Writings

Boggs Center – Thinking for Ourselves News – February 14th, 2020

February 14th, 2020

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Thinking for Ourselves

Lives That Matter

Shea Howell

Many people hoped Governor Gretchen Whitmer would bring a more thoughtful, responsible approach to the education crisis. But her recent comments on the controversial third grade reading law and the future of public schools demonstrate a lack of serious understanding of what is happening to our children.

In her State of the State address, the Governor framed her concerns for our children in the smallest, most dangerous terms. Rather than beginning with the question of how are they?, or what is affecting their lives and deepest aspirations?, she linked education to jobs.  She said, “Protecting our workforce is one step, preparing our workforce is another. And that starts with our kids. Michigan ranks in the bottom 10 states for overall literacy. We’re doing something about that, too.”

Her goal for education was clear, “Ensuring that every child gets the skills to graduate and succeed in our workforce.” She explained that the workforce she wants to encourage will be with “good paying jobs–jobs in construction, IT, and advanced manufacturing. But they demand specialized skills training. Meeting our goal and filling these jobs depends on more than just passing a bill. It depends on our young people.”

Most of our young people are painfully aware of how inadequate this vision is for their lives. They know in their bones that the world is in crisis, our communities in chaos. Across our weary globe they are leading the rest of us into actions, large and small, to challenge the way things are, in a desperate effort to protect human life and the planet on which we depend.

In a recent article on the climate crisis, journalist Rebecca Solnit talked about the need for a deeper ethical understanding of our place in the world. She asks us to think about how this crisis demands more of us than ever before. She says,

“We must expand our imaginations and act on that bigger understanding of our place in the world and our impact on the future. That means making radical changes, like our homes and transit being powered by renewables, our government not plotting more extractivism. It means leaving fossil fuels in the ground, where they belong. We need to remind ourselves why these changes are necessary: that the earth is finite, that actions have consequences, that they go beyond the horizon of what we can see and hear, in time and space, that those who come after us have rights we can’t just annihilate. We must make sweeping changes by the end of the coming decade, and we must stick to them afterward by remembering why they matter.” 

In contrast, our governor offers the opportunity to become plumbers, electricians, and IT experts. Hopefully, we will have a world where we will need plumbers, electricians, and IT people, along with artists, bakers, chemists, carpenters, dentists, farmers, music makers  and zoologists. But going to school to get a job, no matter how “well paying” is a small vision, sure to diminish any child.

Those of us who have worked closely with children and seen them develop into thoughtful, warm, expansive, creative, and caring adults know it was because they saw themselves capable of developing lives that make a difference in the world. They felt loved and cared for, seen and encouraged. They learned about their past, respected who they were, and felt supported in finding their ways to who they hoped to become.

Today, our children are killing themselves. Recently Bridge Magazine wrote that “Michigan adolescents and teens are committing suicide at nearly double the rate of just over a decade ago.” This surge in suicide is among the highest in the nation.

Every day as children walk through metal detectors to enter crumbling, crowded schools, where they are often ignored or seen as a problem to be controlled, their lives made smaller and smaller.

Schools need to change, to become part of the radical reimagining of how we engage our children, and the rest of us, in creating ways of living that will sustain us, enrich the fullness of our lives, regenerate our communities, and protect our earth. This is no time for small, worn ways of thinking. Now, more than ever, we need education that enables us to create a new, life affirming world.

 

FREE DanceAbility Workshop
Let’s energize our hope, joy and power on Saturday February 15th by dancing together! This is likely our last “drop-in” workshop till May, so come check dance improvisation for everyone…however you move/sense…whether or not you’re a trained dancer…

 

…And then you can sign up for our March/April class series if you want! See class series info/registration link at the bottom of this e-mail.

 

For our Sat Feb 15th workshop:

Doors open at Light Box at 11am and the workshop is from 11:30 to 1:30. IT’S FREE! (Donations appreciated but never obligated.)

 

Click HERE for location details, to request accommodations by Monday, and to let us know you’re coming. We’ll again have an emotional support person from Healing By Choice present to provide extra emotional support to anyone who might be struggling with emotions like grief, anger, anxiety, or overwhelming joy because of gaining access to DANCE.

 

And click here for more info and to register for the March/April class series!

 

Justice system needs transformation, not quick fixes

Tell the Michigan Public Service Commission to make DTE work for us!

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Tell the Michigan Public Service Commission to make DTE work for us!


