Boggs Center – Living For Change News letter – January 11th, 2021

January 11th, 2021

revolution image final

Thinking for Ourselves
Out of Darkness
Shea Howell

The mob that stormed the Capitol this week was as old as America. It climbed the steps carrying the shadows of the lynch mobs that have terrorized people for centuries. It echoed the mobs that ran through towns, attacking black people, killing, and destroying any trace of black lives.

Like white people generations earlier, rioters in the Capitol paused to take pictures of themselves, enjoying the power of their destruction. Many of the more than 5000 lynchings in this country between 1890 and 1930 were captured in photographs, turned into post cards, sent with banal messages. Such images often show white men, women ,and children enjoying a picnic as the bodies of black men, women, and children hang from trees. It is our countries Strange Fruit.

All of us know that that such mobs turn to blood lust in a second. All of us know what was likely to have happened if this mob encountered Nancy Pelosi, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. We would be telling a very different story today. These women have been repeatedly targeted for violence . Calls to attack Speaker Pelosi are clearly heard on tapes. Had the mob captured Mike Pence, we would also be telling a different story, as people shouted for his murder. He was singled out for special fury directed at a “race traitor.”
We know these mobs are not going away.

In response to the violence, President-elect Joe Biden rightly labeled it as an “insurrection.” He said, “This isn’t America.”

Clearly, our incoming president needs some education. This is America. This has always been America. Most white people have just been able to evade the reality of the violence necessary to keep their own power and privileges in place.

They have been able to evade this violence because until this week, the violence of the mob was mostly hidden from national view. Covered with hoods, in small towns and rural areas far from the national spotlight, terror was normal. Often white mobs burst into cities and towns, killing. The memories of this white violence in Springfield (1908), East St Louis (1917, Tula (1921) and Rosewood (1923) are buried in our national consciousness, along with the victims. From 1917 to 1923 at least 97 lynchings were recorded, thousands of Black people were killed and driven out of homes and businesses in at least 26 different cities, including Washington DC. Yet, this white violence is rarely acknowledged as the essence of who we are and how we have come to be.

It was on full display as the mob roamed through the Capitol. As so often in the past, the mob was assisted by the police, who welcomed them in, aiding and abetting the assault.

The mob of January 6, however, has some significant differences from its earlier incarnations. First, earlier violence was in the service of an expanding Empire. Today, that Empire is in decline. It is unravelling . Every day the systems that define the American Empire are proving incapable of resolving the crises we face.

Over the last year we have all been forced to grapple with the evident inability of our government to provide for the basic health and safety of our people. We have seen how we are warped by racial injustice and inequity. We have to recognize that our systems benefit the few at the expense of the many. In moments of system collapse, the actions of individuals and small groups can have an enormous effect, for good or for ill.

What each one of us does now, matters. For while this violence is who we are, it is not who we have to be. We have the opportunity to finally confront the lies we have told ourselves about the violence of white supremacy that created this nation.

As people rushed up the steps of the capital, they held up a mirror. It is an opportunity to find the ways to tell the truths of who we have been, and decide what we need to do to create a real, living democracy, rooted in the protection and dignity of every life. This possibility is now in front of us. It is the opportunity to create a new future, based on the full truth of our past. As James Baldwin so urgently hoped, we can perhaps “begin again.”


NLG Condemns Attempt by Fascist Mob Incited by Trump to Overturn Election, Complicity by Law Enforcement

Contact: communications@nlg.org

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) opposes today’s attempt to overturn the election, led by Trump loyalists and right-wing operatives in Washington, DC, in the strongest terms possible. Following a rally by Trump where he continued to falsely claim victory, a right-wing fascist mob stormed and occupied the U.S. Capitol Building and several state Capitol buildings in an attempt by white supremacists and other revanchists to preserve the racist, sexist, and colonial inequalities on which the United States was founded—with complicity by law enforcement.

At the root of today’s right-wing violence are centuries-long efforts to disenfranchise voters of color, made central in this presidential election. For weeks, the Republican party facilitated the administration’s racist, false narratives of a “stolen election,” culminating in today’s attack on the Capitol Building.

At the outset of Trump’s term on January 20, 2017, police responded violently to protesters at his inauguration, deploying chemical and other “less-lethal” weaponry, ultimately kettling a random assortment of over 200 people, arresting and charging them with breaking a few windows—with potential sentences of up to 70 years.

Since May of last year, DC police have brutally punished protesters for demonstrating against the state, police violence, and white supremacy. Those demonstrators demanded a revolution in pursuit of liberation, equality, and against fascism and white supremacy, which police met with violence and mass arrests. As part of the nationwide movement for Black lives, similar events played out throughout the country, which the NLG has supported through its mass defense program.

