far from a privileged existence. It is a dehumanizing existence. The further connected one is to a system that forces you to look through people based on their racial identity in order to survive or thrive, the farther away from your humanity you have to be.

Climbing the perpetual ladder to the American Dream requires a level of disconnect from what it means to be human that can only be nurtured with larger metal gates, deeper car garages, smaller front porches, and minimal contact with people all around you — even people who look like you.

Is it truly a privilege to be connected to a legacy of lynching, displacement, redlining, etc.? We need new language. We need to pull away from the cycle of ally-ship and begin struggling towards co-liberation. We need whites to firmly believe that their liberation, their humanity is also dependent upon the destruction of racism and the dismantling of white supremacy.

This framing is new and challenging for our movement, but it is one that must be considered if we are truly to avoid revisiting the dynamics we are currently facing in this country another fifty years from now.

On November 29, 2017, I had an opportunity to participate on a panel titled, “Let’s Talk About Race: Standing Together to End Racism” at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Royal Oak, MI.  I joined the panel with Professor Peter Hammer of Wayne State University Law School and the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights. He presented on the history of racial inequity in Detroit and SE, Michigan. I presented on much of what I referenced above. We will continue these conversations.

It’s time we recognize that true anti-racism organizing means that we must help each other down from the seesaw.

riverwiseMag_Summer2017_web_1_lwe (1)


 Riverwise Magazine is a collective effort to highlight and strengthen grassroots movement activity throughout the city of Detroit. Former staff members of the Michigan Citizen Newspaper alongside active members of the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center for Nurturing Community Leadership launched the magazine in 2017 with an eye towards reporting on emerging movements, especially among communities of color.

Riverwise documents the people and places building a more equitable and just city. While government agencies lay down the red carpet for billionaire venture capitalists and corporate ‘tech’ headquarters, Detroit’s ‘underserved’ are projecting visions of a sustainable future.

With a distribution of 10,000 copies a quarter, we are encouraging new ways of thinking about our city in coffeehouses, barbershops, community centers and bookstores.  Our work has been supported by a generous grant from the New Visions Foundation and individual donations. We anticipate being able to maintain the current level of funding for basic production for the coming year but we have depended on the volunteer work of authors and artists.

  We are now calling on you, our growing readership, to help us support local writers and artists working with us to tell these remarkable stories. Their unique insights and abilities are essential to projecting new ideas and propelling us towards a more humane world.

Our commitment to expand the traditional role of a community publication is paramount to the mission of Riverwise magazine. We provide an independent, visionary voice about the challenges facing our city and our country. This campaign is one step towards aligning our funding structure with the communities we seek to engage.


What We’re Reading

What We’re Watching 
Vincent Harding, chair of the Veterans of Hope Project and author of Martin Luther King: The Inconvenient Hero, draws a word-picture of the future all advocates are fighting for at the CDF’s 2012 National Conference. Watch, learn, and organize – the entire session is available for purchase by itself or as a full DVD set from the Children’s Defense Fund’s National Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Please Support the Boggs Center

With each day we are reminded of the legacy of James and Grace Lee
Boggs as we see the seeds of their work across Detroit, our nation
and the globe, and in the work that you are doing to bring to life
beloved communities.

This year we are thinking about centuries as we commemorated the 98th
birthday of James Boggs in May and Grace’s 102nd birthday in June.
Where will we be in 2117? What do we long for our world to become?

These questions are at the root of the work of resisting the
dehumanization of this present moment and our efforts to accelerate
visionary organizing throughout the country.

Over the next few months we plan to raise  $100,000 for the
initiatives below.

Place-based organizing of Feedom Freedom Growers, Birwood
–Fullerton and Field street initiatives: ($50,000)

Riverwise Magazine publication: ($40,000)

Boggs Center repairs. Archiving and meeting space improvements:

You can contribute directly at our website:  –  or mail a check  to Boggs Center, 3061 Field
Street, Detroit, MI 48214.

Please consider becoming a sustaining member of the Center.
Your ongoing support is critical to us.



