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.


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.


Boggs Centers – Living For Change News – January 15th, 2020

January 15th, 2020

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Global Water Summit
January 24-25
Cass Community United Methodist Church



Thinking for Ourselves
Finding New Ways
Shea Howell

The possibility of war with Iran cooled a little this week, thanks to the mature decisions of the Iranian government. Unlike President Trump, who took the most extreme action offered him by his advisors, Iran chose a limited show of force, firing 16 missiles into a base housing Americans in Iraq. Miraculously no one was hurt. But in the tensions caused by Trump’s decision to kill Maj Gen. Qassim Suleimani, 176 people were killed when a civilian passenger jet was shot down by Iranian defense forces, fearing it was a missile attack.

None of this needed to happen. The justification for it has been slippery at best, with the President claiming he was preventing an “imminent” attack, even while other State Department officials call it “a mistake” to use such language.

Certainly the U.S. has a long and sordid history of assassinations, many of them in the middle east. But this killing appears to have been done on a whim, an impulse born of frustration. The shadows of this decision will be long. They will weave into the fabric of these last two decades of war, where the U.S. has taken international violence to new levels. We have claimed the right to strike anyone, anywhere, anytime, if we think they endanger us. We justify torture and perpetual imprisonment. We pick up civilians off streets and drop them in “black holes.” We act without accountability to the opinions of other nations. Yet all of these actions have consequences, some we have seen, many unfolding in generations to come.

In the wake of this week, the drive toward impeachment seems a small response. We have come to the point where those who control the triggers of some of the most deadly weapons of war cannot be trusted to make considered decisions. We are, as Dr. King said, a nation with guided missiles and mis-guided men. We have come to this place as we step by step believed we should protect our own comforts at the expensive of the rest of the world.

At the end of his speech against the Vietnam War, delivered at Riverside church, Dr. King said, “We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.”

Surely finding these new ways to peace is our most urgent task. Such a task requires radical rethinking of how we live and what we value. But as the actions of this week so clearly show, those in authority stand against all that is sacred, cherished, and loved by most human beings. We have no choice but to fine these new ways of being.





The Padre Guadalupe Carney Latin American Solidarity Archive (CLASA), a rare collection of Spanish and English books, human rights reports, independent newspapers and newsletters, and social justice papers broadens its message of social justice to the Detroit Mercy community with speakers and exhibits of art, photography, and archive documents. Most events take place on the McNichols Campus. Check out their slate of free events starting tonight!


January 25 DanceAbility Workshop


Moms 4 Housing: Meet the Oakland Mothers Facing Eviction After Two Months Occupying Vacant House




Happy New Years – Boggs Center – Living For Change News – January 8th, 2020

January 8th, 2020

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Thinking for Ourselves
War Crimes
Shea Howell

The decision by Donald Trump as President of the United States to order the murder Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani of Iran was an act of war. It is a war crime and a crime against humanity. It is murder made possible by the illegal use of state power. The President, Vice President Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who encouraged this action, are equally guilty.

So are the generals and advisors who treat military violence as little more than options on a menu.

They reflect the lack of moral judgment in this administration. Such actions come in a long line of such abuses of power, misuses of force, and refusal to look at the consequences of actions.

What is sure to be an escalating conflict with Iran goes back nearly 100 years. As the world moved toward confrontations with Nazi Germany Reza Shah Pahlavi was drifting closer to Hitler. Fearing the loss of control, Great Britain with the help of its then ally the Soviet Union, occupied Iran, forced the reigning Shah into exile and put European educated Mohamad Reza, his eldest son, in power. After the war, as popular movements for more democracy gained momentum across the globe, the power of the corrupt, autocratic Shah was challenged by Mohammad Mosaddegh. A popularly elected leader, as Prime Minister from 1951 to 1953 he moved to nationalize British petroleum interests and pushed for more accountable government. The CIA and Britain’s M16 staged a coup, imprisoning him for 3 years in solitary confinement and then placing him under house arrest until his death in 1967. They restored the Shah to power. This illegal and misguided action by the CIA led directly to the growth of anti-US feeling and fueled the 1979 Revolution.

