Jimmy and Grace  
Living for Change News
October 17th – October 24th
Community Conversation (Oct 29) Flyer

Thinking for Ourselves

Who Benefits?
Shea Howellshea25As Election Day approaches Detroiters are being flooded with high priced, deceptive appeals for our vote.  Expensive TV and radio commercials, slick flyers, and glossy mailers are all urging us to vote against the one proposal that could actually make a difference in how development happens in our city.  Proposition A holds the real promise of equitable, thoughtful, and neighborhood based development.  It is this possibility that is driving the business community and its friends in the Mayor’s office to near panic.Developers, the Mayor and their shadow surrogates have pulled every trick they could think of to stop this proposal. They tried to bury it in committees. They tried to prevent an open City Council vote. They tried to block the petitions to have this put before the public. Then they introduced a competing watered down version of the bill to confuse voters. Now they have launched an expensive campaign to tell us “A is Awful.” Yes awful for the business interest that have been making millions off Detroiters, pulling in lucrative tax breaks for themselves, and getting cheap land, without giving anything back to the community.If the stakes were not so serious, the effort to attack Proposal A would border on the comic. A newly formed “dark money” group calling itself Detroit Jobs First, held a press conference at the site of the new Red Wings/Ilitch stadium to launch its slogan Proposal A is awful.  Awful for whom seems a good question.

Just days after the launch of the attack on A, news accounts surfaced that the Red Wings/Ilitch gang are facing $500,000 in fines because they have not been able to uphold their promise of hiring 51% of Detroiters for construction jobs.  This deal, usually touted by the Mayor as an example of his successful negotiating skills, is exactly why we need a strong community benefits agreement.

Billionaire Mike Ilitch received more than $250 million in tax-backed bonds to build this stadium. He has received breaks in land acquisition around the stadium and displaced hundreds of local residents, many of them elders who had lived in the Cass Corridor for years. In exchange, he promised 51% of the jobs would go to Detroiters.  Thus far we are at 40%. Not only is the percentage less than what he promised, the actual number of people involved is minimal. Currently, we are talking about work for 300 people. Ilitch has the money, the land, the tax breaks and will soon have the stadium. Forever.

Community groups, progressive labor leaders, and Council President Brenda Jones have fought for Proposal A for years.  They had done this openly, publicly and on the record. They have argued Proposal A would require developers of projects costing $15 million or more or with more than $300,000 in public subsidies to enter into legally enforceable agreements with communities most affected by the development.

Those against A, and backing B are hiding in the shadows. Maybe they are embarrassed by the failure of the Ilitch deal. Maybe they are embarrassed by the Marathon Petroleum deal.  In 2014 Marathon got a $175 million tax break, expanded it refinery to further pollute our air and Detroit got 15 jobs.

For far too long s developers have said, support us and we will give you jobs.  Repeating the lie on glossy paper does not make it true.

Detroiters have long experience with where the interests of developers really are. It’s time to put an end to the exploitation of our people, our resources, and our city by those who promise jobs, pocket tax money and don’t have the courage to publicly stand for their convictions. Enough is enough.  Spread the word to vote Yes on A and No on Business Backed B.

Proposal A Will Give Detroiters a Seat at the Table
Cindy EstradaIn November, Detroit voters will decide whether to give themselves a seat at the community benefits bargaining table when they choose between Proposals A and B: competing community benefits agreement ordinances.For those who haven’t followed the story, Proposal A is on Detroit’s ballot because community members and grassroots organizations mobilized a successful petition signature drive. They were motivated by the chance to create a structure that would allow developers seeking public assets for major construction projects to sit with impacted communities and negotiate an enforceable agreement that could include jobs, affordable housing, educational opportunities and community programs.Proposal B does not give the community a seat at the table. Nor does it allow communities and developers to negotiate an enforceable agreement. Instead, it calls for a toothless process that the city can already authorize. Proposal B got on the ballot in a last minute maneuver by those who fear that Proposal A will win in November. It’s widely understood that Proposal B is on the same ballot as Proposal A to confuse voters.

The debate over Proposals A and B reminds me of what happens during a typical workplace organizing campaign. Detroit voters are now going through the same challenges.

Workers organize when management ignores or dismisses their demands for workplace fairness. Community members organized to put Proposal A on the ballot because they were tired of seeing major publicly funded developers build in their neighborhood, create adverse conditions, promise to address community concerns and renege, or take taxpayer resources without a requirement to discuss giving back to the impacted community in a meaningful way.

Workers face swift backlash when they successfully join together to demand union representation. A classic way to erode union support is for the employer and its allies to tell workers that if they form a union, the business will suffer or close. Immediately after Proposal A’s ballot signatures were certified, anti-Proposal A interests framed Proposal A as dangerous to Detroit’s financial stability and scary for developers – contrary to the community benefits agreement experience in other communities.

Workers fighting for a voice in their workplace are often vilified for being selfish, reckless and even un-American for inviting a ‘third party” into the employer-employee relationship. Proposal A’s backers were accused of seeking “entitlements” by Gov. Rick Snyder’s senior advisor for economic growth, and adding a layer of “bureaucracy” to Detroit’s property development process by the president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation.

Workers win their union rights when they stand together against the inevitable fierce backlash by their employer and its allies. It will be the same with Proposal A. In November, Detroit voters will have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to win a seat at the community benefits bargaining table and try to negotiate good things for their community with developers who are benefiting from valuable public assets. That’s not selfish. That’s not reckless. That’s not un-American. That’s what democracy should look like.

Birth of a Nation’s Missing HERstory
Tawana Petty
The watered down narrative of Black revolutionaries and freedom fighters struggling and dying for the liberation of Black folk, which negates the front line foot work, strategic planning and organizing genius of Black women, is a revisionist HIStory that must be turned over on its head.We must also start to consistently struggle against any narrative that makes invisible the whole in order to lift up charismatic messiahs as liberators of Black people.One of my Ancestors, James “Jimmy” Boggs often said, “it is only in relationship to other bodies and many somebodies, that anybody is somebody.”

When provided an opportunity to lift up the true story of Black revolutionaries who are missing from the text books and narrative of American history, Nate Parker used his money to water down the legacy of Nat Turner, further perpetuating the damsel in distress narrative of Black women who only exist as “yessir masta” mamie’s and/or sex slaves. Parker also used his cinematic opportunity to feed his narcissism by regurgitating a story showing himself as a Black savior who’s sole motivation for struggling against injustice is the thought of Black women’s ownership being transferred from Black men to white men. As long as he could continue to live a captive, yet historically inaccurate comfortable existence without having to think of Black women being possessed by someone other than Black men, he was non-resistant.

I have read much commentary about whether Birth of A Nation should be viewed by women because of Nate Parker’s rape allegations, and ultimate acquittal. I have also read and listened to Nate Parker’s own commentary regarding the rape allegations and listened to his dismissive demeanor towards the now deceased woman.

As a rape and suicide survivor, I will say that it took deep meditation and a calling upon the Ancestors for me to decide to go see this film. Although Nate Parker was acquitted of the rape of his accuser, it is recorded in court documents that while having sex with her, he summoned in two friends to sexually assault her inebriated body. One of the men who was asked to participate in the sexual assault, but declined, testified to that. Because the young woman had engaged in a previous sexual encounter with Parker, he felt entitled to her body. He felt entitled to share her body without her consent with other men. Parker and his friends tormented, bullied and prevented this teenage woman from moving on with her life. They prevented her from leaving her home and they stalked her. So much so, that she refused to testify in the appeal case, leading to his friend, now co-author of the film, having his conviction overturned. The thing that we’ve seen time and time again on college campuses and in sports in general is, if you’re a male star athlete, it tends to transcend race and accountability when it comes to the abuse of women. At least momentarily. The harassment case against the accused was settled for $17,500.00.

This young woman ultimately took her own life after making several attempts. It is for this reason that I decided to go and look Nate Parker in his face on screen, so that I could tell the stories of the women I was nearly 100% sure would be marginalized.

Nat Turner is a revolutionary who’s bravery should not be watered down. His legacy deserves to be taught with honesty and integrity. It is also true that Turner acted with dozens of others to liberate Black people. This is a fact, that is depicted in the film. However, what is not present in the film is the resistance of Black women who participated in Nat Turner’s rebellion. The negligence of rebellion stories written in this way negates the possibility of Black woman revolutionaries existing outside of Harriet Tubman. I would also argue that the ability to paint Harriet Tubman as a masculine and singular charismatic leader is one of the reasons why Tubman’s legacy of rebellion is so well known.

Most of the acts of rebellion were handled by slaves against their own slave owners. Some of those who rebelled were women.

Enter Charlotte, who by several accounts attempted to stab her mistress owner, but was intercepted by another slave who came to her slave owner’s rescue. This same slave owner was also held down by another slave Lucy, who by all accounts and court records, attempted to hold down her mistress owner during the attack from the rebels, but because of intervention from the same slave who had previously intervened, was unsuccessful. Charlotte was murdered without trial and Lucy was tried and hung for her participation in the rebellion. Although these are recorded events, of Black women rising up against their captors, they are rarely portrayed in the tellings of the rebellion.

This is not to say that there was massive support for the rebels by any gender at the time. Many were fearful of the immediate ramifications of their resistance, so it was difficult to recruit participation. But, by limiting the narrative of an uprising that saw dozens voluntarily sacrifice their lives and their families lives by portraying only a singular male hero, we contribute to the revisionist HIStory that plagues the fabric of patriarchal America.

It is far too tempting to water down our stories to fit a version of history that America can stomach. We must resist this temptation in order to force this country to face itself in the mirror. In order to force America to deal with the fact that there is and has always been organized Black resistance against oppression in this country. This includes the resistance of Black women.

When we marginalize the contributions of thousands who have struggled and continue to struggle for self-determination and liberation in this country by limiting them to men only, handing them a bible and putting them on their Sunday’s best, we play into the narrative that the acceptable negro is the only negro worthy of investment and depiction, and that the minute they resist the box they’ve been allowed to function in, their existence and all the helpless, unkept folks around them are doomed.

It’s 2016. Time to tell a different story, one which includes HERstory in the plot.


DEMOCRACY NOW: Climate Direct Action: Activists Halt Flow of Tar Sands Oil by Shutting Off Valves of Five Pipelines

The Boggs Book Shop is open and waiting for you!
Among many other titles, don’t miss…

Ron Scott’s – How to End Police Brutalityevolution in the 21st Century Anthology…or the classic, Conversations in Maine

The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214

Jimmy and Grace  
Living for Change News
September 26th – October 1, 2016
DIFS Generic Flyer (Sept 2016)

Thinking for Ourselves

Parade of Preachers
Shea Howellshea25This week a parade of preachers swept into the Detroit Board of Water Commissioners. They were protesting drainage charges about to be levied across the city. Preachers called for a “moratorium on drainage charges.” They were “appalled” at the “ungodly” charges. They said they were “called to be here by God” to demand an answer to the question of “why should we have to pay for what comes from God?”This was a sad display of what has become of our many of our local churches.

The obvious question is simply “Where have you been?” For more than two years, community organizations have been demanding a city-wide conversation to develop policies reflecting the basic understanding that water is a human right. All human beings should have access to safe, affordable water.  

Where were the voices of preachers as 3000 households experienced shut offs every week? Where were these preachers as organizers established water stations? Where were they as people of faith blocked the shut off trucks from leaving the garage? Where were they as children went to schools to wash up and brush their teeth?

Where were the preachers when home after home faced foreclosure? Where were they when the elderly workers of the city bore more than 70% of the bankruptcy burden? Where were they when the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department was turned into a regional affair, almost certain to guarantee greater burdens for the city?

Self interest, not care for the community, seems their only motivation. As a result, their protests are hollow. They offer brittle pronouncement, uninspired by faith or compassion.

Certainly some of our congregations challenge the money changers, the powers and principalities.  But most have been silent in the face of an increasingly brutal division between the small, whiter and wealthier downtown and neglected neighborhoods.  Most have been silent as violence escalates. Most are content to collect offerings, closing doors to chaos and pain.

This is not by accident.  More than 30 years ago, right wing think tanks realized that gatherings of people of faith were a powerful force for justice.  Step by step they began to develop policies that pulled churches and synagogues away from radical visions.

In reaction to the Civil Rights movement, right wing leaders developed a form of conservative religious politics, using the cover of religion to mask white supremacy, homophobia, and the desire to dominate women.  In reaction to school desegregation, for example, Christian academies sprang up, ultimately laying claim to public dollars through charters and vouchers.

Churches were pulled toward conservative stands through money. In 1989, President George H. Bush introduced the idea that social services should be provided by “points of light.” This was followed in 2001 when his son, George W. used executive powers to circumvent long held divisions between church and state.  Under Bush II faith based initiatives became a top priority. Churches were tied into federal and foundation dollars, providing programs that had once been offered by governments. Now public funds not only provide direct services but money to construct, repair and maintain buildings. Religious leaders learned being silent was the best way to keep dollars flowing. Detroit is reaping the effects of this silence.

Meanwhile, a few days after this shameless protest, two young artists faced a judge. They were surrounded by supporters and love. William Lucka and Antonio Cosme are charged with felonies for painting “Free the Water” on a Highland Park water tower in 2014.  They say it time to resist destruction of our neighborhoods, and to build more conscious communities. Preachers would do well to listen to our Artists.


(artwork by William Lucka)
an interview with Antonio Cosme of the Raiz Up Collective
by Shanna Merrola
In the spring of 2014, the Detroit Water and Sewage Department (DWSD) announced that a water shutoff quota would begin that March for residents either 60 days or 150 dollars overdue on payments.The unprecedented action of cutting off water to 3,000 households per week in a major U.S. city brought criticism, both nationally and internationally. News spread quickly due to the efforts of water rights activists in both the US and Canada, bringing representatives from the UN to Detroit in October of 2014. During their investigation at this time the United Nations declared that the city was violating thousands of residents’ fundamental human right to access clean, affordable water. Organizers also drew attention to the fact that corporate and large institutional accounts were never shut off, even though their debt was twice that of residential customers and urged for the implementation of a water affordability plan that would assist struggling households.

Instead, DWSD’s process for assistance with water bills was a frustrating, dehumanizing and bureaucratic farce. Residents reported spending hours attempting to make sense of bills that were convoluted and often inaccurate. They were given “assistance” phone numbers that rang endlessly without ever reaching a human being and stood in lines long hours just to learn they were not eligible for help due to missing, obscure deadlines.

During that first summer, community members and grassroots organizers created a rapid response network for water relief. The efforts included a water hotline for assistance in payment plans and water deliveries as well as door-to-door canvassing and the creation of neighborhood water stations. In addition to creating survival strategies through mutual aid, they also circulated petitions to change policy, filled City Council meetings, called press conferences to raise awareness and held endless protests for water rights throughout the city.

It’s been over two years since the aggressive shut-off campaign began, leaving some homes without water for months at a stretch, breaking up families and displacing residents. Not only have water shut offs massively contributed to Detroit’s foreclosure crisis (unpaid water bills can become a lien on a home), they also put parents at risk of losing their children to child protective services. The increasing injustices and struggle around the privatization of water in predominantly Black cities have since been compounded by the tragedy of Flint. And though media attention did help to raise awareness for a brief moment, the hype has since died down. The institutional problems remain and real people are still left suffering. When the camera crews leave, when reporters move onto the next big headline and when the legal system fails to provide protection for individuals over corporations, where do people turn to voice their outrage?


If you’d like a Mapping the Water Crisis book mailed to you go to www.wethepeopleofdetroit.com, hit the donate button & pay $25; put your name, mailing address & email in the notes section. A book will be mailed to you within one week!

DREAMSpecial Screening and Panel Discussion
Tuesday, September 27 from 5-8m ET
Charles H. Wright Museum of African American HistoryDream On, a PBS documentary by award-winning producer and director, Roger Weisberg.

The film investigates the perilous state of the American Dream after decades of rising income inequality and declining economic mobility. In an epic road trip, political comedian John Fugelsang retraces the journey of Alexis de Tocqueville, whose study of our young country in 1831 came to define America as a place where any one, of any background, could climb the ladder of economic opportunity.
The event will kick off with the screening of the Dream On film followed by a panel discussion on the state of the American Dream — streamed liv
e on dptv.org/dreamon.


PublicforumUofM 2
The Boggs Book Shop is open and waiting for you!
Among many other titles, don’t miss…

Ron Scott’s – How to End Police Brutality

evolution in the 21st Century Anthology

…or the classic, Conversations in Maine

The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214

The Lone Voice in a Hostile World

  Jimmy and Grace  
Our mission is to nurture the transformational leadership capacities of individuals and organizations committed to creating productive, sustainable, ecologically responsible, and just communities. Through local, national and international networks of activists, artists and intellectuals we foster new ways of living, being and thinking to face the challenges of the 21st century.
Living for Change News
September 18th – September 25th
Thinking for Ourselves
Radical Legacy
Shea Howell

About 150 people gathered to remember Jeffrey Montgomery on Saturday on the Wayne State University campus. Jeff died on July 18, 2016, shortly after the annual Motor City Gay Pride event he championed.

Jeff was a leading voice demanding dignity for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people from the mid 1980s through the beginning of the 21st century.  Often he was the lone voice in a hostile world.

After his partner Michael was shot to death in front of a gay bar in 1984 Jeff turned grief and anger into activism.  The police had told Jeff they had no intention of investigating the murder. It was just another gay killing.

Jeff refused to accept this. From that day on he devoted his considerable intellect, energy, and humor to challenging the police, state lawmakers, and ultimately the federal government.

I loved Jeff for his commitment and courage and for his confidence that people could be better.  We worked closely together shortly after he co-founded the Triangle foundation in 1991.  

We shared an appreciation for the radical tradition in America.  I still vividly remember the first time I visited his apartment. Hanging in a place of honor above the fireplace was a framed covers of the graphic socialist magazine, Masses.

Masses was published between 1911 and 1917 when it was shut down by the government for encouraging people to refuse to be drafted.  Jeff’s grandfather had been a contributor to the magazine and was a well-known member of the Detroit Socialist Party. It was a history that delighted Jeff. He kept a copy of the Masses credo that declared:

A Free Magazine — This magazine is owned and published cooperatively by its editors. It has no dividends to pay, and nobody is trying to make money out of it. A revolutionary and not a reform magazine; a magazine with a sense of humour and no respect for the respectable; frank; arrogant; impertinent; searching for true causes; a magazine directed against rigidity and dogma wherever it is found; printing what is too naked or true for a money-making press; a magazine whose final policy is to do as it pleases and conciliate nobody, not even its readers — There is a field for this publication in America. Help us to find it.

It was a statement that captured much of how Jeff lived his life.  

In the early 1990’s he helped forge the National Coalition of Anti Violence Programs. It recorded crimes against LGBTQ people in cities across the country. This work became the basis of national hate crimes legislation and challenged the idea that LGBTG people were disposable.

Jeff became a leading voice challenging the “homosexual panic” defense.  This was a strategy arguing that killing a person who is LGBTQ is excusable. People panic in the mere presence of someone who is gay. Jeff’s insistence on our shared humanity and searing arguments shattered this idea. He helped convict Jonathan Schmitz who murdered Scott Amadure in Oakland County in 1995. Amadure had revealed on the nationally televised Jenny Jones show that he had a secret crush on Schmitz. A few days later, Schmitz shot him.

It was Jeff’s voice that helped the country come to terms with the killing of Mathew Shepard. He publically supported the prosecution and helped eliminate the panic defense. Meanwhile, he privately helped Mathew’s family come to terms with their grief.

Confronting the daily cruelties of America took a heavy toll on Jeff. He struggled most of his life against its pull.

Jeff’s life affirms the power of people to create change. But it also cries out for us to acknowledge that those who refuse to conciliate, who fight for basic dignity, become wounded in the battle. As we see a new generation of warriors emerging, we all need to make sure their lives not only matter but are filled with love.



Ruby Sales—Where Does It Hurt?

Where does it hurt? That’s a question the civil rights icon Ruby Sales learned to ask during the days of that movement. It’s a question we scarcely know how to ask in public life now, but it gets at human dynamics that we are living and reckoning with. At a convening of 20 theologians seeking to reimagine the public good of theology for this century, Ruby Sales unsettles some of what we think we know about the force of religion in civil rights history, and names a “spiritual crisis of white America” as a calling of this time.

Turkey Is Supporting the Syrian Jihadis Washington Says It Wants to Fight
Meredith Tax
The Nation
What political choices can the United States make in the Middle East? Turkey’s recent invasion of Syria and subsequent attacks on Rojava—the three autonomous cantons set up by Syrian Kurds—raise this question, but so far the answer has been framed only in terms of military alliances and realpolitik. But as many have said, the appeal of ISIS and Al Qaeda has to be countered ideologically, not just militarily. This cannot happen without a compelling alternative model. Rojava, with its vision of egalitarian democratic inclusivity, is trying to establish a new paradigm for the Middle East—but so far Washington has seen the Syrian Kurds only in military terms and is short-changing future possibilities because of a misplaced deference to zero-sum ethnic rivalries and the so-called “moderate Islamism” of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

On August 24, Turkey invaded Jarabulus, a Syrian border town held by ISIS, with great fanfare: several hundred Turkish soldiers, twenty tanks, and 1,500 Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters from Islamist militias. In reality, the whole battle was a fake. ISIS had quietly left town several days before, and the difference between this and their usual behavior convinced some observers, particularly the Kurds, that their exit was coordinated with Ankara.

While the mainstream media saw that Erdogan’s real purpose was to go after the Kurds, and noted that it is problematic for the United States to be allied with two parties that are fighting each other, US coverage of Syria has overwhelmingly focused on either the war or state politics. It has thus failed to look hard at the Erdogan government’s support of jihadis, or to ask what they have in common—whether or not Turkey is a NATO member.




If you’d like a Mapping the Water Crisis book mailed to you go to www.wethepeopleofdetroit.com, hit the donate button & pay $25; put your name, mailing address & email in the notes section. A book will be mailed to you within one week!

A message from our friends at the Beloved Community Center

A vision came to life on Monday, September 12th, 2016, in 31 state capitols across the Nation; the vision of a National Day of Moral Action took place and had a major impact all over the country especially in North Carolina.

Over 300 people gathered in Raleigh, NC on this important day in the history of the United States led by Rev. Barber who has had a vision in his heart for the last several years to raise the moral level of our state in quest of a more just nation and a more peaceful world.  That vision was reflected in HKonJ and Moral Monday.  More recently, he established a mission to systematically expand the work in NC and to inject into the current political debate the importance of helping the nation to view issues through a moral lens.  He developed a plan called the “Moral Revival,” in which he and several other clergy traveled the nation, preaching that moral imperative.  As part of that plan, he led in forming the National Day of Moral Action.  From that flowed many, many tasks.



The Boggs Book Shop is open and waiting for you!
Among many other titles, don’t miss…
Ron Scott’s – How to End Police Brutality

evolution in the 21st Century Anthology

…or the classic, Conversations in Maine

The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214

Jimmy and Grace  
Living for Change News
September 4th – September 11th


Thinking for Ourselves

Sanctuary Cities
Shea Howell

shea25Donald Trump came to Detroit over Labor Day weekend in a laughable, highly scripted bid to prove he is not racist. Protesters greeted him.  Detroit is the largest African American city in the country, with a history of sophisticated political organizing that counters such lame gestures quickly and clearly.

It is also a Sanctuary City. Just days before coming to Detroit, Trump denounced Sanctuary Cities, saying that if elected he would cut off federal funding until they renounced these policies. “Cities that refuse to cooperate with federal authorities will not receive taxpayer dollars,” Trump said.

Trumps statement provoked protests as well. Over 500 cities have some sort of sanctuary policy, refusing to cooperate with immigration officials. Most of these policies have come about in the last decade in response to the inhuman deportation practices of the federal government that rip families apart, send children alone to countries where they are strangers, and creates a culture where people fear to report the most brutal of crimes.

But Detroit, along with about 200 other communities, has a deeper history of Sanctuary, beginning with sanctuary from slavery. We are the only city with a statue honoring the Underground Railroad.

Our current Sanctuary status grew out of bold civil disobedience to the US military in Central America. In the early 1980s, in response to the thousands of immigrants fleeing the torture and death squads of El Salvador and Guatemala, people of faith and community activists joined together to challenge US policies by providing Sanctuary to refugees. They publicly defied the US government and welcomed families into church communities. In December of 1983 the Parish Council of St. Rita Catholic Church resolved that their church would be “a sanctuary for refugees from El Salvador and Guatemala, as a demonstration of our commitment to people fleeing for their lives, and as a public witness to our government to cease arming nations and urge negotiations to settle the long-standing problems plaguing the people of Central America.”

In July of 1984 St. Rita’s became the first church in Michigan to welcome a family. Soon churches in Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and Lansing followed. The Gonzalez family arrived on a defiant Freedom Train. For the rest of that decade, Raul, Valeria and their children challenged the US government as they lived and organized against US military policies. Supported by activists and people of faith, they were protected in sanctuary, speaking in churches, community centers, and living rooms, describing their lives in El Salvador and the role the US government played in supporting torture and death.

In the spring of 1987 the Sanctuary Coalition organized Sanctuary Sabbath Sunday. On the same weekend, hundreds of congregations participated in a sermon/conversation about US involvement in Central America. Shortly after, the Detroit City Council declared the city a Sanctuary.

