Writings

Boggs Center – Living for Change News Letter – May 22nd, 2018

May 22nd, 2018

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Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Urgent Transitions

This week Eastern Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC) hosted a conference of activists concerned about creating a future based on regenerative principles of a just economy. People from around the country and several First Nations gathered to share ideas and practices. This was the gathering that Siwatu-salama Ra worked tirelessly to bring to Detroit. It was the gathering she could not see from her prison cell. She is serving two years in prison for pointing an empty gun at a person who threatened to run over her mother and child. Those of us who came together to think about a different future were reminded how urgently we need to change our ways of living, how much pain and destruction we have come to accept as normal in our daily lives.

I was part of panel giving participants an overview of the struggles unfolding in Detroit around Air, Water, Land and Education. Lila Cabill of the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute opened the conversation talking about the importance of making a transition from “me oriented people” to “we oriented people.” She emphasized that all of us are affected by the assaults on people and the planet.  She invoked the story of Rosa Parks and Charity Hicks to help people understand that in the face of injustice and racism, “silence is violence.”

Monica Lewis Patrick of We the People of Detroit challenged the idea that Detroit was bankrupt. She emphasizing that no elected officials in the city had agreed to this. Rather, the city had been taken over by the State and its appointed Emergency Manager. She invited people to think about the key roles Emergency Managers had played, not only in the poisoning of Flint, but in the destruction of the Detroit Water Department, removing it from city control. A key part of the process was unprecedented water shut offs, creating a widespread community response to protect people and advance policies that establish water as a human right and public trust.  

Both Monica and Lila made clear that this take over was a reflection of the twin forces of racism and capitalist advancement. The Great Lakes contain 22% of the worlds surface water and the drive to turn this life giving element into private a profit center depends upon demonizing the people of our city as incapable of governing, as less than human.

Emma Lockridge built on the theme of racialized capitalism and its devastation of our communities. As an activist in 48217, the most polluted zip code in the US, Emma shared her struggles against Marathon Oil. She emphasized how much the current power structure reflects the idea that some people are disposable, that their lives do not matter.

For my part, I talked of Detroit as a movement city, where people have always resisted the assaults on our shared humanity. From the earliest encounters with Europeans, we have seen resistance and resilience. Chief Pontiac lead one of the largest anti-colonial struggles on the banks of the Detroit River. Over the centuries we this spirit has continued.

In the 1960s the call of Black Liberation attracted many of us to Detroit. And it was the success of these efforts to challenge the power structure of this country based on values that moved us from “a thing oriented society” to a “people oriented society” that ultimately lead to the take-over by white, right wing state legislatures of centers of African American political power in Michigan. Using legal tricks, 55% of African Americans were denied the right to effective local representation and nearly 75% of all African American elected officials were essentially removed from office.

The struggle over the education of our children exemplifies this assault on our cities. The Detroit Independent Freedom Schools Movement reflects our continued effortto not only resist dehumanization, but to consciously and collectively build new, more loving and caring ways of life.

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Last week we received a communication from Nestle in response to our article.

We appreciated Nestle’s effort to offer two corrections of fact. We have reproduced their email in its entirety below.
We do not think these bear on our essential analysis, however. Moreover, we continue our concern about their perception of science. In an article discussing the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality decision to allow increased water extraction we find this: “different hydrologists can look at the same data and come up with different conclusions.”  The article continues noting Nestle’s assessment “raises a lot of fundamental questions about who is monitoring.”

Later the article reports:

“The Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation, which originally sued Nestle and won a 2009 settlement that limited the company’s withdrawal in Mecosta County, issued a statement expressing disappointment at the ruling, saying “the public trust has been broken once again.”

Not only has the DEQ “ignored the scientific evidence that environmental damage has occurred already at 150-gpm, they have ignored the clear opposition of tens of thousands of Michigan citizens who have opposed this giveaway of the water of the commons to a multinational corporation,” said MCWC president Peggy Case.