This murder also reflects how much the Bush drive to war changed our understanding of world relationships and responsibilities. In response to 9/11, George W. Bush articulated something called the Doctrine of Preemption. Bush argued that the use of force was justified if we anticipated an attack. He expanded earlier ideas to claim that force could be used, even without evidence of an imminent attack in order to ensure that a serious threat to the US does not “gather” or grow over time. This broadly based doctrine was seriously flawed. Within two years of its invocation to justify the Iraq war, it was considered deeply flawed.

The two assumptions behind this doctrine proved in practice to be wrong. The first assumption was that the US would have reliable intelligence about the intentions and capabilities of adversaries. This proved completely false as US officials hunted frantically for Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. Second was the belief that we hand entered a new era of technology that would give us the edge in any combat situation. As the Brookings Institute noted its assessment of the doctrine in 2004:
“This belief, which seemed so convincing in the immediate afterglow of the U.S. military’s rapid march to Baghdad, looks naive in the wake of the fighting in Fallouja and Najaf. Not only have the costs of war escalated significantly in the 13 months since the president prematurely declared an end to major combat operations, but the emphasis on breaking regimes ignored the far more difficult task of rebuilding nations.”

We need to take a forceful, consistent stand against this drive to war. Trumps decision to kill, to announce this action to cheering crowds, to threaten even greater violence via twitter, is criminal. He deserves far more than impeachment. He and his enablers should be tried by the world court for crimes against humanity. And we must look deeply at ourselves as a people.

As Dr. King so clearly reminded us,
“It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch antirevolutionaries.… Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism. With this powerful commitment we shall boldly challenge the status quo and unjust mores.”

For now, all of us must know that the chickens do indeed come home to roost.

Conversations on the Philosophies of Jimmy Boggs



Not For Sale
Denise Griebler

Friends, neighbors, today we bless this sign as a sign that in the midst of change that seeks or just happens to displace the poor, St. Peter’s isn’t going anywhere.


Conversations on the Philosophies of Jimmy Boggs



Not For Sale
Denise Griebler

Friends, neighbors, today we bless this sign as a sign that in the midst of change that seeks or just happens to displace the poor, St. Peter’s isn’t going anywhere.



Manna Community Meal isn’t going anywhere.


St. Peter’s will continue to welcome and serve people who have been made poor


who are being made more vulnerable as shelters and services move out of our community.


The Corner Shower and Laundry will open and serve people.


The Water Station will continue to flow for people and families who have been shut off


The St. Peter’s Hive will continue to buzz with organizations that work for justice and peace and the dignity and wholeness of
human beings, and for the healing of Earth.


We will continue to make space for people planning and organizing and training to take big non-violent risks in pursuit of peace.


We will care for our neighbors. We will join with others to work for truly affordable and low-income housing in our neighborhood.

We will welcome our neighbors and practice radical hospitality.





What does your union fight for?

Emma Fialka-Feldman
2nd Grade Teacher at the Dudley Street School
Originally appeared in the Boston Teachers Union Newsletter

I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. In the early 1990s, my family fought to have my brother, labeled with an intellectual disability, included in the general education classroom. My parents knew that an inclusive schooling experience was the best education. They believed that he deserved to learn alongside his neighbors and friends with and without disabilities. The district fought at every level to prevent this. It took an unwavering belief, creativity, and negotiation to make it happen.

While he was successfully included in his K-12 experience, it was despite the local district. It was only years earlier, that students like my brother were denied access to their local public school. They were kept in institutions (or none at all) that believed in a medical model that prioritized compliance and low expectations over learning and rigor.

While there were incredible teachers and paraprofessionals along the way that nurtured my brother, developed strong family-school partnerships, and sought out resources to expand their professional expertise, my parents often felt like they were constantly fighting simply for his right to belong in his neighborhood school. I wonder what our family’s journey would have been like if our local teacher’s union said, “We believe in inclusion. We want it to work for all kids in our district. We will fight with you.”

