Writings

Boggs Centers – Living For Change News – August 21st, 2019

August 21st, 2019

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The Siwatu Freedom team is overjoyed to report the news that Siwatu’s conviction has been reversed — see the full press release here!

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Thinking for Ourselves

Climate Controls
Shea Howell

The images coming out of Newark, New Jersey this week could easily be mistaken for Flint, Michigan. Long lines of people, mostly black and brown, are pictured next to stacks of bottled water. After repeated denials of a water crisis, and inadequate, often chaotic attempts by officials to address it, the city and state are finally acknowledging a systemic, widespread crisis. Lead from aging pipes is leaching into the water of thousands of households, especially in poorer neighborhoods.

The New York Times reported. “A growing crisis over lead contamination in drinking water gripped Newark on Wednesday as tens of thousands of residents were told to drink only bottled water, the culmination of years of neglect that has pushed New Jersey’s largest city to the forefront of an environmental problem afflicting urban areas across the nation.”

Newark and Flint are examples of the problem older cities face in providing the basic sources of life to people. Marc Edwards, the professor from Virginia Tech who helped document the Flint water crisis, estimates that 11 million homes in the U.S. are at risk of dangerous levels of lead contamination.

Access to safe, affordable drinking water is a global crisis, intensified by climate change. A recent report warned that by 2030 nearly half the population of India, one tenth the of all people on earth, will not have adequate drinking water. Groundwater is running out. Meanwhile from Michigan to California, Nestle and other bottling companies continue to pump out millions of gallons of water, virtually for free, to sell back to people in crisis.

This system is unsustainable. Already much of the migration on a global scale is directly linked to the literal drying up or flooding out of communities made vulnerable by climate catastrophe.

Recently Phillip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights explained that we are increasingly at risk of “climate apartheid.” Alston explains that as basic elements of life become more fragile, political and economic powers move to protect themselves. Alston said, “Climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction,” Poor people everywhere will be most devastated as they will “bear an estimated 75% of the costs of the climate crisis” even though “the poorest half of the world’s population (is) causing just 10% of carbon dioxide emissions.”

The political implications are obvious. Democracy and human rights are endangered everywhere. Alston’s report said, “The risk of community discontent, of growing inequality, and of even greater levels of deprivation among some groups, will likely stimulate nationalist, xenophobic, racist and other responses. Maintaining a balanced approach to civil and political rights will be extremely complex.”

This global context helps us understand why the current fight in Detroit over facial recognition technologies is so important. Increasing tools of technological repression places the majority of people at risk. It only serves to intensify and expand the powers of the state. This is the wrong direction.

If we are to construct a future for all of us, we need to think very differently about the choices we are making today. We need to move toward policies and practices that increase our human connections and our ecological sensibilities. There is a deep tread that ties together protecting the human right to water, food, education, and creative life while resisting dehumanizing, technological efforts of control us. Each time we chose to act toward life, we are shaping a better tomorrow.

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Final_2nd Annual PP Festival
We hope to see you at the 2nd Annual Petty Propolis Art Festival in Historic Idlewild, Michigan!

 

Join us as we continue Historic Idlewild’s legacy of celebrating Black history and culture! Enjoy incredible artists like Mollywop!, Nique Love Rhodes & the NLR Experience, Monica Blaire and so many more! Check out the Black History 101 Mobile Museum, play big board games, race one of the miniature race cars and enjoy the entertainment for free! For a nominal fee, go kayaking, take a bike ride or go paddle boarding.

 

This year, we are offering a 1 day roundtrip bus ride to Idlewild for ONLY $30! The bus leaves from Detroit at 8am on September 1st and leaves Idlewild to head back to Detroit at 830pm the same evening.
Limited bus seating available.

Get additional info and your day pass here

 

See you there!
#PettyPropolis

#PettyPropolisFestival

#ExperienceIdlewild

#NextGenIdlewild

 

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Detroit’s creative community has gained a valuable resource in the Riverwise Storytelling Workshops, which focus on grooming storytellers within the city. KEEP READING

Riverwise-Workshop

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Online Class by Visionary Organizing Lab

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Many are marking 2019 as the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first captured Africans in Jamestown. So, even more than usual, we will hear chattel slavery referred to as the nation’s original sin.

It isn’t.