It is particularly difficult to understand how the DEQ could grant a permit before completing a serious monitoring of the streams by independent scientists, before resolving the issues with the township over the booster station, and before approving a new monitoring protocol for the aquifers and streams in Evart that is not under the control of Nestle,” she said.”

http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2018/04/state_approves_nestles_controv.html

Nestle Communication Correction

Shea,

“Its head spokesperson is Deb Muchmore, the wife of the Governor’s Chief of Staff.”

CORRECTION:  Deb Muchmore was a consultant who has not worked for the company for nearly two years.

“The science behind the decision to allow increased pumping of water is based on questionable science, especially given the information gathered in a court case in 2003 when Nestle was ordered to stop operations due to “ecological harm and massive reduction in water levels.”

CORRECTION: The court case did not cause a stoppage of operations as an out-of-court settlement was reached that allowed an average withdrawal of 218 gallons per minute at that spring site. 

Nestlé’s recently approved permit is for our White Pines Springs source, a completely different site than the one in 2003. We have been studying the White Pine Springs site for over 16 years and it is important to understand that the wells are different depths and different geology. The science is clear – there is no link between the two.   

We have over 100 environmental monitoring sites and conducted many scientific assessments near the White Pine Springs well. This monitoring network allows us to verify that the groundwater is being naturally replenished and that our water use is managed for long-term sustainability. 

This is supported by the MDEQ’s review of our permit, which itself called “the most extensive analysis of any water withdrawal in Michigan history.”

Glenn Oswald

Vice President 
Marx Layne & Company
31420 Northwestern Highway, Suite 100
Farmington Hills, MI 48334


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Bhai Delegation to Detroit
Myrtle Thompson Curtis

 

This past week in Detroit kicked off the first of many visits to happen at the Feedom Freedom Growers Garden and the Boggs Center. FFG hosted a group of 25 young university students from Ontario and around the globe. A smaller group went to the Center.  They were all under 24 years of age and of the B’hai faith. The visit was part of a series of conversations that had taken place at the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center over the last two years.
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Once at the garden, arriving by tour bus, we were ready for a day of critical conversation, lunch and garden work, introduction to the staff of FFG and our work here in Detroit.  The students came with very little context of Detroit but were quite eager to learn about our challenges and opportunities here.

We gave them copies of the Riverwise magazine to read to gather context about Detroit. The magazine gave them insight into grassroots efforts happening here and nationwide.  We started the day off by asking what are the pressing questions they may be facing in their path to service. Our goal was to create a conversation that would dive deep in our time allotted. It was important to get to know them, to get a sense of how to build trust, and have transformational conversation. We let them know that in Detroit we are engaged in struggle for a revolution of values, learning through our own experience that just changing political leadership will not end the devastation of our neighborhoods, or the school closings, the water shutoffs, the gentrification, or the rising depression and loneliness among young people.  We work in community to change ourselves to change the conditions, and engaging university students in thought provoking conversation and hands on work in the garden.

As one of the FFG’s members Ebony summarizes her day with the group; “I was like many of the students who worked beside me on Tuesday. Their questions about navigating the social justice world or their later professional field resonated with me. I shared my story with them, discussing the various times I had to choose between being a student and an activist.  There were many die-ins, marches, and round table discussions I longed for, but briefly watched in the distance because I had midterms or a lecturer I couldn’t afford to miss. I understood how many of them felt; wanting to be on fire with a megaphone, chanting “no justice no peace” through the lecture halls, I wanted to assure them that it’s possible to find serenity in a place where they feel foreign.”