This is in sharp contrast to the police response to white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, VA in 2017, where right-wing operatives and loyalists rioted in attempt to reverse a city council decision to remove racist monuments. Police stood down, but the anti-racist, anti-fascist left did not. Counter-protesters moved to protect the town and its residents, but the white supremacists retaliated, with one driving a car into the middle of a counter-protest, injuring dozens and killing Heather Heyer. The NLG was there to provide legal support to those anti-racist counterprotestors in that moment, and throughout the aftermath and J20 trials.

Today, police stood down yet again—as is expected of such an inherently white supremacist institution. These right-wing operatives are their friends, family, and political brethren. The difference between the police response to protesters of color just a few months ago and all throughout American history, and the current response to white Trump supporters instigating a coup, lays bare the priorities of U.S. law enforcement. As we witnessed today, right-wing revanchists were able to storm the Capitol with little to no resistance by law enforcement. Some police officers were even documented opening barricades to let right wing operatives through, taking selfies with them, and carefully escorting them away from the scene.

These events exhibit the racist, politically-imbued nature of policing in DC and the United States at large. The NLG continues to oppose this racist system, with all support and power to the people.

The National Lawyers Guild, whose membership includes lawyers, legal workers, jailhouse lawyers, and law students, was formed in 1937 as the United States’ first racially-integrated bar association to advocate for the protection of constitutional, human and civil rights.


Racial Capitalism and the Structural Roots of White Nationalism
Matt Birkhold

White nationalism has a long history in the United States. With Donald Trump in the White House and the worst potential impacts of climate change becoming more real every day, stopping white nationalism may be more urgent than ever. Because permanently stopping it requires transforming the conditions that birth and sustain it, understanding its structural roots is critical.  

KEEP READING @Praxis Center 

A Message from The Movement For Black Lives…

Dear Black People:

Today, as we celebrated our victory in Georgia and began ushering in a change in leadership, the Capitol was attacked by white supremacists emboldened by Trump’s desperation to retain power. These people, helped by the police, broke into federal office buildings, shot a woman in the chest, and posed for pictures with the Capitol police as other officers of the law stood idly by, watching violence unfold in front of them.

It’s obvious to anyone paying attention that if this were Black people, the police response would have been more violent, and perhaps deadly. We have seen it before. When Black protesters showed up to the Capitol to mourn our dead during summer 2020, we were met with tear gas, beaten, run-over, and jailed in our thousands for simply holding vigils and rallies. Still, the people who broke into the building today, armed and ready to incite violence in an attempt to halt the confirmation of a fair democratic election, were met with little to no recourse or mass arrests.

What played out today in the halls of Congress is a testament to the fact that we changed the balance of power in this country. We knew there’d be backlash. We knew that white supremacists, with Trump’s support, would attempt to steal what we worked so hard for. Trump has continually stoked the flames of violence, white supremacy, and terror while we have focused on building power for all people and to realize a world where we’re all safe.

If you needed another reason to divest from police and reimagine public safety, remember that even in moments of domestic terror, police are incapable of standing in opposition to white supremacy and violence.

We won a great victory today in Georgia and across the whole country in November, and our work isn’t done.

Take Action With Us:

Call your Senators and Representative (202-224-3121) and leave messages demanding the following things:

The certification of the presidential election results;

Each member of Congress must not only condemn the acts of Donald J. Trump, they must call for immediate impeachment. The Senate must convict and remove him from office immediately;

Censure each member of Congress who has fanned the flames of white supremacist violence and has participated in the effort to stop the certification of the electoral college;

Elected officials both at the federal level and state level must publicly renounce this white supremacist attempted coup as well as the accompanying attempts to retroactively disenfranchise the votes of millions by overturning the democratic results of this election.

Abolish the Electoral College
Right now, we’re calling for our people to stay home, stay safe, and stay vigilant (follow M4BL channels for ongoing updates). We keep us safe. This moment has been triggering for many, especially those who know the sting of tear gas and the trauma that comes from interactions with police.

Take care of yourselves and one another, and know that the work we did together is and will continue to be powerful.