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James and Grace Lee Boggs Center To Nurture Community Leadership – Living For Change News – February 4th 2020

February 4th, 2020

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Historian Peter Linebaugh, author of numerous books on The Commons, Magna Carta, and the revolutionary struggles of the transatlantic, multiracial working class in the 18th and 19th centuries, at the time of the American, French and Haitian revolutions, will discuss his new book “Red Round Globe Hot Burning”

“This wide-ranging, intricate, penetrating analysis provides fascinating insight into the origins of our society.”
—Noam Chomsky

“Evokes and contextualizes moments of crisis and possibility in the past with a vividness that casts new light on our own time.”
—Rebecca Solnit, author of A Paradise Built in Hell

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WHERE: The Boggs Center
3061 Field St, Detroit, MI 48214

WHEN: 1- 3 PM Saturday, February 8

REFRESHMENTS WILL BE SERVED

THIS WILL BE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR DETROIT’S ACTIVIST COMMUNITY TO CONNECT WITH SOME OF THE DEEPEST SOURCES OF OUR MOVEMENTS AND IDEAS.  DON’T MISS IT!

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Thinking for Ourselves

Hand Washing

Shea Howell

The fragility of modern life was underscored this week. The spread of the novel coronavirus has been rapid. This weekend the death toll passed 300, with the first person outside of China dying of the disease. Authorities are reassuring people that there is no immediate risk to public health in the US. The New York Times reported “While the virus is a serious public health concern, the risk to most people outside China remains very low, and seasonal flu is a more immediate threat.”

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) gave a sober picture of what we are facing. They explained, “This is a very serious public health situation, and CDC and the Federal Government has and will continue to take aggressive action to protect the public.” As of January 31, they reported:

Every day this week China has reported additional cases. Today’s numbers are a 26% increase since yesterday.  Over the course of the last week, there have been nearly 7,000 new cases reported. This tells us the virus is continuing to spread rapidly throughout China. The reported deaths have continued to rise as well, and additional locations outside China have continued to report cases. There has been an increasing number of reports of person-to-person spread. And now most recently, a report from the new England journal of medicine of asymptomatic spread. While we still don’t have the full picture and we can’t predict how this situation will play out in the U.S., the current situation, the current scenario is a cause for concern.

This concern led to the first quarantine of over 50 years affecting people who are traveling from Wuhan to the US. “While we understand this action may seem drastic, our goal today, tomorrow, and always continues to be the safety of the American public.”

The primary tool to employ against this virus is good old fashioned hand washing. In exploring the global spread of the virus, The Times explained, “To avoid any viral illness, experts advise washing your hands frequently and avoiding your office or school when you’re sick.”

Earlier in the week, Elizabeth Rosenthal who worked as an emergency room physician and New York Times Correspondent during the SARS outbreak in China in 2002 and 2003, wrote about how she and her children got through that crisis with minimal disruption to their daily lives. She explained, “My main takeaways from that experience for ordinary people on the ground: 1) Wash your hands frequently. 2) Don’t go to the office when you are sick. Don’t send your kids to school or day care when they are ill, either.”

Her children attended public school every day during the outbreak. She reported, “The teacher led the kids in frequent hand washing throughout the day at classroom sinks, while singing a prolonged “hand washing song” to ensure they did more than a cursory pass under the faucet with water only.

As a result of this emphasis on hand washing she “observed something of a public health miracle: Not only did no child get SARS, but it seemed no student was sick with anything at all for months on end. No stomach bugs. No common colds. Attendance was more or less perfect.”

Rosenthal concludes, “The best first-line defenses against SARS or the new coronavirus or most any virus at all are the ones that Grandma and common sense taught us, after all.”

And along with Grandma and common sense, the number one strategy advocated by the Center for Disease Control, is hand washing.

The harsh reality in Detroit is that far too many people cannot engage in this simple strategy. They cannot wash their hands. They are victims of an inhuman system of water shut-offs that puts them and everyone else at risk.

If Mayor Duggan cannot be swayed by concern for basic human rights, compassion for children or human decency, perhaps he will notice that he is intentionally fostering circumstances that violate our most common understandings of what we all need to do. This week is another reminder of why we need to stop all water shut-offs and ensure that everyone in our city has access to clean, safe water. We need a water affordability plan now.