“We all can be inspired by others even if the person who inspires us doesn’t see themselves as this kind of activism.  During a discussion with one of the students, I shared my community organizer infant status with him. Letting him know that my friends and family see me as Angela Davis, but in the grassroots revolutionary work I’m and infant, a babbling baby who’s still learning and developing.  We all are infants in new realms. During my time spent with the students, I realized that I was not too far removed from where they are currently. Time spent with them allowed me to see that I too am still learning and being nurtured by those who care and desire to see me succeed in all that I do.  I enjoyed their enthusiasm to not use gloves while working in the garden because they wanted to feel the soil. They embraced the connection we have with it and were willing to fully immerse themselves into unknown territory.”

Aalia, another member notes the conversation was full of young people deciding how to go from thinking about their ideas to putting their ideas into practice.  She saw them even thinking about how to make that decision as a reflection of many young people today. Many having ideas about their lives or what they want their communities to be like, but not really knowing where to start or having any guidance as to what are the next steps in implementing and bringing ideas into fruition.

By the end of our time together we gathered back into a circle and sought the answers to earlier questions. I am prone to believe that most of the answers are inside of us and I encouraged them to go inside and speak truth to power. Our guests were encouraged and spoke in new found ways and to become engaged in service to community.

We concluded thinking about James Boggs (1919-93), Grace’s life partner, intellectual collaborator, and political comrade for forty years who urged us to recognize the role creative thinking and responsible action play in advancing humanity.


“The Latin term “Civitas” is traditionally defined as the social body of the citizens united by law.2 Yet, who gets to be a citizen, and who gets to decide on the law? If the civitas is based on inclusion, who does it exclude?” On Spaces of Liberation

Boggs Center – Living For Change News – May 14 2018

 

May 14th, 2018
grace and jimmy

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Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Mother’s Day with Nestle

Shortly after Mother’s Day, three Nestle semi-trucks will roll into Flint with free bottled water. Between Mother’s Day and Labor day Nestle will donate 100,000 bottles a week to three service centers where people can pick up the bottled water.  The Mayor of Flint has graciously thanked the company for its “willingness to help the people of Flint.”

There are so many things wrong with this public relations stunt, it is hard to know where to begin. First there is the obvious problem that Nestle is “donating” water that the entire state, and in some ways much of the globe, is paying for. Nestle is pumping 400 gallons a minute out of the underground springs that feed the Great Lakes.  For this desecration it pays the state $200 a year. That is less than many people in Flint pay for water on a monthly basis. They are doing this in spite of the largest public outcry on record for the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. Over 80,000 people objected to the authorization to nearly double the amount of water Nestle takes and puts into little bottles.

The decision to allow Nestle to increase its pumping capacity came on the heels of Governor Snyder’s decision to no longer distribute free water to the people of Flint. The Governor noted the water in Flint is now safe to drink, mostly. Nestle is the largest “owner” of a private water source in Michigan. Its head spokesperson is Deb Muchmore, the wife of the Governor’s Chief of Staff. The science behind the decision to allow increased pumping of water is based on questionable science, especially given the information gathered in a court case in 2003 when Nestle was order to stop operations due to “ecological harm and massive reduction in water levels.”

Given the series of lies the people of Flint have heard from public officials since 2014 when their Emergency manager joined with the Detroit Emergency Manager to remove Flint from the Detroit water system, it is understandable why the Governor’s comments are greeted with suspicion. Moreover, the glacial pace of removing lead pipes and replacing them means that aggregate testing of water does not mean every home is safe. Some families in Flint are depending on 22,000 bottles a year to live. But people still object to taking water from a company that is essentially stealing a precious resource for its own profit.

This year, as we celebrate Mothers Day, we should all remember just what kind of company Nestle is. Since the early 1970’s it has callously manipulated people around the globe into using baby formulas that require reliance on contaminated water. In 1974 a report called the Baby Killer by War on Want, sparked a global boycott. In 1981 the World Health Organization adopted a strict code of advertising to ban the promotion of formula as “comparable to breastmilk.” In February of this year Nestle was found to still be pushing formula as comparable to breast feeding, violating international guidelines and its own stated ethics.