In solidarity and power,

Movement for Black Lives


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Conversation between four Detroit Organizers, Grace Lee Boggs, Shea Howell, adrienne maree brown, and Jenny Lee, facilitated by Adela Nieves Martinez


Adela Noble Snows “We must be free, not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.” ? William Faulkner
Video Series
This five-part video series features a conversation between four Detroit Organizers, Grace Lee Boggs, Shea Howell, adrienne maree brown, and Jenny Lee, facilitated by Adela Nieves Martinez. As organizers rooted in work in Detroit, they see the connections between the local and the global. Though they represent different backgrounds, generations, and organizing experiences, each is committed to building collaborative movements and alternative systems.

This series was released in September 2010 and held at the Boggs Center. The 10-year anniversary series was also held at the Boggs Center with Dr. Gloria House (Mama Aneb), Shea Howell, Jenny Lee, Tawana Petty and adrienne maree brown, and was released in December 2020.

Edited and Filmed by Matthew Cross. Transcripts available upon request.

Adela Noble Snows,

Boggs Center – Living For Change News Letter – December 23rd, 2020

December 23rd, 2020

revolution image final

We wish you a peaceful, meaningful and restful holiday season. We’ll be back in January with more news, reflections and recommendations.

In Love and Struggle, The Boggs Center

Thinking for Ourselves

Out of Darkness
Shea Howell

Shea Howell

As most of us shift our attention to family, friends and the deep rituals marking the turning of time from darkness toward light, we face  an uncertain future. The longing to return to “normal” is evident everywhere. Yet most of us realize that the past is gone. We know “normal” is what created these crises. All the signs are that perilous times are accelerating.

Many of us have felt hope from the release of the first two vaccines to combat the corona virus. Almost immediately, these hopes have been tempered with problems in distribution and the recognition that the federal government lacks any plan on how to deliver the vaccine.  At the same time, troubling news is emerging from England, raising fears of a new strain of the virus that is possibly 70% more contagious than earlier strands. We are again in a holiday season where the best choice seems to be stay at home and stay safe.

And as people across the country endure the loss of loved ones, President Trump is huddling in the White House, unwilling to give up power, and turning to increasingly dangerous ideas about how to hold on to it. This week Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani met with recently pardoned Mike Flynn and his lawyer Sidney Powell. It appears Trump is considering naming Ms. Powell as a special counsel to investigate voter fraud, in the hopes of overturning the election. Powell is the primary advocate for the theory that Venezuela rigged voting machines. Flynn has been advocating martial law and deploying the military to “rerun” the election. There is little comfort in knowing that these ideas shocked Trump’s inner circle, and were resisted by them. Trump is capable of anything.

But Trump is only part of our problem. The people and ideas who brought him to power show no signs of leaving either. The recent struggles around a clearly inadequate stimulus package, reflect deep ideological differences about the responsibilities of government, the importance of protecting people, and a commitment to democratic processes. People infused with white supremacy and nationalist beliefs have been emboldened in ways unimaginable only 4 years ago.

If there is one lesson we can draw from this turbulent, sorrow filled year, it is that the basic systems and institutions that many of us thought would support and protect life, no longer work. We must now face questions about how to constitute ourselves, what we value, what we owe one another and future generations. These questions, too, have long been with us. But we are reaching the point where we must radically rethink how we answer them.

We also have inherited a tradition of visionary thinking  by people struggling collectively to create a just future. This thinking is being propelled by what is now the largest movement in U.S. history, led by African Americans and Indigenous people, advancing new ways of imagining every aspect of our lives.

Recently, historian-activist Barbara Ransby, pointed to the important work emerging out of  these movement struggles. She explains that “movements are not simply protest campaigns; narrowly defined, they are generative spaces where new ideas and creative solutions are incubated.” Among those creative solutions are three critical documents. Ransby says:

“We have the cornerstone of this visionary agenda in three sets of movement-generated documents: (1) The Green New Deal (augmented by the Red Deal and the forthcoming Red, Black and Green New Deal); (2) The Breathe Act, generated by the policy table of the Movement for Black Lives; and (3) The People’s Charter, created by the Working Families Party. These concrete policy proposals are based on values and vision: a commitment to minimize and repair harm, confront systemic racism, place people above profits, respect the rights and dignity of marginalized and oppressed communities, and save the planet.”

In this season of darkness and reflection, we have an opportunity to rededicate ourselves toward the work of creating new, collective futures. Never has such commitment been more urgent, or more possible.



10 yeras
This five-part video series features a conversation between four Detroit Organizers, Grace Lee Boggs, Shea Howell, adrienne maree brown, and Jenny Lee, facilitated by Adela Nieves Martinez. As organizers rooted in work in Detroit, they see the connections between the local and the global. Though they represent different backgrounds, generations, and organizing experiences, each is committed to building collaborative movements and alternative systems.