The materials prepared by the Coalition to guide the discussions emphasized the long history of Detroit as a city of sanctuary. They consciously drew on the legacy of the Underground Railroad. They also emphasized that suffering of the people of El Salvador was directly connected to the suffering of those in Detroit. All of the meetings closed with participants reciting a pledge:

“I pledge to open my eyes and my heart through reflection, reading, and responding to the needs of Salvadoran and Guatemalan people. I acknowledge the connection I have with these people as members of the human family and pledge to discover how U.S. foreign policy is affecting their lives. I cannot do everything, but I pledge to do something today to make life better in my city and my world. Working together makes change possible.”

To open our eyes and hearts, to learn, to make connections, and to act with boldness are as essential now as at any time in our history.



If you’d like a Mapping the Water Crisis book mailed to you go to www.wethepeopleofdetroit.com, hit the donate button & pay $25; put your name, mailing address & email in the notes section. A book will be mailed to you within one week!

Where I Live

Kathy Engel
 The East Hampton Star 

We returned to the tangle of place called home in 1994 — me, my husband, and our young daughters. I was afraid of it, terrified of myself in it, loved it the way you love food you think you’re not supposed to eat and fear will make you sick.

This is where when I was a child Claribel the angry Angus cow taught me caution.

This is where Trill, the Welsh pony, reared up each time I attempted to slip my leg over her back, my stepfather, the farmer, and his brother trying to hold her down.

This is where my mother and her friends showed me how to start something (a school) in your community, at the kitchen table.

This is where the vast salt ocean and rough wind soothed my agitated mind; I learned that in the physical world one could locate a sense of belonging and mystery.

This is where I got the train from the spit of a stop in Bridgehampton back to my father’s life — the city and its grit, activism, my Jewishness, art.

This is where I was the only Jewish kid in John Marshall Elementary School.

This is where I learned to hide my fear.

This is where I couldn’t/can’t hide. Because it’s where I live. The fields, sea, the spectacular beauty, the farmers and what they grow, my family, and the bald glare of contradiction and old plantation segregation.

This is where the landscape of race rode up on me, closed like a barn door locking in the rat of injustice.

This is where I saw how people live in daily acceptance of inequity and don’t name it.

This is where I sometimes joined on the harvester after school.

This is where I sometimes rode in the pickup truck with my stepfather to take Geraldine, who was black and from the South and up here to pick potatoes, back to her shack a few miles from our so comfortable barn-turned-home near the beach.

This is where Geraldine and the others working the harvester welcomed me, showed me how to pick out the bad ones, toss them off to the side — dirt on my hands, brush of wind, red crank of the tractor, the stories, her pipe and deep voice.

And this is where something felt so wrong when I saw where she lived — the tattoo of two worlds divided by train tracks. This is where those who lived on the Turnpike didn’t make that decision, didn’t say: We want to live here in shacks while you have your bigger homes across the tracks and we take care of your kids, clean your messes, and pick your potatoes.
This is where in fourth grade I witnessed a young black female slammed against a cement wall by a white gym teacher, couldn’t shake my inability to intervene, a rock of guilty silence lodged in my abdomen, prodding me like a splinter.

This is where as a young woman I returned after travel to war zones. This is where the summer of ’82 I was called an ignorant self-hating commie in the letters section of this newspaper after writing that American Jews (me) should protest Israel’s invasion of Lebanon.

This is where when we decided to come home, a number of progressive white friends said: You’re moving there? Why? And most of my friends of color said: That’s wonderful. Can’t wait to visit. And did.

This is where whenever someone visited for the first time I was afraid she or he would judge me, find out my secret.

This is where I returned. To live inside contradiction.

This is where once a week as I write my poems or take a run, a woman from Central America cleans my house.

This is where more than one black woman friend traveling on the bus from the city to visit us was asked by a white woman sitting next to her: Oh, are you going to work? This is where, in our backyard, under the mimosa tree, we laugh in that uneasy way when the friends report the story over pasta and poems, as I step back from the squirm of my whiteness.

This is where when our younger daughter was in high school some of her white classmates threatened her Latino and African-American classmates, made swastikas and emblems of white supremacy, so a group of us, parents and teachers, formed a committee. This is where the black former teachers and administrators told about their daily pain working at the school. We didn’t use the phrase white supremacy. This is where the committee soon stopped talking about race and focused on drugs and alcohol. This is where I learned that drugs and alcohol don’t discriminate, even though law enforcement does. This is where I knew that project was urgent, tapping into my own scab and flood of denial. At the same time this is where discussion of race was once again erased.

This is where our older daughter and her friends were told to return after volunteering in New Orleans post-Katrina. The leaders of the unlearning racism workshop led by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond instructed the group to go home and find the Katrina in their own communities.

Here the hurricane lives underneath the belly of the good life and enlightened conversation.

This is where the storm lives, where I live, in my body and the body of the split. In the ZIP code 11962. Under our floorboards. On Shinnecock land. Where many who speak the language of Lorca and Neruda are called alien while digging up weeds in other people’s gardens and mopping other people’s floors, often living crammed in motel rooms and also running businesses or making art.

Here not all residents go to Pilates classes and the ocean on weekends.

This is where it’s hard to find a hair salon that does black hair. Unless you know who’s opened up shop in her living room.

This is where my paragraphs break down because I’m afraid of what I’m writing. It will never be right. I will never be right in it.

This is where I returned after standing on the bridge in Selma last year marking the 50th anniversary of the bloody march. And couldn’t move for a moment. And couldn’t write about it. Couldn’t find an adequacy of language in my throat.

This is where as in so many wheres I often hear white people asking the one or two persons of color in the room to be the expert, the wizard of addressing race, the flag carrier, burdened by teaching.

Where the mirror is confused.

This is where I get calls and emails from people who identify as white asking if I could recommend a person of color for their activity. I believe they are driven toward inclusivity and change. At the same time I want to suggest they ask themselves what prevents them from knowing black or brown people where they live. Will white people fight white supremacy living in isolation, when the reality can be turned on and off like a TV show?

This is where I fear alienating friends and neighbors.

This is where this summer, 2016, I march with my daughters, mother, and husband in support of Black Lives Matter in our villages, following new local leadership. Where in our home we make signs as we’ve always done. This time: Black Lives Matter/White Silence Kills/Cultural Equity/Don’t Shoot. And our older daughter’s boyfriend, who is white, joins, for whom this is a first, and that is powerful. This is where I know again that the young leaders of Black Lives Matter are doing my job for me.

This is where I sit with my coffee after a dunk in the magnificent Atlantic, watching the strolling turkey family, small chicks, and a lone big-antlered buck on our nearly two acres. I hear my best friend’s voice. A brilliant and acclaimed writer, a black woman, and our daughters’ godmother, she recently said to me: “I want to wake up one day and hear that people who identify as white are calling the demonstrations so we who are being killed can stay home for a change.” Her voice vibrates in my chest.

This is where one of the people who have bravely stepped up where we live was a friend of our older daughter from high school days. A young black man, it turns out he is the son of a man who worked for and alongside my white stepfather, the farmer.

This is where I live. I am steeped in the story. I seek an ethical, lyrical language and the courage to do the next right thing. To end the systemic, structural denial and brutality that is white supremacy and is killing us, and my participation in it. So we can all live well where we live.

This is where I live, in this gift of a place, in this particular America, where in mid-August on a Monday evening I go to enjoy Escola de Samba BOOM, the band my husband and a number of friends play with, on the beach, under a nearly full moon, kids of all sizes and colors dancing in the ocean and on the sand, the sound of multiple languages infusing the air, piping plovers still alive. A truly community formation, when I look around, inhale, it smells like hope, it tastes like joy, the sweat and beam emanating from a group of people who resemble the world. For an hour. Making music, in music. By the sea.

This training will specifically focus on peacemaking circles
(Teachers, Security Guards, Lunch Aides, Classroom Aides, Principles, Volunteers, etc. )
Saturday, September 10, 1pm-5pm
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church
1950 Trumbull St.
Detroit, MI 48216

Complete Registration Form HERE

From this interactive workshop, you will learn about restorative practices, gain basic tools for leading a peacemaking circle, receive  information on integrating restorative practices in school settings, and leave with materials for continued practice and study.

$20-$50 sliding scale or non-monetary exchange
(no one will be turned away)
all proceeds will go to
the Detroit Area Restorative Justice Center.
Snacks and materials will be provided.
Please bring a pen, paper, and be ready to participate!

Please send questions to detroitrestorativejustice@ gmail.com.
Please complete Registration to RSVP

If you are not able to pay or would prefer to barter, please email back with what you would like barter and we can work out an exchange.

Sponsored by the Detroit Area Restorative Justice Center

The co-trainers are:

Marcia Lee began with Restorative Justice working with men with a history of domestic violence.  Through this work she recognized the importance of creating circles of accountability and support, inner work, and community building.  Now, her work in Restorative Justice focuses in the communities that she is a part of in Detroit and Hamtramck.  Marcia has a masters in Dispute Resolution and is a trained Peacemaking Circle keeper.  She is a co-founder of the Detroit Area Restorative Justice Center, tai chi practitioner, aspiring pun maker, directs Cap Corps Midwest, a full time volunteer program (similar to AmeriCorps), and coordinates the Office of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation for the Capuchin Franciscans.

Mindy Nathan came to realize the power of Restorative Justice by seeing how it changed her alternative high school’s staff and students, and their relationships to each other and the environment in positive ways. Mindy directed the Tri-County Educational Center for 8.5 years – it was the alternative high school program of Berkley Schools. Restorative “thinking” and practices are an essential component of a healthy school culture and are important facets of social-emotional learning and trauma-informed schools. Among other desirable outcomes, restorative practices build empathy and community among students and staff.  Mindy has been a school board trustee, a religious educator, a high school teacher and adjunct instructor in a business college. She is now employed as a learning specialist by the Education Achievement Authority (EAA).

The Boggs Book Shop is open and waiting for you!
Among many other titles, don’t miss…
Ron Scott’sHow to End Police Brutality

evolution in the 21st Century Anthology

…or the classic, Conversations in Maine

The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214

  Jimmy and Grace  
Living for Change News
August 28th – September 4th


Thinking for Ourselves

Ending Give-Aways
Shea Howell

Detroit has an historic opportunity to establish a new set of values for how development will take place in our city.  By voting for the People’s Community Benefit Agreement Ordinance, Proposal A, we will set in places processes to ensure developers give something back to the community in exchange for tax breaks and use of public funds.

This proposal has a long history. Beginning in 2012 with the resistance to the efforts by John Hantz to secure 10,000 acres on the East Side for pennies on the dollar, community members have been actively seeking ways to have a greater say over what happens to land in our neighborhoods.  Over the next 4 years we witnessed developer after developer making claims about why they need tax breaks. Marathon Oil got a $175 million tax abatement, and provided less than 25 jobs. During the bankruptcy process we watched the transfer of land to billionaire Ilitch for $1. This was after the decision to provide the majority of the $650 million for his new hockey stadium from public funds.

These are just a few examples of a long line of deals that have benefited private corporations and cost the public.

Proposal A would put an end to these kinds of “give- aways.” It would provide a framework for thoughtful discussion within a community about what impact a development might have on the quality of life. It provides the opportunity to systematically ask how to better support the whole community.

In a recent article in the Detroit News, Councilman Scott Benson argued that Detroit would be better served if we voted for his “enhanced” Community Benefits Agreement Ordinance.  Mr. Benson says it is important to separate “fact from fiction” and that “despite some rhetoric” his proposal is really not “anti-community.  Mr. Benson then goes on to provide some fantasies of his own. Most importantly he does not explain his own history in attempting to make sure developers are held accountable to the community.

Benson did everything he could to keep a real community benefit agreement from coming to the Council.  When faced with the citizen’s ballot initiative, he quickly crafted his own proposal. The only purpose of this proposal is to confuse voters.  It is based on the tired recycling of arguments that are inherently “anti-community.” They rest on the fear that people cannot be trusted to act openly, honestly, and with integrity as they consider the impact of large scale business developments in their neighborhood.

Moreover Benson, like all those who support his version, likes to reduce a CBA to the question of jobs for construction and contracts with local firms. Our history tells us that construction jobs rarely meet the “target goals” negotiated by officials.  And the demand to use “ Detroit based businesses” is open to corruption and misrepresentation.  More importantly, construction jobs are a minor part of multi-million dollar enterprises. Focusing only on construction jobs narrows the thinking of all involved.

Proposal A has a process that encourages community people and businesses together to think more broadly about what benefits a community receives over time. It looks to the broader questions of quality of life and ecological sustainability.

More than 5000 Detroiters petitioned to put Proposal A on the ballot. Now we need to organize to make sure a real community supported ordinance passes. 

The People’s CBO was designated as Proposal A and the ‘Enhanced’ Ordinance will appear as Proposal B.



If you’d like a Mapping the Water Crisis book mailed to you go to www.wethepeopleofdetroit. com, hit the donate button & pay $25; put your name, mailing address & email in the notes section. A book will be mailed to you within one week!

This training will specifically focus on peacemaking circles
(Teachers, Security Guards, Lunch Aides, Classroom Aides, Principles, Volunteers, etc. )
Saturday, September 10, 1pm-5pm
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church
1950 Trumbull St.
Detroit, MI 48216

Complete Registration Form HERE

From this interactive workshop, you will learn about restorative practices, gain basic tools for leading a peacemaking circle, receive  information on integrating restorative practices in school settings, and leave with materials for continued practice and study.

$20-$50 sliding scale or non-monetary exchange
(no one will be turned away)
all proceeds will go to
the Detroit Area Restorative Justice Center.
Snacks and materials will be provided.
Please bring a pen, paper, and be ready to participate!

Please send questions to detroitrestorativejustice@gmai l.com.
Please complete Registration to RSVP

If you are not able to pay or would prefer to barter, please email back with what you would like barter and we can work out an exchange.

Sponsored by the Detroit Area Restorative Justice Center

The co-trainers are:

Marcia Lee began with Restorative Justice working with men with a history of domestic violence.  Through this work she recognized the importance of creating circles of accountability and support, inner work, and community building.  Now, her work in Restorative Justice focuses in the communities that she is a part of in Detroit and Hamtramck.  Marcia has a masters in Dispute Resolution and is a trained Peacemaking Circle keeper.  She is a co-founder of the Detroit Area Restorative Justice Center, tai chi practitioner, aspiring pun maker, directs Cap Corps Midwest, a full time volunteer program (similar to AmeriCorps), and coordinates the Office of Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation for the Capuchin Franciscans.

Mindy Nathan came to realize the power of Restorative Justice by seeing how it changed her alternative high school’s staff and students, and their relationships to each other and the environment in positive ways. Mindy directed the Tri-County Educational Center for 8.5 years – it was the alternative high school program of Berkley Schools. Restorative “thinking” and practices are an essential component of a healthy school culture and are important facets of social-emotional learning and trauma-informed schools. Among other desirable outcomes, restorative practices build empathy and community among students and staff.  Mindy has been a school board trustee, a religious educator, a high school teacher and adjunct instructor in a business college. She is now employed as a learning specialist by the Education Achievement Authority (EAA).

The Boggs Book Shop is open and waiting for you!
Among many other titles, don’t miss…
Ron Scott’sHow to End Police Brutality

evolution in the 21st Century Anthology

…or the classic, Conversations in Maine

The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214

  Jimmy and Grace  
Our mission is to nurture the transformational leadership capacities of individuals and organizations committed to creating productive, sustainable, ecologically responsible, and just communities. Through local, national and international networks of activists, artists and intellectuals we foster new ways of living, being and thinking to face the challenges of the 21st century.
Living for Change News
August 14th – August 21st
Thinking for Ourselves
Seperate and Unequal
Shea Howellshea25This week the New York Times published yet another story about the reality of two separate and unequal Detroits. With the title “In Detroit’s 2-Speed Recovery, Downtown Roars and Neighborhoods Sputter,” Peter Applebome points to critical questions the Mayor and his administration would like to avoid.

After a brief sketch of downtown, Midtown and Corktown development, Applebome raises the question of what development means to neighborhoods. He says, “But what that means for the rest of the city and who is benefiting have set in motion a layered conversation about development, equity, race and class. It is playing out with particular force here in what was once the nation’s fourth-largest city and is now a place at once grappling with poverty, crime and failing schools, but also still animated by the bones of its former glory.”

This is a conversation the Mayor avoids. Yet even a transient observer like Applebome concludes, “The lack of progress is just as noticeable in the sprawl of often dilapidated neighborhoods, baking in the summer heat.”

Many are baking in that heat without water. No where is the lack of progress and the denial by the Mayor and his administration clearer than in the water shut off crisis. The day before the New York Times article appeared, a group of community based researchers issued an important report. Mapping the Water Crisis: The Dismantling of African American Neighborhoods in Detroit: Volume 1 is the result of an 18 month study documenting water shut offs in the city.  The report demonstrates in clear and specific detail that neighborhoods are suffering from a combination of foreclosures and shut offs, diminishing the quality of life for everyone in the community. Last year 23,000 homes were shut off from water. Over the last decade the city has endured 110,000 foreclosures.

Underscoring the growing divide in our city, Monica Lewis-Patrick, a guiding force in the research collaborative, said, “There is a renaissance downtown full of newcomers, while they are shutting off water for those who stayed and paid” their bills for years.

The impact of these shut offs in a city where 40% of the people live in poverty and many are paying more than 10% of their income for water is to actively drive people out of their homes. Dr. Gloria House, Professor Emerita of the University of Michigan-Dearborn and Wayne State University explained that the mapping documents that “The incidents of shutoffs, foreclosures and school closures are not random, but intentional and specific… We believe it’s about the dismantling of neighborhoods.”

The Mayor continues to deny this reality. He refuses to consider the consequences of his policies in the lives of people in neighborhoods. Instead he chooses to pretend his water assistance plan (WRAP) is solving the problem.  No one but the Mayor and his administration believes this. No one who sees the shut off trucks moving through neighborhoods on a daily basis believes this.  

The objective statistics do not support this. The WRAP is a failure.  It has a waiting list of 3,000 customers and the majority of people who have been signed up simply cannot keep up with the monthly payments.

The work of the We the People Detroit Community Research Collective documents in stark terms that our city is devolving into two separate, unequal, and unhealthy realities.

It does not have to be this way. Community activists and researchers have consistently advocated plans to make water available to all at affordable prices. They have developed programs to keep people in their homes and to stop foreclosures.  The real choice we face is about whose lives matter in our city.

Boggs Center board member Tawana “Honeycomb” Petty discusses new book and upcoming one woman show of the same title, Coming Out My Box with Michigan Literary Radio. Book illustration by Beehive Design Collective.


Education Coalition works to connect Detroit students with their community

“Founded in 2008, the Southeast Michigan Stewardship, or SEMIS, Coalition seeks to partner schools and community organizations, as well as help educators learn how to take an eco-justice approach to community-based projects with students.”


At Freedom Square, the Revolution Lives in Brave Relationships

“If, as Cornel West says, ‘justice is what love looks like in public,’ then Freedom Square is an embodiment of practicing justice….With grace, imagination and courage, Freedom Square offers a glimpse into a new future and is boldly showing the world how to make Black lives matter.”


The Boggs Book Shop is open and waiting for you!
Among many other titles, don’t miss…

Ron Scott’sHow to End Police Brutality

evolution in the 21st Century Anthology

…or the classic, Conversations in Maine

The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214

Jimmy and Grace  
Our mission is to nurture the transformational leadership capacities of individuals and organizations committed to creating productive, sustainable, ecologically responsible, and just communities. Through local, national and international networks of activists, artists and intellectuals we foster new ways of living, being and thinking to face the challenges of the 21st century.
Living for Change News
July 24th – July 31st
19th Annual
Detroit Tour of Urbans Gardens and Farms 

19th annual


On Wednesday, August 3rd guests will travel by bus and bike to get a taste of the routes that Detroit grown food is traveling from farm to table and learn a little bit more about the deep roots of the urban agriculture community. All tours will leave from Eastern Market Shed 3, located east of Russell St. between Adelaide and Division. Check-in begins at 5:00pm and tours will leave at 6:00pm sharp.

Stick around after the tour for a reception featuring delicious food prepared with Grown in Detroit produce by some of Detroit’s best local chefs. Back by popular demand, we’ll also be hosting the “Good Food Bazaar” an interactive space at the reception designed to help introduce tour guests to opportunities to become active volunteers, consumers and supporters of the organizations and entrepreneurs behind the good food momentum in the city.

Registration is now open and early registration is strongly recommended. The fee for the tour, paid when you register, is a sliding scale $15-$100 to offset cost of producing the event, which is valued at $50/person.

Thinking for Ourselves
Community Wisdom
Shea Howell

shea25Last week a majority of the Detroit City Council voted to place an anti-community proposal on the November ballot.  The intent of this proposal is to confuse voters and protect the interests of big business. Council members Benson, Leland, Tate, Spivey, Cushingberry, and Ayers voted to support the proposal. It was developed hastily by Scott Benson in an effort to destroy a people’s initiative to legally mandate a community voice in major, publically supported developments.

With this decision, Detroit voters are likely to have two competing proposals with the same name on the ballot. One, supported by the people, would use the force of law to ensure that communities have a voice and receive agreed upon benefits from developments that use public money or get tax breaks.  The other, sponsored by Benson, only mandates a public meeting, where developers get to tell citizens what they plan to do.

Mayor Duggan and the business elite oppose a meaningful Community Benefits Agreement (CBA). They argue that a real CBA would limit development and jeopardize job growth. These claims are nonsense. And they are not the core of the objections. The sad truth is that the Mayor, Councilman Benson, the majority of the Council and the business elite fear democracy. They distrust the wisdom of people. They see a CBA only as something that takes away from profits and control. They cannot imagine that a real CBA, with a true collaborative process, would result in better decisions and better development.

This anti-democratic thrust and fear of the people is actually written into the ordinance proposed by Benson. The one public meeting in the ordinance is orchestrated and designed to tell residents what will happen to them. These “impacts” are universally described in negative terms throughout the ordinance. Citizens are allowed to suggest ways to soften the blows. Nothing is binding.  The philosophy reflected in the Benson Ordinance cast people as complainers. Once we get a chance to grip a little, developers go ahead as planned. This is the track record of development, especially under emergency management and Mayor Duggan. Developers don’t live up to even minimal agreements.

In measured support for the Benson Ordinance, Crains says that a real CBA “opens the door to project management by people who may or may not have the subject matter expertise to give guidance and set the rules of play for developers.” The power of the community to “micro-manage specific investments may bring growth to a screeching halt,” they warn.

It does not occur to these folks that there is wisdom and creativity in the community. Community knowledge means better development. Community engagement need not be antagonistic.

The reality is that communities are complex and multi layered. Developers see only one small slice of that reality.  For example, last March, a Detroit icon, Faygo, faced a community picket over a closed road. The leadership of Faygo was stunned at being picketed, but wisely decided to engage with the community. They learned that in an effort to make their truck deliveries more efficient they had blocked off essential community pathways for children to get to buses and for emergency vehicles to enter the neighborhood quickly.  Before long a compromise was reached so kids could pass safely and emergency vehicles could reach distant streets.

Community Development is about more than jobs or limiting “negative impacts.” A true CBA rests on the belief that community wisdom makes for better decisions for everyone.

We owe thanks to Council President Jones and members Castaneda-Lopez and Sheffield for upholding the democratic wisdom of a CBA. Now we need to organize to win the November vote. Detroiters are not so easily fooled.


For Immediate Release
Alicia Farris, ROC-MI
(313) 962-5020

July 26, 2016
Detroit Organizations Join National Night Out for Safety and Liberation

Community organizations come together to discuss what it means to be “safe”

DETROIT – On Tuesday, August 2nd, organizations are hosting events in more than 20 cities across the country, including Detroit, where they will redefine what public safety means to them during an event called a Night Out for Safety and Liberation.

People who live in communities that are plagued with crime and violence understandably want to feel safe and they have that right. However, the question that organizers are asking is: “Does an increased police presence in a community necessarily translate to more safety’?

“I know that Detroiters have a lot to say about what it means to be safe and free,” said Alicia Farris of Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan.  “Therefore, I reached out to several community organizations, because I thought it was important for Detroiters to join in on this national conversation that takes a different look at what safety means to those who are most marginalized.”

Increased policing in black and brown communities has contributed to increased surveillance, mass criminalization, and calls for the implementation of policing tactics like stop and frisk and broken windows. For black and brown communities, this is the opposite of safety. Safety should look like a direct reinvestment in black and brown communities and a strong social safety net. Safety looks like a move away from mass criminalization and a move towards fewer police and less surveillance. It looks like communities where people have homes without fear of displacement. Safety is embodied in quality healthcare that people can access and afford. Safety also looks like neighborhoods where a quality education is accessible for all and communities where people have access to clean water and healthy food.

These reimagined and redefined qualities of safety and more will be discussed at theNight Out for Safety and Liberation Detroit event on August 2, 2016 at the Detroit Public Library – Main Branch from 5pm – 8pm Light refreshments and childcare services will be available.