In many places around the world, baby formula depends on water. Water that is often contaminated and unsafe to drink.

Nestle’s efforts to deflect our concern is foolish. The people of Flint, like people everywhere, deserve clean, fresh, affordable water. Until Flint’s entire water system is replaced, the State has a moral obligation to provide bottled water. We need a thoughtful, region-wide policy that recognizes our responsibilities to protect the waters of the Great Lakes and to respect the people and life they support.

 

Piper Carter is back for the 3x Dope episode

 

Boggs Center – Living for Change News – May 1st, 2018

May 1st, 2018
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Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Warning Signs

Early this week people in and around Wayne State University were evacuated because of a gas leak. Across the campus and in nearby residents, the smell of gas was overpowering. The leak was caused by a construction accident. By Friday we were told all is well, classes reopened and people returned to homes. No one was injured. We are back to normal.

This week the Great Lakes Water Authority will begin the shut off process for more than 17,000 homes with outstanding water bills. We are told not to worry, most people will find a way to pay up before the shut off, or within a few days of living without water.

The city of Livonia is recovering from a water main break. Officials said don’t worry about the low water pressure. Water is safe to drink.

Each of these instances is treated in the mainstream media as a temporary, disconnected problem.  They are presented as minor inconveniences, the result of systems that sometimes break, but can be repaired quickly. We shouldn’t worry. Everything can be fixed. Everything is under control.

This way of thinking obscures a very real truth.  These are the warning signs of a system near collapse.  They are not isolated, small glitches. They are the marks of a culture imploding. We are coming to the end of the earth ‘s capacity to bear cultures based on the extraction of resources that are toxic to all life.

Warning signs are everywhere. For more than 300 years, we have been developing ways of living that depend on extracting and using elements of the earth that we know are poison. Yet we persist in believing that our technologies will somehow keep the air we are polluting clean, the water we are poisoning safe to drink, and regenerate the resources we need to continue lives of consumption. In spite of all we have witnessed, all we have endured, and all that we know in our bones, we continue to live as though we can dominate nature. As though domination was our right, especially if we are white, wealthy, and think we can protect ourselves.

This way of thinking, embedded in the settler colonial cultures of this hemisphere and wrapped into the logic of capitalist, industrial production is killing us. As commentator Paul Stoller observed, “The culture of extraction has led us to widespread economic and social inequality and frequent warfare — often over access to extractive resources. It has led to widespread human insensitivity and to the development of societies — like our own — that tend to reward competition as an example of dominant strength and castigate cooperation as an example of timid weakness.”

Across our city and our country people are resisting this extractive, industrial culture, finding new ways to live with one another, new ways to power and empower our lives. In Detroit, as people plant gardens, construct wind mills, find ways to share water and imagine new futures based on care and compassion, a new culture is being born. It is urgently needed.


A Call to Defend Rojava

An Open Letter
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WHAT LIES UPSTREAM

In the unsetting exposé What Lies Upstream, investigative filmmaker Cullen Hoback travels to West Virginia to study the unprecedented loss of clean water for over 300,000 Americans in the 2014 Elk River chemical spill. He uncovers a shocking failure of regulation from both state and federal agencies and a damaged political system where chemical companies often write the laws that govern them.


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Boggs Center – Living For Change News Letter – April 24th 2018

April 24th, 2018
grace and jimmy
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Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
Dialogue on Education

More than 120 people gathered together for a community dialogue on education and Black Male Achievement this Thursday at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The stage was set by the student co-hosts Lauren Danzy, the leader of the Detroit Independent Freedom Schools youth group, and Xavier Clemons, an 11th grader at Frederick Douglass Academy. Sharing their concerns about the importance of thinking together about education, they asked the gathering to focus on central questions. These included: How do we engage Black male youth in our schools and communities? What has worked for us collectively and individually? What is our vision for our schools and our communities? What is the importance of understanding ourselves, our cultures, and our histories?

