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.
“The stories of women in the Subcontinent are often neglected and they are often relegated to the background – the doting wife, the supportive sister or the encouraging daughter. Our history is the tale of his story, not her story.”
In the USA privatization practices contribute to increased water bills and jeopardize water quality, endangering one of residents’ most basic needs. We can gain some perspective on the consequences of water privatization by looking to a glaring overseas example: In Lebanon, mismanagement of infrastructure has provided ample opportunity for privatization to proliferate. In both cases, the pursuit of privatization comes from cash-strapped places prioritizing cost-cutting over resource conservation and quality.”


Boggs Center Living For Change News – February 5, 2018

February 5th, 2017
grace and jimmy

James Boggs, “The American Revolution:

Putting Politics in Command” 1970

The urgent, crying need of the American people is to undergo a fundamental transformation from the individualists and materialists they are today into a new breed of socially and politically conscious and responsible human beings. Instead of being concerned only with their own material advancement and satisfied with the political decisions of the military-industrial-complex as long as these expand production and consumption, the American people must be dragged, pulled, and pushed into situations where they are compelled to make socially responsible decisions—until the energy, skill, and the will to make such decisions have become second nature.


James Boggs, “The American Revolution: Putting Politics in Command” 1970


Restorative justice city: One woman’s quest to create a more just Detroit

Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Environmental Protections

Members of the Michigan State Legislature have learned nothing from the poisoning of Flint. This week the legislature is considering handing over the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to corporate polluters by passing three new bills currently under consideration. Together these bills are an environmental disaster that would put all of us at greater risk.

HB652 would give private industry the power to veto any new state environmental rules by creating a new committee with a majority of members representing big business.

HB653 establishes a governor appointed panel with the power to overturn decisions by the DEQ denying permits on environmental grounds. Given that 99.5% of requests are approved by the MDEQ, it is hard to imagine what real difference this would make, except to further undermine the opportunity for citizen action.

HB654 sets up another governor appointed committee to provide advice on scientific matters as a counter to DEQ judgments. Given the current republican attacks on education and science, the quality of such advice is likely to represent the worst thinking in our country.

Taken together these bills diminish the opportunity for direct citizen influence, strengthen executive authority over environmental matters, and ensure that the highest bar set for our state is that set by the Federal Government which is rapidly lowering national standards and practices.

The motivation for this dangerous legislation seems to be some legislators who think business development is unfairly constrained by environmental concerns.

Senator Tom Casperson is the lead sponsor of the bill and a right wing republican from Escanaba. In a recent radio interview he explained the goal of the legislation saying, “Well, I think [the bills are] necessary …We’ve tried different approaches to, what I would call, put some reasonable standards in place, and we keep running into roadblocks and problems within the department, and so we’re trying to come up with something that levels the playing field.”

These “roadblocks and problems” are the concerns raised by environmentalists and people who actually bear the brunt of dangerous environmental decisions, from polluted air and water to increased cancer and brain damage.

Yet, as Casperson explained in a jumble of metaphors that gives a frightening clue to the non-thinking behind this legislation, “I would argue that some of the critics that are coming from the environmental groups, have no dog in the fight whatsoever. They have no skin in this game at all, as far as financial or anything else. So, they seem to be included in all these processes, they seem to be included in the end game as far as what the standards will be…. Just because an environmental group says it has to be done in a certain way, that’s not necessarily true either.”

This legislation is especially dangerous today. Federal environmental protections are rapidly unraveling. Scott Pruitt, whose main support comes from the fossil fuel industry, has been busy dismantling the EPA. Over this past year Pruitt has scaled back enforcement activities, refused to ban brain damaging pesticides, taken steps to remove protections on drinking water, weakened protections from toxic chemicals and is proposing to eliminate programs designed to protect our children from lead paint.

At a moment when all of us need to protect our earth and create new ways of living that are not only sustainable but regenerative, the Michigan Legislature is abdicating its responsibility to provide for the common good. This lack of leadership at the state and federal levels means that we must find new ways to protect our communities.

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SUBSCRIBE to the new podcast hosted by sisters adrienne marie and Autumn Brown as they learn from the apocalypse with grace, rigor and curiosity.