This series was released in September 2010 and held at the Boggs Center. The 10-year anniversary series was also held at the Boggs Center with Dr. Gloria House (Mama Aneb), Shea Howell, Jenny Lee, Tawana Petty and adrienne maree brown, and is being released today (December 19, 2020).


What We’re Reading


What We’re Reading


Mutual Aid in 2020

Andy Piascik

Mutual aid has been around a long time. For many people who practice mutual aid, it is not known by that name. Rather, it is simply a common sense activity essential to the survival of human communities. When you see members of your village or tribe or city or even a faraway community suffering because of a lack of food or health care or shelter, you do what you can to provide them with whatever it is they need.

Through such practices, people come to see mutual aid as a better way to organize collective life than the hierarchical societies most of the world lives in. For some, mutual aid puts into practice the precept that “I am my brother and sister’s keeper.” For others, the labor ideal of “an injury to one is an injury to all” applies. Whatever the inspiration, mutual aid serves as an alternative to social organization where most power rests in the hands of a small number of people and where profits, self-interest and the accumulation of wealth are propagated as the highest goals to which one can aspire.

Mutual aid is in direct contrast to charity. Charity is carried out by the better-off who believe they know what’s best for those in need, with no recognition that injustice is the essence of a society like ours. Charity is doled out by people who have no interest in transforming society and charitable organizations operate to keep people powerless and dependent.

The Black Panthers

Mutual aid has manifested itself in many ways throughout the history of this country. The work of the Black Panthers in the 1960s is one example. Based on their experiences and the expressed needs of Black people, the Panthers established a broad spectrum of community survival programs in cities throughout the country. The Free Breakfast for Children program is the best-known and thousands of children from poor families were served free breakfast, in some cases for years. In response to requests from the people, the Panthers also established mobile health clinics that provided testing and treatment for a wide array of health problems as well as schools for people of all ages with classes on subjects ranging from basic literacy to African-American history. Over time, new people became involved in these activities and initiated new ones.

Food Not Bombs        

Another mutual aid organization in the United States that dates to the 1970s is Food Not Bombs. The idea is a simple one: provide healthy meals to hungry people. To do so, a core of people set up outdoors soup kitchens in a park or common area in cities and towns around the country. Food was collected from stores and individuals, and volunteers set up a basic cooking operation at a set time and place. Once a regular schedule is established, as many as several hundred hungry people come to eat once and sometimes twice a day. Vegetarian food was served to encourage better health and living harmoniously within the natural world. And naming the effort Food Not Bombs underscored that the meals were being provided in a society whose priorities were seriously askew, one where trillions of dollars are spent on weaponry while millions go hungry for lack of work and government assistance.

Bridgeport Mutual Aid

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in an increase in mutual aid activity and organizations. In Bridgeport, Connecticut where I live, a dozen or so people came together in March of 2020 to form Bridgeport Mutual Aid (BMA). A large percentage of Bridgeport’s residents are poor and many others who are not categorized as such were nonetheless struggling even before the pandemic. Their situations became more precarious when the state ordered many businesses to close, jobs were lost and people were advised not to socialize even with relatives living nearby. The elderly who are most vulnerable found themselves cut off from their usual social network of sons and daughters and grandchildren. When Bridgeport officials also suspended the city’s bus service, those without cars found it much more difficult to shop for groceries and other essentials.

BMA decided to provide food and other items like toilet paper, diapers and sanitary napkins to as many of those in need as possible. Most members had contacts of all kinds throughout the city, especially in poor and working class neighborhoods, and drew on those contacts to spread the word about the project. Because of social distancing requirements and restrictions on travel, a decision was made to deliver the food since it was too dangerous to set up a central gathering place for people to come and pick up whatever they needed.

Since the Spring, BMA members have gathered four afternoons a week. The cars of those making deliveries are loaded, updated lists that include the names and addresses of the newest recipients are printed, and people disperse throughout the city to bring a large box of goods to each household on the list. Members make about 20-25 deliveries each and several hundred people receive groceries and other goods on those four days.

Anyone who requests aid gets it. New people have joined the effort and stores and retailers contribute food and other goods. Supporters contribute money that is used to buy any items that aren’t contributed and BMA also secured a small grant. People work whenever they can, whether it’s four times a week every week or once every four weeks. BMA members belong to the Bridgeport chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America and other organizations and participate in the work those and other groups in the area are doing.