This event is being organized by: Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan


Allied Media Projects
Good Cakes and Bakes
Community Development Advocates of Detroit
James and Grace Lee Boggs Center
Detroit Equity Action Lab
Michigan Faith In Action – Detroit
Detroit Food Policy Council
Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation
Mothering Justice
Detroit People’s Platform
Pontiac Policy Council
Economic Justice Alliance of Michigan
Rosa Parks Institute
Equitable Detroit Coalition
The Foundation of Women in Hip Hop
FoodLab Detroit
We the People of Detroit

The Boggs Book Shop is open and waiting for you!
Among many other titles, don’t miss…
Ron Scott’sHow to End Police Brutality

evolution in the 21st Century Anthology

…or the classic, Conversations in Maine

The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214

Living for Change News
July 10th – July 17th
Thinking for OurselvesCompromised Confusion
Shea Howell

shea The battle over a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) for Detroit is intensifying.  Within a few hours after the Department of Elections ruled the CBA could go forward as a ballot question in November, City Councilman Scott Benson jumped in to try yet another desperate strategy to confuse voters and block meaningful legislation. He said he is offering a compromise.

People have been fighting for a CBA strategy for nearly a decade. The purpose of a CBA is to ensure that when public money is used to support private development, communities receive some direct benefit. The ordinance gives community residents a say in how developments impact their neighborhoods and their daily lives. As City Council President Brenda Jones wrote in a recent letter to the Detroit Free Press supporting CBA’s,

“We need to raise our standards of what we deserve when we invest our land or tax dollars. We deserve better than trinkets that don’t hold up after the development is complete.”

The ordinance requires developers who receive at least $300,000 in public subsidies for projects of $15 million or more to meet with community members and agree upon the benefits for the community in exchange for public dollars.

While jobs for both construction and operations are a key concerns, communities are also concerned about quality of life issues. Neighbors want to ensure support for local businesses, consideration for environmental impacts, and support for neighborhood activities. Rashida Talib of the Sugar Law Center has supported the idea since she was a state legislator. Nearly a decade ago she heard from residents of the Delray area where major expansion of the new international bridge was unfolding. They worry that the increased truck traffic would further damage their already stressed neighborhood.

She said, “Every time I think about a community benefits agreement for the bridge specifically, I think about it being a model bridge that is going to have an air quality program or a volunteer program to get trucks retrofitted. One of the things I heard residents ask is, “Rashida, for the money that they’re getting for the land, could they get bus covers?” Those are the kinds of basic needs that a community who is going to have large transportation pressures are thinking about.”

The idea of a CBA makes sense.  Yet, it is opposed by the Mayor, the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. There was even an effort by the State Legislature to outlaw such ordinances. In large part this effort was stopped because of the strong support for CBA’s given by the Michigan Black Chamber of Commerce, representing thousands of local neighborhood business. These are the kinds of businesses a CBA would most directly help stay in the city.

Fears fostered by the corporate elite that CBA’s would drive out development are not true.  We already have voluntary CBA’s working across the city. Neighbors in Brightmoor negotiated with Meijer for jobs and other community benefits when the new store came to Northwest Detroit. The West Grand Boulevard Collaborative struggled for years to engage Henry Ford Health System (HFHS) in negotiations over a massive warehouse construction. Whole Foods negotiated hiring goals, vendors and small minority business recruitment.

This spring, Idea City negotiated a CBA with artists and activists for their international project here. They said the experience was so valuable to them, they will use the process in all other cities around the globe where they create exhibits.

Community Benefits help everyone think more fully and consciously about the relationship between businesses and the communities that support them. An ordinance provides a tool to give these conversations legal standing and provide for ongoing accountability.

Councilman Benson’s compromise does none of this. It is a weak effort to confuse voters and reduce thoughtful discussion to essentially one public meeting.

If the councilman does not withdraw his so called compromise, he can be sure it will be rejected by voters who are tired of efforts to block every democratically developed step toward a more equitable city.


Challenge to ballot initiative signatures denied by Detroit Department of Elections.

On July 7, 2016 Rise Together Detroit received word from the Department of Elections. After a review by their office, the challenge to the Community Benefit ballot initiative  signatures has been denied. The petition certification STANDS! This means enough signatures have been gathered and certified to move the Community Benefits Ordinance forward toward placement on the November ballot.

This has been a tremendous effort and an important act of citizen-led democracy on display. The CBA Coalition partners want to thank the members who have supported and made this all-volunteer grassroots effort possible. Detroiters from every corner of the city have stepped up to help move the CBA Ordinance to a vote by the people.

Please visit http://risetogetherdetroit.com/ for more information and updates on the efforts to gain a Community Benefits Ordinance for all Detroiters.
Recent Timeline:

On July 5, 2016 Detroit City Council members heard public comments about the Community Benefits Ordinance. Though the Community Benefit Ordinance was not on the agenda of the meeting, many came out to speak in support of the ordinance due to a challenge to the ballot initiative petition signatures. Videos below.

On Monday June 27, 2016, the City of Detroit Department of Elections certified the Community benefits Agreement Coalition had collected enough signatures to place the long-sought Community Benefits Ordinance on the ballot in November. As required by law, a letter was sent to City Council thereby giving them 60 days to pass the ordinance as written or refer it to the Election Commission for placement on the ballot in November.

Within 48 hours efforts to challenge the Community Benefit Ordinance were underway.  On Wednesday June 29, 2016 CBA Coalition members learned of a legal challenge filed against the ballot initiative. One of Detroit’s leading corporate law firms, working on behalf of an unidentified, anonymous client, has challenged the validity of signatures collected.

Please visit http://risetogetherdetroit.com/ for more information and updates on the efforts to gain a Community Benefits Ordinance for all Detroiters.

“If we have to pay, we get a say!”

Join the conversation: #RiseTogetherDetroit #CBO

Learn more and help spread the word!

#RiseTogetherDetroit VIDEO Angy Webb “People want this. They wouldn’t have filled out petitions if they didn’t” https://youtu.be/tBmWt-_YAqo

\#RiseTogetherDetroit VIDEO Lila Cabil “we’ve given a lot, but we’ve lost a lot”https://youtu.be/bMbwt6472sA

#RiseTogetherDetroit VIDEO Ron Turner: “Detroiters are capable of working with developers for a win/win situation.” https://youtu.be/itIQ3kl6Tuw

#RiseTogetherDetroit VIDEO Bro J Smith @CapSoupKitchen “people served by the kitchen don’t benefit from development” https://youtu.be/mea29FE-uiI

#RiseTogetherDetroit 7 VIDEOS of Public Comments on Community Benefits from

#DetroitCityCouncil’s July 5th Meeting

Detroiters deserve a seat at the table when large projects use public $$$#RiseTogetherDetroit VIDEO https://youtu.be/15PGJ1xljQE
Please take a few minutes to look at this short video Detroit Eviction Defense made of Barbara Campbell, who is facing eviction this month.

Would you be interested in adding your name to the petition (see below), opposing her unjust eviction by Flagstar Bank? We want to gather signatures quickly so you’d like to sign, please email Dianne Feeley (feeleyd@earthlink.net) by this Wednesday, July 13. If you can get an organizational endorsement that’s great too, but time is running out and we want to be sure to send the petition in to Flagstar ASAP.

Many thanks!,
Dianne Feeley

Petition Statement:

As community advocates, we are calling on Flagstar Bank to stop eviction proceedings against Barbara Campbell and work out a reduced mortgage payment so that she can remain in her Detroit home. We won’t speak to the contested legal issues involved in the denial of her application for a mortgage modification and the foreclosure that followed. We say simply that Barbara deserves your help and support rather than eviction. She is a former program director for the Girl Scouts, a mother, and a long-time stalwart in her community. She has also struggled with multiple medical disabilities— including kidney failure, cancer and heart disease—that warrant assistance from a bank promoting itself as a member and protector of our community. This is a matter of justice, if not the law. Detroit doesn’t need another heartless eviction!



What We’re Reading

Are You Ready for Some Hard Truths About the Birth of Our Nation? Brace Yourself – by Frank Joyce



The Boggs Book Shop is open and waiting for you!
Among many other titles, don’t miss…
Ron Scott’sHow to End Police Brutality

{R}evolution in the 21st Century Anthology

…or the classic, Conversations in Maine

The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214

Jimmy and Grace  
Living for Change News
June 26th – July 3rd
Thinking for Ourselves
Better Answers
Shea Howell

shea25July brings water rate increases to Detroit and most of the region. Even without this increase many people are struggling to make ends meet. Shut offs continue. Children have been protesting the Mayor, and churches, long stable sources of housing for people with limited means, are all facing shut offs.Detroiters are not alone in facing these increases. Across the country water rates have been going up at almost twice the rate of inflation for nearly two decades. Over the last five years water and sewer services have risen 41% nationally. As municipalities face aging infrastructure, shifting climates, and industrial wastes, and agricultural runoff, water is becoming more and more expensive. Fewer and fewer people are able to pay for it.How we care for water and the right of people to it is a central question about the kind of people we are and wish to become. Today in Detroit, as around the globe, fundamental differences are emerging. For some, like the Mayor of Detroit and Michigan Governor Snyder, water is a commodity to be bought and sold. If you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it.

Mayor Duggan’s refusal to acknowledge water as a human right reveals his failure as a Mayor. Every day that he continues aggressive water shut offs and refuses a true water affordability plan Duggan drives people out of their homes and out of the city. While he bends the law and gives tax breaks for wealthy corporations, he continues a policy that everyone knows is broken.

Long before the poisoning of Flint or the massive water shut offs in Detroit, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation recommended that the United States “adopt a mandatory federal standard on affordability for water and sanitation.” The UN experts wanted municipalities to provide clean, safe water at about 3% of a person’s annual income. This 2011 recommendation was never taken seriously in the US Congress.  

Now we are in a national crisis as water is being turned into a commodity. Private corporations are looking to it as a new profit center. More than a decade ago the Detroit City Council passed a plan like that recommended by the UN. Mayor Duggan has refused to implement it. He has instead chosen a policy that pits people against each other.

Selling water to those who can afford it and shutting off those who can’t is unjust. It is a policy that hurts those with limited access to jobs, income or financial support.  It strikes at the well being of the African American community especially.  A recent report by the Unitarian Universalists noted, “Today, one in every two African-American Michiganers live in cities that violate their human rights to water and sanitation.”

Of course, Michigan is not alone in pursuing policies that target African Americans as less worthy than their European descended counterparts. For example in Lowndes County, Ala., a majority African American county, there is no functioning sewer system.

Neither the governor nor the Mayor are able to do the kind of creative thinking that is required to protect water and people. Last week, in a controversial move, Governor Snyder voted to approve the city of Waukesha, Wisconsin access to Lake Michigan. It will take out over 8 million gallons of water a day, and return treated waste water back to the system. Governor Snyder said, “Right now, there’s essentially a diversion of water that has human safety issues and environmental concerns with it, and that’s not a good thing,” The proposal is “a better answer than what we have today.”

Detroit and Michigan deserve “better answers.” In reality, answers have been coming from the community for months, years and decades. Duggan and Snyder are not even asking the right questions.

Happy Birthday Grace
Tawana Honeycomb Petty

Tomorrow, Grace Lee Boggs would have been 101 years old. I have had the honor of serving on the board of the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership for the past several years. I have had the honor and challenge of struggling with Grace, being challenged by Grace and now missing Grace.

In the 264 days since Grace has passed, I have been on a world wind as a much younger revolutionary organizer. I have presented on militarization at the SOA Watch Vigil, traveled to Brazil to learn more about their community wireless infrastructure, presented on social justice organizing for North Dakota Study Group at the border of Mexico, shared my Water Love story, took on a new job as the Detroit Community Technology Researcher for the Detroit Community Technology Project, co-organized the North American Social Solidarity Conference, organized several Data DiscoTechsaround Detroit, hosted the Black Organizing for Dignity cohort, four international civil society leaders from Colombia for the Ethnic Communities Historical Memory Initiative Program, and seven political & economic leaders from Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Serbia, Sweden and the United Kingdom at the Boggs Center. I have had the honor of serving on the first Advisory Board for the Allied Media Conference, completed my second book for release at my one woman show – Coming Out My Box, had my workshop accepted into CommonBound 2016 and began the planning for Detroit: A Call for 10,000 Black Women, Girls & Femmes.

This is not an exhaustive list and it’s not meant to be a resume. This is an internal reflection that I have decided to share outward, because sometimes in the work we do, we can feel like we are everywhere, but nowhere all at the same time. I am finally at the point in my life where I feel like my work matters. I am at the point where I feel like my contributions matter. Our stories are so important. This is a small part of who I am.

Soon, to be 40 years old, it is difficult for me to imagine seven decades of activism and even harder to imagine 100 years of life. Grace’s stamina in this work, in political theorizing, strategizing and organizing, traveling defies my logic, but what I do understand is Grace’s commitment to the struggle until her last breath. I share in her commitment.

I have also chosen to share these accomplishments/reflections because who I am, who I am becoming, shapes the work I choose to do. I was born and raised in Detroit. I grew up in poverty and didn’t realize I was being considered “poor” until my mother got a “good paying job” and we moved to a “better neighborhood.” In that better neighborhood, my new neighbors told me I was poor nearly every day.  It didn’t stop until I reached my teenage years and spent nearly all of my money pursuing the American Dream, pursuing my escape from poverty. But, somewhere between being a corporate trainer for a restaurant franchise in my teens, to working in the factory in my early twenties and ultimately managing in corporate America for nearly ten years, I woke up and realized that the work I was doing was not meaningful. That I was dying physically, emotionally and spiritually. So, to make a very long story short, I walked off of my $70K per year job one day and a year later I landed on the steps of the Boggs Center. My relationship with the Boggs Center, my relationship with Grace has shaped my development as an organizer, as an artist, as a revolutionary.

As I helped to distribute emergency water to residents on my street the other day, after a Homrich contractor swept through four blocks turning off water, I witnessed elders crying and mothers reluctantly admitting that their water was turned off for fear they may lose their children. The massive water shutoffs had finally made it to Field Street, right up the street from the legacy of James and Grace Lee Boggs. It was an exhaustive and emotional day, but rewarding to see how swiftly neighbors and community members sprang into action. This coming together made me think of the days when Grace would march these same streets with community members exhibiting what it meant to turn to one another. Facing massive water shutoffs on your street is a soul growing experience, an “opportunity in crisis.” As Grace would call it.

As we approach what would be Grace’s 101st birthday, I have been in deep reflection about her legacy and an even deeper reflection about my roles and responsibilities as a evolutionary. I hope that we can all take a deeper look at the work we commit ourselves to, and remember the words of James Boggs, “It is only in relationship to other bodies and many somebodies, that any of us is somebody.”

Happy birthday Grace!

An Update from the Trumbullplex

Wayne Association for Collective Housing, also known as Trumbullplex, will be purchasing the two lots at 4238 and 4232 Trumbull. This land, which is adorned with fruit trees, is an extension of the non-profit along with the two homes, Zine Library, community arts center and the green space that has been formally owned by WACH since 1993 at 4202, 4210 and 4220 Trumbull 48208.

It has been proposed to form a fourth collective (in addition to the to the Housing, Booking and Zine Library collectives) to maintain and creatively collaborate around the Trumbullplex green space. Community members are invited to join the new collective or send ideas toTrumbullplex@gmail.com.
So far, the community has collectively contributed $2, 000 toward the $10,000 required by the City to buy the properties. Paypal and credit card can be made at Trumbullplex.org. Checks can be made out to WACH and mailed to 4210 Trumbull Detroit, MI 48208.
Work on the exterior of “corner house” will begin soon, having been delayed by the property dispute. Fundraisers have been happening all winter for this purpose.

We are so grateful for the show of support for this long-standing radical art space and housing collective, which has been a nurturing home for so many, collective-members or not. The strategy meeting held in the art space a few weeks ago drew 50 supporters. A beautiful gathering of neighbors, show-goers, former and current collective members.

We want to remind people in Detroit and beyond, that everyone is welcome at the Trumbullplex. Whether you’d like to attend an event, look at zines, host a meeting or a puppet show, you are welcome to knock on our doors or send us an email to trumbullplex@gmail.com.  Our mission statement includes commitment “to create a positive environment…in which economic and social relationships are based on mutual aid”, as well as to “support other projects that share our goals of dismantling racism, sexism, homophobia, and the oppression of poor people”.
Our motto is, “For roots to grow, seeds must be planted.” Thank you for strengthening our roots and planting more seeds. Onward!
angie comic
(by Angie Coe)

Rosa at Rio
Ruth Lilienstein-Gatton

Where spirituality and political activism intersect, there is also a place for visual art.
Rosa Naparstek’s newest exhibition “what is your function…?” is on display through the end of June at the Rio Penthouse Gallery. The artist has built a set of arresting visual works around personally transformative texts. Running the lengths of the inner gallery walls, sheets of type are orderly set side-by- side. The sheets contain text from The Pathwork Lectures (the famously “channeled” work of Eva Pierrakos); writings by Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet and mystic; and essays by civil rights leader Grace Lee Boggs– all which have contributed essentially to the artist’s spiritual evolution.


Across the printed pages, larger and hand-written by the artist, run well-known quotes by Karl Marx and Saul Alinsky, again invoking social reform.

The artist Rosa Naparstek.Biographically, the text-over- text format can be seen to chart a journey through Naparstek’s lifetime involvement in social and political causes (in Detroit, California, and New York), interwoven with an embrace of metaphysical thinking that has critically informed her ideas about social and political change. Naparstek wants to share a truth– that the change we seek on a global societal level is dependent on, if not meaningless without, our personal transformations.

In another part of the installation, the artist shares these truths in a heap of crumpled pages on the gallery floor. More of the same texts, they are meant to be picked up and absorbed at random by observers, who are invited to take a seat around the pile. On a wall outside the gallery, more crumpled pages are affixed to the wall, mirroring the format of the smooth ones within, as though suggesting that the ideas contained in them can withstand physical transformation.


The ideas embedded in the texts can be “read” into Naparstek’s accompanying found-object sculptures, a sampling of newer and older works of this type for which the artist is known. Naparstek fabricates from collected natural and man-made items—animal horns, dolls, doorknobs, seashells, scrap metal-sometimes framing (as with reclaimed picture frames or canvases) and sometimes assembling the ordinary into the sacred, as when a doorknob set inside bicycle gears, mounted on a bicycle seat becomes a “Third Eye.” Objects worn through human or elemental use form assemblages that can evoke nostalgia, psychological urges, and sometimes humor (used teabags hang like genitals on a male dressmaker’s form); but the artist’s compassion, the same instinct which directs her search for the divine and desire for a just society, are present in each sculpture.

“what is your function…?” connects individual self-actualization as part of the quest for a just society with abandoned objects remade into art. Naparstek asks us equally to question the function of a thing or a person as part of a narrative of meaning.

The artist will be at the gallery this Sun., Jun. 26th from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
The Rio Penthouse Gallery is located at 10 Fort Washington Avenue, between 159th and 160th Streets.

For more information, please visit bit.ly/28M3mSI.

Visionary Voices
Katie Doyle Myers

Our Youth Global Leadership 2016 Insight Trip, “Resilient Communities: Exploring Social Change in the Midwestern United States,” came to a close last week. Eleven program participants traveled throughout the US Midwest to explore themes related to community organizing, immigration policy, racial justice, urban agriculture, and alternative economics. The following post provides a first-hand account of the last segment of their experience. Thanks to the YGL documentarian committee for the presentation of this blog post!

During the last week of our trip we visited with a number of local community organizers through a tour with the James & Grace Lee Boggs Center. On Monday we landed at the Hush House, our home for the week. We spent time with Hush House founders Mama Sandra and Baba Charles, who are prominent members in the Detroit community and civil rights activists. We spent time discussing the history of the neighborhood, looking at their African-American history museum, and sharing stories about our lives. We were all deeply inspired by our hosts and the lives they have lived dedicated to justice.

On Tuesday, we started at the Boggs Center with our guide Richard Feldman, a writer and activist himself who asked us to think about the question, “How will people relate to each other in a country that’s been built on racism and corrupted Capitalism?”. We were introduced to the work done by activists and visionaries James and Grace Lee Boggs. With Richard Feldman, we drove to the Packard Auto Factory and discussed the history of the automobile industry in Detroit. Seeing the Packard Plant — a massive building that spans 40 acres — completely empty and caved-in was eye-opening. We then spent time exploring the Heidelberg Project, an incredible neighborhood art installation done by Tyree Guyton. We talked with Tyree about the story behind his artwork, and how it reflects his life. Tyree’s ability to create such beauty with what others consider junk was impressive to say the least. He made a powerful point explaining that “you need opposition to be tough, to become a fighter”. From there we visited Kimberly, a teacher at the Boggs School who asked us the question “What is the purpose of education?”. We finished our day by visiting Yusef Shakur at his house (that he’s converting into a community center) and heard from him about his story regarding resilience and his vision to build a deeper sense of community.

While in Detroit we also visited an urban garden Feedom Freedom, and conversed with founders Myrtle and Wayne and helped out in their community garden. We spent time with Carlos Nielbock, a man who re-purposes recycled materials and builds windmills as a method of producing his own sustainable energy. On our final day we got a chance to go to the Detroit Institute of Arts, home of a world famous Diego Rivera mural which makes a statement on the once-booming automobile industry and then pitfalls of industrialization. Afterwards, the YGLers walked around town and grabbed lunch before doing a group reflection activity surrounding the concepts of immigration, the term “compañerismo”, Capitalism, and education.

We are all sad to be leaving, but beyond excited to be heading back into our own community filled with new experiences and valuable perspectives. We cannot even begin to express how much gratitude we feel for the incredible people we have gotten the chance to speak to, and also for both the Boggs Center and the Hush House for hosting us.

The Boggs Book Shop is open and waiting for you!
Among many other titles, don’t miss…

Ron Scott’sHow to End Police Brutalityevolution in the 21st Century Anthology

…or the classic, Conversations in Maine

The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214

Jimmy and Grace  
Our mission is to nurture the transformational leadership capacities of individuals and organizations committed to creating productive, sustainable, ecologically responsible, and just communities. Through local, national and international networks of activists, artists and intellectuals we foster new ways of living, being and thinking to face the challenges of the 21st century.
Living for Change News
June 19th – June 26th

Thinking for Ourselves

This Time
Shea HowellOrlando has joined the list of places linked to mass killing.  It surpassed the killings at Virginia Tech in 2007, when 32 people were killed and 17 were injured. Now Sandy Hook is in third place. There have been 998 mass shootings, since the death of 27 people in that elementary school.In Orlando gay men were targeted for death, this time by a deeply troubled young man.

This time it was not African Americans gathered to pray, targeted by a deeply troubled young man. But it has been.

This time it was not college students, walking across campus, assaulted from a tower. But it has been.

This time it was not an African American father standing in a doorway, killed in a rain of police bullets. But it has been.

This time it was not a 6 year old African American girl asleep on her couch, killed in a rain of police bullets. But it has been.

This time it was not high school students, gunned down by an angry boy. But it has been.

This time it was not a young boy playing in a park, killed by a rain of police bullets. But it has been.

This time it was not woman blown up by bombs while celebrating international athletes. But it has been.

This time it was not patients in a hospital, blown up by bombs dropped from an anonymous drone. But it has been.

This time it was not a group of young Mexican men, women and children, left to die in a trucking crate. But it has been.

This time it was not a gay man dragged to his death behind a car for sport. But it has been.

This time it was not a gay man beaten and tied to a fence, left to die. But it has been.

This time it was not students, protesting injustice, shot down by National Guardsmen. But it has been.

This time it was not a group of Vietnamese women and children gunned down on the edge of ditch by US soldiers. But it has been.

This time it was not a presidential candidate shot to death. But it has been.

This time it was not a president shot to death. But it has been.

This time it was not a man of peace shot to death. But it has been.

This time it was not 4 little girls on a quiet Sunday morning, blown up by a bomb in their church. But it has been.

This time it was not a city, obliterated in an instant from fire from the sky. But it has been.   

This time it was not workers burned to death, locked into a factory. But it has been.

This time it was not union organizers shot down on a bridge, marching for dignity. But it has been.

This time it was not a nation of people driven by US soldiers across a Continent, killing 1/3 of them in that trail of tears. But it has been.

This time it was not the young African American men lynched for sport. But it has been.

This time it was not the children killed by small pox, caught from the blankets given them by US soldiers. But it has been.

This time it was not the young African American boy brutally beaten beyond recognition and dumped in the river. But it has been.

This time it was not a woman killed by her lover, in anger and rage. But it has been.

This time it was not a lesbian couple shot by their elder neighbor. But it has been.

This time it was not a child shot to death for a pair of sneakers. But it has been.

This time it was not a child killed by the people who were supposed to love and cherish him. But it has been.

Our public history and most private moments are steeped in violence. Violence is as American as apple pie. It is not the act of some lone wolf, deranged fanatic, or demonic cult. It is the constant in how we live together.

It is the product of a culture that values some lives more than others. It has always been with us.  Every time we have faced a choice, we have chosen profits over people, the protection of privilege over justice.

Fifty years ago the Civil Rights movement called us to love, to create new, just relationships among us, to radically revolutionize our values of racism, materialism and militarism.

But in the decades since, we have moved away from the vision of loving communities. We are losing the belief in our capacity to create them as we have grown more brutal. Now violence corrodes all our connections.

Even in efforts to honor the dead in Orlando we do violence to them. News reports and church bells count the toll at 49. As though the young man who wielded the gun was not also human, not also a life lost, not also a part of a family left to mourn, not the enemy we are called to love.  

In Orlando, there are also moments of love and courage. A mother, celebrating her victory over cancer, threw herself in front of her son, protecting him. A man riped off his garments and bound the wounds of a stranger. Another pulled a friend to safety. Police officers risked their lives to save victims. A young man hugged a stranger to life.