We are in the midst of a great transformation, not only
economically but psychologically, culturally, politically,
in our relations with one another, to the Earth, to other
species and to other peoples of the world, and in our
concept of ourselves and of our rights and responsibilities
as human beings.

To an unprecedented degree, as we approach 2006, millions
of us are aware that our present and impending disasters
are not natural but man-made, the consequence of our
limitless pursuit of capital accumulation.

Up to now the main victims of this have been the peoples
of the global South. But now the chickens are coming home
to roost. In our own countries, the United States and
throughout Europe, there are tens of millions who for
decades have been marginalized, living how they can,
without any social safety nets, unemployed, disempowered,
disenfranchised, disengaged, disrespected, and without a
perspective of another positive future.

These people in the so-called informal sector are now being
joined by those who through centuries of struggle and
sacrifices thought they could look forward to a stable and
secure future for themselves and their children.

At this moment and under these circumstances it would be
easy to despair. But this universal crisis is not only
a danger but a promise, an opportunity to advance
ourselves and our societies to a new level, based on a
new vision, new principles and values:
  • Respect for the limits of the earth
  • Responsibility for community and not just for self
  • Concern for posterity into the seventh generation
  • Partnership instead of patriarchal relations
  • A new concept of Work based on use values and skills
  • Resistance to commodification of human relationships and of all life
  • Local, sustainable and self-reliant economies instead of one global dominant economy
  • Diversity instead of monocultures
  • Restore the joy of living in community with all creatures
  • Practice global citizenship to preserve the best of our historical traditions
  • Social justice and cooperation instead of exploitation and competition WHAT DO WE DO NOW? HOW DO WE GET FROM HERE TO THERE?
  • WE can begin by restoring our relationships to each other and to the Earth
  • WE can create gardens, for food, health and to create a community as a basis for resistance, for learning and enjoyment of young and old.
  • WE can create new subsistence skills to grapple with our present problems and the challenges to come.
  • WE can transform our schools from job-and-career-oriented institutions to places where children and young people can learn the values of teamwork, serving the community, self-reliance and the joys of creativity
  • WE can initiate discussions in our communities locally, nationally and internationally on new visions, a new perspective, and the profound historical meaning of the great turning during this time in which we live.
  • WE can share and spread the word of what people are already doing to create a better world.
Grace Lee Boggs, Detroit, Michigan.,
Maria Mies, Koeln, Germany, Women and Life on Earth (WLOE)
Shea Howell, Detroit, Michigan
Werner Ruhoff, Koeln, Germany
Hilmar Kunath,  Hamburg, Germany
Elisabeth Voss, Berlin, Germany
Irina Vellay, Dortmund, Germany

This statement emerged from some of the participants in the
International Workshop on Self-Organizing and Common Self-Reliance,
Cologne, Germany, October 20-22, 2005.

Please show your support by adding your name, place (and if you
wish your organization), circulate to your networks, nationally
and internationally, and publish where you find it appropriate.

Email Grace Boggs Center

A New Dream – Grace Lee Boggs 6/27/1915 – 10/05/2015 from 2013


A New Dream

By Grace Lee Boggs

Jan 20-26 2013

At this time on the clock of the planet, the world, our country and our city, I cannot get out of my mind the “things fall apart” poem written by William Butler Yeats nearly one hundred years ago –1919 in the wake of the First World War and the 1917 Russian Revolution.

 The Second Coming

                   Turning and turning in the widening gyre?

                   The falcon cannot hear the falconer;?

                   Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;?

                   Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,?

                   The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere?

                   The ceremony of innocence is drowned;?

                   The best lack all conviction,

                  While the worst?

                   Are full of passionate intensity

      By contrast, in the U.S.A. today, and especially in Detroit,

we are shaking the world with a new dream, with passionate conviction.

This is because

  • Detroit’s devastation by deindustrialization has provided us with the Space and Place to begin anew.
  • We are bringing the Country back into the City, growing our own food instead of worsening global warming by trucking it in from distant factory farms.
  • We are making a radical revolution of values, a cultural revolution as profound as the transition from Agriculture to Industry 500 years ago. 
  • We are Re-Imagining Work and Education.
  • Our goal is to create MLK’s Beloved Communities!