Boggs Center – Living For Change News – November 19th, 2019

Boggs Board Lexicon Last edited on 06/04/19

Growing our souls

 Grace Lee Boggs , in her Introduction to the 2008 edition of Revolution and Evolution (2008):

  • “The more I talked about King, the more I felt the need for each of us to grow our souls in order to overcome the new and more challenging contradictions of constantly changing realities” (Boggs & Boggs 2008 [1974], xiv).
  • “We have to help the American people grow our souls enough to recognize that, since we have been consuming 25 percent of the planet’s resources even though we are only 4 percept of the world’s population, we are the ones who must take the first steps to reduce greenhouse emissions. We are the ones who must begin to live more simply so that others can simply live” (Boggs & Boggs 2008 [1974], xxxii).



November 19th, 2019

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@ the Charles H. Wrightnative sonFrom Native Son to Native Song: A Conversation with Stew & The Negro Problem features Tony Awards-winning playwright Stew, as he talks about the relevance of his work “Notes of a Native Song” as it comments on James Baldwin’s “Notes of a Native Son.” INFO HERE



Thinking for Ourselves

No Debt
Shea Howell

The Detroit City Council is finally showing some good judgment. So far they have refused to be steamrolled by Mayor Duggan into putting a $250 million bond proposal on the March ballot. They have put off the vote on three occasions, demanding changes in reporting, transparency and basic processes of accountability.

We encourage the Council to continue to reject the Mayor’s proposal. Instead, this is an  opportunity to develop a comprehensive housing plan from the administration. We are in a housing emergency for low and moderate income residents. We are beyond an emergency for people who are unhoused. Although the rates of people living outside have declined dramatically, we have as many as 14,000 people surviving without shelter.

Last winter the callousness behind the Mayor’s approach to housing was on full display as people were forcefully removed  from sheltering at Hart Plaza and under viaducts. The forced removal was especially brutal as many people lost what few possessions they cherished or needed for survival.

The delayed vote by the City Council to authorize the bond proposal for a vote has already forced the Mayor to make changes to his original proposal. In part this is due to the widespread outcry as people have come to Council meetings and raised objections about “blight removal.” The current program is highly controversial, faces legal challenges had has been documented as out of control and lacking basic oversight. As the newly formed Detroit 21 Coalition asserts, the many adjustments offered by the Mayor to make the bond issue more palatable simply do not go far enough. The Coalition says:

“We have serious disagreements on the proposed use of funds. While the city plans to rehab 1,000 vacant homes, the city has not guaranteed these homes will be sold at an affordable cost to families living at or below 50 percent of the Area Median Income, which we requested because of the great need for housing lower income Detroiters. And this scale of rehab pales in comparison to 19,000 homes the city plans to demolish for the same cost of about $20,000 each. While we understand that some houses cannot be saved, the city has provided no evidence that only five percent can be redeveloped. When possible, rehabbing a home is usually cheaper than new home construction, making it easier to rent or sell these homes at an affordable price. Furthermore, most residents would prefer rehab to demolition and want their neighborhoods restored.”

In short, the improved transparency and better hiring practices included in the current version of the bond by the Mayor are only there because of the push back from residents and the reluctance of the City Council to support additional debt for a program riddled with corrupt and uncontrolled spending. These changes do not show any serious thinking by the Mayor or any in his administration about how to develop our neighborhoods, improve the daily lives of people who generally cannot afford to go to play in the 2.7 sq miles of downtown, or support people in remaining in their homes.

We need a housing plan that prioritizes the elimination of property taxes, low interest loans and grants for home improvement, real affordable housing, rent control, support for those facing unhoused conditions, and affordable water and utility bills. We need redevelopment plans that develop the skills of our people as well as the functioning of our neighborhoods.

All of these are things we could do right now, without an additional bond. All of these require a commitment to improving community life. While the Mayor is continuing down the same tired road of “removal” using contractor friends, the City Council is finally showing some courage to develop a better way.

In the five years since the forced bankruptcy of the city, none of us should move quickly toward more debt. Instead we should be looking to imaginative, thoughtful plans that depend our people, our capacities and capabilities, and our visions of how we can best live together with care and compassion.