Orlando again challenges us to love, to care for one another and to find ways of living that restore the sacredness of all life. Love is the only answer to violence.

Perhaps this time, as we are called to affirm life matters, we will have the courage to look honestly at how we have lived. Only then can we create new paths to the future.


Good morning,

This is Barry Randolph pastor of Chuch of the Messiah. I want to invite you to our 9th annual “Silence the Violence” peace march on Saturday, June 25th at 11am.

Church of the Messiah
231 E. Grand Blvd @ Lafayette
Detroit MI 48207

If you need a table for information about your organization, or wish to hand out literature about community resources let me know. (313-633-5331)

Hundreds of concerned citizens from across the country attend the annual march. The event brings together local government, law enforcement, business leaders, religious organizations and the average citizen to combat crime and foster pride in our neighborhoods.

Past speakers have included:
Former Mayor Ken Cockrel
Wayne county Exec. Warren Evans
Congresswoman Debbie Dingell
Congressman Hanson Clark
Council President Brenda Jones
Council member Mary Sheffield
Grand Marshals have included:
Ronnie Dahl from channel 7
Woody Woodruff Fox 2
Andrew Humphrey Channel 4
Maureen Stapleton state Rep
Participating organizations have included:
Crime Stoppers
United Communities of America
Moms Demand Action
The Remember Me Quilt Project
Cease Fire Detroit
Mothers of Murdered children
The Boggs Center
The Mustard Tree Co-op
Saving our children’s future
Citizens United for Safety
The BLVD Harambee
Participating law enforcement have included:
Detroit police department
Wayne county sheriff department
Homeland security
Harper Woods police
Hamtramack police
Michigan state Troopers

This is a short list of the many people, groups, and organizations that have participated in our community March. This year will be bigger and better. Let me know if you or your organization will participate in this year’s march. We need your participation. Let’s show Detroit how much we care about our city and its people.

Are you suffering from narrative induced community injury???Do you suffer from stereotyping???

Watch the Detroit Narrative Agency Infomercial to learn more.


Studies show a direct link between poverty and a never ending cycle of imprisonment, in which one finds themselves in a constant uphill battle. Psychological and physical effects of childhood, adolescence, and teen impoverishment increase the chances of adult impoverishment, thus leading to a perpetual path to prison. Once released from prison those initial problems resurface and, coupled with fees and fines, keep individuals from progressing, inevitably repeating a cycle of poverty leading to prison again.


Black Homes Matter!

Defend One Home. Defend Them All.

From Detroit Eviction Defense

The Boggs Book Shop is open and waiting for you!
Among many other titles, don’t miss…

Ron Scott’sHow to End Police Brutality

evolution in the 21st Century Anthology

…or the classic, Conversations in Maine

The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214

Continue Reading »


Our mission is to nurture the transformational leadership capacities of individuals and organizations committed to creating productive, sustainable, ecologically responsible, and just communities. Through local, national and international networks of activists, artists and intellectuals we foster new ways of living, being and thinking to face the challenges of the 21st century.
Living for Change News
June 12th – June 19th
Thinking for Ourselves
Moral Vision
Shea Howell
As the gathering of Detroit’s elite on Mackinac Island fades into memory, the primary result is the astonishing lack of imagination on display there. After months of planning, hundreds of thousands of dollars, and claiming to set the agenda for the future, the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce managed to construct a program of almost all white men evading the most important questions of our time.Anyone seriously thinking about the future knows three things: 1. The growing gap between the minority of wealthy white men and the rest of the world is destroying the quality of community life at every level.  2. The abuse of our ecosystem is threatening the survival of all life, and 3. Reimagining how we live in cities, now holding more than half the population of the earth, is central to resolving these intertwined crises.Mayor Mike Duggan of Detroit, who had an opportunity to raise serious questions chose to tout policies that he said would provide “opportunity” for everyone.This is an empty claim. It reflects his inability to understand the imagination emerging all around the city to think and live differently.The Mayor has refused every single imaginative, compassionate effort championed by the Detroit community to create a more sustainable and just city.  He has refused to adopt a true water affordability plan, preferring charity to imaginative thinking. He has continued water shut offs to thousands of homes, he has refused to enact a community benefit agreement, he has refused to challenge the emergency management law, and he has refused to declare a moratorium on foreclosures. He continues an attack on “blight” to clear land for developers.His call of opportunity is for people to join in his image of the city, on his terms, to do the bidding of corporate powers. It is an invitation to join in destruction and the brutal use of force.

The emptiness of this vision is captured in the pointed comment raised more than 50 years ago by Martin Luther King as he challenged the idea that becoming part of the ordinary ways of doing business is something we should want.

In one of his last conversations with Harry Belafonte, Dr. King said, “I’m afraid that America may be losing what moral vision she may have had. And I’m afraid that even as we integrate, we are walking into a place that does not understand that this nation needs to be deeply concerned with the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. Until we commit ourselves to ensuring that the underclass is given justice and opportunity, we will continue to perpetuate the anger and violence that tears at the soul of this nation.”

“I fear I am integrating my people into a burning house.”

At a time when we need creative, expansive thinking, we have a political and corporate elite wielding authority without intellect, making choices based on the narrowest of self-interest and shortsighted thinking.

While those at Mackinac evaded serious conversation, the Michigan State Legislature continued to do their bidding. We are going into the third year of the Flint water crisis without a viable plan or urgent commitment to restore the most basic human rights to its citizens.  After nearly two decades of failure to support the Detroit Public Schools and enacting policies that amount to child abuse, the legislature continued its punitive practices. Still refusing to allocate adequate funds to move the district toward stability, the legislature chose policies to penalize teachers who act to call attention to the outrages our children face every day.

The urgency of thinking and living differently is clearer every day. Throughout Detroit and other cities, those who have been locked out recognize the question is not how to get into a dying system, but how we should make lives that enable us to care for one another, ourselves, and the earth we depend on. There is the source of a new moral vision.


Are you suffering from narrative induced community injury??? Do you suffer from stereotyping???

Watch the Detroit Narrative Agency Infomercial to learn more.


This year during the 18th Annual Allied Media Conference, The Foundation of Women in Hip Hop will present: Detroit’s 1st Women in Hip Hop Concert featuring Grammy Award Winning Artist Rapsody!

Hear more from Piper Carter, Co-Founder.

Women of Hip Hop Concert


Good morning,

This is Barry Randolph pastor of Chuch of the Messiah. I want to invite you to our 9th annual “Silence the Violence” peace march on Saturday, June 25th at 11am.

Church of the Messiah
231 E. Grand Blvd @ Lafayette
Detroit MI 48207
If you need a table for information about your organization, or wish to hand out literature about community resources let me know.

Hundreds of concerned citizens from across the country attend the annual march. The event brings together local government, law enforcement, business leaders, religious organizations and the average citizen to combat crime and foster pride in our neighborhoods.

Past speakers have included:
Former Mayor Ken Cockrel
Wayne county Exec. Warren Evans
Congresswoman Debbie Dingell
Congressman Hanson Clark
Council President Brenda Jones
Council member Mary Sheffield
Grand Marshals have included:
Ronnie Dahl from channel 7
Woody Woodruff Fox 2
Andrew Humphrey Channel 4
Maureen Stapleton state Rep
Participating organizations have included:
Crime Stoppers
United Communities of America
Moms Demand Action
The Remember Me Quilt Project
Cease Fire Detroit
Mothers of Murdered children
The Boggs Center
The Mustard Tree Co-op
Saving our children’s future
Citizens United for Safety
The BLVD Harambee
Participating law enforcement have included:
Detroit police department
Wayne county sheriff department
Homeland security
Harper Woods police
Hamtramack police
Michigan state Troopers

This is a short list of the many people, groups, and organizations that have participated in our community March. This year will be bigger and better. Let me know if you or your organization will participate in this year’s march. We need your participation. Let’s show Detroit how much we care about our city and its people. Feel free to contact me at



The Boggs Book Shop is open and waiting for you!

Among many other titles, don’t miss…

Ron Scott’sHow to End Police Brutality

evolution in the 21st Century Anthology

…or the classic, Conversations in Maine


The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214













  Jimmy and Grace  
 Living for
Change News
June 5th –
June 12th

This year during the 18th Annual Allied Media Conference, The Foundation of Women in Hip Hop will present: Detroit’s 1st Women in Hip Hop Concert featuring Grammy Award Winning Artist Rapsody!

Hear more from Piper Carter, Co-Founder.

Women of Hip Hop Concert

Thinking for Ourselves
Fantasy Island
Shea Howell

This Friday the reality of “two Detroits” was brought into sharp focus. One version of Detroit was being celebrated on Mackinac Island as Michigan business, political, and media elite gathered at their annual policy conference. Here were tales of Detroit’s comeback. Detroit is open for business and Dan Gilbert urged people to “think big.”

The other Detroit was playing out in a quiet neighborhood near McNichols and Shafer. Detroit Eviction Defense gathered to stop the eviction of a woman and her children. The case has been mired in a court fight for months.

Those on Mackinac refuse to acknowledge the policies and practices they support are driving a vicious ethnic cleansing related to foreclosures, water shut offs, and the disappearance of meaningful work. The Mackinac elite are determined to create a whiter, wealthier city. In the process they are destroying the very essence of who we are as a city.  Increasingly, their efforts depend on the brutal use of force and violence.

That violence was on full display Friday morning. While Stephen Henderson broadcast from Mackinac about Governor Snyder accusing the press of playing the role of Eeyore, the official agenda had no conversation on the foreclosure crisis or the violation of human rights caused by denying water to thousands.  Flint barely made it to the agenda.

But the future of Detroit is more likely to be emerging from the streets than from some Fantasy Island.  Here is what I know.

Shortly after 6am two Detroit Dumpster trucks came up the street. The drivers accelerated in an effort to scare people away. People stayed put. One driver, confronted with a group blocking the street, turned and left. The second driver pulled up and jumped out of his cab. He shouted at the demonstrators and began throwing punches. After a few short minutes, all captured on cell phones and video cameras, one demonstrator had a broken leg and another a badly bruised neck and cut arm.

Police arrived on the scene. The driver said 50 people attacked the truck with chains and pulled him out of the cab.  The police did not want to hear the stories of the demonstrators. Nor were they interested in the video recordings.

Later in the afternoon the bailiff arrived with an overwhelming police presence. They forcefully moved the demonstrators and evicted the family.

This is not the first time this home has suffered an eviction.  About 5 years ago the bailiff served papers at the same address. It seems the company that holds the title, Thor Equities LLC, is in the business of issuing land contracts, only to take people’s money, not pay taxes and not pay water bills. Neighbors believe the company is buying up homes, putting them up for land contract, then forcing foreclosure.  They then purchase the house at auction under a different name, and start the process all over again.

What we know for sure is that Thor is one of the top owners of tax-foreclosed real estate in Detroit.  We know for sure that is was citied in Cleveland for buying properties and letting them rot.

The direction for our city championed in Mackinac depends on brutality. It pits people against one another. It creates a climate where some of us are willing to do almost anything to others of us, just to keep our job as a truck driver or cop.  

Anyone not on Fantasy Island knows that the violence required to protect power and privilege will only intensify as policies of dehumanization are forced on people.

Anyone not on Fantasy Island knows that for decades people have been creating alternative ways of living based on a vision of a compassionate, sustainable future. The clash between these two visions and where each of us stands is becoming clearer every day.



Resisting evictions and supporting Black women
Kristian Davis BaileyLast Friday in Detroit, a Black woman and her 16 year old son were evicted from their home.  A Black woman and her 16 year old son were evicted by a court order presented by a Black woman bailiff and enforced by the threat of violence from an overwhelmingly Black police team. A Black woman and her 16 year old son were made homeless by a team of Black workers who tossed all their possessions into a dumpster outside while the police stood by and kept guard.


On Thursday, activists from Detroit Eviction Defense and other community supporters rallied to prevent Jennette Shannon from being kicked out of her home. They prevented the bailiff from illegally evicting Jennette.

On Friday, around 6 am, activists successfully blocked one dumpster from approaching Jennette’s home when the driver decided to leave the site after facing a blockade of cars and people. Just as this driver, left, the driver of a second dumpster almost ran protesters over while speeding down a back alley in an attempt to sneak behind protesters to evict Jennette. When activists attempted to lock down the dumpster, the driver assaulted two protesters, placing one in a chokehold and breaking another one’s leg in the process, requiring an ambulance call and emergency surgery.


The police let this driver go while threatening protesters with arrest and handing out parking tickets to people who used their cars to block the street.

The only thing that allowed a team of some 15 thugs to evict Jennette from her home was the threat of physical or gun violence if we obstructed or resisted her eviction. And it is only through physical and gun violence that the state, the real estate company, and the police have any jurisdiction over the indigenous Anishinaabe land that Jennette was being evicted from. Police and the state quite literally hold up a violent order that places property that is illegitimately held on stolen land over the basic dignity of human lives–and specifically Black lives in Detroit.

The police and workers smiled, laughed, and joked while we watched them throw a Black woman and her son out of her home. One of the movers, when asked if he felt bad about what he was doing, said “I got me a Louis [Vuitton] belt.” Jennette’s white neighbor looked on at the whole ordeal from his front porch and offered no support. He was passed out on his rocking chair by the time the police left and the house was boarded up.The dynamics of Jennette’s eviction helped me see even more clearly the ways in which the state, the police and capitalism are fundamentally violent, colonial, and anti-Black. The eviction also heightened the contradiction that Black people are also part of repressive power systems.

As a young, Black organizer, it’s really important for me to stress one final time that almost everyone involved in evicting Jennette was Black–from the bailiff to the police to the two dump truck drivers.  I write almost because the biggest culprit is Thor Real Estate LLC, whom Jennette bought her home from and whose predatory practices have now evicted her. All of the Black people used to evict Jennette worked in the service of a global real estate company that “owns property in key urban markets throughout the United States, Europe, Canada and Latin America.”
So as evictions continue in Detroit, and as Black women continue to be at the highest risk of eviction nationwide (with eviction rates for Black women on par with incarceration rates for Black men), we must understand the centrality of fighting for Black women to our liberation.

The Detroit Community Technology Project with a collaboration with the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition, the Digital Stewards and several volunteer station managers, hosted it’s 3rd Data DiscoTech in 9 months.

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Here is a video of the Data DiscoTech held in September, 2015 at the Samaritan Center in Detroit.
The 2nd Data DiscoTech was held at Grace in Action in Southwest Detroit in April and at the 3rd at the Boggs School on June 2nd.
The Data DiscoTechs provide intergenerational opportunities to demystify data and technology for even the most novice technologists. They also provide an opportunity to educate residents on the City of Detroit’s Open Data Portal and how it can possibly benefit and impact the community.
Check out some of the brilliant photos from the Data DiscoTechs and the websites for additional information about the important digital justice work happening in Detroit and how you can get involved.
See you at the Allied Media Conference on June 16th!

Thanks to Ryter Cooperative Industries’ Project Lighthouse program, the Boggs Center is now fitted with the next wave of solar renewable energy lighting around the center and alleyway.


Visit Ryter Cooperative Industries at
www.ryterci.com for additional information.

The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214











Living for Change News
May 29th – June 5th


Introduycing the Water Cycler
Bart Eddy

This will just be a quick update with some pictures of the water purification trike that is now nearly complete. The great thing about this project is that it has been a truly collective and imaginative effort on the part of students and instructors to connect with a real community need with global implications i.e. Climate Change. It also addresses the more immediate needs of residential water shut offs in Detroit and the lead water crisis in Flint. This vehicle is a prototype, and it is our hope and intention to market it/them into the larger community through the support of philanthropic foundations and corporate entities.


There are several features to this trike that have become great learning opportunities for all of us. They are:

·       The ‘electronic assist’ that operates the trike leaves no carbon ‘footprint’ other than the fact that we have to hook up to the traditional power outlets to charge the batteries. This will lead us in the direction of creating a solar charging station for the re-charging of the lithium batteries. At that point, we will become fossil fuel free!

·       The dual water purification system filters both coarse and fine particles out of the water, and the water barrel roof hook up helps with the problems associated with water run off. It is also possible to change the filters so as to filtrate lead out of the water.

·       The design components are both mechanical and artistic and begin to fulfill the ideas and ideals behind STEAM education. Additionally, these projects involve a high degree of student engagement through problem solving and ‘trouble shooting’ as well as hands on learning. And in order to complete the project, it has taken many hands in a variety of disciplines.

·       With the artistry and design capacities of the University of Michigan Stamps graduates, the strategic business and marketing strategies of the MBA students from the Ross Leadership Academy and the enthusiasm and knowledge of community activists, we are not only fulfilling the ideal of diverse communities working together, but are creating career pathways through practical social entrepreneurship.

·       In the future, we are looking at the issues of community transportation and mobility and will soon begin on a “Water Carrier” trike with a sprinkling system for our community market gardeners.


Become a Boggs Center Fellow!

The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership’s mission is to nurture the transformational leadership capacities of individuals and organizations committed to creating productive, sustainable, ecologically responsible, and just communities. Through Visionary Organizing: local, national and international networks of activists, artists and intellectuals we foster new ways of living, being and thinking to face the challenges of the 21st century.

Fellows will participate in this mission through regular political education discussions, assigned readings and writings, and by engaging in local grassroots initiatives, programs, forums and conferences. Fellows may also make regular written contributions to the Living for Change Newsletter and Boggs Center Magazine.
The Boggs Center Fellows Program has been created in order to provide a consistent and strategic planning and artistic space for visionary organizers to build camaraderie through organizing, focused political education and study.
This unique fellowship opportunity will be for a period of 1 year and will consist of regular fellowship with James and Grace Lee Boggs Center Board Members and affiliated grassroots organizations. Fellows benefit from small financial stipends for selected events and contributions, engagement with Boggs Center comrades rooted in political ideology centered around The American Revolution, The Next American Revolution, American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, We Are Not Ghosts and other selected writings, films and discussions.
Precise terms and stipend levels of fellowships vary widely, based on fellowshipcontributions and particular programs and events. Most contributions will not carry a stipend.
If you are interested in learning more about the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership Fellowship, please emailboggscenter@boggscenter.org.
Please place “Boggs Center Fellowship” in the subject line.
How to Apply to the Boggs Center Fellows Program: To be considered for the August 2016 Fellows class, you must apply by June 1, 2016. The Fellowship will run from August 2016 to August 2017.
Please write a statement of interest, not to exceed 2,000 words. Describe why you feel this fellowship will enrich your work, and how you plan to contribute to the mission of the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership.
Applications should also include three writing samples. The above requested materials should be mailed or emailed to: James and Grace Lee Boggs CenterFellowship Committee, 3061 Field St, Detroit, MI 48214
Phone: (313) 923-0797 (allow 24-48 hours for response)
E-mail: boggscenter@boggscenter.org (For email submissions, please send documents in PDF format)

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This year join Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage in thinking of the 4th of July as Interdependence Day and come together to learn, network, explore, and inspire each other to create a more cooperative and sustainable world on the weekend of July 2 to 4, 2016.

Workshops and networking sessions throughout the weekend will bring us new ideas for how to live sustainably and collectively. From Starting an Intentional Community and Simple Off-grid Solar, to Natural Death & Burial and Holistic Animal Management. Those wanting to deepen their understanding of the sustainability-community connection can get together for a weekend and create some community!

Tawana Petty of the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership and the Detroit Community Technology Project, Matt Stannard JD of Commonomics USA and Dr. Jifunza Wright MD of Black Oaks Center for Sustainable Renewable Living are just 3 of the amazing conference speakers who will present during the Midwest Sustainable Communities Conference.
Additional information and tickets can be purchased at dancingrabbit.org.

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The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214

Jimmy and Grace  
Our mission is to nurture the transformational leadership capacities of individuals and organizations committed to creating productive, sustainable, ecologically responsible, and just communities. Through local, national and international networks of activists, artists and intellectuals we foster new ways of living, being and thinking to face the challenges of the 21st century.
Living for Change News
May 22nd – May 29th
This-Changes-Everything_Final 3
Bringing Climate Justice Home to Detroit
A Free Showing of the Naomi Klein Film
This Changes Everything

Thursday May 26, 2016

Doors open/networking at 6pm

Film at 7pm

Detroit Film Theatre at the DIA
5200 Woodward Ave, Detroit 48202
Sponsored by:
Detroit Film Theatre, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, East Michigan Environmental Action Council, Ecology Center, Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit, IHM Peace, Justice & Sustainability Office, Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, Michigan United, People’s Water Board, Sierra Club, Soulardarity, Voices for Earth Justice, Zero Waste Detroit

Thinking for Ourselves
No More Half-Truths
Shea Howell
Last week Nolan Finley, the conservative columnist for the Detroit News wrote a surprisingly sensitive column about “Detroit’s dying kids.”  Contrasting with Flint children who have “names,” “faces,” and “advocates,” Finley explained, “The children of Detroit are nameless, faceless and voiceless.”  Describing the deaths of our children and the violence they face, Finley said, “It’s a slaughter, and no one outside the neighborhoods seem to care.” He observes that, “Dying kids don’t fit into the happy narrative of a Detroit comeback.”

This is the second time Finley has had the courage to raise questions about the dominant narrative of resurgence and revitalization.

One of his most widely discussed columns was about two Detroits, one white and one black. Giving voice to a reality that few in the media are willing to talk about he said :
“Near the top of the list of the challenges Detroit faces as it starts its post-bankruptcy era is avoiding becoming two cities — one for the upwardly mobile young and white denizens of an increasingly happening downtown, and the other for the struggling and frustrated black residents trapped in neighborhoods that are crumbling around them.

Later he explained, “Nobody wants to inject race into the marvelous story of downtown’s rebound” but, “with racial tension simmering across the country, Detroit must heed obvious warning signs.”

It is a sign of progress that a conservative, older, white man at the Detroit News is willing to question the dominant “comeback” narrative. It is important that we find ways to talk about what is happening in our city and Finley is raising questions that most of his contemporaries avoid.

We must talk about race, about genocide and the war being waged on black, brown and poor people across our city.

Still, Finley’s description of the violence is troubling. His article is remarkable for what it doesn’t name.

He doesn’t mention the names we do know. This column was published just a few days before the sixth anniversary of the death of Ayanna Jones. Police killed her while she was sleeping on her couch. She was 7 years old. Her name is known around the country. And so is the fact that no one has ever been held accountable for the taking of her life.  

Nor does Finley mention #SayHerName National Day of Action to stop police violence against Black girls, women and gender nonconforming people, held a few days after his column appeared. In an article supporting the action, Ebony noted, “Stories involving Black women and police violence rarely garner massive outcry. In fact, Black women and girls who are victimized in similar cases are virtually missing from the mainstream media.”

Finley begins his article talking about Flint and the poisoning of children through their water supply. Yet he is silent about the effects of water shut offs in Detroit that deny children the most basic of human rights.

He is silent about the mass evictions, as children and their parents are forced out of homes. He is silent about the violence in schools of relentless testing and unsafe buildings, without bathrooms, heat or compassion.

This silence is as important to understand as the violence Finley does name. They are related, not separate realities. We need to understand that it is more comfortable for Finley to talk about interpersonal violence. In doing so, he does not trouble the powerful who require the violence of police, shut offs and evictions to protect their privilege and consolidate their power.

To look at the full truth of violence demands we look not only at victims, but at perpetrators. It demands that all of us look in the mirror and see how much we have contributed to the dehumanization and destruction of daily lives. To take seriously Black Lives Matter means no more half- truths.

Tawana Honeycomb Petty

Joe Louis Fist

they try and erase us
rename us
displace us
but we ain’t faceless
our bodies are here
we shed tears from the sweat
of our Ancestors
bask in the glory of their resistance
the blood in our veins is of legends
we will not be nameless
they cannot shame us with their propaganda
demand our silence through their genocide
we will not hide behind their trinkets
their choo choo trains
and hockey rinks
we are Detroiters
the Black mecca of possibility
we will not go quietly into the night
we carry the fight of Joe Louis
got the Black fist to prove it
we are warriors and artists
the innovators
they call arsonists in October
they run us over when we resist them
but we’re persistent
generations of resilience
we wage love in a world out to get us
productive despite their insistence
the city we won’t let die
no matter how much
they try us

Technology our Children and the 21st Century: A Father’s Reflection
Rich Feldman
originally published @ bridgingapps

This is our time! My son, Micah Fialka-Feldman is now 31 years old and throughout his life has been given the opportunity to use technology to learn, listen, share, organize, and advocate for himself and for others. He presents at local and national conferences of 500 people with the assistance of technologies like PowerPoint and videos to share his story.

It is common for him to get hundreds of “likes” and comments on his Facebook page. He updates his posts and keeps in touch via texting and emails. In our family, we do not call it adaptive technology or supportive technology – it is simply technology.

Not only is Micah one of the Post-ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) generation of young adults, he also came of age with the emergence of life changing technologies such as personal computers, voice recognition software like Dragon Dictation (Dragon®NaturallySpeaking), screen readers, smartphones, and videos. He has the audacious expectation that he has a right to anything and everything that allows him to reach his potential as a human being.

In 2016 we do not have to spend 20 hours adjusting the voice recognition software to understand Micah’s voice and words. Instead, Micah uses his iPhone with built-in dictation, voice technology and the digital assistant, Siri. With other emerging technologies like 3-D Printers and Fabricators, we are entering a new stage in human history where our children, our young adults and people of all abilities can use technology to create meaningful work in the community.