KEEP READING

 

Boggs Center – Living For Change News – August 12th 2019

August 12th, 2019

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Field Street Block Club Clean Up & Meet Up

Saturday, August 17th
2514 Field St.
Detroit

CLEAN UP: 9-noon
EAT UP AND MEET UP: 1-4

Thinking for Ourselves

Constant Sorrow
Shea Howell

This has been a week of constant sorrow. We have witnessed the murders of 31 people in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. As hospitals worked to save lives and repair people, brutal ICE agents rounded up nearly 700 people in Mississippi, leaving children sobbing uncontrollably for their parents. White supremacy and white nationalism are everywhere. By Sunday a young white man walked into a Mosque in Oslo with guns blazing.

These tragedies overwhelmed our hearts and saturated the media. The 74th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima on August 6th and on Nagasaki on August 9th went by with little notice. These nuclear weapons of mass destruction caused the deaths of 146,000 people in Hiroshima and 80,000 people in Nagasaki, changing the world forever. The US remains the only nation to have used these bombs, though each day the world comes closer to another such holocaust. Nor was there much space to publicly acknowledge and reflect on the five years that have passed since the murder of Michael Brown, even as the town of Ferguson calls on its artists to help heal wounds still raw.

The violence and brutality of this moment invades everything we touch. For many of us, the current President embodies the worst of it; encouraging hate, distorting lives, thoughts, and language, spewing hate.

In the midst of this, Toni Morrison left us. Her death marks the loss of one of the most vital and visionary thinkers of our time.  Her voice will be greatly missed. Angela Davis wrote in her tribute:

“Toni was cleareyed about the United States, about the lies it tells itself, about the truth of its dark side and about its potential, rooted in its traditions of dissent, to offer a better future. A student of history, she understood that nations come and go, but that human beings had the capacity for change, evolution and growth, and that a more just world awaits if only we would commit to bringing it into being.”

Tracy K Smith, former poet laureate of the US, wrote similarly of Ms. Morrison’s belief in the possibilities of America, fully knowing the brutality woven into us from the beginning. She said:

“I believe her subject is America, this place founded upon conflict and driven by the need to define one group against another. Her work asks: Who are we? What have we built and broken together? What does it mean to regard one another deeply, humbly, hopefully? And what are the consequences for our refusal to regard one another? Across Ms. Morrison’s novels and essays, these questions operate in the intimate spaces — in families, friendships, marriages — that serve to determine the terms of our engagement with the wider world. And the reverse is true as well: The terms of the wider world seep inevitably into the most private regions of our lives.”

Toni Morrison helps us all face the fact that the violence of today is an enduring part of our collective life on this land. Angela Davis said:

“Decades ago, she warned about the rising tide of authoritarianism in a series of astute and prescient lectures and essays. In 1995, she compelled us to heed the signs of people who “construct an internal enemy as both focus and diversion” and who “isolate and demonize that enemy by unleashing and protecting the utterance of overt and coded name-calling and verbal abuse.” These, she warned, were the first steps toward “a final solution.” These essays are as important today as they were when she wrote them. Perhaps even more so.

As with all of our greatest thinkers, she held up a mirror that shows us our capacity for tremendous evil as well as for good. In one of her late novels, “A Mercy,” she returned us to a period before racial slavery was consolidated, when a new nation might have made a different set of choices and everything was in flux and possible. She does not take us down the path of the devastating choice that was made. We know that. We are living it. She simply uses the power of imagination to remind us that at any given stage, we might have chosen differently.

Today the choices before us cannot be evaded. Terror is rising in ways that cannot be denied. Toni Morrison offers us deep wisdom. She challenges us to hold fast to our capacity to find our way to the choices of life rooted in love and longing.

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Calling all people with a disability or chronic illness living in the Detroit area!  Calling all caregivers
of a person with a disability or chronic illness – family, friend, aide, teacher, loved one or professional!

We invite you to join our process of exploring, listening, supporting, sharing, healing, reflecting, and transforming our lives in a community with others doing the same.

-Do you need assistance and resources for a more balanced life?
-Are you tired or feeling stressed from your day-to-day struggles in Detroit?
-Do you want to expand your support system and be a part of a caring community?
-Are you ready to share stories and strategies in a safe space?
-Do you want to have fun and meet new people?

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Our monthly Community Care Circles will launch August 18, 2019, meeting the 3rd Sunday of each month, 2-4 p.m. at Delray Senior Housing, 275 W Grand Blvd. in Detroit.

Please RSVP here.
Click here for more details!