One prime example of organizational overlap occurred in June when activists working to end police brutality established an encampment in front of police headquarters for ten days and nights. BMA folks have also been involved in the organizing against police brutality so it was only natural that BMA participated in both the encampment and in making sure the 50 or so people who were camping out every night had sufficient food. BMA members also helped to ensure that the encampment included portable bathrooms, a first aid tent, a library and entry points where face masks were given to anyone not wearing one.

BMA hopes to expand as the advent of colder weather makes it more difficult for people to travel. COVID cases are on the rise in Bridgeport and health experts are warning about the possibility of very dramatic increases if no significant preventive measures are taken by the federal government. With some experts warning of a winter that will be the worst of our lives, it’s possible stores and other businesses will again close down in which case the work of BMA will become more important.

Expanding the Circle

Some food recipients have become BMA members, expanding the circle. New members without activist experience have in this way gotten to know people and organizations working on other important issues like rent relief and police brutality that they did not previously know about. The circle expands further when they tell friends, family members and neighbors about BMA and these other organizations and their projects.

BMA’s work is one small example of mutual aid activities happening all around the country. The need for such efforts grows as ruling elites increasingly show themselves to be completely opposed to the needs of the people. Mutual aid can take whatever form people in a particular place decide.

The practice of mutual aid is antithetical to the predominant social ideology put forward by ruling elites. The idea of a society where people look out for each other is ridiculed at every turn by those who see profits and empire as the highest callings in life. We in this society are bombarded from birth by propaganda that everyone is an isolated individual in competition with every other isolated individual. People know both from their own experience and intuitively that that is wrong, though it is sometimes difficult to know how to live otherwise and then to have the ability to do so. Mutual aid efforts are one piece of how it can be done.

In a society as highly individualistic and atomized as ours where there is often little organizational support for mutual aid projects, such projects are often initiated by people with some degree of collective activist experience. It is one form of political participation among many in the larger effort to create a society based on human and planetary needs. Most everyone in BMA also attends demonstrations, protests, lobbying efforts and meetings of all kinds to pressure institutions of power to act to meet human needs until such time as those institutions can be reformed or done away with.

Human freedom will come about only when people on a massive scale come to see their own actions as central to such efforts and act accordingly. Alongside of and in combination with the essential work of Black Lives Matter and others organizing in workplaces, campuses, prisons and communities everywhere, mutual aid activities help create the possibility for both large-scale participation in all aspects of social life as well as our collective liberation.

Andy Piascik is an award-winning author whose most recent book is the novel In Motion. He can be reached at andypiascik@aol.com.




We have a major opportunity in the coming months to take collective anti-racist action in Huntington Woods and honor the demands of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Much like other cities and towns in America, our city was built on racism and white supremacy. We know that Huntington Woods has in the past intentionally excluded racial and ethnic groups it deemed undesirable, especially Black and brown people (e.g., via redlining, racist housing covenants). The result? Today that Huntington Woods is almost entirely White in a region that is very racially diverse. We now have a chance through local progressive action to start to heal the old wounds of segregation and the huge economic damage it inflicted on Black people. We have the chance to become a more equitable and inclusive community for all people, regardless of class or race.

Will you take action for the movement for racial and economic justice?


Solidarity Economy 101:

An introduction to the Solidarity Economy

What is it? How does it differ from other ‘alternative’ system frameworks?

What are the values and principles of a solidarity economy?

What are some examples?

Jan 9, 2021 04:00 PM – 06:00 PM

Spanish/English Interpretation provided by Cenzontle Coop.


Lo básico sobre la Economía Solidaria:
Una introducción a la SE

¿Qué es, en qué es diferente a otros marcos de sistemas “alternativos”?
¿Cuáles son los valores y principios de una economía solidaria? ¿Cuáles son algunos ejemplos?
9 de enero de 2021 04:00 PM – 06:00 PM con interpretación del inglés al español proporcionada por la Cooperativa Cenzontle.

Regístrate:  https://bit.ly/solidarityeconomy101



Dear friends and comrades,

We see that all around the world the violence against women is increasing and find its extremist expression in the form of femicide. Day by day women get harassed, abused and killed. Across many different countries, crimes committed against women enjoy total impunity, without trial of the perpetrators or justice for the victims. Furthermore the states with their patriarchal mentality also use femicide systemically to silence especially women who fight for freedom, for a world without patriarchy and without war, who defend their land and society and who are at the forefront of these struggles.

But we don’t remain silent and organise our resistance against these attacks. With the campaign “100 reasons to prosecute Erdo?an for his feminicidal policies!” the Kurdish Women’s Movement in Europe (TJK-E) started a new step of actions to shed a light on the systematization of the killing of women activists by states — especially by the Turkish state, and situate these femicides in a broader legal context to put an end to their normalization. 100 reasons to prosecute the dictator Erdogan for his feminicidal politics are only an excerpt of his violent politics and should carry the voices of the murdered women into the world.