As a father, I have been outraged at the failure of schools to provide leadership in this area. Administrators often spend time talking about money and ditto sheets for reading rather than creating a serious commitment to the individual ways in which a young person can and is ready to learn and grow. As Micah would say, “folks need to serious think out of the box, and have great expectations!”

You see, Micah was raised in a family that believes individual opportunity comes from emerging social movements, and we as a family live by the following guiding principles:

– Great expectations
– Education (not schooling) is a lifelong process
– Growth emerges from both resilience and the commitment to create community
– Social movements beginning with the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 and Martin Luther King Jr’s calling for the Beloved Community has been in the soul and spirit and work of our family and thus a driving vision

Our family believes that every human being needs to be given the opportunity to reach his or her potential, and no one can do it alone. When I speak of the “commitment to create community,” I want to emphasize the idea of interdependence – knowing that every human being has gifts to advance our world.

Our family had the honor and privilege to create a three day family workshop and training at the Kirkridge Retreat Center with a group of families and young adults with disabilities from the TIP Program. Together it is Possible!

After Micah shared his story of inclusion using PowerPoint, each young adult presented his or her own PowerPoint, telling their own stories. The pride and dignity gained from sharing stories in a variety of media such as text, videos, pictures, and music were made possible by technology and thus created the foundation for these young adults to then deepen self-advocacy via public discussion. This experience fundamentally creates a space to recruit and invite individuals to a circle of friends and support, thus replacing shame with the honor to ask for help and the honor to move from independence to interdependence, which is the basis of community.

Mobile technology has allowed Micah to be both independent and to call upon others for assistance that encourages interdependence. Breaking the silence and asking for help demonstrates a commitment to belonging and opportunities for each individual to express their human potential. Our children do not have to adapt, nor fit in, nor beg. They can lead the way to create a better world for themselves and others. We live in a time when a circle of support can create the kind of community where all–I mean all–can create our own futures.

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Gentrification’s toll: ‘It’s you or the bottom line and sorry, it’s not you’
Rebecca Solnit

Last week, the Sierra Club left San Francisco, its home since its founding 124 years ago. Like so many individuals and institutions, it was pushed out by high rent.
The Club, the US’s largest grassroots environmental organization, will be fine in its new home across the bay in Oakland; it’s San Francisco I worry about.

Contemporary gentrification is an often violent process by which a complex and diverse urban environment becomes more homogeneous and exclusionary. It does to neighborhoods and cities what climate change is doing to the earth: driving out fragile and deeply rooted species, and pushing the poor past the brink.



The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214










“the goal is to further real relationships.”

  Jimmy and Grace  
Our mission is to nurture the transformational leadership capacities of individuals and organizations committed to creating productive, sustainable, ecologically responsible, and just communities. Through local, national and international networks of activists, artists and intellectuals we foster new ways of living, being and thinking to face the challenges of the 21st century.
Living for Change May 15th – May 22nd
“In the ’60, Claude Brown called it “Spoken Soul.” Author James Baldwin called it “this passion, this skill…this incredible music.” Author Toni Morrison called it “this sheer intelligence” and “…the thing that Black people love so much.”

This was the golden age of literature in a series of golden ages over the arc of African American history. I would suggest to you that there was a golden age in the 1920s, when Harlem Renaissance writers penned their masterpieces. Forty years later, a swell of Black pride began to sweep the nation and caught many of us up in its spell. We sported our ‘fros; we found a way, with braids or pink sponge rollers and water and sometimes a little Ultra or Afro Sheen, to nap it up and shine it up so we could raise our fists in the air with the integrity of curly, kinky hair that refused to stand down for ANYONE.

In the ‘90s, it became:

“Very threatening” (the late Dr. Maya Angelou, brilliant Renaissance woman).

“A cruel joke” (Hon. Kweisi Mfume, former U.S. Congressman).
“…an unacceptable surrender, bordering on disgrace” (Rev. Jesse Jackson, thought leader and activist).

What was it that engendered so much angst in our community?

This “incredible music” of the ‘60s that became “very threatening” in the ‘90s was none other than the language we know as Black English.” – Diane Reeder

Please join Diane Proctor Reeder at God’s World on Saturday, May 21, 2-4 p.m. to learn more about her book What the Word BE: Why Black English is the King’s English! Enjoy one-on-one or small group conversation in a relaxed setting. Let’s keep the momentum going! Event is free and open to the public.

Thinking for Ourselves
Dishonorable Acts 
Shea Howell
This week the Honorable Judge Steven Rhodes held a public meeting on the state of Detroit Public Schools. It was a dishonorable performance by the Judge. He has no sense of the depth of anger in the community over the daily abuse of our children in schools stripped of any capacity to provide nurturing and love. He appeared unable to grasp the concerns expressed over the destruction of locally elected democratic control, the subsequent lack of accountability for finances, and the impact of the state targeted hostility toward teachers.

What he does understand is that he does not want to be called an Emergency Manager. Rhodes, whose entire career has been based on judging the letter of the law, refused to own up to his title and its legacy of white supremacist, corrupt, and incompetent rule. Instead, he signed his documents as “Transition Manager,” dodging the title Emergency Manager. No such title of Transition Manager exists in the legislation from which he claims his authority.

Throughout the meeting community members objected to his efforts to distance himself from the responsibility he personally carries for acting as an agent of the State Legislature. Emergency Management laws have been used to systematically dismantle public education for nearly two decades. Emergency Management is the essential tool for pushing toward the privatization of education, while simultaneously destroying local capacity to improve and protect the development of our children.

One consistent line of questioning for Rhodes during the meeting was for him to acknowledge and respect the locally elected school board. This questioning was so persistent that Rhodes moved from saying he had “no plans” to meet with them to agreeing to meet with the Board if they were “civil.”

After the meeting, he said he will meet with the board in private. Michele Zdrodowski wrote a note to the Detroit News saying, “Per Judge Rhodes, the meeting will be private so that they may have an open and frank discussion.” Zdrodowski asserted the session can be closed under the state’s Open Meetings Act because no decisions will be made. “This is an information sharing meeting only, and Judge Rhodes is not asking the Board to take any action and therefore the public meetings act does not apply.”

This is a novel interpretation of the Open Meetings Act. All public bodies are required to hold open meetings except for very specific reasons. They include discussing discipline, real estate transactions, conferring with an attorney about litigation, discussing material privileged under state and federal law, and considering employment applications under certain circumstances. There is no exemption for “information sharing.”

Elected School Board President Herman Davis said that no more than 5 of the 11 members would meet as once so as not to violate the law.

“Detroit school board members, unlike the parties who make decisions about expenditures, openings and closings of schools, letting of millions of dollars of contracts, are subject to the Open Meetings Act,” Elena Herrada said. “We will not meet with the emergency manager in a closed meeting.”

Rhodes does not grasp that the call of the community was not simply to hold a meeting. It was for a return to democratically elected control. If Rhodes had any integrity, he would meet openly and publicly with the board and acknowledge the responsibility of the State for the financial crisis it has created. He should the give the elected school board his resignation as Emergency Manager and ask them to forward it to the Governor. Anything less is dishonorable and complicate in a legal fiction that assaults the most basic values of democracy.

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Facilitating Diversity

As I sit down to write this post, I’m taking a break from preparing for our Passover Seder here at the ranch—a ceremony that’s an amalgam of my Jewish roots, Pagan practice, and our very down-to-earth desire to give thanks and celebrate another season of baby lambs and kids.  The goat kind, that is.  I’m remembering a Seder I hosted more than twenty years ago, and it is making me think of some of the challenges and rewards of trying to facilitate diverse groups and work together across the lines of diversity.


(Support diversity scholarships for Earth Activist Trainings! Photo by Brooke Porter Photography)

Two dear friends were co-hosting with me.  Both were friends of mine, but didn’t know each other.  Marcia Falk, is a brilliant poet, liturgist, author and feminist rooted within the Jewish tradition. She’s written many books of liturgy in both English and Hebrew, including her latest, The Days Between: Blessings, Poems, and Directions of the Heart for the Jewish High Holiday Season. Kate Raphael is a lifelong, courageous activist for LGBT rights,  justice for Palestine, and many, many sorts of peace and justice work, and an author of a great mystery novel set in the West Bank, Murder Under the Bridge.

At that time, a new tradition was circulating in the LGBT rights community, based on a story that two lesbians had approached a rabbi and asked, “What is the place of a lesbian in Judaism?”  The rabbi had purportedly answered, “The place of a lesbian in Judaism is like the place of a piece of chametz on the seder plate.”


An older gem of a video about Detroit Summer.
Enjoy it here as summer slowly approaches.


The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214




Jimmy and Grace Lee Boggs

Jimmy and Grace Lee Boggs

Our mission is to nurture the transformational leadership capacities of individuals and organizations committed to creating productive, sustainable, ecologically responsible, and just communities. Through local, national and international networks of activists, artists and intellectuals we foster new ways of living, being and thinking to face the challenges of the 21st century.
Living for Change News May 8th – May 15th
On Tuesday, May 10, 2016, you will hold the one public meeting required by Governor Snyder’s “emergency management” statute.  This is an inadequate forum for any meaningful standards of democracy, transparency, accountability and public input at a time of crisis.  It speaks directly to the fatal flaws of “emergency management”, and of your illegitimacy.
Eloquent and informed commentators from our community, and from the national human rights movement, have summarized the key issues facing DPS today under your fundamentally lawless and white supremacist power grab.  More broadly, we have recently published “Detroit 2016” linking Detroit’s struggles for racial and economic justice, including education, water, housing, development and democracy.   You cannot evade the basic contradiction in your role by preferring to change your title.  We need an honest public discussion.
You freely admitted at the time of your appointment that you have no relevant experience or qualifications to run a public school district, or to run an education system.  You have stated that you bring only one tool to this situation: the possibility of state appropriations; with this tool, you in effect seek to continue the state’s racist policies of corporate child abuse that have destroyed public education in Detroit over the last 17 years.
The very idea that there a meaningful top-down “solution” can be imposed by the state is absurd.  This state legislature will use any financial excuse to further attack our children and their teachers.
A real solution must, at an absolute minimum: 1) come from Detroiters;       2) emphasize education over finance; 3) embrace democracy; and 4) reject structural racism,  which has contaminated both Detroit’s bitter experiences with educational “reform”, and the state’s “emergency managed” debacles in predominantly African-American urban communities.
Your role as presiding bankruptcy judge in Detroit’s Chapter 9 case ratified the abuses of “emergency management”, and eviscerated local government accountability.  Now, in spite of your admitted lack of knowledge or experience, you come out of retirement to claim the role of education czar, providing cover for the state’s failed policies.
Your current drive to impose a state- driven, top-down, designed-to-fail “solution” on Detroit destroys your credibility.
Unless you change course immediately and use your “emergency management” powers to help facilitate community-driven, democratic and educationally sound solutions, you betray yourself and basic principles of justice you’re sworn to uphold.  Your judicial robe cannot cover up these crimes against our children, our city and our hopes for the future.-Detroiters Resisting Emergency Management (D-REM) May 9, 2016http://www.d-rem.org/Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo‘s floor speech on the Detroit Public Schools package of legislation that passed last night deserves to be heard. As a former DPS teacher herself, she is passionate about doing what’s right for Detroit’s kids. That’s why she’s so disappointed that House Republicans passed this legislation in the early hours of the morning by a razor-thin margin over strenuous objections.
WATCH IT HEREglbwhitehouseThis amazing portrait of Grace Lee Boggs by artist Shizu Saldamando is currently on display in the White House for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
Commissioned by the Sons and Brothers campaign and pictured with “Fresh Off the Boat” actor, Hudson YangThinking for Ourselves Fair Waters Shea Howell
This week Director of Detroit Water and Sewerage Department Gary Brown announced that water shut offs would accelerate in Detroit. He is threatening to shut off as many as 20,000 homes as quickly as he can. In preparation for these shut offs Brown announced a Water Assistance Fair. The Fair was surrounded with publicity touting the innovative Assistance Plan (WRAP), pushed by the Mayor. Brown said the WRAP is “the most robust, compassionate and comprehensive program of its kind to help low income customers keep their water service.” He said, “We have a responsibility to our customers and citizens of the City of Detroit to make water affordable.”
I went to the Fair. There was nothing “fair” about it. Nor was there any compassion or comprehensive effort to help residents. Here is what I saw.
People were lined up around the block. The first woman I met coming out the door was upset. Her bill was coming to “resident,” as most of our bills do. The worker inside told her that she needed to pay $150 to get the bill in her own name before they would consider a payment plan. She didn’t have $150 dollars. So she left, still facing a shut off.
The next woman I met had recently had a new meter installed. She has always paid her bill on time. Her last bill was $4,966 dollars. She was told that her bills had been estimated for the last 7 years and she now owed the full amount.
A bit further back in the line was a young woman in similar situation. Her January bill showed a $250 credit. In February she got a bill for $3,400.
Of the 22 people I spoke with directly, more than half had bills of over $1000, in some cases even after they had turned off water in part of their home to save money. Everyone had experienced increases in their bill of between $100 and $400.
Most people got little or no help from the city.
Moreover there was no compassion from the city. It was a cold morning, with small children bundled up against the wind. Elders leaned on walkers. The only chairs were those the more experienced in dealing with the city brought with him. People stood in line for over three hours.  One young, pregnant woman brought her two small children to the front of line, asking to use the bathroom. Her littlest child needed to go. Too bad. She was turned away, as was everyone else.
This is what compassion looks like from Gary Brown and the Mayor. Almost everyone I talked to said the same thing, “The city doesn’t care about us. They want us out of here.”
Brown re-enforced this antagonism when he once again tried to pit one person against another. In perverse logic, Brown repeated those who don’t pay, cost the rest of us more money. “Customers pay an average of $10 more on their bill each month to cover the cost of uncollectible accounts,” he said.
A more truthful statement would be that until the city adopts a water affordability plan based on income, its shut off policy will continue to drive prices up. Every time someone is shut off, fewer people have to pay the fixed costs of the system, so prices go up. Every time prices go up, more people are shut off. This is an unsustainable downward spiral.
There is a robust, compassionate way for us to ensure Water is Human Right. But it wont be found coming from the Mayor or his henchman, Gary Brown.This weekend, in the face of hysterical times Stadtkuratorin Hamburg is asking What Time Is It on the Clock of the World with a performance festival and symposium.

The lead question of the festival goes back to an expression of the US human rights activist, philosopher, and feminist Grace Lee Boggs (1915-2015), who campaigned for social change, for the workers movement, and for the rights of the Afro-American population. She connects the awareness of the historical placing of current developments with the activist moment toward changing the current conditions: What Time Is It on the Clock of the World?* This expression points at the simultaneity of social transformations worldwide and artistic-social movements not conceived from a Western hegemonic center.

Syracuse University teaching assistant lives his life to advocate for disability rights Claire Ramirez
Micah Fialka-Feldman’s elementary school in Huntington Woods, Michigan, had a very specific rule: Children with disability needs had to walk through a “special” door to get inside the school, while everyone else would walk through the normal entrance.
But Fialka-Feldman, who, at the time was in the first or second grade, didn’t think that was right.

Great Political Texts #1 Eurocentrism by Samir Amin Reviewed by Will Copeland
The purpose of this series is to share some foundational political thoughts with my wider circle.  It is too rare in our day-to-day activism and organizing that we refer directly to the sources of ideas for affirmation or debate. I am choosing political works that raise questions that are related to my work, the work I see in Detroit, and nationwide. I hope that this encourages comrades to read these important texts or, at the least, to intentionally consider the questions these pieces raise. This is writing practice, self-expression, the proactive act of bringing it home #DetroitCultureCreators #GlobalBlackMetropolis #GraceLeeTaughtMe



Friends in Resistance,
I’m guessing you’ve seen news of Daniel Berrigan’s passing yesterday afternoon.
He was a dear friend and mentor of mine. I’m trying to figure how to get the funeral events this week (will miss our meeting again). Below is a poem for his 90th birthday 5 years ago this month.
love, Bill Wylie-Kellermann

Giving Voice (for Daniel Berrigan)   the heart dares the word dares the page lest love stick in the throat of this pen, and go untold   i remember my name in your voice echoing down the underground hall beneath niebuhr place: come, crack a jar of scotch come for talk and a minted brew of tea come to life. wake. arise. (an ascent follows, sweet and rash)   somehow that calling pipes through the kentucky hills retreat. while i practiced sport, before smoke rose from detroit your prayer with louis and circle breached the walls to fall also on me. summoning unbeknownst an answer.   (later, in a season of crushing dark you opened for me the gatehouse door there to walk and breathe and eat the psaltery to face dread dreams and heal)   confess a thing: even on this island now the tabletalk of poet and keeper hatches the seminary renegade. that heady charismatic anarchy revives as we speak and our once fresh formation turns, can it be, to eldering.   as toward the body politic flesh of word presented, burning with truth the charnel house lies, this blood on pillars gashing gold vermillion, or hammer nailing it to the door of church and state. in consequence, this bravery with a difference the holy ghost gone militant free in the cuff, in the dock, in the yard   for all for missives kited in and out for the discipline of hope for drinking the moon underground for writing on the wall, against it for bread in lotus fingers   all echoes in the heart at dusk footfalls on the way beloved   this thanks untellable    Bill Wylie-Kellermann, a United Methodist pastor who serves St Peter’s Episcopal Church in Detroit, was mentored as a seminarian by Daniel Berrigan.


The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership
3061 Field Street Detroit, Michigan 48214 US

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Starhawk’s Website

Posted: 11 May 2016 12:30 PM PDT
As I sit down to write this post, I’m taking a break from preparing for our Passover Seder here at the ranch—a ceremony that’s an amalgam of my Jewish roots, Pagan practice, and our very down-to-earth desire to give thanks and celebrate another season of baby lambs and kids.  The goat kind, that is.  I’m remembering a Seder I hosted more than twenty years ago, and it is making me think of some of the challenges and rewards of trying to facilitate diverse groups and work together across the lines of diversity.

Support diversity scholarships for Earth Activist Trainings! Photo by Brooke Porter Photography
Two dear friends were co-hosting with me.  Both were friends of mine, but didn’t know each other.  Marcia Falk, is a brilliant poet, liturgist, author and feminist rooted within the Jewish tradition. She’s written many books of liturgy in both English and Hebrew, including her latest, The Days Between: Blessings, Poems, and Directions of the Heart for the Jewish High Holiday Season. Kate Raphael is a lifelong, courageous activist for LGBT rights,  justice for Palestine, and many, many sorts of peace and justice work, and an author of a great mystery novel set in the West Bank, Murder Under the Bridge.
At that time, a new tradition was circulating in the LGBT rights community, based on a story that two lesbians had approached a rabbi and asked, “What is the place of a lesbian in Judaism?”  The rabbi had purportedly answered, “The place of a lesbian in Judaism is like the place of a piece of chametz on the seder plate.”
Now chametz, for those of you who don’t know the tradition, is yeast bread or bread-related substance, and one of the core strictures of the Passover holiday is to banish all bread and anything remotely related to it.  The story goes that when the Jews fled slavery in Egypt, they left so quickly they didn’t have time for their bread to rise.  I actually believe the custom is older, and has to do with a ritual purification of the remnants of the old grain harvest before bringing in the new.  In any case, Orthodox Jews scrub the house from top to bottom, carry out a thorough search for any stray crumbs of chametz that might have crept in, and burn the crumbs in order to purify for the holiday.
So, at our Seder, Kate wanted to put a piece of chametz on the Seder plate to symbolize solidarity with LGBT rights.  Marcia was horrified—not because she didn’t support LGBT rights.  She was a strong supporter of gay liberation, but putting a piece of chametz on the Seder plate, to her, was viscerally horrifying.
We never really resolved the issue. Kate couldn’t let go of the symbol, which was vitally important to her.  Marcia literally couldn’t stomach it.  The guests were coming, the chicken soup simmering, and we ended up with two Seder plates at opposite ends of a very long table, for the duration of a very long, tense ritual.  Decades went by before I dared host another Seder!
But I tell this story to illustrate some of the issues that emerge when we try to work together across our differences.  Today I regularly find myself facilitating very diverse groups.  I direct an organization called Earth Activist Training, that offers permaculture design grounded in spirit with a focus on organizing and activism.  We offer Diversity Scholarships for people of color and differently abled people working in environmental and social justice, and as a result, our groups often span many sorts of diversity—racial, gender, religion, class, physical ability, age, interests and experience.
Permaculture—ecological design—teaches that diversity brings resilience.  A diverse forest can withstand disease or fire or hurricane better than a monoculture of genetically identical cloned trees.  A diverse human system has a greater range of perspectives, a wider intelligence and understanding, than a group made up of people who all share the same background.
But a group with different life experiences and perspectives will also have differing needs, ideas, goals, and responses, that can generate conflict.  In the role of  facilitator or teacher, our responsibility is to create an atmosphere that welcomes everyone, in the fullness and complexity of the many identities we each carry.  But that’s not always easy to do in a context in which oppression continues and the pain is ongoing.
So what can we do—when the differing needs in a group intersect in painful ways?  When a black mother’s fear for the lives of her boys in a hostile world intersects with a Deaf woman’s pain at being robbed of all her communication devices by a thief the police suspect is a local black teen?  When an Egyptian activist’s pride in his heritage bangs up against the blacks students’ need to claim Egypt as Black Culture?  When a sincere, heartfelt gift of a precious object triggers an indigenous students’ pain at the appropriation of her culture and heritage?
I can’t answer that in one blog post—or a dozen.  But I’d like to share some of my own experience—often learned by making mistakes—the experience of an older, Jewish-American, flagrantly Pagan woman writer and teacher who has been struggling with these issues for a lifetime.  I hope to make this the beginning of a small series, and invite the voices of some of the other facilitators and teachers from a variety of backgrounds whom I work with.
So—lesson number one.  Clenching my teeth and muttering “Please, Jesus, rapture me now!” doesn’t help.
Remembering the goal is the starting point.  If our goal is to create a world of justice, how can we respond in a way that will further that will foster more justice?
When we care about justice in this world, and we experience or hear about injustice, we often feel angry, powerless, afraid.  Those feelings are extremely painful—especially helplessness.  I don’t know how to get the cops to stop killing black kids and people of color, or how to stop the theft of indigenous land, or how to close down the tar sands.  But I might know how to police your language, or shame another white person, or lash out at the messenger who reminds me how dire the situation is and how little I’ve done about it.
But in the role of facilitator or teacher, I can’t do that.  My responsibility is to create an atmosphere where everyone can learn and grow and be heard.  I can’t be responsible to that role and indulge in blaming, shaming, or name-calling.  I need to move the group toward learning, by encouraging and modeling listening, and sitting with the pain that arises, naming and acknowledging it.
Pandora Thomas, who is often my co-facilitator in these matters, always reminds us that the goal is to further real relationships, which include the fullness of conflict and disagreement—not to simply pacify the waters and create a surface harmony.
If we create space in a group to address these deep issues of injustice and discrimination, pain will arise, but so will the opportunity for change and growth and learning on a deeper level.  However, the intensity of the pain can also blow a group apart and make other learning impossible if we are not prepared for it.
So I’ve learned, the hard way, to find the right time and space for these discussions.  Not too early—for the group needs a chance to settle, bond, and build trust.  But not too late.  Not late at night, or right before the day off, or right before the end.
Conflict can be creative and productive—when it stays focused on the issues. When attacks become personal, and people get locked into defensiveness, the underlying issues get buried and we lose a huge opportunity for learning.
Had I been wiser, at that long-ago Seder, I might have been able to step us back from the content of that conflict and say, “Hey, this is really about the deep pain of feeling excluded.  The pain lesbians feel at being excluded from the Jewish mainstream—and the pain we all feel as Jews about being excluded for 2000 years.  Once we acknowledge that pain, maybe we can find some common ground.”
It’s easy to get locked into something that feels like a solution to the problem, but really might only be one possible way to address it.  Whether or not we put a piece of bread on the seder plate, discrimination against lesbians, gay, bisexual and transgender folks will continue.  In some situations, that symbolic act might strengthen the group’s resolve to challenge and fight that oppression.  In other situations, it might simply create division and deflect attention from the real issues.  Once we unpack the hurt, and remember the goal, we might be able to find some way together to create a symbol of inclusion that will work for all of us.
Earth Activist Training teaches permaculture design with a grounding in spirit and a focus on organizing and activism.  Our upcoming courses are:
You can stay up to date on all the upcoming Earth Activist Training courses on the website.
We have just launched a new fundraising campaign to support EAT’s Diversity Scholarship Program, which makes training in permaculture and ecological design accessible to people of color and differently-abled people working in environmental and social justice.  If you are inspired by the work we are doing, please consider making a donation to our campaign on Generosity. Or you can donate HERE

Photo by Brooke Porter Photography
A note on the bread-on-the-Seder-plate story:  
In later years, I noticed that the bread seemed to be replaced by an orange, which seemed to me to be a reasonable substitute.  But in googling around for this post, I found this article by Susannah Heschel, who originated the orange tradition in the ‘80s, to symbolize inclusion of women, lesbians and gays, the widows, orphans and all who have been excluded.  She asks that we eat the orange to remember the juicy contributions all these groups have made, and spit out the seeds of hate.  
Rebecca Alpert, whose 1997 book was entitled Like Bread on the Seder Plate: Jewish Lesbians and the Transformation of Tradition, suggests that no lesbians ever actually put bread on the plate.  http://forward.com/opinion/172960/slice-of-bread-for-lgbt-jews-and-all-the-excluded/  She should have been at our Seder!  Joshua Lesser, after a trip to offer solidarity to the Immokalee workers striking for their rights in the tomato fields of Florida, suggests placing a tomato on the plate for all those still enslaved.  http://forward.com/opinion/172962/for-those-still-enslaved-tomato-symbolizes-solidar/ And Rebecca Vilkomerson places an olive for the Palestinians and all oppressed peoples, in commemoration of the olive trees destroyed by the Israeli army. http://forward.com/opinion/172963/put-olive-on-seder-plate-for-palestinians-and-all/  And Susie Kisber recounted for us the story of a seder where the crust of bread was shellacked so that it could be placed on the seder plate but not actually touch it and compromise its ritual purity!
Both Kate and Marcia read a draft of this article and graciously consented to my writing the story, and all of us agree that we’re older and wiser now, and might be able to handle the situation more flexibly.
A living tradition grows and changes—and so can we!  The deep message of Passover is that the work of liberation goes on, in every generation.  Let us approach it with courage and compassion, and welcome in a new spring of hope.
I have had many teachers and co-explorers on this journey, too many to name them all.  But today I’m thinking of some of the friends with whom we began the WomanEarth Institute back in the early ‘90s, an attempt to form an ecofeminist learning environment that addressed issues of racism and exclusion:  Ynestra Kind, Luisah Teish, Rachel Bagby, Gen Vaughn, Margo Adair, Shea Howell, and many others.  And some of my current co-conspirators in Earth Activist Training and related groups:  Charles Williams, Pandora Thomas, Rushelle Frazier, Jay Rosenberg, Brandy Mack and Wanda Stewart.
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Once in a lifetime opportunity Cuba

Myrtle Thompson Curtis

wayne_myrtleI recently traveled to Cuba on a learning journey. I went to experience a place I only read about or heard about in the news. I was there to engage as best I could despite limited Spanish. At home on my bookshelves are many books on Cuba, Che, Fidel Castro, Haydee Santamaria, and others.