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Applications are now open for their 2020 Cohort!

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The 50th Anniversary of the Assassination of Fred Hampton
12/7 @ the Charles H. Wright

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

October 29th, 2019

A Radical New Sharing Economy


Thinking for Ourselves

Sharing Peace
Shea Howell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


What We’re Studying…braidingcare
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Louise Seamster Flint event UM

What We’re Studying…




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

October 15th, 2019
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 Thinking for Ourselves

Rising Waters
Shea Howell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Boggs Center – Living For Change News Letter – October 10th, 2019

October 10th, 2019

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October 15 is the 50th anniversary of the massive local demonstrations against the US war on Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia. It’s an opportunity to explore myths about the antiwar movement and helpful lessons for today. So that’s what I’ll try to do.  I hope you can come and especially encourage young people to attend. Peace, Frank Joyce


 Fifty years later—The antiwar movement then and now. 

Swords into Plowshares Peace Center & Gallery

Tuesday, October 15th, 7 p.m.

Lecture and discussion is Free
light refreshments served.


Thinking for Ourselves

Lighting Fires
Shea Howell

The possibility of repealing the third grade reading statute that requires mandatory retention of students falling below state standards dimmed this week. Republican lawmaker Pamela Hornberger, who chairs the House Education committee, withdrew her support of a provision she helped draft last January to repeal the “read or flunk” portion of the law.

Hornberger’s flip is not much of surprise. What is critical for those of us who care about the education of our children is to take a close look at her reasoning. In justifying her “change of heart” she demonstrates just how dangerous it is to have state legislators dabble in educational policy.

News accounts of Hornberger’s shift say that she was motivated to support retention by two factors. First, she noted that state researchers now are estimating that only 5% of third graders state wide are likely to be held back. This is much smaller than earlier data that suggested many 50%  or more of our third graders would face retention. This is still more than 5,000 children facing being held back. The smaller predicted number, according to Hornberger, is because the law has “lit a fire under some people’s rear ends.”

Aside from the crudeness of her remark, the disrespect for teachers and students contained in it, and the notion that pain inflicted on people causes them to progress, the grasp on what is really happening in our schools is tenuous. No data supports Hornberger’s position that fear of retention works, or that teachers have just been too lazy to get kids to read.

Here is what data does support. From 2003 to 2016 Michigan has steadily been falling in reading scores. We are now 35th in the country, down from 28th.  During this period republican state legislatures have installed one failed scheme after another, including a series of emergency managers and the creation of alternative school districts like the Educational Achievement Association. Every effort to bolster learning has failed as schools are under-resourced,  disrespected, and closed down. At the same time, in large part thanks to Besty Devos and family, our children are being turned into private profit centers as charter schools proliferate and public schools deteriorate. All of this can be traced right to the state legislature.

In spite of these conditions, teachers, parents and administrators are trying to find ways to protect children from the worst of legislation made by people who rarely even notice their existence.

In Detroit, reports indicate that nearly 20% of third graders, about 800 students, would have been held back last year according to the law. Usually  only 4% are retained each year. The lower retention figure that sparked Hornberger’s shift has emerged not because students now magically have improved to evade the “fires.” It is because administrators, teachers and parents are wising up to the possibility of “good cause exemptions.” In Detroit these exemptions are widespread. About 5% of students who rank low on the test are in special education or are new English language learners.  Others are already in intensive reading programs, or have only been enrolled for a short time. This is true across the state.

In other words, once again the right wing, ideologically driven state legislature has created obstacles to learning that require people who actually care about children to find ways around the most damaging aspects of it.

The deep lesson here for all of us is laws having nothing to do with reality. They need to be resisted.  Fires are being lit.


State of the City Forum featuring the Hon., Ed Vaughn


Tuesday, October 15th
6 PM
1000 Eliot St, Detroit, Michigan 48207




10 Ways that the Climate Crisis and Militarism are Intertwined


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DETROIT 48202: CONVERSATIONS ALONG A POSTAL ROUTE examines the rise, demise, and contested resurgence of the City of Detroit through the lens of African- American mail carrier, Wendell Watkins, and the committed community he faithfully served for thirty years.


Saturday, October 19th
1 PM
Chandler Park Branch of DPL