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Boggs Center – Living For Change News – August 7th, 2019

August 7th, 2019

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 Thinking for Ourselves
A Green New Deal
Shea Howel
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As Democratic contenders for President convened for the second series of debates,more than 2,000 people gathered outside the Fox Theatre in downtown Detroit in supportof a Green New Deal. This demonstration, organized by the Frontline Detroit Coalition offers new possibilities to deepen the national perspective on the twin crises of our time: climate catastrophe and income inequality.Detroit has unique contributionsto make in the understanding of a Green New Deal. As one of the first cities developed by large scale, industrial production, we were also one of the first abandoned by it. As a result, Detroiters long ago gave up the notion that there will some single, simple action to restore work to millions of people and provide secure ways of living. Instead, drawing on the rich roots of African American culture, many people in the city have been ”making a way out of no way.”For example, in the face of what many in power call abandoned lots, Detroiters saw the potential for urban gardens, not only to provide personal sustenance, but as ways to restore community and re-establish intergenerational ties. Today the concepts of food justice and food sovereignty enrich our understanding that a “city that feeds itself, frees itself.”

And as the mayor and his minions continue to shut off water, Detroiters are insisting that we shift our thinking from water as a commodity, to be owned, bought, and sold, to water as a human right and sacred trust. These concepts are the foundation for continued pressure for water affordability and the insistence that we make responsible decisions that protect people as well as the planet.

Detroiters have also seen the ease with which capital finds new ways to make money. We have seen our schools devastated by profit seekers. We have endured increased pollution and persistent threats to our air and water as corporations pursue expanding refineries and transporting fuel through fragile ecologies. We are told the best we can expect is a few jobs in exchange for poisoning our air and risking our health. More and more of us are rejecting that logic.

These experiences collectively frame one of the most important and little reported acts of the Detroit City Council. This spring Council President Pro Tem Sheffield and Council member Castened-Lopez introduced a resolution in support of the Green New Deal. It passed unanimously. It offers an honest look at the magnitude of the crisis we face and the possibilities for action. It states in the opening:

WHEREAS, The world is presently entering the climate change era, which is already causing epic transformation of our home planet as a result of increasingly unstable climactic and environmental conditions, intensified and more frequent and destructive storms, floods, droughts, fires and resulting disruptions of social and economic life.  …and

WHEREAS, In response to this unprecedented series of existential threats to the very ecological basis for human civilization itself, climate justice activists have demanded a Green New Deal … an urgent ten (10) year plan to mobilize every aspect of American society, leading to a national social, industrial and economic policy transformation, on a scale not seen since World War II and the New Deal era..and.

WHEREAS, The proposed Green New Deal appropriately calls out several related crises in social, political and economic realms, that are directly related to environmental challenges…and

WHEREAS, The proposed Green New Deal names multiple systemic injustices in frontline and vulnerable communities as among the most far-reaching evils of our climate emergency which must be fought and prevented…and

WHEREAS, The proposed Green New Deal is a transitional program to, among other things, protect the basic human rights of the most vulnerable, stimulate the economy by funding full employment through ecological restoration projects – on the model of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) of the original New Deal – to ensure that basic needs of the most seriously endangered and harmed will be met in the process of a necessary planned, just transition to a sustainable economy and society; …

The statement resolves “THAT The time for action is now.” Yet since this resolution, actions have been slow from the Council and the Mayor.

But within the community, the sense of urgency is encouraging the imaginations of people determined to find new ways of living, of relating to one another and the earth that sustains us.

The crises we face are not natural. They are the direct result of choices we have made. The future depends on our capacity now, to make different choices about who and what we value.

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“Facial recognition technology is racially biased and poses a grave threat to privacy,” said Rodd Monts, Campaign Outreach Coordinator for the ACLU of Michigan. “It will disproportionately harm immigrants and communities of color, who already bear the brunt of over-policing. A city like ours should be taking the lead in resisting the use of dangerous and racially biased surveillance technology — not advocating for it.”

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On Wednesday July 24th, the first meeting of the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jails and Pretrial Incarceration took place at Wayne State Law School. Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist introduced the purpose of the task force, which is to make policy recommendations based on data being compiled by Pew Research, community input, and the task force’s experience in the field. Following opening statements, every member of the task force introduced themself and the work that they do. DJC’s founding ED Amanda Alexander addressed the audience in the room.