These books and my life have taken me a long way from the images of Cuba I grew up with. As a child I heard that socialism and communism are anti American and will destroy life as we know it. Cuba was a place to flee from. It was not a place you would want to visit, let alone live there. I heard poverty is rampant, with a lack of shopping and basic freedoms. I had been told people deserved to be cut off, punished, and left to their own devices. After all, they rejected U.S. rules and money.

I have come to learn how much many people in our country see Cuba through fear and uncertainty. But through this journey I have been first hand schooled on how being revolutionary in principle creates strong folks filled with dignity and love.

My partner and I are lovers of justice, peace, the power of self-determination, all of the qualities that I read about in the books lining our shelves. As I spoke with folks in Cuba despite my limited Espanola, I never heard the words communism or any anti American rhetoric. Quite the opposite, I was taught how much the people there want to be able to travel to the states. The people were warm and welcoming, curious and excited about the possible lift of the blockade and look forward to an economic boost from tourism.

After all the country of Cuba is beautiful. Yes some of its buildings are in need of repair and the citizens work hard for little pay, and there is much needed infrastructure work. Sound familiar? The fact that there is health care for all its people, no cost education for all, a food subsidy for everyone regardless of economic status and all social, cultural amenities are free or affordable to its people makes me think we have something to learn from this country.

As our tour guides, Rita Periera and Roberto Perez, spoke to us with a deep and genuine revolutionary love for the country and its people. They want Cuba to remain principled, with focuses on the cultural aspects of the country. The people are proud of their accomplishments in health, education, and arts, despite being cut off from trade with the U.S. and other countries. The only counties that maintained relations were Mexico and Canada. There is not an overburdened prison population, no part of this beautiful country is off limits to its people, and its health care is available to all, despite income.

Our guides were so insightful as we went through Old Havana. We strolled the Prado Promenade, visiting shops and Museums and amazing restaurants. Roberto was amazing in his knowledge of anything to do with the environment and its protection. His love of all things bio was so energetic. We visited the Jovo urban agriculture farm, and the farm theater where actors live off of the land and perform there. There was art everywhere. Complete neighborhoods are dedicated to tile art and the work of Jose Fuster called Muraleando. His work is so vast we could not see it all in one visit. La Tanque was another neighborhood with recycled and reclaimed materials. It was a wonderful place to have lunch. Murals and creativity are prevalent along the roadways and neighborhoods.


There is so much to say about this wonderful learning journey, the music that told of Jose Marti and the revolutionary heroes. I purchased cd’s from local musicians and singers. I dined at neighborhood eateries as well as the DuPont Mansion. We visited a barely used, but swanky Marina, saw a 700 yr old cactus tree, and even ventured inside caves.

I have many lasting memories of this journey to Cuba traveling with an engaging group of folks. Some I barely knew, some were complete strangers. By the end of our travels I had made beautiful connections and will share this experience always. I also had the added bonus of traveling with my 30yr old daughter and her son Seti who is four years old. The Cuban people and our travel companions lavished him with love. Seti learned the word abuelo (grandparent) because he was treated as one of their own.

My greatest take away will be how welcome I felt and the smiles and hugs of the Cuban people. Oh yeah while I was there the weather was great until President Obama got there and brought storm clouds and high waves.



















Dear Fellow-Elders, I am forwarding this celebration of Brother Vincent by Alan Gilbert, a professor of international studies at the University of Denver,, who also sent a poem by Brother Vincent, blazing with light, blazing with The Dark is Light Enough, that was published in 1966 but since then not well-known till now.  Shalom, salaam, peace, Earth! Rabbi Arthur Wasko
(Dr. Vincent Harding, July 25, 1931 – May 19, 2014)
     Vincent Harding was angered by and meditated on Jimmy L. Williams’ death in Vietnam in 1964 – Williams had served in the Special Forces – and the refusal of the “officials” (Ku Klux Klan) of Wetumpka, Alabama to bury him in the lily-white military cemetery.  See the story “Burial Rebuff Shakes Battlefront Buddies” here for statements about this by his fellow soldiers.  Vincent wrote this long poem, published in November, 1966, in Negro Digest which Sean Ray, who is writing a thesis on Tolstoy, Gandhi and King, discovered and transcribed.
    There was protest at the time, particularly by Jimmy Williams’ parents, and he was buried in the integrated Andersonville National Cemetery, near where Freedmen had celebrated emancipation:
       “In May 1966, 19 year old Jimmy Williams, an African American Green Beret from Wetumpka, Alabama, was killed in Vietnam. His hometown cemetery refused to allow him to be buried due to his race. His mother said, ‘My son died fighting on the front for all of us. He didn’t die a segregated death and he’ll not be buried in a segregated cemetery.’ Jimmy Williams was buried with full military honors in an integrated Andersonville National Cemetery, almost one hundred years after the Freedmen first celebrated their Emancipation only a few yards away.” (from the Andersonville National Historic Site website. h/t Sean Ray)
    Wetumpka’s cemetery remained lily-white…Being buried there currently is perhaps spiritually equivalent to being buried in a sewer.  Jimmy Williams is honored today at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, see here.
   Vincent speaks of the “gallant savagery” with which black soldiers, often abused in the well-equipped American army, murdered ordinary people in Vietnam.
      In 1967, Vincent authored the first draft of Martin Luther King’s memorable speech against the Vietnam War given at the Riverside Church  on April 4th.  It was a choice Martin made – being on the road 300 days a year, he asked Vincent to write it –  as an alternative to a fairly banal speech, and Vincent wrote words – listen here or  read it here  – which will live as long as American English is spoken.  For that speech is as true today of Obama’s drones, of CIA and Joint Special Operations Command secret activities – 12 raids in 70 countries every night –  as the day it was written.  For the militarized economy is “a demonic destructive suction tube” which steals resources from ordinary people, black, brown, red and white, which could be used for a common good (for an economy which works for all of us, as Bernie puts it) – and funnels them into crazy imperial, and losing wars in the Middle East and a gigantic $1.7 trillion a year war complex/militarism (short for military-industrial-corporate media-most politicians-academic-American trained and aided foreign militaries, and the like complex).
       President Johnson and the commercial media then condemned and ostracized King, a central cause of King’s murder 1 year to the day later, April 4, 1968, in Memphis.  Vincent spoke with many people, including me, of the guilt he felt that he wrote the words for which his dear friend was murdered.  James Lawson helped to lift the cross of this somewhat from Vincent who had asked him whether he felt guilty for inviting Martin to come to Memphis, and he said: no, it was Martin’s decision.
     From the age of 26 on in Montgomery, assassination attempts had been made against King; he told Coretta then that he would not reach the age of 40….
   In a conversation with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez on Democracy Now on this speech in 2008, Vincent spoke of King’s magnificent craziness, of which there is something, as I saw in being with nonviolent village protestors in Palestine, in Dr. Harding also:
    “I think Halberstam was very, very much on the point there, Amy. I think that it is impossible to stand with the poor, to speak on behalf of the poor, without getting the kind of responses that people gave to Martin’s speech. He became a voice that was considered to be an alienated, out-of-his-arena kind of speech. And this was only natural in light of the commitment that he made. When you decide that you must go and stand and work with garbage workers, even though you have a Ph.D. in philosophical theology, it is only natural that many people who are accustomed to hanging out with Ph.D.’s in philosophical theology will say that you are crazy for hanging around with garbage workers. But Martin had a magnificent craziness about him that made him very uncomfortable for some people to understand and to live with.
But, Amy, what I want to remember is not simply what Time magazine said or what the Washington Post said, but what I want to remember is what Nina was remembering in her song, “The King of Love is Dead, What Should We Do Now?” What I also want to remember is that great Jewish rabbi, Abraham Joshua Heschel, who said, just about ten days before Martin was assassinated, Heschel said, “Martin Luther King is a voice, a vision and a way, and we must all engage with him in his way, because,” Heschel said, “the whole future of America depends upon the impact and influence of Dr. King.” I believe that. And I think that that is part of the reason why so many people were so uncomfortable, because they knew that he was calling us to a way that was very difficult, a way beyond racism, a way beyond materialism and a way beyond militarism. And those are not easy ways to go.” See here.
        As an historian, Vincent also wrote the lyrical There is a River, the most powerful historical account of black people and the fight for freedom and decency in America up to the new opening, the hunger of poor, newly free blacks for reading and learning at the end of the Civil War. I had the privilege of going with Vincent to the meeting celebrating the 30th anniversary of its publication at ASALH (the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History) in Richmond in 2011, and saw at a Chapel at the Virginia Theological Union, stained glass designed with the picture of a black woman reading against a fence (see here.
    Vincent’s writings will live as long as people consider the struggle against the  long American genocides and its corrupt, imperial – and  self-destructive – wars.  This epic poem is part of the journey which Vincent made in writing these other works.
       Until Sean found this poem in The Negro Digest, I had not known that Vincent wrote poetry.  Published  in 1966, it traces four hundred years of violent oppression, celebrates Nat Turner but avoids his bloody hands, satirizes whites who murder blacks humming “John Brown’s body” (for reasons we never discussed, Vincent had a hard time coming to admire John Brown), comments sadly on blacks fighting in settler wars against indigenous people (to be slaves on the land seized) and ends on a vision of hope (Vincent founded the Veterans of Hope…)
     For Vincent, the way to his measured and profound nonviolence – mass nonviolent resistance – was through an anger which once sometimes sympathized with violence against the oppressor, even where he thought it unwise.  His profound nonviolence, to force oppressors to submit or hopefully change through nonviolent resistance and not to kill, a matter of spirituality and political judgment, was hard won and learned from and influenced many people, here and abroad (for instance, the courageous Bassem Tamimi – they called each other brothers –  whom Vincent stayed with in Nabi Saleh).
    Vincent’s poem cries out against a country which oppresses and throws away black people, uses them against native americans, celebrates them only when they “are gallant” and together with poor whites burn Vietnamese villages thousands of miles away, as King’s speech says, but will not let them live together in East Chicago or Detroit, a country which will not even  bury Jimmy Williams in the lily-white cemetery in Wetumpka…
     Wetumpka is still sick. There is no clear mention of Jimmy Williams even on webpage of the new Black History Museum, opened in 2015 here in Wetumpka…
“Or only black,” Vincent writes
                                     and dead,
                                     and gallant
                                     and slaves?”
     And yet even this poem soars at the end toward Vincent’s (and Martin’s) vision of a common place where everyone is recognized – who owns the water? Martin asked in 1968 –  or  a genuine democracy as Vincent would speak about in recent years…
    For King’s vision of black and white and native american and asian – all of us united in an anti-racist, multiracial democracy is the only one way forward against increasing, day by day, economic oppression and unjust wars.
    The racist grave yards of the South –  in Philadelphia, Mississippi, James Chaney and Mickey Schwerner, whose parents wished them to be buried beside each other after being murdered by the Sheriff and a reverend, leading a mob, could not be buried together…
         In response to the murders at Mother Emmanuel in 2015, the Confederate flag in Louisiana was taken down from public buildings  – Governor Nikki Haley nonetheless, deserves credit for responding to these murders – but the journey to make the South a decent place will yet take a long time…
    Here is Brother Vincent wrestling as a poet with America.  His dignity, and that of the great movement of which he spoke, contrasts utterly with, though it is a hope of, the America in which we find ourselves.  For America is, and remains an opponent, giving way but glacially at best, as Black Lives Matter heroically and tragically, shows (yesterday a 16 year old young man was gunned down in Utah for holding a stick – see here<http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=3BnXW2Uxqqc>).   How can Freddy Grey and Michael Brown and Tamir Rice and Walter Johnson and Trayvon Martin and so many others have been murdered, here and now, in America by officials as depraved and obtuse as those of Wetumpka, how can buildings still be named for the Klan-lover, segregator Woodrow Wilson at Princeton or University Presidents and other officials just not care that black folks are sometimes subject to derogatory howls in the night?

Continue Reading »

Thinking for Ourselves

By Shea Howell

Diminished capacity

March 22, 016

shea25On the eve of World Water Day, Governor Rick Snyder released his new “action plan designed to ensure Flint’s recovery and strong future.” The banner heading of the plan repeats Snyder’s slogan “Getting it right. Getting it done.”

Designed by public relations experts and vetted by lawyers, the plan is intended to show everyone that Snyder is continuing his positive, relentless action. It is also designed to focus attention away from the causes of the catastrophe in Flint and to shift the blame to federal levels.

This plan reflects the moral failures of Governor Snyder, his administration and all those who support him. Ever since he was forced to acknowledge a crisis in Flint, Governor Snyder has failed to understand the human consequences of his own arrogance and indifference. He has half stepped, tried to deflect blame, accused others of failures, distorted his own role, and been reluctant to release all information necessary to uncover the full degree of complicity, complacency and duplicity in this disaster. His latest plan reflects a complete lack of simple human empathy, a diminished capacity for understanding.

Snyder’s distorted view of this human tragedy is expressed in his first point. It reads “Children under 6 with high blood lead levels offered professional support and case management.”

Let us be clear. Every child in Flint has been traumatized by what has happened to their community. Every adult has been traumatized. Every animal, plant, garden, building, road, school, and sidewalk has been poisoned and carries the scars of this tragedy. Every bone in every body for now and future generations will carry some measure of the terrors and pain people have endured.

Governor Snyder sees none of this. He chooses to say some children, who test at some level, for one substance, will be “offered” support.

This kind of small spirited and weak minded response is exactly why Snyder should resign. It is why the Federal Government needs to declare a Public Health Emergency in Flint. It is why we need to support Mayor Weaver and the local activists who are calling for broad support and a truly comprehensive response to the crisis they face.

While Snyder’s pathetic attempt to respond works its way through the media, activists and community members gathered to support efforts by the State legislators to advance a package of bills designed to insure water is a human right in Michigan and make our water, safe, affordable and accessible to all. The Republican Committee Chairperson, Lee Chatfield, is keeping this package of 11 bills from a public hearing.

Moving these bills toward law is a crucial step. But equally important is moving to remove Emergency Management legislation. Even Governor Snyder conceded that “it would be a fair conclusion” to say that Michigan’s emergency manger law failed in Flint.

It is time we act out of fairness and love for one another. Small steps, with even more narrowly devised guidelines designed to save money diminish us all.

Here is the contact information for Representative Lee Chatfield:

S-1486 House Office Building

P.O. Box 30014

Lansing, MI 48909


Phone: 517-373-2629

Email: LeeChatfield@house.mi.gov

Thinking for ourselves

By Shea Howell

Wanting Answers

March 12, 2016

shea25The crisis in Flint is moving into courtrooms. Last week reports documented a “floodgate of lawsuits on behalf of aggrieved residents.” Seven families filed a lawsuit on March 7, 2016 charging wide-reaching negligence. Among others, the suit names Governor Rick Snyder and several of his appointed officials. The suit could eventually include 8,000 young people who have been exposed to lead through their drinking water. This latest effort joins at least three others filed since November of 2015.

Meanwhile, Governor Snyder has called for an investigation into the role the State Department of Health and Human Services played in the crisis. Sounding as though he was a person living in Flint and forced to drink poisoned water, Snyder said. “The public health issues the people of Flint and Genesee County are facing warranted an internal review of how the state handled these situations.” Snyder said, “I want some answers.”

This is yet another public relations move to show that Snyder is still the governor of relentless, positive action. Until last month Snyder did not even have a full time Chief Medical Officer. This, in spite of months of concern about lead poisoning and possible deaths from bacterial infections caused by bad water. The Public Health Code requires such an appointment. Snyder had no problem appointing Emergency Managers. He had no problem appointing “transition” boards. He had no problem hiring public relations firms and extra lawyers. Yet he did not appoint a full time Chief Medical Officer until February 1 of this year.

State Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich of Flint said he was “baffled” as to how Snyder “can continue to push for investigations of departments that carried out his wishes, and then blame them for operating in a departmental culture he created.”

This culture was on full display as more emails surfaced last week. As early as October of 2014, two top aids in the Governor’s office advocated for Flint to get back to Detroit water. Valerie Brader, deputy legal counsel and senior policy adviser to Snyder, raised problems with Flint River water in her e-mail to the governor’s Chief of Staff Dennis Muchmore and other top aides.

She called the situation an “urgent matter to fix.” She cited bacterial contamination in the river water and reduced quality that caused “GM to leave due to rusted parts.”

Brader was joined in her concerns by Michael Gadola, then the governor’s legal counsel. Noting his mother lived in Flint, Gadola called the idea of drinking water from the Flint River “downright scary.” He said Flint “should try to get back on the Detroit system as a stopgap ASAP before this thing gets too far out of control.”

These concerns were rejected as Emergency Managers. Flint did not switch back to the Detroit system for another year.

Both Brader and Gadola contributed to the cultural of secrecy and denial of the Snyder administration, in spite of their concerns. Brader raised her concerns in a way that would avoid efforts by the public to find out what was going on. She said, “P.S. Note: I have not copied DEQ on this message for FOIA reasons.”

Now we know why. As these emails surface we see relentless, incompetent, callous inaction. Snyder and his team protected their own interests. They dismissed critics as “citizens against virtually everything” and accused the press of seeking to manufacture readers.

Such arrogance is finally being revealed as a depraved disregard for people and for democracy. Snyder and his emergency manager law need to go. We want answers. We deserve accountability.



Thinking for ourselves

By Shea Howell

Rhodes as Emergency Manager

March 6, 2016

shea25Governor Snyder has appointed Judge Steven Rhodes as the 5th Emergency Manger of Detroit Public Schools. Judge Rhodes presided over the Detroit Bankruptcy hearing and gained widespread support from Snyder and the corporate elite for his handling of the case. Snyder hopes that Rhodes will be able to influence the State Legislature to acknowledge their obligation to step up and pay $515 million debt to put the district back on sound financial grounds. Continue Reading »

Thinking for Ourselves
Shea Howell
The State of Our City
shea25Mayor Duggan gave his third State of the City address last week at the Second Ebenezer Church on Detroit’s East Side. He emphasized the progress he has made cutting crime and increasing police response times, tearing down blighted houses, encouraging businesses, and creating job programs for youth. He discussed his initiatives to cut car insurance and to add new technologies of surveillance. He announced his intentions to carve out a role for the Mayor in the Detroit Public School crisis and said he is encouraging the return of power to an elected school board.

 Most of the 2,000 folks in attendance cheered on as members of the audience stood to have their efforts acknowledged.  But for the first time in over 40 years, the speech was interrupted 4 times by protesters.

Mayor Duggan would do well to pay attention to those protests. They say more about the state of our city than all of the orchestrated cheering. These brave young people who stood up to question the Mayor and his “relentless, positive, action” deserve the thanks of all of us who are concerned about the growing racial divide and brutal inequalities we are facing.

It was their voices that raised the important questions we face. Unfurling a banner that read “Opportunity for who?” they challenged gentrification, water shut offs, disinvestment in education, and Duggan’s ties to Governor Snyder and his emergency managers.

“Many Detroiters – especially black Detroiters – aren’t experiencing the ‘revitalization’ of greater downtown,” said Dakarai Carter, an organizer from BYP100. “Millions of dollars are being invested there, while our neighborhoods deal with disinvestment resulting in a lack of community services and resources. We are disrupting business as usual because we know that cities thrive on democratic control and shared access to resources.”

The reality is that Duggan’s speech was almost exactly the same as the speech given by Mayor Dave Bing right before the onslaught of emergency management and bankruptcy in 2013. Bing, too, offered five key initiatives: cutting crime and increasing police, blight reduction, Detroit Works to grow demonstration areas to redevelop neighborhoods, improve public transportation, and encouraging entrepreneurs.

That is why Duggan is failing the city. The questions we face are not the same as those of the pre-emergency manager-bankruptcy era. To move down the same old path of promising the “best way to handle the problem is to grow the city,” is the kind of relentless positive non-thinking that brought us the crisis in Flint.

Mayor Duggan refuses to look at the basic question of how do we develop a city that includes all of our people? How do we create relationships that foster care, compassion, and joy for everyone?

These are not empty questions. Nor are they utopian thoughts. Since Duggan took office, citizens groups have offered clear advice: Put a moratorium on foreclosures. Stop the Water Shut Offs. Adopt a Water Affordability Plan. Adopt a community benefits agreement. Develop place-based education to encourage our young people to learn while rebuilding the city. Encourage land trusts and cooperative businesses.

Shortly after the State of the City, Former Mayor Dave Bing, who no doubt recognized much of the progress claimed by Duggan, offered some advice “As much as we say or think we are being inclusive, the reality is we are not. There is an undercurrent of frustration and anger that could lead to a negative outcome.”

Detroit is a movement city with a strong history of developing creative grass roots alternative ways of living and being. Duggan’s old thinking shows no sign of recognizing the depth of the challenges we face. He would do well to listen to our youth.

Continue Reading »


Tuesday, February 9, 2016 

***Media Advisory*** 

Contact: Tawana Petty, tawana.detroit2012@gmail.com313-433-9882


Parents Create Alternative to Rodent, Mold Infested Schools

Freedom School echo civil rights era movement for justice


DETROIT – Fed up with sending their children to decaying, vermin-infested schools, a group of Detroit parents and their supporters have created a clean, safe alternative – a Freedom School to be held­­­­ at Central United Methodist Church. Parents are pulling their children from Detroit Public Schools on count day, Wednesday, February 10, to protest how funds have been misspent and misused. Parents and students are also showing solidarity with Detroit Public School teachers whose “sick-outs” blew the whistle on deplorable conditions that students and staff have struggled with. Continue Reading »


February 8, 2016
  • To the People of Flint Michigan,
    We are parents, teachers, faith-leaders, students, business owners and residents of West Virginia—and we stand with you. These last weeks, we have seen you in the paper and on the news: a mother with her
    children outside of a community center waiting to receive bottled water; preachers giving comfort in packed emergency rooms filled with scared neighbors; protesters gathering and calling on their government of offcials to take action.
    Two years ago, we stood in those same lines, visited local emergency rooms, and demonstrated in the halls of power because our water, too, had been poisoned. A chemical tank failure contaminated the
    water of 300,000 people across nine counties surrounding our capital city of Charleston. In the few short months following the West Virginia Water Crisis, we learned that our water company, our Public Service
    Commission, our legislature, and state, local and federal regulators were failing us at all levels. What’s more, no offcials were willing to take responsibility for the crisis and each passed the buck to the next, pointing to one another’s failings. The truth is, they all failed us.
    Today, we stand alongside you as you grieve and rage. We know that no gesture on our part can erase the damage that untold amounts of lead poisoning has wrought on your children’s bodies—their growth and development. We know that it’s not only your bodies that were damaged, but also any trust you’d placed in your government ofcials. We remember what it’s like to be told that our water was “safe” when our bodies told us it wasn’t.
    And we know that it was no mistake that this crisis happened in Flint, a predominantly Black community and one of the poorest in the nation. We recognize that communities of color and communities
    with high poverty rates, such as those counties affected by the West Virginia crisis, are at the greatest risk for water disasters across America. We live in a nation where environmental racism persists.
  • Working together across race and class in the aftermath of this disaster, we are making real change.
    We don’t have all the answers, but we are gaining ground for safe, reliable water here in West Virginia, as you are in Flint, Michigan.
    We are with you.
    — The People of West Virginia
    Advocates for a Safe Water System
    American Friends Service Committee
    Appalachian Catholic Worker
    Catholic Committee of Appalachia (WV Chapter)
    Charleston WV Branch NAACP
    Christians For The Mountains
    Coal River Mountain Watch
    Concerned Citizens of Roane County
    Covenant House of West Virginia
    Doddridge County Watershed Association
    Friends of Water
    Greenbrier River Watershed Association
    Huntington-Cabell Branch of the NAACP
    Kanawha Forest Coalition
    Keeper of the Mountains
    MelRose Ministries for Positive Transformative
    Mountain Lakes Preservation Alliance
    Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
    People Concerned About Chemical Safety
    Plateau Action Network
    POWHR (Preserve Our Water, Heritage, Rights)
    Preserve Greenbrier County
    Preserve Monroe
    RAMPS (Radical Action for Mountains’ and People’s
    Southern Appalachian Labor School
    Stories From South Central, WV
    West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy
    West Virginia Chapter of Sierra Club
    West Virginia Citizen Action Group
    West Virginia Clean Water Hub
    West Virginia Direct Action Welfare Group
    West Virginia Environmental Council
    West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition
    West Virginia Interfaith Power and Light
    WV FREE (West Virginia Focus: Reproductive
    Education and Equality)
    West Virginia Rivers Coalition
    Crystal Good @cgoodwoman
    Ellen Allen and Sue Julian
    Karan Ireland
    Maya Nye
    Paula Swearengin
    Shirley Rosenbaum

Continue Reading »

Thinking for ourselves

By Shea Howell

Repeal EM Law

February 7, 2013

shea33Governor Snyder’s main response to the Flint water crisis has been to hire two public relations firms. He has yet to replace a single lead pipe. Snyder wants to save himself and his emergency manager law. He has launched a full scale campaign to blame anyone but him for the decisions that rest squarely on his shoulders and those of his appointed emergency managers and bureaucratic agency heads. Continue Reading »

A Water Rights Tribubal
Rev. Bill Wiley-Kellerman                                                                       

Reverend Bill Wylie-Kellerman St. Peter's Episcopal Church Detroit ...