Unions have a mixed history. On one hand, their advocacy has led to health and safety standards, living wages, and for some, the acclaimed 40-hour workweek. On the other hand, unions have been known for perpetuating racism, furthering inequities by intentionally excluding membership for some groups, and for fighting for contracts that further marginalize groups.

In recent years, the Boston Teachers Union has moved from a mostly service-driven union, focusing on enhancing and protecting wages and benefits, to a social-justice union where fighting for the schools our students, families, and communities deserve, is matched with the learning and teaching conditions our members deserve.

Gratefully, in this work, the Boston Teachers Union members have not forgotten about the needs of students with disabilities. In the Boston Public Schools, many classrooms designated as “inclusion classrooms” rely on incredibly inadequate supports. In these classrooms a single multi-license teacher is responsible for both special education and general education supports. These structural conditions, dictated by the district, are inclusion in name only. The learning conditions in these classrooms make learning and teaching incredibly challenging – leaving many paraprofessionals, teachers, and support staff feeling inadequate and ill-prepared.

We are not giving children the education they deserve. Families of children with IEPs across the district are often not aware of the various models and the gross inequities, leaving families feeling like sub separate classrooms are the best places for their child, despite the research. BPS’ “inclusion roll out” has undermined the potential and possibility of inclusion for our students.

In a historic move, the union made “inclusion done right” a central component of its most recent contract negotiation. The union is fighting for inclusion where students with and without disabilities learn in classrooms with ample support (for some classrooms this means two teachers and a paraprofessional; for other classrooms, this means the right special education services beyond one dual or triple certified teacher, and for ensuring our classrooms have the natural proportions of students with and without disabilities that reflect our neighborhoods). We have some nationally recognized inclusive schools, like the Henderson Inclusion School, but our city needs more.

This is historic as often special education victories have been individual-family fights where a family is fighting for the school/placement they believe their child (and the law) is entitled to. This is historic as often, despite research stating the power of inclusive classrooms, teachers’ unions, and school districts have been adamant in protecting segregated classrooms, sub separate spaces, and exclusive special education policies. While Boston Public Schools on paper believes that inclusive schools are best practices, their policies reflect otherwise.

In 2013, in response to the large BPS rollout of 20 inclusion schools, Boston Teachers Union members reflecting a range of BPS schools, classrooms, grades, and special-education service delivery models formed a committee to begin the work the district was not prioritizing. As a new teacher, this committee gave me hope that I was entering a union surrounded by other educators who care deeply about building an educational system that works for all.

The committee created pamphlets to help teachers and families know how to fight for the best learning conditions for students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs). It designed an extensive survey to collect data across BPS schools to better understand the vast models of inclusion and to have teachers reflect on the challenges and opportunities of inclusion in Boston. It organized events for families to work with the BTU to be advocates for the schools our children deserve. All the way, inclusion, and inclusion done right was the guiding principle. The union’s members prioritized this best practice.

While different, this history is not unlike what happened in Boston during school desegregation in the 1970s. Instead of uniting with the just demands to desegregate the schools, the union took a more narrow approach that put the value of a negotiated contract over the aspirations of a historically underserved community. With a more social justice perspective our union of teachers could have united with parents to create welcoming schools for all children, especially children of color.

As we work to build inclusive schools, I hope you will join the Boston Teachers Union in this fight. We have the opportunity to build the schools all children deserve. We have the opportunity to undo the racial and social inequities that our schools replicate. In Boston, white students with IEPs are more likely to be placed in inclusive classrooms than students of color with IEPs. It is often recognized as a privilege to go to an inclusive classroom – rather than a legal right. Across the nation, 83% of students with intellectual disabilities are left out of inclusive settings which leads to dismal graduation and employment rates. We know inclusive schools provide the best academic and social outcomes for all children, for both students with and without disabilities.

Inclusion done right means that all BTU members must examine our beliefs about who we think belongs in an inclusive classroom, what we think is possible for students with disabilities, and how we challenge our false-belief that inclusion will lower the academic rigor for students without disabilities.