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This piece is written in honor of every person who, for reasons of the sediment of generational pain or the violence of targeting and/or random accidents, have died before we got the chance to find out if they were elders or just old. There’s a reason why people vote more conservatively as they get older. The ones who survive are disproportionately the ones who have been most protected. We are missing whole sections of our people.  If you know their names, whisper or shout them now. Actively miss them. If you don’t know their names, remember them anyway. Miss them still. It’s that space, that emptiness behind your back, where someone should have been who looks like you, who experienced things that you might have learned from, who loved and fought their generation’s version of the same loves and fights as you do. KEEP READING

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Detroit: Twenty Minutes Apart

A Musical Conversation about Neighborhood, Race & Friendship by Kresge Award Winner Robert Jones and Folk Hall of Famer Matt Watroba
On Thursday, February 20, 7 pm, at the Center for Detroit Arts & Culture Theater at Marygrove, the veteran Detroit musicians Robert Jones and Matt Watroba will present this multi-media production with music and storytelling.  

The event is free and open to the public.
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The Huntington Woods Peace, Citizenship, and Education Project is organizing a campaign to persuade a public broadcasting station, either Detroit Public Television, WDET Public Radio, or Michigan Public Radio to air Democracy Now! (“DN!”).  DN! produces a daily, global, independent news hour hosted mainly by award-winning journalists Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez.

On DN! a diversity of voices provide a unique and sometimes provocative perspective on global events, not often found on mainstream US media. These include independent journalists, grassroots leaders, artists and academics, African Americans, women, Hispanics, Asians, and activists in areas such as labor, immigration, the environmental, LBGTQI rights, disability rights, and peace and justice politics. Getting DN! on the air in the Detroit Metropolitan area would be a great public service to our community.

DN’s reporting includes breaking daily news headlines and in-depth interviews with people on the front lines of the world’s most pressing issues.  In more than two decades of fearless independent reporting, its groundbreaking coverage of critical global events have included the following.

1999: The DN! team covered the World Trade Organization’s meeting in Seattle, broadcasting an eight-day special titled The Battle of Seattle which documented the action in the streets and the explosion of anti-corporate globalization activism onto the world stage.

2003: With the U.S. mainstream press parroting Bush administration claims of Iraqi WMD’s and  involvement in 9/11, DN! provided world-wide daily reporting with experts challenging these assertions. DN! also covered the massive global protests against the invasion of Iraq, largely ignored by  U.S. media.

2004: Amy Goodman was the only reporter on the plane with ousted Haitian President Jean-Bernard Aristide as he defied the U.S. government and attempted to return to Haiti from forced exile in Africa.

2005: DN! provided extensive Hurricane Katrina coverage, from the Ninth Ward to the crises at the Superdome and convention center, exposing the government’s inadequate response.

2004-2020: DN! has covered climate change continuously for more than ten years, from the 2009 United Nations Conference of the Parties, through the 400,000-person People’s Climate March in New York City in 2014 and the Paris Climate Summit in 2015, to the unsuccessful 2018 Madrid Climate summit and this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, focusing on the inspirational work of 16 year old Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg.

2011: DN! provided on-the-ground  coverage of the Arab Spring, with correspondents on location in Egypt and Libya. DN!’s incisive live reports from Tahrir Square reverberated globally, breaking through the Egyptian government’s electronic media shutdown.

2011: DN! extensively covered Occupy Wall  Street, from its inception to the dramatic standoffs between protesters and police.

2016: DN! was one of the few media outlets to cover the protest encampment at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota. DN! reported on the indigenous peoples’ unprecedented resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline, engaging  the world’s attention.

Today: DN! has continuously covered the Israeli/Palestinian conflict without ignoring Israel’s violation of Palestinian human rights, as the corporate media usually does. In 2018 DN! covered the Gazans’ Great March of Return where approximately 200 peaceful Palestinian demonstrators were killed by Israeli snipers.

Today: While the mainstream media obsessed over “Russiagate” and “Irangate,” DN! also covered grass roots anti-government protests in Lebanon, Chile, France, Bolivia, Haiti, and Hong Kong

These many accomplishments and others explain the rapid expansion of DN!’s reach:  One of public broadcasting’s fastest growing programs, DN! now broadcasts through more than 1,400 non-commercial TV and radio stations in the US and around the world including nearly 100 public television and public radio channels and over 300 community and college radio stations.