A Water Rights Tribunal organized by Detroiter’s Resisting Emergency Management heard testimony from witnesses in Flint and Detroit. Governor Snyder and Mayor Duggan were found guilty of Crimes Against the People as they have knowingly and willfully deprived citizens of the basic right to safe, affordable drinking water. Here are the opening remarks to the Tribunal offered by Rev. Bill Wiley-Kellerman. He presided over the Tribunal. 

The Peoples Tribunal on Water Crimes and Crimes against Democracy is hereby convened.

We are on the record with Case number 2016-H20justice

Tap gavel

Welcome to all present. I trust everyone is prepared to proceed.

I have before me the document convening this Tribunal which includes detailed charges. These have been made available to all present.

The defendants, Richard Snyder, Michael Duggan, Darnell Early, and Kevyn Orr, have been notified and duly summoned.  This document was sent them by registered mail.

For the record, I see that Misters Snyder and Duggan are present in effigy. I will issue peoples’ warrants for Misters Early and Orr.

Proceed with reading the summary of charges variously against them all:

As stated in the summons before you:

Crimes Against Democracy through Lawless Emergency Management
Poisoning the Water Supply of Flint and its People
Mass Water Shut Offs in Detroit
False Claims that Flint’s Water is Safe
False Claims that Making Water Affordable is Illegal
Breach of Public Trust in Water
Theft of the Commons
Ignoring the Will of the Voters and the Health and General Welfare of the People – as required by the constitution

In this matter, it is important to review the previous judicial history which has brought us to this Tribunal.

Emergency Management is a key instrument in a number of these crimes (and indeed a crime in and of itself)– it must be observed that PA4 was repealed by a majority of voters – only to have it repassed as PA 436– necessitating a People’s Tribunal

Fed Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes put a stay on the Federal Court challenge to PA 436 under the Voting Rights Act – thereby effectively legitimating the use of the law against every African American city in the state (Including Flint, Detroit, and Highland Park) – replacing ¾ of black public officials in MI with EMs – – necessitating a People’s Tribunal

In Fed Bankruptcy Court Richard Snyder testified that PA436 was not a violation of the Constitutional right to vote because an EM could be voted out after 18 months, And Yet his Attorney General prevailed in an Ingham Co. Court allowing that this applied only to a particular EM thereby, enabling him to keep DPS under direct gubernatorial rule for 5 years and counting, preventing all that time any forensic audit -–  thereby necessitating a People’s Tribunal

Since Judge Rhodes noted in his ruling (Lyda et al) that there is no Michigan law guaranteeing water as a human right, he thereby allowed mass shut-offs to continue. (Other states CA, MA, PA do affirm such a legal right). This has necessitated appeal to International bodies of law – UN Resolution 64/292 Jul 2010 “Disconnection of water services because of failure to pay due to lack of means constitutes a violation of the human right to water and other international human rights.” – Denial of clean, safe, affordable water – necessitating a People’s Tribunal

Judge Rhodes ruled that an irreparable harm was being done to people of Detroit who were massively shut-off from water, but he allowed that the Court was unable and unwilling to prevent the harm – – necessitating a People’s Tribunal.

Since people in Detroit attempted to prevent that harm by blocking the water shut-off trucks from private contractor Homrich inc, from turning off water to hundreds of people in July of 2014 (38K over the year), these civil resisters have been charged but have so far been denied by the courts, use of the “necessity” or “justification” defense (which would demonstrate that they acted precisely to prevent the harm) . Hence, a People’s Tribunal has been required.

Since two of those blockaders have now all but completed a jury trial – a jury being the last vestige of democracy in a city under EM – and during closing arguments and instructions to the jury – the head of Mr Duggan’s law department went behind the backs of the defendants and their counsel to secure a stay from Circuit Court Judge Michael Hathaway, sending the jury home indefinitely – a People’s Tribunal has been made necessary.

Since Article IVof  State Consitition: (§ 51 and 52)state that the public health and general welfare of the people of the state are hereby declared to be matters of primary public concern.  And that the conservation and development of the natural resources of the state are hereby declared to be of paramount public concern in the interest of the health, safety and general welfare of the people. The legislature shall provide for the protection of the air, water and other natural resources of the state from pollution, impairment and destruction.

And yet to date no charges have been brought against these two men by either federal or state Attorneys General – rendering a Peoples’ Tribunal necessary.

We will begin with Opening statements, hearing first from the People…

Bill Goodman: Peoples; Opening Statement: Detroit and Flint, Emergency Management, Water and Human Rights, turning water into money resulting in genocide  (10 minutes: 6:30 to 6:40)

Nicholas Klaus: Defense Opening Statement: Heroic and competent defenders of capital, the American way of life and lucrative contracts for well-connected corporate cronies 10 minutes (6:40 to 6:50)

6:50 to 7:30

Witnesses for the People: Valerie Jean (Detroit). Melissa Mays(Flint)
7:30 to 8:00

Witnesses for the Defense and cross
Michael Doan (Duggan) 8 min defense, 6 min cross
Fred Vitale (Snyder) 8 min defense, 6 min cross.

Rebuttal witnesses
Debra Taylor (Detroit)
Narriyah Sharrif (Flint)

8:00 pm

Closing Arguments
Prosecutor 6-8 min
Defense  6—8 min

8:15 Judge…

As to instructions for the Jury…Ordinarily, judges instruct jurors in a way that actually minimizes, constricts, and constrains their awareness of their own power. I will not do so. Juries are inherently a powerful and authoritative form of direct democracy. I will not hide that fact from you.

I will encourage you to discern where lies are being told either openly or through spin doctoring. And I encourage you speak and vote using the full powers of your conscience.

Each of you have 2 minutes to share your position and the reasons for your vote of guilt or innocence. You may further, pending the outcome of the verdict, voice a recommendation for sentence.

Michael Balogun Anderson
Will Copeland
William Davis
Elena Herrada
Teresa Kelly
Claire McClinton
Rudy Simons

Jury speaks one by one (2 min each)
8:15 to 8: 30 


By my tally we have a unanimous verdict of Guilty on all counts.
The Court thanks each of you for your service in this matter.

As to sentencing…

These are serious crimes, violations of democracy and the human right to life itself. All charges which may yet be brought in conventional courts.
I have considered the various penalties which the state itself is able to sanction and enforce:
Imprisonment, being denied the necessities of life, being slowly poisoned with heavy metals, or being forcibly expelled from the region by foreclosure and water shut-off and water poisoning. These I am taking under advisement. But to reiterate, any decision or sentence in the Peoples’ Tribunal does not preclude further charges in other courts.

Mr’s Snyder, Duggan, (Early, and Orr)…you are hereby stripped of your authority to lead or rule the people of Detroit and Michigan. The people are no longer bound to honor you in office. Moreover, you are to be lead in an ignominious spectacle of your failures before the people of Michigan, the people of the nation, and the people of the world. Go. You are no longer over us. Let it be so ordered. Tap gavel.
(The two are led out by the baliffs).

The full implementation of these sentences requires action on the part of the peoples’ movements. I call on Monica Lewis Patrick to lead us in those deliberations.







On Grace
Raina LaGrand

The University of Michigan School of Social Work reflected on the legacy of Grace Lee Boggs as part of their celebration of Martin Luther King. Stephen Ward and Shea Howell of the Boggs Center joined Jim Toy and Raina LaGrand for the panel discussion. Here are Raina’s remarks opening the conversation with about 250 students, faculty and friends of Grace.

glb-coverMy name is Raina LaGrand. I am a Master’s student at the University of Michigan Schools of Social Work and Public Health. I sit on the School of Social Work Multicultural and Gender Affairs committee, and the subcommittee that organized this years MLK Symposium event for the School of Social Work. The event sought to reflect on the life and legacy of Grace Lee Boggs, and consider how her philosophy and activism can help us better understand our role as “solutionaries” in the fight for radical social change today. I was asked to sit on the panel, among some amazing people, including your very own Shea Howell. I was flattered and humbled when Shea asked me to share my comments for your newsletter. I hope you enjoy – or, in Grace’s spirit, perhaps some of you will entirely disagree!

When I was asked to speak on this panel, I was aware that I am not a Grace Lee Boggs expert. But, I am indeed an enthusiast. So I thought about what I would bring to the table. Personally, when I leave events like this, I sometimes walk away grateful for the new information, but unsure of what to do with it. I wonder, “Now what?” So the perspective I am bringing today is one from a student, evolving in my ideology regarding politics and social justice, and considering what Grace’s perspective offers me as an emerging professional. I hope what I offer will help some of you, especially the students, think through the “Now what?”

Grace talked a lot about radical social change. That word – radical – has a number of negative connotations: to some it sounds scary or even violent, to some it might sound like it will pit groups against one another, and for some it may sound unattainable. For Grace, however, radical social change is more about interconnectedness and love. Radical social change, therefore, is not necessarily seizing power and overthrowing governments. Rather, it is radical to change the ways we interact amongst each other, it is radical to think about the way we approach developing social solutions, it is radical to flip solutions for justice and equity on their heads – to think way outside of the box.

Grace mentions in her last book how some of these notions of radical social change were influenced or reinforced by some of the perspectives of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. She appreciated the concept of person-centered activism: shifting responsibility and power from distant governments to local community members, and seeing issues as involving people. As well as two-sided transformation: that we must transform ourselves in addition to our communities and our institutions. Grace said that, “we need to embrace the idea that we are the leaders we have been looking for.”

It is important to consider, therefore, what is as well as what is not radical, and how we all sometimes perpetuate the status quo and conform to outdated strategies and perspectives. There are a few ways I’ve identified that we do not, but can more effectively, work towards radical social change.

The first realm is our standards. In the same way that we value certain movements over others, we also continue to support certain practices. We constantly hear about the “best practices” for solving X issue in X community, and the importance of evidence-based practice. For social work students, we are told that everything we do must be backed up by evidence. While we do need research and evaluation to improve society, we also need to see that following this norm is not necessarily radical because we’re often not giving voice to those who deserve to be heard.

I just learned this term: practice-based evidence. It’s the idea that there are things that work, and that individuals really appreciate and benefit from, but they may not have strong evidence to defend their existence. The fact is that we pay to learn and get paid to do what has always worked. Yet, the times change quickly, and in Grace’s Hegelian perspective our thoughts and practices should too. Sometimes we don’t have the evidence for it just yet. We need to push ourselves to see value in perspectives and solutions that may not have evidence or large followings. Especially as social workers, we need to advocate for these things when communities ask for them. We need to remember as educated folks that education does not make us experts.

The second area we risk losing sight of radical social change tactics is in communities. The attention that is brought to social injustice is great, but it also skews the perception of who is responsible for social change. Similarly, our educations sometimes unfortunately reinforce these perceptions of what our responsibilities are and are not. Many folks try to place themselves in a new community and then expect the community to adapt to their way of doing things. This happens a lot in places like Detroit and southern African countries, for instance. We go where we think our skills our needed. Other folks may avoid their own communities, because they have lost faith in them. We don’t seek how we are most beneficial to the communities we are actually a part of.

This isn’t to say that we should not be aware of other social problems or contribute to solving them (because interconnectedness acknowledges our part in greater global challenges), but that we are aware of where our expertise truly lies. Who knows your self, your family, and your community better than you do? We need to stop working so hard to attain the identity of “activist” and instead see ourselves as responsible community members and citizens. It is important to remember that education does not give you a free pass to go anywhere you please.

Another way we conform to the status quo is by fitting into roles, and this has been a lesson for me recently. In the process of advocating for and enacting radical social change, and even once our radical utopia exists, there are different roles that are necessary. Some roles are more sexy than others, such as “community organizers.” I remember when I graduated high school, and my friends and I were unsure what to put on our resumes. We were interested in social justice, so we thought we were community organizers. We didn’t realize that community organizers have specific skills, expertise and networks; that many are community members who simply care about the wellbeing of their neighbor. Again, our education can make us believe that you can pay to learn how to be a “community organizer.”

In our society now, we have many moving parts, and our radical utopia will be no different. Garbage men don’t necessarily have the most desired job, and they don’t have to go to the University of Michigan to be garbage men, but we would indeed suffer as a society should they not exist. So, the lesson is to build on your strengths instead of compensating and meeting everyone else’s expectations. Remember that the things you enjoy doing – not the things you dread – are what you will do best at. This doesn’t excuse the discomfort of learning new lessons, but is still valuable to consider where you are putting your energy, what brings you joy, and how can you bring joy into suffering.

Our commitment to transforming ourselves in addition to transforming our communities and institutions requires a level of self-awareness. This is crucial to our ability to contribute to society. If we push ourselves into the wrong fit, we are perpetuating suffering at the same time that we are trying to eliminate it. Our own plight is the plight. We are our own leaders. When we are thoughtful about the movements, standards, communities, and roles we buy into, that is where we are acting as solutionaries (Grace’s word for those who think critically and differently about solutions to problems of social inequity). When we stop buying into the way things have always been done, when we stop doing what we are told is “right” or “professional,” that is radical. In Grace and Martin Luther King’s vision, love should be the significant motivator for our action – and if that’s not radical, I don’t know what is.

Racism and the Class Struggle     Further Pages from a Black Worker’s Notebook

Ch. 5      The City Is the Black Man’s Land

By James Boggs



Population experts predict that by 1970 Afro-Americans will con-

stitute the majority in fifty of the nation’s largest cities. In Wash-

ington, D.C., and Newark, N.T., Afro-Americans are already a

majority. In Detroit, Baltimore, Cleveland, and St. Louis they

are one-third or more of the population and in a number of

others-Chicago, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Oakland

-they constitute well over one-fourth. There are more Afro-

Americans in New York City than in the entire state of Missis-

sippi. Even where they are not yet a majority, as in Detroit,

their school children are now well over 50 percent of the school


In accordance with the general philosophy of majority rule

and the specific American tradition of ethnic groupings (Irish,

Polish, Italian) migrating en masse to the big cities and then

taking over the leadership of municipal government, black

Americans are next in line. Each previous ethnic grouping

achieved first-class citizenship chiefly because its leaders became

the cities’ leaders, but racism is so deeply imbedded in the

American psyche from top to bottom, and from Right to Left,

that it cannot even entertain the idea of black political power

in the cities. The white power structure, which includes or-

ganized labor, resorts to every conceivable strategy to keep itself

in power and the black man out: urban renewal or Negro re-

moval; reorganization of local government on a metropolitan

area basis; population (birth) control. Meanwhile, since their

“taxation without representation” is so flagrant, safe Negroes are


* Co-authored with Grace Lee Boggs.


40 Racism and the Class Struggle


appointed to administrative posts or hand-picked to run for

elective office. In Hitler-occupied Europe such safe members

of the native population were called collaborators or Quislings.

All these schemes may indefinitely delay or even permanently

exclude the black majority from taking over the reins of city

government. There is no automatic guarantee that justice will

prevail. But those who invent or support such schemes must

also reckon with the inevitable consequences: that the accumu-

lated problems of the inner city will become increasingly insol-

uble and that the city itself will remain the dangerous society,

a breeding place of seemingly senseless violence by increasing

numbers of black youth, rendered socially unnecessary by the

technological revolution of automation and cybernation, policed

by a growing occupation army which has been mobilized and

empowered to resort to any means considered necessary to safe-

guard the interests of the absentee landlords, merchants, poll

ticians, and administrators, to whom the city belongs by law

but who do not belong in the city and who themselves are afraid

to walk its streets.

America has already become the dangerous society. The na-

tion’s major cities are becoming police states. There are only

two roads open to it. Either wholesale extermination of the black

population through mass massacres or forced mass migrations

onto reservations as with the Indians (White America is ap-

parently not yet ready for this, although the slaughter of thirty-

two blacks in Watts by the armed forces of the state demonstrates

that this alternative is far from remote.) Or self-government of

the major cities by the black majority, mobilized behind leaders

and organizations of its own creation and prepared to reorganize

the structure of city government and city life from top to bottom.

This is the dilemma which Northern liberals have been evading

ever since May 1963, when the Birmingham city masses (Bir-

mingham is over 40 percent black) took the center of the stage

away from Dr. Martin Luther King and precipitated a long hot

summer of demonstrations, followed by a long hot summer of

uprisings in Harlem, Philadelphia, Rochester, New York, and

New Jersey in 1964. The McCone Commission has warned that

the 1965 revolt in Watts may be only a curtain-raiser to future



The City Is the Black Man’s Land 41


violence in the nation’s ghettos unless the public adopts a

revolutionary attitude” toward racial problems in America; and

Vice-President Humphrey proclaims that the “biggest battle

we’re fighting today is not in South Vietnam; the toughest battle

is in our cities.” But the war is not only in America’s cities; it

is for these cities. It is a civil war between black power and

white power whose first major battle was fought last August

in southern California between 18,000 soldiers and the black

people of Watts.

A revolution involves the conquest of state power by oppressed

strata of the population. It begins to loom upon the horizon when

the oppressed-viewing the authority of those in power as alien,

arbitrary, and/or exclusive-begin to challenge this authority.

But these challenges may result only in social reform and not

in the conquest of power unless there is a fundamental problem

involved which can be solved only by the political power of

the oppressed.

It is because labor is becoming more and more socially un-

necessary in the United States and another form of socially neces-

sary activity must be put in its place that a revolution is the only

solution. And it is because Afro-Americans are the ones who have

been made most expendable by the technological revolution that

the revolution must be a black revolution.

If the black liberation movement had erupted in the 1930’s

in the period when industry was in urgent need of unskilled and

semi-skilled labor, it is barely possible (although unlikely in

view of the profound racism of the American working class and

the accepted American pattern of mobility up the economic and

social ladder on the backs of others) that Afro-Americans might

have been integrated into the industrial structure on an equal

basis. But the stark truth of the matter is that today, after cen-

turies of systematic segregation and discrimination and only

enough education to fit them for the most menial tasks aban-

doned or considered beneath their dignity by whites, the great

majority of black Americans now concentrated in the cities can-

not be integrated into the advanced industrial structure of

America except on the most minimal token basis. Instead, what

expanding employment there has been for Afro-Americans has


42 Racism and the Class Struggle


been in the fields of education and social and public service

(teaching, hospitals, sanitation, transportation, public health,

recreation, social welfare). It is precisely these areas which are

the responsibility of city government, and it is also precisely

these areas of activity which are socially most necessary in the

cybercultural era. But because the American racist tradition de-

mands the emasculation of blacks not only on the economic and

sexual but also on the political level, the perspective of black

self-government in the cities cannot be posed openly and frankly

as a Profession and perspective toward which black youth should

aspire and for which they should begin preparing themselves

from childhood. Instead, at every juncture, even when conces-

sions are being made, white America makes clear that the power

to make concessions remains in white hands. The result is in

creasing hopelessness and desperation on the part of black youth,

evidenced in the rising rate of school dropouts, dope addiction,

and indiscriminate violence. Born into the age of abundance and

technological miracles, these youths have little respect for their

Parents who continue to slave for “the man,” and none for the

social workers, teachers, and officials who harangue them about

educating themselves for antediluvian jobs.

The fundamental problem of the transformation of human

activity in advanced America is as deeply rooted as the problem

of land reform in countries which have been kept in a state

of underdevelopment by colonialism. Like the colored peoples

of the underdeveloped (i.e., super-exploited) countries, Afro-

Americans have been kept in a state of underemployment, doing

tasks which are already technologically outmoded. But where

75 to 80 Percent of the population in a country like China or

Vietnam lives in the countryside, a comparable proportion of

Afro-Americans now lives in the cityside. And whereas countries

like China or Vietnam still have to make the industrial revolu-

tion (i.e., mechanize agriculture and industry), North America

has already completed this revolution and is on the eve of the

cybercultural revolution. Socially necessary activity for the ma-

jority in an underdeveloped country is essentially industrial

labor; education for the majority is vocational education. The

peasantry has to be educated to the need to abandon outmoded


44 Racism and the Class Struggle


advanced country; hence his concentration on land ownership

and small businesses. Also, as so often happens with those who

build a powerful organization, he became preoccupied with the

Protection of the organization from destruction by a determined

enemy. As a result, when the Northern movement erupted in

1963, he did not take the offensive which, consciously or un-

consciously, large numbers of non-Muslim blacks (the so-called

80 percent Muslims) had been hoping he would take. It was this

failure to take the offensive which led to Malcolm X’s split from

the organization. That such a split was inevitable was already

portended in Malcolm’s now-famous speech to the Northern

Negro Grassroots Leadership Conference in Detroit on Novem-

ber 10, 1963, in which he analyzed the black revolution as re-

quiring a conquest of power in the tradition of the French

Revolution and the Russian Revolution. Malcolm was assassin-

ated before he could organize a cadre based on his advanced

political ideas, but in one of his last speeches he made very clear

his conviction that “Harlem is ours! All the Harlems are ours!”

It was in 1985 that black militants began to discuss Black

Power seriously. Before 1965 the movement had been so domi

nated by the concept of integration, or the belief that the “revo-

lution” would be accomplished if American Negroes could win

equal opportunities to get jobs, housing, and education, that even

those black militants who were profoundly opposed to the

American way of life devoted a major part of their time and

energies to the civil rights struggle. What, up until 1965, few

black militants had grappled with is the fact that jobs and

positiotls are what boys ask to be goen, but pou;er is something

that men have to take and the taking of power requires the de-

velopment of a revolutionary organization, a revolutionary pro-

gram for the reorganization of society, and a revolutionary

strategy for the conquest of power.

As early as August 1963, at the March on Washington, the

idea of Black Power had been anticipated in John Lewis’s speech

threatening to create another source of power, and in the an-

nouncement of the formation of a Freedom Now Party by Wil-

liam Worthy. In 1964 the Freedom Now Party won a place on

the ballot in the state of Michigan and conducted a state-wide



The City Is the Black Man’s Land 45


campaign running candidates for every state-wide office and

stressing the need for independent black political action The

party did not win many votes, but it contributed to establishing

the idea of independent black political power inside the North-

ern freedom movement. In early 1965 a Federation for Inde-

pendent Political Action was created in New York by militant

black leaders from all over the country who went back into their

communities to link the idea of black power with concrete

struggles. On May 1, 1965, a national Organization for Black

power was formed in Detroit.

The first task which the Organization for Black Power set itself

was to establish a scientific basis for the perspective of Black

Political Power in the historical development of the United

States. Thus, the following statement was adopted at the found-

ing conference:

At this juncture in history the system itself cannot, will not,

resolve the problems that have been created by centuries of ex-

ploitation of black people. It remains for the Negro struggle not

only to change the system but to arrive at the kind of social system

fitting to our time and in relation to the development of this country.

That Negroes constitute this revolutionary social force, imbued

with these issues and grievances that go to the heart of the system,

is not by accident but a result of the way in which America devel-

oped. The Negroes today play the role that the agricultural workers

played in bringing about social reform in agriculture and the role

that the workers played in the 1930’s in bringing about social reform

in industry.

Today the Negro masses in the city are outside of the political,

economic, and social structure, but they constitute a large force

inside the city and particularly concentrated in the black ghettos.

The city itself cannot resolve the problems of the ghetto and/or

the problems of the city. The traditional historical process by which

other ethnic groupings were assimilated into the economic and po-

litical structure has terminated with the arrival of the Negroes en

masse (1) because of the traditional racism of this country which

excludes Negroes from taking municipal power as other ethnic

groupings have done; and (2) because of the technological revolu-

tion which has now made the unskilled labor of the Negroes socially

unnecessary. The civil rights movement which originated in the

South cannot address itself to these problems of the Northern



46 Racism and the Class Struggle


ghetto which are based not upon legal (de jure) contradictions

but upon systematic (de facto) contradictions. It remains there-

fore for the movement in the North to carry the struggle to the

enemy in fact, i.e., toward the system rather than just de jure to-

ward new legislation.