Let’s continue to be on the right side of history for students with disabilities. You can join this fight by:

*attending the next inclusion meeting (bring a family member or colleague from your school): Tuesday, January 14, 2020 from 4:30-6:30pm

*sharing the inclusion tracker with your colleagues so we can collect the data about what’s happening in our schools: https://btu.org/inclusion/

*engaging your students’ families (those with and without disabilities) and your colleagues in building and dreaming the schools we all deserve

I am proud to be part of the Boston Teachers Union and I hope our “inclusion done right” campaign will inspire our members, our district and other teacher unions across the nation to get on the right side of this historic fight.

Boggs Center Living for Change Newsletter – Changing Time , Shea Howell

Changing Time , Shea Howell

Boggs Center Living for Change Newsletter (boggscener.org)

December 29, 2019

We are at the beginning of a new decade. Across the political landscape, people are reflecting on the 2010’s and the first decades of the new millennium. Among liberal and progressive voices, despair seems the primary result of these musing. The New York Times year end editorial explains “Fear and distrust are ascendant now.”  They cite the 16 year high in hate crimes, growth of nationalism,  attacks on civil rights and democratic institutions, climate catastrophe, and distrust in the mechanism we have established to create more human and just futures  as the accumulated  results of our actions and inactions.


What is most obvious is how little these reflections offer guidance in the present or help us think about  the future. The concerns that dominated the first decade of 2000 did little to prepare us for the viciousness of the next ten years. Today, the depth of crisis we face is far deeper than the problems of new technologies or recurring outbursts of anger and fear. Short term thinking, even attempts to look at the cycles of our own short history, as the Tmes does, are efforts to evade the magnitude of the changes we must make, the choices that are in front of us.


Grace Lee Boggs helped us understand this as she often explained we are in a moment of transition “as great as that as the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture or from agriculture to industry.” These changes happen rarely in human experience, and our consciousness of them is only beginning to emerge.  Living in the midst of  epoch change makes it clear that  attempts to strengthen old ways of thinking and acting only compound the problems we face.


Instead we need to think about how the cornerstones of the industrial era: the deadening of the natural world, extractive  cultures and industries, mass production, corporate organization, representative democracy, hyper rationalism, and hyper individualism, have all brought us to the point where this could well be the last millennia of the human experience.


So much of our attention turns toward what is slipping away. We have only weak frameworks to understand what is emerging that is life affirming, holding the possibilities of a future.  That is why I think it is important for those of us working toward a just future to spend some time revisiting Marx and the Communist Manifesto.Marx, perhaps more than any other philosopher-activist, captured the emergence of the new industrial era out of the old dying feudal arrangements. Consider this passage:

The foundation of the dying epoch was the separation of human life from nature, the turning of natural world into “resources” for economic profit. The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionising the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society. Conservation of the old modes of production in unaltered form, was, on the contrary, the first condition of existence for all earlier industrial classes. Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones.


Marx goes on to say, in what was one of Grace Boggs’s favoriate passages:

All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.

This is why Detroit matters so much as a touchstone toward a better future. Here, as one of the first places shaped and reshaped by the industrial era, and one of the first to be utterly abandoned by capital, we have been forming a future on values that emphasize our connections with one another and the earth on which we depend. What we do matters. And in times of great change, what each of us does can and will have profound, unpredictable effects.


Boggs Center – Living For Change News – December 23rd, 2019

December 23rd, 2019

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Thinking for Ourselves

Oppose Operation Relentless Pursuit
Shea Howell

As Donald J. Trump was being impeached by the U.S. Congress, his Attorney General, William Barr, was in Detroit. In an orchestrated public relations stunt, Barr surrounded himself with Directors of the FBI, AFT, DEA, and the US Marshals to announce the launch of Operation Relentless Pursuit, a new “crime fighting” initiative by the Trump administration. Supporting background was provided by Detroit Police Department Chief Craig.