With that the aim is to collect 100.000 signatures and in a second stage, take the signatures to the United Nations (UN) and other concerned international institutions and agencies.

You can sign and find more detailed information about the campaign here :



We think that in the face of these attacks, the need for resistance and self-defence by women around the world is becoming more clear. Let us strengthen our common struggle! Every murdered woman, every femicide is one too many!


Solidarity greetings,

Women Defend Rojava






Homepage and social media:


Twitter: @starrcongress

Facebook: Kongra Star Women’s movement



Over this year the demands on The Boggs Center have expanded to the point where we have made a commitment to engage an executive director and support staff, especially around social media. We invite you to make a financial contribution to the Boggs Center. This is a responsibility that requires us to create a clear financial plan and we urge you to become a Monthly or Yearly Sustainer. Our goal is raise $50,000 in 2020-2021 through this fund.


To contribute, click the “donate” button at the top of our homepage or send a check to

Boggs Center
3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan


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Boggs Center – Living For Change News – December 16th. 2020

December 16th, 2020

revolution image final

Thinking for Ourselves

Water Victories
Shea Howell

Detroit Water Warriors achieved a major victory this week. Mayor Mike Duggan announced a moratorium on water shut offs for the next two years at a press conference on December 8. The news was welcomed by water rights activists.

“Universal access to safe drinking water is a matter of life and death. By eliminating water shutoffs through 2022 is a step in the right direction. In the short-term, Detroit’s leaders are taking the necessary and humane approach to providing drinking water to everyone, regardless of income,” said Sylvia Orduño of Michigan Welfare Rights Organization and the People’s Water Board Coalition.

On the heels of this announcement the Michigan Senate passed SB 241, authored by State Senator Stephanie Chang. This statute would place a statewide moratorium on water shutoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Senator Chang said, “Clean drinking water is a basic human right, and I’m glad that the Michigan Senate took action yesterday to protect everyone’s health and safety. During this pandemic, access to clean water is more important than ever to ensure that Michiganders in big cities, suburban towns, and small villages can all wash their hands with soap and water. So many Michigan families are still struggling financially and with their health.

Over 317,000 households across the state are behind on their water bills. Hopefully this bill, too, will become law.

The struggle to establish water as a basic human right and essential public good has been going on for nearly 20 years.  As early as 2004, the People’s Water Board advocated for a water affordability plan. With the aggressive shut offs tied to the Detroit bankruptcy process, these efforts became more urgent, as nearly a third of the city experienced shut offs.

These shifts toward guaranteeing water, especially during this pandemic, will make a major difference in the lives of people. It is the first official recognition that we are all connected, that we have a responsibility to one another to ensure the most basic needs of people are met.

At the same time, it appears the global pandemic has not shifted the thinking of the Mayor and Gary Brown, the head of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.

Brown said that Detroit’s announcement on Tuesday isn’t an amnesty on payments.  People will continue to rack up their full water and sewer charges.

The Mayor and Brown talk about a water assistance plan, not a fundamental restructuring of the rate system based on income. Water affordability, to be sustainable, cannot depend on philanthropy or some kinds of convoluted “eligibility requirement.”

The Mayor has done nothing to inspire confidence in his capability of moving the city forward to real affordability. He is supports continuing to charge people at existing rates and reinforces the idea that the moratorium on shut offs is  not an “amnesty” program.

The Mayor has given no indication that he has grown from this crisis. In the beginning of the pandemic he refused to acknowledge the public health dimensions of water shut offs. Under his leadership from 2014 to 2019 more than 141,000 Detroiters were shut off from water. The UN condemned the practice as a “violation of the most basic human rights of  those residents.” The Mayor continued to  attack the Henry Ford Global Health study that documented the risks of water related illnesses.

Stopping water shut offs is a critical first step. But the Mayor is going to have to do more than shift his policy.

Detroit has the potential of leading the country toward a new understanding of  our responsibilities to one another and the earth. A water affordability plan is rooted in a set of values that are essential if we are to create a just, humane and sustainable future. This victory was a long time coming, but we still have a long way to go.

Urban Eco

Get inspired by watching Sweet Water Foundation’s Urban Ecology Global Fellows Presentation

Over this year the demands on The Boggs Center have expanded to the point where we have made a commitment to engage an executive director and support staff, especially around social media. We invite you to make a financial contribution to the Boggs Center. This is a responsibility that requires us to create a clear financial plan and we urge you to become a Monthly or Yearly Sustainer. Our goal is raise $50,000 in 2020-2021 through this fund.