Kim Sherobbi’s Birwood Street home doesn’t look like a community space from the outside. But step into her house on Detroit’s northwest side, and you find yourself in a place that’s more meeting center than private residence.

A table of pamphlets greets visitors at the entry. The dining room area is an open meeting space with chairs arranged around the perimeter and her living room is half furnished to make room for potluck dinners for visitors.

Welcome to Birwood House, Sherobbi’s home and non-profit neighborhood community house since 2016. Sherobbi says her work to nurture a caring community is an extension of her mother’s work in the same house as Birwood Block Club secretary in the 1960s. KEEP READING


View American Revolutionary GraceLee PBS


American Revolutionary

Grace Lee Boggs, 99, is a Chinese American philosopher, writer, and activist in Detroit with a thick FBI file and a surprising vision of what an American revolution can be. Rooted for 75 years in the labor, civil rights and Black Power movements, she challenges a new generation to throw off old assumptions, think creatively and redefine revolution for our times.

More about: American Revolutionary

Boggs Center News – December 26th, 2017

Living for Change News
graceandjimmylfcheading with border
December 26th, 2017

“Men don’t need to show our manhood, we need to show our humanity” — James Boggs, 1990


Together We Make a Family
A disabled, biracial, (and totally normal) American family


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
In Quest of Peace

For many of us this is the season to turn toward family and friends. It is a sacred time, calling for reflection and affirmation of our deepest longings for peace on earth. Rarely has such a hope been so far from our daily reality. We are living in a moment when relationships among people are marked with causal violence and intentional brutalities. Since 2001 we have been a people at war. It has been the backdrop of the lives of an entire generation who have never known a time without active US military interventions.

Recently, Nick Turse documented the increased use of Special Operation forces under the current administration. He notes, “On any given day, 8000 special operations from a command numbering roughly 70,000—are deployed in approximately 80 countries.” In 2017 troops were deployed “to 149 nations.”

The reach of these forces influences every part of our globe. As a report from TomDispatch explained, these troops are in “about 75% of the nations on the planet.” Under President Obama, and now Trump, this is an increase “of nearly 150% from the last days of George W. Bush’s White House.”

General Raymond Thomas, the chief of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), offered some chilling views on what this global reach means. He said, “We operate and fight in every corner of the world.” He went on, “Rather than a mere ‘break-glass-in-case-of-war’ force, we are now proactively engaged across the ‘battle space’ of the Geographic Combatant Commands… providing key integrating and enabling capabilities to support their campaigns and operations.” 

Over the last two decades we have drifted from the doctrine introduced by George W. Bush of “preemptive war” to the acceptance of perpetual war. Anywhere we choose. We have become the most dangerous predator on the planet. We have allowed military solutions to become normal.

The idea that military force can create security is a false and deadly way to think. Rather, we need to acknowledge that we are a people without restraint, promoting violence and disruption across the globe.

Willful blindness to such violence corrodes our souls. Often carried out by bombs, drones, missiles and a few men and women, the use of massive force has become ordinary. We are barely stirred by even the dropping of the largest mega bomb on earth, the Mother of All Bombs. Talk of nuclear destruction is tossed out in tweets.

This is perhaps the gift that Trump has given us. He has made our hypocrisies transparent. While the United States has always depended on violence and destruction to secure its wealth, we have often hidden that ugliness behind aspirations of becoming something better.  But in the age of Trump, we can no longer pretend. We see daily the cruelty and violence that support our ways of living.

We can no longer evade the reality of who we have become as a nation. Nor can we evade how much force and violence shape not only our relationships around the globe but our public spaces at home and our most intimate relationships.

As we turn to each other this season, the questions before us require the courage to re-imagine what it means to create peace in our lives and on the earth that sustains us.  Finding our ways to peace and respectful relationships has never been more urgent.


Round the corner on Grand River Avenue onto Vinewood Street on Detroit’s West Side and you’ll encounter a building covered in mirrors. The eye-catching Dabls Mbad African Bead Museum is a striking, immersive introduction to African material culture.”
(Dabls Mbad African Bead Museum renovation rendering by Lorcan O’Herlihy Architects)

Look for the new edition of Riverwise is out in your favorite stores and community spaces!


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Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership
3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214