Last week I was in NYC

It gave me a lot to think about.

NEWYORK PROGRAM imsgeThursday night, February 6, I participated in New York University’s 9th annual celebration of MLK Week.

The theme of this year’s celebration, organized by a 25 person committee led by Monroe France, NYU’s vice-president of diversity, was “The Power of Courage, Passion, Purpose, Perseverance .”

About 75% of those seated in the big auditorium were young people of color.

The first speaker was NYU president John Sexton. He recalled MLK’s saying years ago that “Progress was not automatic or inevitable.” He also informed us that NYU students today come from many ethnic groups, with no one ethnic group being the majority. Continue Reading »

Thinking for ourselves

By Shea Howell

No Shame

Week 45 of the Occupation

shea25Many of us have seen photographs of lynchings. Most of them, in newspaper accounts and on post cards, depict some variation on the gruesome reality. Men hanging from trees, their bodies often mutilated or burned. Beneath them are groups of white people, men, women, and children. Sometimes they are milling about. Sometimes they are clearly having a party.

In a recent speech at New York University, MSNBC commentator and Professor Melissa Harris Perry showed one of these pictures to an overflow crowd of 1000 people gathered to commemorate a speech given there by Dr. King more than 40 years ago.

She asked us to look at the faces in the crowd and observed, “You see how they are all looking at the camera? What strikes me about this is there is no sense of shame.”

I found myself thinking about this past week in Detroit. No sense of shame. Shame requires an awareness of self and our relations to others. It requires an understanding of how our actions can be inadequate, humiliating, embarrassing, dishonoring, or disgraceful. To have no sense of shame means to behave without restraint. It is often associated with excessive pride.

Thus we have the apologists and protectors for Brooks Patterson. Or worse, there are the majority of people in Oakland Country who are not saying much of anything. Within a few days, the outrage disappeared from the media.

Recently, Jack Lessenberry invoked yet another racist stereotype, the Kingfish, in order to explain away Patterson’s crude, vicious comments. Lessenbery argued that we should not worry about Patterson’s remarks, because they are not new.

He explained that the boast, “What we’re going to do is turn Detroit into an Indian reservation where we herd all the Indians into the city, build a fence around it, and throw in the blankets and corn,”

was first uttered in print 38 years ago.

Attempting to diminish the brutality of the remark, Lessenberry called it one of Patterson’s “golden oldies.” As though references to genocide were popular tunes.

Lessenbery says, “Nobody should be surprised. Yes, that saying is outrageous, so much so that nobody really believes he means it.”

So, saying something racist over and over again means you don’t believe it? Repeating a comment over nearly 4 decades means you think it untrue? Is Lessenberry seriously suggesting that overcoming centuries of violence, exploitation, and dehumanization is accomplished by repeating racist commentary?

What Lessenberry really means is that this kind of remark is normal in the circles of power. It has been often repeated behind closed doors. It is so ordinary a way of thinking about Detroit by many, it hardly warrants mentioning, until it gets picked up in national media.

This is the heart of what is happening in southeastern Michigan. Those in power have lost all sense of shame. Openly racist comments are passed off as meaningless. Outrageous billings by lawyers, whose competence and capabilities are questionable, are shrugged off. Billionaires buy up the city for pennies. Then they and are given tax breaks by officials who will do anything to curry favor with those who pay their bills.

The theme of the gathering that prompted Professor Harris Perry to show the image of a lynch mob came from the words of Dr. King. He said, “Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

The outrages we are facing in Detroit are part of a larger struggle about our collective future. Brooks Patterson, Jones-Day, Kevyn Orr, Rick Snyder, Mike Illitch and all those who surround them, support them, and hope to benefit from them are like the faces in the lynch mob. They have no sense of shame at the outrages they are committing against this city and her people.

This week’s LFC

We have just begun to fight!!

By Grace Lee Boggs

Aug 17-24, 2013

marygrove_SC_0340The August 17 Peoples Forum, organized by DREM/ DETROITERS RESISTING THE EMERGENCY MANAGER, is a historic meeting.

I ‘ve been a Detroiter for 60 years and this is the first time in my experience that so many different organizations with different ideologies and personalities have recognized that the time has come when we must join together to resist and defeat the growing counter-revolution.

This counter-revolution is very unprincipled, very dangerous and taking many forms, Therefore its defeat will take a lot of cooperation, courage, and principled struggle. Continue Reading »

Grace Lee Boggs Call: Making a new Declaration of Independence  click YouTube(1776 – 2012). Let us recover our Humanity, Our Safety, Our Security. {r}evolution For the Next American Revolution

The Great Hair Day Escape at the Boggs School

by Yvette Thompson

BEC_logo_2The Great Hair Day Escape was a community event which took place on Saturday, March 22 at the James and Grace Lee Boggs School on Detroit’s eastside.  The event was organized by the Boggs School Exploratory Community Outreach (ECO) group, a community organizing group which facilitates neighborhood conversations in order to build community and connect resources in the neighborhood and the school.

This event connected neighborhood barbers and hair stylists with neighborhood and Boggs School kids to provide free haircuts and hair styllng to kids under 18.

Thirty-three children received free hair cuts/styling on this day.  Sixty-four people,  including  parents and family members of the kids receiving haircuts as well as Boggs School staff and eighteen community volunteers, attended. Continue Reading »

Thinking for ourselves

On Public Relations

By Shea Howell

Week 54 of the occupation

April 15, 2014

shea25Judge Steven Rhodes scolded Kevyn Orr and everyone else last week. After approving the latest proposal from Emergency Manger Orr to settle the swaps debt with Bank America Merrill Lynch and UBS, the judge said, “This bankruptcy is not about who wins in the court of public opinion.”  The judge was upset by what he labeled as the efforts to wage an “orchestrated public relations campaign.” He warned, “Negotiating in public is counterproductive.” Continue Reading »

Thinking for ourselves

Water Rights

April 8, 2014

By Shea Howell

Week 53 of the occupation

shea33Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s plan to turn the water department into a regional asset has been smashed by the absolute refusal of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson and Mark Hackel of Macomb County. In a politically motived move to pander to racist views of the city, both men acted on what the Detroit Free Press called “old line biases and divisions.”