Quan Neloms, who is now an educator at Frederick Douglass, shared his own journey of transformation and development. He explained that at a troubled time in his life, an adult man took the time to talk with him and challenge his thinking. “When I saw all the things adults were willing to sacrifice for me, it made me change my life.” He said, “At 18 I decided I wanted to be part of the lives of kids and to become a teacher. But I know nothing happens without the community, community involvement is the most important thing.”

B. Anthony Holley of the Conscious Community Cooperative Think Tank shared his experiences of finding his place in Detroit, after he was told by many people to leave the city behind. He said that when he returned in 2012 he was embraced by elders and young people who were working to be “solutionaries” in the city and he began to see the contributions he could make here. He emphasized how much his own sense of confidence was shaped by his Grandmother who encouraged him to ask questions and helped him see that “when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”

Dana Hart of the Detroit Independent Freedom Schools talked about her vision of education as creating opportunities where we can reach our highest potential, becoming confident, competent people, able to evolve to our highest selves. She explained that this means we need to have our own meaning of success that comes out of understanding African centered traditions that inspire our children and community. She talked about the importance of adults doing more listening and providing places where our children “have the protection to be young.”

She emphasized the importance of young men finding ways to talk to one another more deeply and openly. She encouraged us to think about ways our community can encourage young people to better understand their roles and responsibilities. Her suggestion of developing rites of passage resonated with the group.

Most people left the gathering wishing for more time for conversation, knowing we have a lot more thinking to do together. But everyone recognized that we have to find community based ways to protect and develop our young people. Education is up to us.


Demand Freedom for Siwatu-Salama Ra


A/PIA community rallies after Lawsin contract renewal denied by ‘U’
Michigan Daily

Maya Goldman and Nisa Khan

As a student at the University of Michigan, 2008 alum Aisa Villarosa fell in love with the Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies Program — housed in the American Culture Department — because it allowed her to learn about other cultures and her own heritage; she learned lessons she hadn’t been exposed to growing up in the majority-white suburbs of Detroit.

She said she owes this great experience in A/PIA Studies to faculty members, including longtime Lecturer Emily Lawsin. Lawsin has been teaching at the University since 2000.

“The number one thing is just how amazing the A/PIA Studies faculty are — the ones that built our experience as undergraduates,” Villarosa explained.

When news began to surface earlier this year about the American Culture and Women’s Studies Departments’ decision to not renew Lawsin’s contract, Villarosa took action.  KEEP READING


Find Five people and Love Them to Life
Emily Schorr Lesnick, Shelby Stokes, and Shawn Redden
This was the wisdom given to us on our third day in Detroit, where we began the morning at the Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership, founded by Grace Lee Boggs and her husband, James Boggs.  Rich Feldman, a longtime community and labor activist, led our students in a multi-layered discussion around the implications of the word “revolution” and what it means (and has meant) in a city like Detroit.  We then boarded the bus for a historical and cultural circuit of several key sites in the city: Elmwood Cemetery, which was the first fully integrated cemetery in the Midwest; the remnants of the Packard and GM plants, two of the former crown jewels of the booming auto industry in the first and second halves of the twentieth century; and the Heidelberg Project, a series of sprawling installations by Detroit artist Tyree Geiten, designed in response to the crack epidemic of the 1980’s.  Two bold points were established and returned to over the course of our morning: “resistance starts in the soil” and in Detroit we see “the birth and death of the American Dream.”

Indeed, the cycle of transformation was the theme of the day, whether it was in thinking about the interplay between the past and the present, or how art can become a healing response in communities devastated by violence and poverty, or how the urban farming movement, which we learned about in our visit to D-Town Farm in the afternoon, has turned abandoned plots of land into verdant, sustainable sources of nutrition, education, profit and community support.