As even conservative columnists were quick to mention, the selection of Detroit as the place to launch this seven city program “is no accident.” “You can bet” on it. Michigan will be a key battleground state in the upcoming election. Republicans have made it quite clean they are targeting everything from voter pandering to voter suppression to “win” Michigan next year.

But it would be a great mistake to think this latest hyped up program is only about the coming election. It is about the extension of mechanisms of control, coordinated at the federal level, aimed at dissent.

Neither Donald Trump nor William Barr are friends of people in our cities. Certainly not in the seven cities targeted for this program. Albuquerque, Baltimore, Cleveland, Kansas City, Memphis and Milwaukee join Detroit for the enhanced federal involvement in local policing. Each of these cities voted overwhelming against Trump in 2016. Each of these cities has played an historic role in resistance to the militarism, racism, and destructiveness of American corporate power. Most recently, they have been especially critical of police abuses. Detroit community organizers, for example, have been leading efforts to  establish community controls over surveillance technologies.

This is at the heart of Barr-Trump’s new initiative. First, Attorney General Barr is not an impartial, independent official. He has made his allegiance to Trump, and more importantly, Trumps distorted world view, clear. Second, he has a history of supporting police abuse. Earlier this month the ACLU director for the Trone Center for justice and Equality, Jeffery Robinson,  was compelled to respond to remarks Barr gave at an award ceremony. Robinson concluded that the remarks encouraged abusive policing saying,

“Attorney General Barr is telling communities across the country to bow their heads in respect to police even if those same police are violating their rights and killing people without justification.

This administration has repeatedly made it clear that it is not interested in holding law enforcement accountable. Communities of color around the country are consistently being abused by their police departments without receiving the type of public safety benefits that Attorney General Barr described. Police work for communities, not the other way around. It’s time for increased Congressional oversight of the Department of Justice, and its policy and practices on local policing.”

Operation Relentless Push builds on two previous initiatives of the Trump administration to increase federal and local coordination and support.  The first was Project Guardian and the second Disruption and Early Engagement Program (DEEP).

Both of these initiatives, coming from slightly different perspectives, have fanned fears of “safety in order to further the coordination and sharing of advance technologies of surveillance. The Guardian program ,for example, seeks to coordinate “ Federal, state, local, and tribal prosecutors and law enforcement” to  “work together to ensure effective use of the ATF’s Crime Gun Intelligence Centers (CGICs), and all related resources, to maximize the use of modern intelligence tools and technology.”

In his announcement of Operations Relentless Push, Barr says it will increase, “resources, training, and equipment” for local police. It will also increase the number of federal law enforcement officers in our city and dictate new task force operations and “collaboration.” Importantly, it will also provide money for “mission-critical equipment and technology.

Most recently, Detroiters have been pushing for community oversight on the purchase and implementation of new “equipment and technologies.” We are a city that has long understood police abuse of authority. From the days of STRESS to the most recent Consent Agreement, we know that our safety does not lie in increased police power. As Barr, himself said when he introduced this new program, “The magnitude of this operation cannot be underestimated.” Neither should we underestimate the need for our resistance to it.



Detroit 1967 Bus Tour
January 5th, 2020


Join Black Scroll Network History & Tours educator/historian and President of the Detroit chapter of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, Jamon Jordan for a BUS TOUR that will take you through the history that LED to the 1967 Rebellion (some refer to it as the 1967 Riot), and the most significant sites DURING the 1967 Rebellion, and a discussion on the legacy of 1967, and how that history affects the present day reality in Detroit. REGISTER HERE


New Generation of Black-Led Co-ops Want to End Food Insecurity


Black activists viewed the work of supplying quality food in their communities as part of the black liberation movement, explained Malik Yakini, who has been a food activist since the mid-1970s.

“There was always a school of thought in the black movement that promoted self-reliance through agriculture and food retail,” he said.

Yakini is currently a board member of the Detroit People’s Food Co-op, a full-service grocery store slated to open in 2020. It will be part of the Detroit Food Commons, a larger community development complex spearheaded by the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, where Yakini serves as executive director. KEEP READING