In response, Orr is calling for bids from private companies to take over operations of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. Claiming he will put safeguards to cap rate increases to 4% a year and require $696 million in capital improvements over the next five years, Orr dismissed critics who claim this move is a hasty and ill conceived. Orr claims having final bids by June 1 is “doable” in spite of the complexity and possible pitfalls such a serious move would entail. Within a few days over 40 companies expressed interest in purchasing the Water Department. Continue Reading »

My Philosophic Journey

By Grace Lee Boggs


The Gandhi-Hamer-King Center for the Study of Religion and Democratic Renewal at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado, is creating a videotaped collection of interviews with veterans of various struggles for freedom reflecting on the role of religion and/or spirituality in their formative years and on their movement activities. In preparation for my June 1998 visit, I made the following summary. What I said in the actual interviews, in response to questions from Vincent Harding, Sudarshon Kapur and Iliff students, was without reference to this summary.

Growing Up Chinese American and Female

I was born on top of my father’s restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island. When I cried, the waiters used to say “Leave her on the hillside to die. She’s only a girl child.” When I was about three years old they used to tell me this as a joke, but for me, even then, it was no laughing matter. It gave me a sense early on of the things in this world that need changing. My Chinese name means Jade Peace. My American name, Grace, came from a missionary woman who gave English lessons to my father. I sometimes wonder if I would have turned out differently if, like many of today’s Chinese-American girl babies, I had been named Tiffany or Jennifer or Michelle. Continue Reading »

Thinking for ourselves

Value Choices

By Shea Howell

Week fifty of the occupation

March 18, 2014

shea25Voices critical of Kevyn Orr’s plan are growing. Basic assumptions fostered by Orr, the corporate-foundation elite, and their media are being undermined. The criticisms of community and labor activists are spreading from the streets to the halls of academia as it is becoming clear that the decisions we are facing are not only about Detroit, but also about the kind of country we will become.

First, the deliberate role of the right wing state legislature in encouraging this financial crisis is being publically dissected. The idea that right wing extremists are intentionally protecting the wealthy and looting the city is strongly documented. Continue Reading »

Thinking for ourselves

By Shea Howell

Value Choices

Week fifty of the occupation

March 18, 2014

shea33Voices critical of Kevyn Orr’s plan are growing. Basic assumptions fostered by Orr, the corporate-foundation elite, and their media are being undermined. The criticisms of community and labor activists are spreading from the streets to the halls of academia as it is becoming clear that the decisions we are facing are not only about Detroit, but also about the kind of country we will become.

First, the deliberate role of the right wing state legislature in encouraging this financial crisis is being publically dissected. The idea that right wing extremists are intentionally protecting the wealthy and looting the city is strongly documented.

The Michigan Municipal League added its voice to the understanding that the state legislature is responsible for much of the financial shortfall in the city. Their study demonstrates that the “state has managed to pinch over $6 billion in revenue sharing from local government over the last several years.” As a result “a record number of local governments” find themselves in the midst of a financial crisis that is the direct result of this “dramatic dis-investment.” Continue Reading »



The FREEP inaugural Film Festival will showcase Detroit and Michigan-themed documentaries, along with film discussions, panels and a few other surprises. The curtain rises March 20-23 at the Fillmore Detroit and the Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The latest films to join the schedule will be included in the “News” and “Films and Schedule” sections. Continue Reading »

Thinking for ourselves

Evil consequences

By Shea Howell

Week 49 of the Occupation.

March 11, 2014

 shea25This week Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr visited the Michigan Citizen. We had a wide-ranging discussion about his role as emergency manager, his understanding of the development of the city, and his hopes for the future. The Citizen staff developed questions, intended to give our readers an opportunity to hear from Mr. Orr. We chose not to debate him, but to guide his conversation into areas that affect all of us.


Mr. Orr offered little that was new. He spoke confidently and competently about city finances. He insisted that he is focusing only on the numbers and that Mayor Duggan and the City Council are being left to deal with development.  Continue Reading »



By Grace  Lee Boggs

Cover of Grace's book lfc

This week I received sample copies of the Chinese edition of Living for Change. The Index, which is the only section in English, lists the names of the individuals who had been part of my life up to 1998 when the English edition was published by the University of Minnesota Press, e.g. my mother, father, Hegel, Whitehead, Lyman Paine, C.L.R.James, Jimmy Boggs et al. ,

Last month I received this email from Zhanglili, the editor of the Chinese edition.

Dear Grace: Continue Reading »

Thinking for ourselves

Toward a People’s Plan

By Shea Howell

Week 47 of the Occupation

shea33Emergency Manger Kevyn Orr delivered his proposals for exiting bankruptcy to Judge Steven Rhodes on Friday morning. Called The Plan of Adjustment, the document is more than 400 pages long and includes a dense “Disclosure Statement” that describes how Orr aims to restore the city to financial heath. The statement promises to lower police response time, restore streetlights and renew blighted neighborhoods. Orr promises to upgrade everything from emergency vehicles to computer systems.


The Plan is written by lawyers, for lawyers. No effort was made by Orr and his high priced public relations team to provide an accessible public version, even though the implications of it will affect every single person in the city for years to come. Continue Reading »

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