REClaiming The Organic Intellectual
by Grace Lee Boggs
CAAS 6-7-2016- final6 click here
Thank you, Jim Chaffers, for those warm introductory remarks. They remind me of the talks that Jimmy and I gave every November for 20 years in your class on Urban Design and Social Change in the Department of Architecture, mostly on Citizenship and Community.
And thank you, Kevin Gaines and CAAS, for inviting me to keynote the 40th anniversary celebration of the University of Michigan’s Center of African American and African Studies.
I very much appreciate the opportunity this gives me to discuss a question which has been troubling me for some time and which I believe should be troubling everyone in this room.
In light of the historic struggles and sacrifices that gave birth to Black Studies and Centers of African American Studies, we need to ask ourselves why these studies and these centers have been mainly producing university professors and not leaders for the struggles now needed to resolve the urgent and complex issues facing our whole country and especially black communities?
My hope, frankly, is that our discussion around this question will be so lively that it will spread to other campuses and other communities all over the country.
Revolution and Evolution
by James and Grace lee Boggs
“Technological man/woman developed because human beings had to discover how to keep warm, how to make fire, how to grow food, how to build dams, how to dig wells. Therefore human beings were compelled to manifest their humanity in their technological capacity, to discover the power within them to invent tools and techniques which would extend their material powers. We have concentrated our powers on making things to the point that we have intensified our greed for more things, and lost the understanding of why this productivity was originally pursued. The result is that the mind of man/woman is now totally out of balance, totally out of proportion. That is what production for the sake of production has done to modern man/woman. That is the basic contradiction confronting everyone who has lived and developed inside the United States. That is the contradiction which neither the U.S. government nor any social force in the United States up to now has been willing to face, because the underlying philosophy of this country, from top to bottom, remains the philosophy that economic development can and will resolve all political and social problems.”
Living for Change News
May 22nd, 2017
Last month, The Michigan Coalition for Human Rights honored Dr. Gloria “Aneb” House with a lifetime achievement award in recognition of her contributions to justice. She offered this poem in response.
Thinking for Ourselves
A few days after the national reflections on the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s call to break the silence and engage in a radical revolution of values against racism, materialism and militarism, Rev. Dr. William Barber II announced a renewed Poor People’s Campaign.
I was part of the first campaign. Announced by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in December of 1967, Dr. King had called for a nationwide march on Washington on April 22, 1968. Massive civil disobedience was envisioned, combined with a Resurrection City, a permanent encampment on the Mall until demands for full employment, better housing, health care and educational opportunities were met.
The Campaign was thrown into chaos with the murder of Dr. King. What began as a plan to reinvigorate direct action and non-violent confrontation to humanize the country ended in despair and confusion. The broad coalition of African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and whites never materialized. After a few weeks of mud, conflict and lack of leadership, the murder of Robert Kennedy on June 5th removed the last vestiges of hope.
I welcome this renewed effort. Almost everyone knows the conditions that propelled this movement a half century ago are with us today. A study by Pew Research concluded: “The economic gulf between blacks and whites that was present half a century ago largely remains. When it comes to household income and household wealth, the gaps between blacks and whites have widened. On measures such as high school completion and life expectancy, they have narrowed. On other measures, including poverty and homeownership rates, the gaps are roughly the same as they were 40 years ago.”
The study also found, “Black men were more than six times as likely as white men in 2010 to be incarcerated in federal and state prisons, and local jails, the last year complete data are available. That is an increase from 1960, when black men were five times as likely as whites to be incarcerated.”
This new campaign has the potential to help us confront our past and to ask what kind of future we want to create together. What values should define our relationships to one another, to other peoples and to the planet?
He continued, “Americans across the country are crying out in defiance?—?and for change. Bringing this cry into the public square, a Resistance has emerged: The Fight for $15, the Movement for Black Lives, Moral Mondays, the Women’s March, The People’s Climate March and No Ban/No Wall protesters have taken to the streets.”
He said, “At such a time as this, we need a new Poor People’s Campaign for Moral Revival to help us become the nation we’ve not yet been.”
Barber’s faith in our future comes from an understanding of our past. He explained, “Throughout America’s history?—?from abolition, to women’s suffrage, to labor and civil rights?—?real social change has come when impacted people have joined hands with allies of good will to stand together against injustice. These movements did not simply stand against partisan foes. They stood for the deep moral center of our Constitutional and faith traditions. Those deep wells sustained poor and impacted people who knew in their bones both that power concedes nothing without a fight and that, in the end, love is the greatest power to sustain a fight for what is right.”