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We ended our day at DABLS African Bead Shop, where students admired the seemingly endless jars of colorful beads sourced from all over the African continent and purchased some gifts to bring home with them as a tangible reminder of their visit.  A delicious meal from Slow’s BBQ and Detroit Vegan Soul awaited us when we returned to the Inn on Ferry Street, followed by our final debriefing of what has left us all feeling “most hopeful.”
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When asked how Riverdale students can bring their transformative experience in Detroit back home, Boggs Center community activist Larry Sparks encouraged our students to “find five people and love them to life.”  It is our hope that these twenty-four young activists-in-training will identify five people in their own communities—home, school, and family—and share the revolutionary spirit and love they’ve received during their time in this wonderful city.

April 2nd, 2018 – Boggs Center LFC Newsletter

April 2nd, 2018

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Literacy By Any Means Necessary_April14

Living for Change Grace Lee Boggs More Questions than Answers
Many  of us will be thinking about Dr. Martin Luther King  this week as we mark the 50 years since his murder and the 51st since his call for a radical revolution of values.
To help us think about this moment, we are sharing some of the reflections of Grace Lee Boggs, written more than a decade ago while we were exploring the questions of what we learned about the creation of Beloved Communities since the death of Dr. King. – Boggs Board

First written somewhere between 2004 and 2008…In the last 60 years  I have had the privilege of participating  in most of the great humanizing movements of the second half of the last century – labor,  civil rights, black power, women’s, Asian American, environmental justice, antiwar. Each was a tremendously transformative experience for me,  expanding my understanding of what it means to be an American and a human being, and challenging me to keep deepening my thinking about how to bring about radical social change.
However, I cannot recall any previous period when the issues were so basic, so interconnected and so demanding of everyone living in this country, regardless of  race, ethnicity, class, gender, age or national origin. At this point in the continuing evolution of our country and of the human race, we urgently need to stop thinking of ourselves as victims and to recognize that we must each become  a part of the solution because we are each a part of the problem.
How are we going to make our livings in an age when Hi-Tech and the export of jobs overseas have brought us to the point where the number of workers needed to produce goods and services is constantly diminishing?  Where will we get the imagination, the courage and the determination to reconceptualize the meaning and purpose of Work in a society that is becoming increasingly jobless?
What is going to happen to cities like Detroit that were once the arsenal of democracy? Now that they’ve been abandoned by industry, are we just going to throw them away? Or can we rebuild, redefine and respirit them as models of 21st Century self-reliant, sustainable multicultural communities?  Who is going to begin this new story?
How are we going to redefine Education so that 30-50% of inner city children do not drop out of school, thus ensuring that large numbers will end up in prison?   Is it enough to call for “Education, not Incarceration”? Or does our topdown educational system, created a hundred years ago to prepare an immigrant population for factory work, bear a large part of the responsibility for the escalation in incarceration?
How are we going to build a  21st century America in which people of all races and ethnicities  live together in harmony, and Euro-Americans in particular embrace their new role  as one among many minorities constituting the new multi-ethnic majority?
What is going to motivate us  to start caring for our biosphere instead of  using our mastery of technology to increase the volume and speed at which we are making our planet uninhabitable for other species and eventually for ourselves?
And, especially since 9/11, how are we to achieve reconciliation with the two-thirds of the world  that increasingly resents our economic, military and cultural domination? Can we accept their anger as a challenge rather than a threat?   Out of our new vulnerability can we recognize that our safety now depends on our loving and caring for the peoples of the world as we love and care for our own families? Or  can we conceive of security only in terms of the Patriot Act and exercising our formidable military power?
When the chickens come home to roost for our invasion of Iraq, as they are already doing, where will we get the courage and the imagination to win by losing?  What will help us recognize that we have brought on our defeats by our own arrogance, our own irresponsibility and our own unwillingness, as individuals and as a nation, to engage in  seeking radical solutions to the growing inequality between the nations of the North and those of the South? Can we create a new paradigm of our selfhood and our nationhood? Or are we so locked into nationalism, racism and determinism that we will be driven to seek scapegoats for our frustrations and failures – as the Germans did after World War I, thus aiding and abetting the onset of Hitler and the Holocaust?    We live at a very dangerous time because these questions are no longer abstractions. Our lives, the lives of our children and future generations, and even the survival of the planet depend on our willingness to  transform ourselves into active planetary and global citizens who, as Martin Luther King Jr. put it, “develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual society.”