Boggs Center – Living for Change News – July 29th, 2019

July 29th, 2019

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Thinking for Ourselves

Duggan and Deceit
Shea Howell

The debate over increased surveillance in our city is not going to go away. Last week the Detroit City Council voted in a 6 to 3 split to allocate of $4 million for the expansion of DPD’s Real Time Crime Center and the development of two “mini” crime monitoring centers.The 8th and 9th precincts will receive new centers, for $2 million. Another $2 million will be used to upgrade the current Real Time Crime. Like the original $8 million used to set up the main center in Public Safety Headquarters, these efforts will be funded by bonds.

The decision to establish and expand these Centers is linked to the controversial use of facial recognition technologies. Increasingly the public is becoming skeptical of the Mayor and his motives.

Over the last few weeks the public debate has established that these technologies are racial biased. It has been made clear that there is no evidence that these technologies actually deter or solve crimes. As Free Press editor Nancy Kaffer observed, the questions surrounding the use of this facial recognition technologies are complex and “should cause any reasonable person to wonder why the Detroit Police Department has pushed forward with the controversial software, absent, for some portion of the period it has been in use, a departmental standard operating procedure, a policy directive approved by the board of Detroit Police Commissioners, satisfactory answers about how and when the software is to be used, its error rate, the implications for its combination with Detroit’s expanding Project Greenlight network of video cameras, or transparency with the residents the software is meant to either police or protect.”

This debate is also surfacing manipulative efforts flowing from the Mayor’s office. One clear technique the Mayor uses is to divide up the various programs he is putting together. Consider for example the lack of a full accounting of the cumulative public funds committed to creating this network of surveillance.

While still in the shadow of bankruptcy, in 2016, Duggan allocated $8 million to set up the first digital video surveillance center. This week he added $4 million. In 2017 he spent another million to contract with DataWorks, buying and implementing facial recognition technologies. Now he is planning a “Neighborhood Real Time Intelligence program setting up high definition surveillance cameras at traffic lights with a goal of establishing nearly 500 such cameras by 2020. The city will spend approximately $8.9 million in local and federal traffic signal modernization funds for the installation of the cameras. Aside from whether or not it will be legal to redirect federal funds for this, Duggan will have spent more than $21 million on a network of cameras without a single piece of evidence that it works. This is before the possible expanded contract with DataWorks. At a time when crime is going down nationally and locally why is the Mayor committing such vast expenditures of public money to this project?

The Mayor is dividing up more than the money. He is also hiding the extent of the network he is creating and his efforts to consolidate public support. In March of 2019 neighborhood groups began getting emailsfrom Duggan’s staff asking them to circulate petitions to support his multi-million dollar crime program linked to surveillance cameras. The email read: “In order to continue making Detroit a safe place to live, work, and play, we are asking you to gather signatures from your neighbors pledging support for the Neighborhood Real-Time Intelligence Program.” These cameras were described as extending the Project Green Light efforts and pitched as a crime fighting tool.

Now Duggan is running around trying to separate Project Green Light from Neighborhood surveillance, and both from facial recognition.

There are many ways for us to create safe, healthy, sustainable communities. But none of these are encouraged by Duggan. Instead his record is one of deceit and manipulation.
Let’s All Take Our Shoes Off
Frank Joyce

What an inspiration it was to attend the dedication of a statue of Viola Liuzzo this past Monday. It was one of those moments where the Beloved Community came together in real time.

Hundreds of people were there. Young, old, black white, etc. Most of Viola’s children and grandchildren attended. The MC for the program was her grandson Josh. All of the children spoke briefly and gave voice to the values their mother embodied.

In the middle of the program Susan Bro was introduced and gave a short but moving speech. Susan is the mother of Heather Heyer, the young women killed in Charlottesville. Heather is sometimes referred to as the modern Viola Liuzzo.

The statue is located at Viola Liuzzo park. It is a beautiful and well maintained neighborhood space near 8 Mile and Greenfield in Detroit with fitness equipment, children’s playground stuff, bio-retention ponds and now the statue. The evolution of the park itself has been a decades long effort to pay tribute to her life and her sacrifice. It is close to the home she left to go to support the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965. Dorothy Dewberry Aldridge, a member of the National Council of Elders (NCOE) has been a dedicated member of the committee that has brought the park and the statue to life. (Note in the photo the delightful detail that she is carrying her shoes.)
(photo credit: Detroit News)
Here’s hoping we all have more opportunities to spend time in the Beloved Community.

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(photo credit: Detroit News)

Here’s hoping we all have more opportunities to spend time in the Beloved Community.


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