“This moment requires us to push into the national consciousness a deep moral analysis that is rooted in an agenda to combat systemic poverty and racism, war mongering, economic injustice, voter suppression, and other attacks on the most vulnerable.”
Living for Change News
May 16th, 2017
Thinking for Ourselves
I have always loved streetcars. As a child, my bedroom window overlooked the last stop of the line that brought miners and mill workers to the top of the hill every morning. I was fascinated by the turn around of the car, achieved by men and muscle in those days. I imaged growing up to be a streetcar driver. So I wish I could find more joy in the new M-1 rail line that opened last Friday to incredible fanfare. Even the automobiles on the tracks, broken signals, delays and malfunctions of the first day could not diminish the enthusiasm of its backers.
Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans, who sank money and energy into the project and bought the naming rights, dubbing it the Q Line, said to the Detroit News, “QLine has already spurred billions of dollars of investment with billions more to come. “It is more than a transportation machine, it is a jobs-creating machine.”
Columnist Daniel Howes surpassed Gilbert’s enthusiasm, calling the line a “symbol of Detroit’s reinvention.” Howes argues that the 3.3 mile track reflects the “long game” of “powerful business and philanthropic interests” dedicated to the “revitalization of a downtown that a lot of Detroiters—in the city and in the suburbs—long ago gave up for dead.”
It is precisely this kind of enthusiasm that makes it difficult to celebrate the new streetcar. Howes, Gilbert, Penske, Rapson, Duggan, and Snyder cannot put their actions in perspective. Instead they use every opportunity to repeat the worn out narrative that some new downtown project will benefit the majority of the people of the city. They do this despite the fact that the majority of the people of the city know full well we are increasingly unwanted in their whiter, wealthier downtown serviced by these new cars.
The constant casting of criticism as “righteous cynicism” by people like Howes is especially reflective of the lack of vision of the power elites in their drive for self congratulations. Howes says of those who raise concerns, “How ’bout giving the venture a chance, and letting the real people living and working along downtown’s central spine have their say. It’s them, not the voices lobbing cheap shots from the comfort of their keyboards, who will decide whether the big bet will pay off.”
Real people, beyond Gilbert and his cronies, know this tiny line does nothing to touch the real challenges facing our city. Mason Herson-Hord, who was on hand at the opening festivities with the Motor City Freedom Riders to call attention to the limits of the Q as a transportation vehicle pointed out, “Most employed Detroiters have a job north of 8 Mile and for the thousands of Detroiters who need to use the bus system to get to work, that can be a pretty serious hardship because there aren’t many consistent lines that are moving across 8 Mile.”
The need for a real regional transport system is obvious. Q backers claim it is the first step. But this rings hollow as they were missing in action last fall when yet another ballot initiative to achieve this failed. One commentator argued, “The failure to wage an overwhelming campaign in support of the ballot proposal should be regarded as one of the biggest political misfires in Detroit history.” Much of the defeat rested with those who welcome Howes’s racist narratives and who will do anything to keep Detroiters from moving freely around suburban areas.
The QLine does symbolize the “long game” of the corporate elite. That “game” is nothing less than the remaking of the city as a playground for the white and wealthy. It is another effort to substitute public relations for serious debate. It evades the real questions of how to create a just city reflecting our best future.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Global Left vs. Global Right: From 1945 to Today
The period 1945 to the 1970s was one both of extremely high capital accumulation worldwide and the geopolitical hegemony of the United States. The geoculture was one in which centrist liberalism was at its acme as the governing ideology. Never did capitalism seem to be functioning as well. This was not to last.
The high level of capital accumulation, which particularly favored the institutions and people of the United States, reached the limits of its ability to guarantee the necessary quasi-monopoly of productive enterprises. The absence of a quasi-monopoly meant that capital accumulation everywhere began to stagnate and capitalists had to seek alternative modes of sustaining their income. The principal modes were to relocate productive enterprises to lower-cost zones and to engage in speculative transfer of existing capital, which we call financialization.