To contribute, click the “donate” button at the top of our homepage or send a check to

Boggs Center
3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan

Letter of Hope Movement Elders to Young Activists

Letter of Hope
Learnings from Lived Experiences
From Movement Elders to Young Activists

The National Council of Elders was organized in 2011 to bring together leaders of the 20th Century movements for peace, freedom, and justice to strengthen our collective engagement and to share our experiences with young activists in the 21st century. We share with them now a sense of urgency caused by the escalation of all forms of violence in our country and the rise of anti-democratic forces. Our intent is to deepen the dialogue necessary to move away from a culture of violence toward a culture of peace and justice. As the current movements for justice grow, younger activists have asked us to share some of our experiences of state supported violence against our movements.



Letter of Hope
Learnings from Lived Experiences
From Movement Elders to Young Activists

The National Council of Elders was organized in 2011 to bring together leaders of the 20th Century movements for peace, freedom, and justice to strengthen our collective engagement and to share our experiences with young activists in the 21st century. We share with them now a sense of urgency caused by the escalation of all forms of violence in our country and the rise of anti-democratic forces. Our intent is to deepen the dialogue necessary to move away from a culture of violence toward a culture of peace and justice. As the current movements for justice grow, younger activists have asked us to share some of our experiences of state supported violence against our movements.

We know the U.S. began with violence against Indigenous and African peoples. Through the centuries, the triple evils of racism, materialism, and militarism have marked our country. At the same time, people have resisted these forces, organizing for freedom and justice. At every stage in our history, progressive movements have been met with legalized violence, carried out by federal, state, and local authorities as they attempt to protect power and privilege by destroying individuals and organizations who challenge them. This state directed violence against progressive efforts encourages and supports extra-legal actions by right wing extremist individuals and organizations.

Given this history, the months between November and January may be among the most dangerous in U.S. history. We come to this conclusion out of bitter, painful experience. We are a generation that came to consciousness with the image of Emmett Till’s battered and broken body seared into our minds and hearts. Violence like this, necessary for white supremacy to maintain itself, shaped our daily lives. We have witnessed assassinations, imprisonment, and brutality, often sanctioned by legal authorities in the name of law and order. We have come to understand the commitment and resilience of our movements, determined to endure and grow, in spite of this violence.

The murder of Medgar Evers touched all of us in 1963. As the field secretary for the Mississippi NAACP, engaged in organizing for voter rights and desegregation, Evers was under surveillance by both the FBI and Jackson police. On a June evening, he was gunned down in his driveway in front of his wife and children. The man charged with his murder was a member of the White Citizens Council. The FBI and local police were complicit. They had mysteriously disappeared the night of the killing. The killer was acquitted, twice, by all white juries.

In November of 1979 in Greensboro North Carolina five members of the Communist Workers Party were gunned down as they gathered in a neighborhood to begin a march to protest the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party. The FBI and local police were complicit in these killings. Again, the killers, members of these white supremist groups, were acquitted, twice.

In the 15 years between the death of Medgar Evers and the Greensboro Massacre, we witnessed a series of assassinations of civil rights workers by white terrorists, frequently acting with the knowledge of local and federal law enforcement. Some are names well known, like, Martin Luther King Jr., shot in front of more than 150 police officers. Most were people working locally, doing the most ordinary tasks of daily movement organizing. In 1989 the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama commemorated 40 people killed during the course the movement, beginning in 1955, with the murder of Rev. George Lee, who led voter registration drives in Mississippi. It ends with the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in April 1968.

Over the course of decades, our movements gained power and expanded, raising profound questions about peace, justice, gender, and our responsibilities to the earth. As our movements challenged the US government and resisted the war in Vietnam, federal and state violence against organizers accelerated. The most notorious effort was the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) of the FBI and CIA. This program surveilled, disrupted, persecuted, and killed. The government imprisoned activists, spread lies, and drove people out of the country. COINTELPRO especially targeted the Black Panthers, the Nation of Islam, the Republic of New Afrika, the American Indian Movement, the Brown Berets, Students for Democratic Society, the Weather Underground, Chicanos, Puerto Rican independence organizations, feminists, queers, and environmentalists. Their victims included Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, Zayd Shakur, Geronimo Pratt, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, Leonard Peltier, and Assata Shakur.