While DN! airs in Lansing, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Muskegon and elsewhere in Michigan, it is nearly absent in southeast Michigan. (It can be seen via several expensive cable providers in just a handful of communities, not including Detroit.) When Amy Goodman’s staff requested Detroit Public TV to consider adding DN! to its schedule several years ago, they were rejected. In the current grass-roots campaign, we are mounting a grass-roots campaign of public pressure to bring change to the priorities of our public broadcasting stations.

Detroiters deserve to see and hear DN!, one of the world’s leading U.S independent daily news broadcasts.  Many prominent peace and justice organizations and individuals) have joined the campaign, including the Boggs Center, and the list grows daily.

If you are interested in joining or assisting with this campaign, please go to don-dn@googlegroups.com.

Bogggs Center – Living For Change – January 28th, 2020

January 28th, 2020

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All middle school children are welcome at 11:00 every Saturday morning.
This semester the Freedom School is focusing on reading skills and African American literature.
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Thinking for Ourselves

Support Community Input, Reject Benson Amendments

Shea Howell

This week nearly 200 people attended the Detroit City Council meeting hosted in district 5, by President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield at Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church. Much of the meeting was devoted to the progress made on the “People’s Bill of Rights,” a package of bills “aimed at creating upward economic and social mobility for Detroiters focusing on low income and generational Detroiters.”  Sheffield, who had introduced the package, acknowledged support of other council members in passing key aspect of the legislation. She emphasized progress on resident parking ticket discounts, affordable housing trust funds, home repair grants, cash bail reform,  poverty tax exemptions, low income fare reduction, and a homeless bill of rights resolution. Indicating that there is much work to be done on water affordability, hiring, community benefit agreements, and control over surveillance technologies, Sheffield, demonstrated the capacity of Council to tackle difficult questions with a sense of values that protect our most vulnerable.

Unfortunately not all the members of our Council are so far sighted.

This became clear as people spoke in support Sheffield’s efforts to establish a Community Input Over Government Surveillance Ordinance.  This Ordinance, as written is the product of months of negotiation and research, reflecting agreement by the Police Department, the ACLU and a broadly based city wide coalition concerned with unchecked surveillance. While many of the supporting organizations think the ordinance does not go far enough in holding police accountable for violations, it is an important effort to mandate citizen oversight of technologies purchased by the Detroit Police Department or any other city department.

Support for the ordinance is critical. Across the country people are recognizing that surveillance technologies are out of control.  Corporate and police capacities to gather and use data has far outstripped our legal protections for citizens or for basic freedoms.
Last week,  Shoshana Zuboff, author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism wrote in the New York Times:

Our digital century was to have been democracy’s Golden Age. Instead, we enter its third decade marked by a stark new form of social inequality best understood as “epistemic inequality.” … Surveillance capitalists exploit the widening inequity of knowledge for the sake of profits. They manipulate the economy, our society and even our lives with impunity, endangering not just individual privacy but democracy itself. Distracted by our delusions, we failed to notice this bloodless coup from above… Lawmakers will need to champion new forms of collective action, just as nearly a century ago legal protections for the rights to organize, to strike and to bargain collectively united lawmakers and workers in curbing the powers of monopoly capitalists. Lawmakers must seek alliances with citizens who are deeply concerned over the unchecked power of the surveillance capitalists and with workers who seek fair wages and reasonable security in defiance of the precarious employment conditions that define the surveillance economy.

In spite of this growing recognition that democratic controls need to be put in place to protect all of us, Councilman Scott Benson is making every effort to gut the current proposal. He is doing so, he claims, because he is concerned about fighting crime in his district.  Yet none of his proposed changes have anything to do with criminal behavior. In his memo to the Council dated November 12, 2019 he aims amendments squarely at reducing transparency and eliminating citizen input.

Benson proposes to remove the mandate for the disclosure of the number of days and times surveillance technology is used,  to remove requiring written reports if technologies are used in unusual circumstances, to remove the requirement that departments disclose the factors that determine surveillance technology placement strategies,  and to remove the mandated public hearing for the purchase of new surveillance technology.

Benson is not concerned about the complicated questions raised by these new technologies and seems to have little interest in protecting democratic rights. Instead he seems determined to eliminate public oversight.

We urge you to encourage City Council to reject the efforts of Councilmember Benson.  He appears more interested in lining the pockets of data collection corporations than in protecting citizens. The Community Input Over Government Surveillance Ordinance deserves our support.