WHAT WE’RE WATCHING
Click Here to watch Michelle Alexander and Naomi Klein Talk About What Is Needed for A Revolution of Spirit, A Revolution of the Mind, and A Revolution in America.
|Our mission is to nurture the transformational leadership capacities of individuals and organizations committed to creating productive, sustainable, ecologically responsible, and just communities. Through local, national and international networks of activists, artists and intellectuals we foster new ways of living, being and thinking to face the challenges of the 21st century.|
|Living for Change News May 2nd, 2017|
Thinking for Ourselves
Big developers across Michigan are celebrating. The State legislature is on a fast track to approve tax incentives to provide a collective $1 billion windfall to folks like Dan Gilbert and shift the cost of future private developments onto citizens. The plan would let developers withhold tax money from new revenue raised by projects on “blighted or long vacant land.” Governor Snyder is sure to sign the final version of the plan.
This is an astonishing abuse of legislative power. Even some Republicans have found this set of bills disturbing. Rep. Martin Howrylak of Troy, said this is “nothing more than a transfer of wealth” from the working class to “selected special interests” and is an example of “crony capitalism.
Michigan has not seen such a blatant abuse of legislative authority in support of private gain since the Quick Take law enacted to allow General Motors to flatten Poletown for a Cadillac plant. In 1981 the Michigan Supreme Court approved the power of the State to seize private property for a “public purpose.” They justified the forced relocation of 3,500 people and the destruction of 1500 homes, 144 businesses, 16 churches, a school and hospital. In 2004 that same Court decided they had made a mistake and overturned their earlier decision.
In the case of Poletown, there was at least a robust public debate over the appropriate role of government in fostering economic development. The current plan is supported as little more than a moneymaking scheme for big developers. Detroit News columnist Daniel Howes asked simply, “Why not?”
Howes spends most of his column accurately outlining that most people object to this scheme because it is all about using public money to support private wealth. He then says there is nothing wrong with that. “Rich developers whose overriding purpose is to generate meaningful returns on their investment” cannot ignore what he calls “market realities created by a half-century of urban decline.”
Howes exclaims, “I got news for the skeptics: You can’t build your way out of 50 years of urban disinvestment on the cheap.” This declaration is apparently supposed to make “skeptics” and “recriminators” back off.
However, the same people and thinking that brought us the last 50 years of disinvestment are the ones backing this new scheme.
Every credible academic and economic study of the last 50 years demonstrates the failure of this kind of thinking. The Upjohn Institute senior economist Timothy Bartik said, “Incentives do not have a large correlation with a state’s current or past unemployment or income levels, or with future economic growth.”
Currently Michigan’s array of tax breaks and business incentives are well above average in the country. In a recent article offering a different view of development by the Brookings Institution, scholars argue for “holistic approaches to revitalizing legacy cities.” They argue for “policies to increase human capital throughout the city, including improving public education and expanding employment and entrepreneur training.”
“The most important short-term strategy,” they say, “ is increasing employment levels among Detroit neighborhood residents.”
If we develop a “ healthy, sustainable local economy” they explain, “ increasing the number of jobs by 100,000, we would add more than $2 billion annually to the local economy, even if those jobs paid $10 an hour.”
Just, sustainable development is possible. It requires the will to make it a reality and the willingness to refuse to fall for the schemes by those who claim a concern for the public interest while lining their own pockets.
22nd Annual PTO Conferance Comes to Detroit
Tawana “Honeycomb” Petty
The 22nd Annual Pedagogy & Theatre of the Oppressed Conference (PTO) will be held in Detroit, Michigan from June 1st – 4th and Detroiters can attend the entire conference for just $30!
The PTO conference will be in Detroit commemorating the 50th Anniversary of 1967 Detroit Rebellion and Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech, Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence – in which he called for a radical revolution in values in the struggle against the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism.
This is a conference for students, educators, scholars, artists, activists, organizers, neighbors and people of all ages, places, identities, and experiences. If you want to create dialogue and come together to envision a more just society, you are invited, you are welcomed, and you are needed.
Nearly 50 years later in Detroit and elsewhere, people are thinking about the meaning of rebellion and the role of radical love in transformation. Rebellions are often expressions of justifiable anger and pain, but are not typically thought of as acts of love. What is the relationship between these strategies? What’s love got to do with either of them? As a city and as a world, what are our critical, visionary responses to a system that constantly challenges our humanity?