The time is already very late and we have a long way to go to meet these challenges.  Over the decades of economic expansion that began with the so-called American Century after World War II,  tens of millions of Americans have become increasingly self-centered and materialistic, more concerned with our possessions and individual careers than with the state of our neighborhoods, cities, country and planet ,  closing our eyes and hearts to the many forms of violence that have been exploding in our inner cities and in powder kegs all over the rest of the world – both because the problems have seemed so insurmountable and because just struggling for our own survival has consumed so much of our time and energy.
At the same time the various identity struggles, while  remediating to some degree the great wrongs that have been done to workers, African Americans, Native Americans and other people of color, women, gays and lesbians, and the disabled, and while helping to humanize our society overall, have also had a shadow side in the sense that they have encouraged us to think of ourselves more as determined than as self-determining, more  as victims of “isms” ( racism, sexism, capitalism) than as human beings who have the power of choice and who for our own survival must assume individual and collective responsibility for creating a new nation that is loved rather than feared and that does not have to bribe and bully other nations to win support.
These are the times that try our souls.  Each of us needs to undergo a tremendous philosophical and spiritual transformation. Each of us needs to be awakened to a personal and compassionate recognition of the inseparable interconnection between our minds, hearts, and bodies, between our physical and psychical well-being, and between our selves and all the other selves in our country and in the world.   Each of us needs to stop being a passive observer of the suffering that we know is going on in the world and start identifying with the sufferers. Each of us needs to make a leap that is both practical and philosophical, beyond determinism to self-determination. Each of us has to be true to and enhance our own humanity by embracing and practicing the conviction that as human beings we have  Free Will; that despite the powers and principalities that are bent on objectifying and commodifying us and all our human relationships, the interlocking crises of our time require that we exercise the power within us to make principled choices in our ongoing daily and political lives, choices that will eventually although not inevitably (there are no guarantees), make a difference.
How are we going to bring about these transformations? Politics as usual, debate and argument, even voting, are no longer sufficient. Our system of representative democracy, which was created by a great revolution, no longer engages the hearts and minds of the great majority of Americans.  Vast numbers of people no longer bother to go to the polls, either because they don’t care what happens to the country or the world, or because they don’t believe that voting will make a difference on the profound and inter- connected issues that really matter. Even. organizing or joining massive protests against disastrous policies and demands for new policies fall short. They may demonstrate that we are on the right side politically but they are not transformative enough. They do not change the cultural images, the symbols , that play such a pivotal role in molding us into who we are.
As the labor movement was developing in the  pre-World War II years, John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath transformed  the way that Americans viewed themselves in relationship to faceless bankers and heartless landowners. In the 1970s and 1980s Judy Chicago’ s Dinner Party and Birth Project  re-imagined the vagina, transforming it from a private space and site of oppression into a public space of beauty and spiritual as well as physical creation and liberation. In this period we urgently need artists to create new images of our selfhood and nationhood, images that will liberate us from our preoccupation with constantly expanding production and consumption and empower us to create another America that will be viewed by the world as a beacon rather than as a danger.  

Vincent Harding: Creating America


ADRIENNE

“When you talk to author and activist adrienne maree brown, you feel everything is going to be all right. You’re inspired by her hope, belief, and commitment just enough to muster your own. This must have to do with the way she sees possibility for change absolutely everywhere, which came about through her many roles. Brown is also a poet, social justice facilitator, science fiction scholar who is co-editor of Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice Movements, and a doula.” KEEP READING