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Historian Peter Linebaugh, author of numerous books on The Commons, Magna Carta, and the revolutionary struggles of the transatlantic, multiracial working class in the 18th and 19th centuries, at the time of the American, French and Haitian revolutions, will discuss his new book “Red Round Globe Hot Burning”
 

“This wide-ranging, intricate, penetrating analysis provides fascinating insight into the origins of our society.”
—Noam Chomsky

“Evokes and contextualizes moments of crisis and possibility in the past with a vividness that casts new light on our own time.”
—Rebecca Solnit, author of A Paradise Built in Hell

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WHERE: The Boggs Center
3061 Field St, Detroit, MI 48214

WHEN: 1- 3 PM Saturday, February 8

REFRESHMENTS WILL BE SERVED

THIS WILL BE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR DETROIT’S ACTIVIST COMMUNITY TO CONNECT WITH SOME OF THE DEEPEST SOURCES OF OUR MOVEMENTS AND IDEAS.  DON’T MISS IT!

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intelligent lives friendship circle

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After years of fighting Detroit water shutoffs through litigation and advocacy, a coalition of civil rights lawyers and organizations publicly calls on Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to order a moratorium on the interruption of water service to thousands of Detroit households to end a public health emergency.

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After years of fighting Detroit water shutoffs through litigation and advocacy, a coalition of civil rights lawyers and organizations publicly calls on Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to order a moratorium on the interruption of water service to thousands of Detroit households to end a public health emergency.

The coalition privately asked the Governor to end the water crisis in a letter nearly three months ago, but yet Detroit water shutoffs continue. The coalition approached the Governor because of years of Detroit city and state officials’ inaction, apathy or disregard. READ MORE @ ACLU of Michigan

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Boggs Center News Living for Change – January 20th, 2020

January 20th, 2020

Thinking for Ourselves
Do The Right Thing
Shea Howell

Detroiters have been faced with the horrific news that many of our family, friends, and neighbors have been driven out of the city illegally. Thanks to careful reporting by the Detroit News, we have learned that 90% of the tax delinquent homes were illegally over assessed between 2010 and 2016. The News calculated 28,000 homes were foreclosed since 2013 because of this. The amount of over taxation was estimated at $600 million. The dimensions of this scandal are staggering.

Losing a home to tax foreclosure is one of the most violent, traumatic things that can happen to people. I have seen a 14-year-old boy refuse to leave the pile of goods in the front yard belonging to his mother, who died weeks earlier of cancer. I have watched neighbors, too embarrassed to acknowledge they could not pay their bills, break down when they were forced to abandon a home where they had raised their children, and I have stood with people resisting what they knew was not right.

The devastation done to people and to the community can never be made right. But if we are to create a city that fosters the values we need for the future, we must find ways to acknowledge and respond with as much imagination, compassion, and creativity as we can find.

Mayor Duggan and his administration are not up to the task. The Mayor’s response to the crisis demonstrates why he is not capable of providing meaningful leadership. Duggan says there is “little he can do.” For a man who loves to brag about his abilities to “fix” things, this response is inadequate.

But his reasoning is far more troubling, explaining his lack of will. Duggan claims that doing something to fix the injustice suffered by those who could not pay illegal taxes would somehow be “unfair” to those who managed to pay them. This immediate identification with those who pay, rather than those who cannot, is why Duggan is so dangerous now. He is fostering a politics of division that fuels racial and class antagonisms in ways that are as ugly as the tweets of Trump.

This line of unreasonable reasoning is familiar to everyone in the city. It is the same one he invokes over the water crisis. It argues that “good people” pay their water bills and Duggan claims it is “not fair” for those who pay their bills to have others in the community get water “for free.”

For public leaders to invoke individualism, to advocate that fairness rests with those who are most able to provide for themselves, and to claim that some problems are just too big to be fixed, is disastrous thinking. We need leadership that acknowledges problems, seeks solutions and encourages us to care for one another and the earth upon which we depend.

This last week we saw some of that kind of leadership emerge on the City Council. Council President Brenda Jones is holding hearings on the issue. President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield convened a working group to gather information, listen to citizens, and propose a series of solutions. They have already issued a report with some imaginative solutions.

As the country begins in earnest to talk about reparations and restorative justice, we in Detroit have a responsibility to advance the values, ways and means to do the right thing. There is no other way to secure our future.

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Extreme worship of the Constitution is a feature of U.S. life. It’s been that way for a long time. Even so, the zeal with which it has been deployed throughout the current impeachment process is a wonder to behold. KEEP READING.