Pedagogy of the Oppressed (PO) was born out of the needs of Brazilian peasants in a particular time and place, but Paolo Freire’s theory of liberatory education remains for all of us to use his own words from Pedagogy of Hope, “an adventure in unveiling…an experiment in bringing out the truth.” Theatre of the Oppressed (TO), born out of similar needs, was ironically triggered by what Augusto Boal himself noted was an error in judgement, when his theatre company presented a play that called for “shedding our blood to free our lands” without being willing to take up arms itself. Practitioners of PO and TO continue to support, challenge, and serve communities by developing techniques that promote transformative action and amplify the voices of oppressed people speaking their own truths.
Now more than ever we must come together to share strategies to combat the many oppressions that continue to rob us of our humanity. PTO invites you to be part of its conference, commemorating a moment of rebellion in the past, but also engaging in a powerful effort to reimagine current and future struggles as acts of waging love.
Read more about Freire and Boal and their work, and register for the PTO conference at ptoweb.org.
The time has come to grow our souls. – Grace Lee Boggs
14 folks drove 16 hours to Detroit and immersed themselves in conversations, tours and food asking, what does Detroit mean to their work in Savannah? Some of our Savannah friends were artists, ministers, disability justice inclusion activists, social work students and professors, and traveled under the banner “Emergent Savannah.” They stayed at the Hush House and were nourished by the wise and healthy food preparers, Rozia and Myrtle Thompson Curtis and the Healing Support Network.
They arrived late on Saturday and we spent Sunday together on the Boggs Center east side tour: From Growing our Economy to Growing Souls. From the Elmwood cemetary where we can feel and experience the water flowing from Bloody Run Creek to the Packard Plant where we discussed the birth of the American Dream and its death as well as the spirited discussion about an emerging new epoch in human history.
From there to the Poletown Plant introducing the Georgians to the last 50 years of Detroit History from the Rebellion through automation, deindustrialization, the crack destruction, the rise of global automotive competition the end of the J-O-B. We then visited Feedom Freedom Growers, Heidelberg, drove by the James and Grace Lee Boggs School and ended at Can Arts and the windmills, where we see the end of the Bloody Run Creek. We were reminded of the resilience of the land and the resistance of Chief Pontiac and the Anishinaabe people which includes the Odawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Oji-Cree, Mississaugas, and Algonquin peoples and their resistance to the Western Europeans in 1760s.
We ended day one with a hunger to unleash our commitment to the importance of history, time and imagination and the commitment by James and Grace to assume responsibility for our cities and country.
Matt Birkhold a comrade and friend from New York and founder of the Visionary Organizing Lab facilitated a workshop on understanding systems and the relationship between systems and our power to become voices, actors and visionaries as we initiate our local work and moving beyond protest to resistance and alternatives. From Matt’s work with Immanuel Wallerstein to his forthcoming book on Detroit (1963 to 1975) he created a space for us to see the interconnectedness and emergence of the systems of wage labor, the enclosure acts, the emergence of cities, the destruction of the land (earth moving from source to resource), scientific thinking, the changing role of the the military, capitalist patriarchy, Protestantism, the destruction of Women’s ways of knowing and the loss of control over reproduction to the burning of women as witches and women used to as creators of black labor for slavery. All of this came from the question, What was necessary to create the Slave Trade and bring people in chains to the western world in 1619? He ended with the questions:
Our final day began at Earthworks with Shane Bernardo and Myrtle Thompson Curtis sharing their personal stories from their early days, raised on Detroit’s east side to their work in the food security and urban farming movement. The theme, learning from the land and from our ancestors was joined together with the need and commitment to create liberated territories, and feeding ourselves so we can free ourselves.
A wonderful lunch at Avalon on Bellevue and then back to the Boggs Center for a discussion with Baxter Jones (Homrich 9 water activist), Lisa Franklin (Warrior on Wheels) and Yusef Shakur (Putting the neighbor Back In the Hood and author of Window to My Soul). We discussed the importance of values, relationship building and the fundamental commitment that we need to heal ourselves to sustain ourselves through commitment to transformation and love. Each shared stories of their ability to move from pain to vision and evolve as leaders in their work.
(When you visit Detroit, there is also a west side tour: From Rebellion to Creating Caring Communities. To learn more about Matt Birkhold’s workshop: email@example.com)
WHAT WE’RE WATCHING