This program was a “secret,” until the Citizen’s Commission to Investigate the FBI broke into an office in Media, Pennsylvania in 1971 and found documents exposing it. The program was supposed to have ended in 1976, but state violence is ongoing. Public officials encourage and sanction right wing individuals to intimidate and kill people they consider threats to their power. Even if violence at the federal level is curtailed, local and state authorities are willing to use any means necessary to protect power and property.

This is normal in the culture of violence that shapes America. Long before Donald Trump encouraged Proud Boys, or talked of good people on all sides, maintaining injustice required force.

As in the past, we imagine individuals are now paid to spread lies, inform on activities, sow disruption and dissent, and manufacture disinformation. But these efforts have taken on an insidious character as the technologies of surveillance and weapons of control have become much more sophisticated. Informants no longer need to draw crude diagrams to show the FBI where we sleep. Heat seeking devices are far more accurate.

Some things we learned may be of use to today’s activists.

The transformative potential of young people expressing a new sense of agency and confidence in their capacities to change this world threatens those defending white supremacy. The extraordinary leadership of people of color, especially Black women, joining openly with queer and trans people nationally and internationally, gives the current movement strategic force and moral weight. Under this leadership, large numbers of people of European descent have stepped forward to challenge racism and inequality. The more possibilities of real systemic changes are evident, the more we should expect increased repression.

As young activists, we saw organizations fall apart, personal animosities intensify and distrust spread because of government actions. Grief, trauma, and anger impacted us. But, like generations before us, we found strength and support in our communities. We learned to see ourselves as part of a long struggle that began before us, and will continue after.

Still, many of us are deeply scarred, carrying with us the loss of those we loved, the knowledge of betrayals, often by our most intimate friends. We carry the sorrows of lives confined and destroyed. Yet we hold on to the importance of kindness, care, and forgiveness, knowing these are essential for our survival. We embrace the spirit of care emerging in today’s movements as people consciously address the heart needs of organizing together and weaving community.

We also have learned that no matter how painful, acts of state violence should be exposed. Public accounting moves us as a society closer to safety and security. Over the years we organized viewings of killing grounds, developed commissions, held tribunals, collected public testimonies and countered official accounts. In Greensboro, we launched the first Truth and Reconciliation process in the US. Last month, after more than four decades, we secured the first public apology from those who officially knew of the massacre and did nothing to stop it. We have seen that out of confronting violence and pain we can come to understand the need for respect and compassion among us.

We are still learning the intentionality required to create a culture of peace. We understand the importance of embracing the philosophy of non- violence as the heart of a new culture. We learned that often a person who advocated violence toward those we opposed was an agent, or someone damaged by trauma. Such calls to violate other people would only serve to make us vulnerable, isolated, and self-destructive.

Out of our commitment to non-violence we were able to understand the distinction between violence and self-defense, between acting out of hate, or out of love for one another and our communities. We know our commitment to create a culture of peace saved lives. Creating beloved communities means putting love in the center of our organizing, holding out the possibility for all of us to transform toward our best selves.

Finally, we learned our basis for trust in each other was our commitment to agreed- upon missions and objectives.

We have seen some of the worst that America represents. But we also dream and continue to work for new worlds, joining with a new generation of leaders accepting global responsibility and taking us far beyond what we could have imagined. We walk with all those who believe we can yet become a place of peace, valuing life, justice, joy, and love. 

National Council of Elders

Members: Ms. Rachele Agoyo, Ms. Dorothy Aldridge, Rev. Dorsey Blake, Mr. Louis Brandon, Ms. Candie Carawan, Ms. Mandy Carter, Dr. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Rev. John Fife, Ms. Aljosie Aldrich Harding, Dr. Gloria Aneb House, Dr.Shea Howell, Dr. Dolores Huerta, Mr. Phil Hutchings, Ms. Joyce Hobson Johnson, Rev. Nelson Johnson, Mr. Frank Joyce, Rev. James Lawson, Rev. Phil Lawson, Dr. Catherine Meeks, Mr. Gus Newport, Ms. Suzanne Pharr, Ms. Lyn Pyle, Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Ms. Frances Reid, Ms. Kathy Sanchez, Mr. Charles Sherrod, Ms. Shirley Sherrod, Dr. G. Zoharah Simmons, Friar Louis Vitale, OFM, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Mr. Hollis Watkins, Mr. Junius Williams, Mr. Bob Wing, Rev. Janet Wolf.

Deceased Founding Members: Dr. Grace Lee Boggs, Dr. Dorothy Cotton, Dr. Vincent Harding, Father Paul Mayer, Mr. Ron Scott.

Facebook contact: National Council of Elders@ncoe20century 



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