At this conference we arrived at the recognition that the prop,

the force, that keeps the system going is the police which is an

occupation force of absentee landlords, merchants, politicians, and

managers, located in the city, and particularly in the black ghetto,

to contain us.

Negroes are the major source of the pay that goes to police,

judges, mayors, common councilmen, and all city government em-

ployees, taxed through traffic tickets, assessments, etc. Yet in every

major city Negroes have little or no representation in city govern-



The city is the base which we must organize as the factories

were organized in the 1930’s. We must struggle to control, to gov-

ern the cities, as workers struggled to control and govern the fac-

tories of the 1930’s.

To do this we must be clear that power means a program to

come to power by all the means through which new social forces

have come to Power in the past.

  1. We must organize a cadre who will function in the cities as

the labor organizers of the 1930’s functioned in and around the


  1. We must choose our own issues around which to mobilize the

mass and immobilize the enemy.

  1. We must prepare ourselves to be ready for what the masses

themselves do spontaneously as they explode against the enemy-

in most cases, the police-and be ready to take political power

wherever possible.

  1. We must find a way to finance our movement ourselves.


Since the founding conference, and particularly since the

Watts revolt and the deepening crisis from the U.S. occupation

of Vietnam, black revolutionaries all over the country have

been working out the theory and practice of building a black

revolutionary oganization.

  1. They are clarifying what black political power would



The City Is the Black Man’s Land 47

mean in real terms, that is to say, the program which black

government in the cities would institute. Thus, for example,

Black Political Power would institute a crash program to utilize

the most advanced technology to free People from all forms of

manual labor. It would also take immediate steps to transform

the concept of welfare to one of human dignity or of, well-faring

and well-being. The idea of people faring well off the fruits of

advanced technology and the labors of past generations without

the necessity to work for a living must become as normal as the

idea of organized labor has become. There should be no illusion

that this can be accomplished without expropriating those now

dwning and controlling our economy. It could not therefore be

accomplished simply on a city-wide basis, i.e., without defeating

the national power structure. However, by establishing beach-

heads in one or more major cities, black revolutionary govern-

ments would be in the most strategic position to contend with

and eventually defeat this national power structure.

In elaborating its program, the black revolutionary organiza-

tion, conscious that the present Constitution was written nearly

two centuries ago in an agricultural era when the states had the

most rights because they had the most power, also aims to

formulate a new Constitution which establishes a new relation-

ship of government to people and to property, as well as new

relationships between the national government, the states, and

the cities, and new relationships between nation-states. Such a

Constitution can be the basis for the call to a Constitutional Con-

vention and also serve to mobilize national and world support

for the black government or governments in the cities where they

establish beachheads and where they will have to defend them-

selves against the counter-revolutionary forces of the national

Power structure.

  1. They are concentrating on the development of paramilitary

cadres ready to defend black militants and the black community

from counter-revolutionary attacks. The power which these

cadres develop for defense of the community can in turn bring

financial support from the community as well as sanctuary, when

needed, in the community.


48 Racism and the Class Struggle


  1. The most difficult and challenging task is the organizing of

struggles around the concrete grievances of the masses which

will not only improve the welfare of the black community but

also educate the masses out of their democratic illusions and

make them conscious that every administrative and law-enforcing

agency in this country is a white power. It is white power which

decides whether to shoot to kill (as in Watts) or not to shoot at

all (as in Oxford, Mississippi, against white mobs); to arrest or

not to arrest; to break up picket lines or not break up picket

lines; to investigate brutality and murder or to allow these to go

uninvestigated; to decide who eats and who goes on city aid

when out of work and who does not eat and does not go on city

aid; to decide who goes to what schools and who does not go;

who has transportation and who doesn’t; who has garbage col-

lected and who doesn’t; what streets are lighted and have good

sidewalks and what streets have neither lights nor sidewalks;

what neighborhoods are torn down for urban renewal and who

and what are to go back into these neighborhoods. It is white

power which decides which people are drafted into the army to

fight and which countries this army is to fight at what moment.

It is white power which has brought the United States to the

Point where it is counter-revolutionary to, and increasingly

despised by, the majority of the world’s peoples. All these powers

are in the political arena, which is the key arena that the black

revolutionary movement must take over if there is to be serious

black power.

It is extremely important that concrete struggles and marches,

Picket lines and demonstrations, be focused on the seats of power

so that when spontaneous eruptions take place the masses will

naturally form committees to take over these institutions rather

than concentrate their energies on the places where consumer

goods are distributed. Political campaigns to elect black militants

to office play a useful role in educating the masses to the im-

portance of political power and the role of government in today’s

world. They are also a means of creating area organizations. But

it should be absolutely clear that no revolution was ever won

through the parliamentary process and that as the threat to white



The City’ Is the Black Man’s Land 49


power grows, even through the parliamentary process, it will

resort to all the naked force at its disposal. At that point, the

revolution becomes a total conflict of force against force.

  1. The most immediate as well as profound issue affecting

the whole black community and particularly black youth is the

war in Vietnam. The black revolutionary organization will make

it clear in theory and practice that the Vietcong and the Black

power movement in the United States are part of the same world-

wide social revolution against the same enemy and that, as this

enemy is being defeated abroad, its self-confidence and initiative

to act and react are breaking down at home. This is the revolu-

tionary task which Malcolm was undertaking and the reason why

he was assassinated. Like the black youth of Watts, the black

revolutionary organization will make it clear that black youth

have no business fighting in the Ku Klux Klan army that is

slaughtering black people in Vietnam. Their job is to defend and

better their lives and the lives of their women and children right

here. Moreover, speaking from a power base in the big cities even

before there is a national revolutionary government, black city

governments are the only ones which could seriously talk with

the governments of the new nations without resorting to the

power that comes out of the barrel of a gun, as the United States

must do today.

One final word, particularly addressed to those Afro-Americans

who have been brainwashed into accepting white America’s

characterization of the struggle for black political power as

racist. The three forms of struggle in which modern man has

engaged are the struggle between nations, the struggle between

classes, and the struggle between races. Of these three struggles,

the struggle of the colored races against the white race is the one

which includes the progressive aspects of the first two and at the

same time penetrates most deeply into the essence of the human

race or world mankind. The class struggle for economic gains can

be, has been, incorporated within the national struggle. Orga-

nized labor is among the strongest supporters of the Vietnam

war. The struggle of the colored races cannot be blunted in such

ways. It transcends the boundaries between nations because his-


50 Racism and the Class Struggle


torically the colored peoples all over the world constitute a black

underclass which has been exploited by the white nations to the

benefit of both rich and poor at home.

In the struggle of the colored peoples of the world for the

power to govern themselves, the meaning of man is at stake. Do

people of some races exist to be exploited and manipulated by

others? Or are all men equal regardless of race? White power

was built on the basis of exploiting the colored races of the world

for the benefit of the white races. At the heart of this exploitation

was the conviction that people of color were not men but sub-

human, not self-governing citizens but “natives.” White power

not only exploited colored peoples economically; it sought syste

matically to destroy their culture and their personalities and

anything else which would compel white people to face the fact

that colored peoples are also men. When Western powers fought

each other, they fought as men. But when they fought colored

peoples, they killed them as natives and as slaves. That is what

Western barbarism is doing in Vietnam today. Now the black

revolution and the struggle for black power are emerging when

all people are clamoring for manhood. Thereby they are destroy-

ing forever the idea on which white power has built itself, that

some men (whites) are more equal or more capable of self-

government (citizenship) than others (colored).





* Because Afro-Americans were the first people in this country to pose

the perspective of revolutionary power to destroy racism, I have been

using the word “black” as a political designation to refer not only to

Afro-Americans but to people of color who are engaged in revolutionary

struggle in the United States and all over the world. It should not be taken

to mean the domination of Afro-Americans or the exclusion of other people

of color from black revolutionary organizations.





We Are the Leaders We Have Been Waiting For
Rich Feldman 




We will know their names, like we know the names of Martin & Malcolm, Ella Baker, Harriet Tubman, Lloyd Garrison, Ed Roberts, James Boggs, Justin Dart, Vincent Harding, Wagari Maathia, Amilcar Cabral, and so many others from our country and across the world.

I know their names because Grace, Judith and Ron were my mentors. Their being, their questions, words, and their contradictions are inside my mind and heart everyday. They were never satisfied with our present understanding of current dangers or with our abilities to simultaneously name the emerging opportunities which could advance our commitment to create a revolutionary movement in our neighborhoods or across the nation or world.  They always lived with a deep understanding of the concept “unity of opposites” that focused on the urgency of now and the long haul. They were all self-sacrificing, living life based upon their passions, resilience and a sense of self-worth that some will say transcended self-centerdness, correctness and individualism.

Grace, Judith and Ron loved our family. Each was very different and I am really fortunate to have this foundation upon which to continue to make my small contribution to “making the world a little better than I found it.”

Judith Snow believed, practiced and lived inspiring others to recognize that regardless of abilities, physical or mental, we are all part of the human condition. Only thru inclusion and a commitment to interdependence and community could we even imagine community. She traveled across the US in a bus painted with the slogan: Peace thru Inclusion.

Judith and her Canadian comrades birthed the concept and practice of Circles of Friends/Support which was critical to our parenting of our son Micah.

Judith visited Detroit and actively participated in our Re-Imagine Work Conference of 2011 and our New Work-New Culture Gathering in 2014.  When Judith rolled into the room and spoke at the Oakland University Board of Trustees to testify supporting Micah in his struggle to live in the dormitory she clearly stated that the university had two choices:  “Act as dinosaurs or leaders: your choice.”  Her voice, spirit and clarity that all labels and boxes needed to be challenged and that included our own too often ideological constructs.  Judith’s work and legacy will continue with the work of the Inclusion Institute and her comrades across Canada and the world.  I will never forget her conversation with Grace at our home when passionate thinking and dialogue related to human potential, the human condition occurred when two women leaders who truly believed in the great expectations for each individual and for humanity and the planet engaged.

Grace Boggs died after 100 years and 100 days of life. When I wrote the introduction to Conversations in Maine: Exploring Our Nation’s Future in the fall of 1977, I ended with: “As we and our friends become parents, the year 2050, when our children will be seventy years old becomes less abstract.  What kind of human beings are we projecting? What kind of family? What kind of community and nation?  What kind or World?”

That was almost 40 years ago.  I often return to this paragraph.  Grace Lee and James Boggs, provided me with a way to understand the world, think dialectically, challenged me to become less arrogant and always to assume leadership as we re-defined, re-imagined our work and commitments to the Next American Revolution. The Boggs Center has been my home and Field Street was my community university for thinking, practice, centering and questioning. We argued (sometimes loudly and sometimes under our breath or to others), agreed or disagreed and we returned to the questions and struggles we faced.  Grace “never stopped and never gave in or gave up”.  Grace started every discussion with a question:  “What time is it on the clock of the World” or stated“ we have not thought deeply enough about our evaluation of our practice or about concepts of democracy, history, community, education, art, work, philosophy, the list goes on.” When meeting people in her living room she often said: “tell me about yourself.” At 66, I finally have internalized the need to ask the “second question.”  While I have always been impatient (sometimes arrogant), Grace was always asking of herself and everyone the next 5 to10 reflective, self-examining questions.

Last evening, I was at a Women Creating Caring Communities Planning meeting with about 40 women and a few men from UAW & Teachers unions, Detroit neighborhoods, churches, suburbs, labor and community.  Grace and Cindy Estrada (VP of UAW) re-established the annual International Women’s Day Commemorations 6 years ago and Grace and Cindy have engaged these gatherings with the question:  

What does it mean to grow our souls?  Challenging us all to become solutionaries, new kinds of leaders, listeners, and activists so that this year our theme for March 5, 2016 is:  Women Creating a World Without Walls: Real Problems: Real Solutions . One of the women who has been active for a number of years brought her 5 year old son.  Eliza will be 100 years old in 2111.  As I work daily with impatience, frustration, and urgency, and we are daily challenged by the growing pain and fears of the brutalization of our system, our culture and our internalization of both, it is our responsibility to “name and celebrate” the visionary organizing and transformation taking place deep in our neighborhoods and deep inside our culture. I also know that the only purpose for Revolution is the evolution of Human kind. 50 and 100 years from now, the concept of “R(E)volution will become more clear as we each build upon Grace’s statement: “These are the times to Grow Our Souls.”

Grace died in October and the corporate media, the social media, wrote obituaries expressing her significance to the 20th century and to the ripples place in the river of history.  We have much to learn from each other, her impact and significance that we do not yet understand.  Social reality changes and individuals do matter.

60 days after Grace made her transition, our dear friend and comrade Ron Scott passed.  Ron was born in May of 1948 and was one year older than me. While still a mentor, Ron was more a peer than an elder.  We were both born and defined ourselves by our personal & activist experiences. We were both products and active players/contributors to the movements of the 60s.  Just as James Boggs engaged and challenged me to have authentic conversations about US & Global history, race, class, leadership, economics, Ron was a Detroiter who loved culture, music (he loved to sing) and would always begin conversations with the question:  Where did we come from? Where are we going?  Emphasizing the need to think strategically about movement building, Ron was clear that “everyone needed to change” and our job was to support people in their particular journey.

While Ron loved history and ideas, he also loved “serving the people, working to resolve grievances, immediate needs whether they were the attacks on individual citizens by police violence or when neighbors hurt, harmed, violated other neighbors or family members.”  

Ron was a “man with a mission.” He remembered details, stories and relationships.  Sometimes in agreement and sometimes in disagreement, we would argue, challenge each other’s liberalism and evasion of self-criticism.  Ron’s story from being a young man who organized a rent strike, affecting his entire family to decades later working with his sister and the youth from her church in Peace Zones for Life and the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, he respected and loved his family.  His courage to participate in Let it Rip on local television to speaking Truth to Power or in face to face verbal confrontations with Emergency Managers in Detroit will remain in my spirit and my definition of revolutionary leadership for ever.  He spoke to Truth to Power, personally felt the pain of others and knew that revolutionists assume responsibility to nurture others to think, reflect, historically evaluate and project a revolutionary road to travel.

Thank you Grace, Ron and Judith.  As I continue onward and inward, you have added stars in the universe which become brighter to our ideas as the crisis intensifies and the world gets darker.  As the sky darkens the ‘stars’ (words, practices, memories, visions) emerge lighter and our revolutionary road and river of history becomes more clear.  

“We r the leaders we have been waiting for “ challenges me to define, re-imagine and focus my contribution to a world that I did not choose to be born into but I do choose my journey & responses.

Continue Reading »

Thinking for ourselves

By Shea Howell

King, Water and Will

January 17, 2016

shea25As we approach the national celebration of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King it is important to reflect on what Dr. King was doing on another January, 50 years ago. In January of 1967, he moved into a small apartment in a poor neighborhood in Chicago.

A few months earlier, the uprising in Los Angeles had shaken him. Reluctant to go to that city, he found himself confronted by young people challenging non-violence. Most of the young people he met had never heard of him, and many asked why should they be concerned about “non violence” when they were living in country that was killing people every day.

King took these challenges seriously. Ultimately they led him to a radical vision of a new America, based on justice and peaceful, respectful relationships with other nations. To move us toward that vision he organized the Poor Peoples Campaign advocating for a redistribution of political and economic power. He denounced the Viet Nam War, and described the U.S. as the “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.”

But in January of 1966, this journey was just beginning. King was focusing on housing and the daily living conditions of people in our northern cities. He was determined to bring the attention of the country to the consequences of choosing to spend more money on killing people far away than on supporting people at home. In his speech denouncing the Viet Nam war, he summarized what he had learned, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

We in Michigan are living with authorities who are spiritually dead. They are making decisions that put profits and property rights above people. They are sacrificing our children.

To save money the Governor, his emergency managers, and bureaucratic leaders allowed an entire city to be poisoned by their water. To save money and pay Wall Street, the Mayor of Detroit and his bureaucratic cronies are shutting off water to thousands of people who cannot pay outrageous water bills.

Just as the Governor denied the reports from citizens and experts that the water in Flint was poisoned, the Mayor continues to deny the legal briefs and respected opinions that an income based rate structure for water is legal. He refuses to acknowledge what a growing number of experts are saying.

On the eve of this Martin Luther King Celebration legal experts gathered at the ACLU in Detroit to put their weight behind an income based plan that would protect people and actually bring in more money to the city than the current shut off policies.

Mark Fancher, speaking for the National Conference on Black Lawyers said, “It is important that the city and those responsible for providing water to the people of this city are not allowed to hide behind a falsehood, behind an analysis which is not grounded in law and which is not true.”

Julie Hurwitz ,speaking for the National Lawyers Guild said, “The water affordability plan is not only legal, it is the right thing to do.”

Only those who are spiritually dead can continue to deny this truth. We must attend to one another. We must find the ways to support our people and to ensure that we build a city based on love and compassion. As Dr. King said, the only real question we face is that of political will.



Visionary Organizing
Rich Feldman and Kim Sherobbi 

BC_logoWe are committed to moving beyond protest to resistance and visionary organizing. As we work to create the movement for the Next American Revolution we oppose the systems of racism, capitalism and militarism as we create a new culture based on community production of goods and services for local needs, emphasizing indigenous values. We believe that evolution in the 21st century is an emerging concept, moving beyond socialist ideas. It is based upon projections, not rejections and the need to change ourselves in order to change our institutions.

Visionary Organizing emerged in the 1990s as we made the distinction between creating power and taking power. It was integral to the creation of Detroit Summer in 1992 and to the Zapatistas when they emerged in 1994 in Chiapas, Mexico.  Now is the time to re-imagine, re-spirit and rebuild our lives and ways of living from the ground up. 

Essential to our thinking of visionary organizing is a commitment to creating and supporting places and spaces for individuals to grow our souls, sustain ourselves, deepen our healthy selves and thus heal from decades and generations of internalized pain, abuse, and violence.  Social change and institutional change in the birth of a new epoch cannot be separated from personal, individual & internal change.  After the Rebellion of 1967 in Detroit, James and Grace Boggs wrote that a revolution required that we Change Ourselves to Change our World.

The principles guiding visionary organizing are based upon a commitment to change our culture of materialism through meaningful forms of cooperative economics and the creation of the beloved community.  By creating productive, caring, regenerative community life, we grow our souls, heal and transform ourselves and challenge the forces of injustice threatening to destroy all life.

Visionary Organizing is creating local sustainable economies through community production, food security, place based education and self-governing democratic processes. It is art that expands our vision and our hearts. It emerges as people “turn war zones into peace zones.” Community production, putting the neighbor back in the hood, growing a garden to grow a community, turning to one another for support and love, and redefining education all hold the seeds of a new future. They represent a shifting of the paradigm from the old ways of doing things, to opening new possibilities.

A Movement committed to visionary organizing is emerging from the relationships being forged as we build alternative community based structures and as we resist the violence and dehumanization of capital-corporate consolidation and control. We are establishing and strengthening networks, activities, and organizations and creating a new, more humane and socially responsible future.

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Detroit Rebellion in 2017, it is our time to move from rebellion and opposition to resistance and visionary organizing. The Next American Revolution is emerging around us.

Continue Reading »

James and Grace Lee Boggs Center
To Nurture Community Leadership

Dear Friends of the Boggs Center,

It’s been a emotional year full of love and loss. Now we feel an enormous responsibility to continue the commitment to revolutionary change that was at the heart of the lives and work of Grace Lee Boggs and Ron Scott. 


GraceLeeBoggsRonaldScott 2
(photo courtesy of Storycorps. Hear Grace and Ron in conversation.)

We believe that their vision of the possibilities of a new America is especially important today. Across the globe people are struggling to bring forth a new world based on values of love for each other and caring for our earth. Even in the last days before her own transition, Grace frequently reminded us, “A new dawn is emerging, a new epoch was being created.”

We in Detroit are engaged in bringing forth this new time. After decades of abandonment by corporate capital, Detroit is now at the spearhead of efforts to retake the city as a whiter, wealthier playground for some, while the majority of people are subjected to ever more violent efforts to strip us of dignity and basic human rights. We are working to resist these assaults as we build the kind of visionary alternatives that express our best hope for a meaningful future.

We are part of the growing coalitions in the city resisting the foreclosures of more than 60,000 homes and to build community land trusts and encourage cooperative housing. We are working to stop water shut-offs and for an income based water affordability plan reflecting an understanding of water as a human right and public trust. We oppose the ethnic cleansing planned through gentrification, land grabs, and privatization while we are finding new ways to build neighborhood and community ties. We are actively working to create peace zones as the essential element of beloved communities. This is an urgent time and we know the choices we make are shaping the kind of city we will become. 

(Two video interviews with Ron Scott, the first from 2013, the second, 2014. Part of a longer work in progress by Nicole Macdonald).

We continue to hold conversations, host workshops, hold meetings, conduct tours, write articles, and encourage people to reflect and probe the questions of What time is it on the Clock of the World? What is our responsibility to each other and our earth? 

All of this work takes money. As 2015 comes to an end, we are asking for your support. Please consider a one-time donation or becoming a monthly sustainer.

Over the next year, we are continuing our efforts to unite resistance and visionary organizing. We also have the additional task of maintaining the Boggs Center and transitioning Grace and Jimmy’s home into an historical resource. Our goal is to raise $50,000 this year, half of which will support the physical center and half of which will be devoted to our ongoing organizing efforts.

Thank you for your commitment, your work, and your continued willingness to engage in asking the questions that will lead us to a country based on local, sustainable, regenerative communities, rooted in love and commitments to justice.

Please send checks to:


Boggs Center
3061 Field St.
Detroit, Michigan


http://www.boggscenter.org and click on yellow Paypal donate
link where
you’ll be able to check the monthly donation box.

(501c3) Tax ID # 38-3267875 – (313) 923-0797




Thinking for ourselves

By Shea Howell

Lessons for our children

December 19, 2015

shea33The Detroit Journalism Cooperative (DJC) and WDET were clearly shaken by the disruption of their media celebration of the Detroit Bankruptcy. On December 15 they posted their perspective on the meeting under the heading “Detroit: We won’t move forward unless we learn to listen.”

The article that follows this headline demonstrates that DJC and WDET were not shaken enough to question their own assumptions. They have no idea how much they have lost any claim to moral legitimacy in the city. Continue Reading »

The Case for Wireless Community Ownership
Tawana Petty

TawanaPettyIn just a few months, Detroit will boast one of the fastest internet speeds in the world. For those living in already invested areas of Detroit like Midtown, Woodbridge, Eastern Market, Corktown, New Center and Lafayette Park, this may be cause for celebration. Rocket Fiber purports to provide internet speeds “up to 1000 times faster than the average residential connection,” but what does that mean for a predominately Black city, ranked number two in internet disparity? Currently, approximately 40% of Detroit’s population lacks access to the internet.

Research gathered this year by data firm Silk, provided an analysis on Google Fiber, and how discriminatory practices in laying fiber optics further perpetuates wireless access disparities. Silk’s reporting identified that “about 75% of the selected Fiber launch cities have above state average median household incomes and below state average poor populations. The data also showed that the lion’s share of neighborhoods Google Fiber targets tend to be better educated and younger. For example, out of all 50 Fiber communities, 41 had a significantly higher percentage of college graduates residents than the respective state averages.” This and additional information can be found at dslreporting.com and Huffington Post’s article “Is Google Fiber Discriminatory?

The disparities identified with Google Fiber in its implementation, make it imperative that Rocket Fiber consider a Community Benefit Agreement (CBA), and expand laying fiber and providing wireless access to the neighborhoods that are historically underrepresented in Detroit.

There is a lot of work currently being done in the city to minimize technological disparities. The Detroit Community Technology Project is a great example of that. To date, “DCTP has facilitated 19 local and international community wireless mesh networks through its partnership with the Open Technology Institute. We coordinate the Digital Stewards Program, which trains community members to build and maintain their own wireless communications infrastructure. Additionally, DCTP offers technical support to various grassroots networks including the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition, the Allied Media Conference, and more.”

Recently, members of one of the grassroots networks, the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition (DDJC), traveled abroad to expand our wireless knowledge and networks. Diana Nucera, Katie Hearn and myself spent a week in Brazil learning wireless protocols from international community tech allies. We wanted to strengthen our understanding of what community ownership of fiber optics and wireless mesh networks could look like when significantly scaled up. Conversations and training sessions with representatives actively working with Guifi.net, the largest community network in the world, provided several viable options and perspectives on ownership, maintenance and expansion of mesh networks.

We also spent part of our time in Visconde de Maua, Brazil, about 3 hours into the mountains. This location really provided perspective regarding the possibilities and challenges of wireless mesh reach. The home we stayed in was an artist and technology collective residence dedicated to supporting technology incubation and training, as well as artist residency and workshops. It is in a rural area and shares a wireless connection with a neighbor. The network is fast and although it rained heavily every day we were there, it only went down for a few hours on one of the days.

This mesh network was intended to be part of a larger wireless network, but because the location is so rural, there are many trees, and it rains often, some of the other connections do go down frequently. Also, because the location is not easily accessible, and residents are only minimally trained on how to flash their routers, when other issues arise, residents have to wait until someone who is more thoroughly trained on their network can make the trek into the mountains to reset it.

This example is one of the reasons why Detroit’s Digital Stewards Program was designed as a train the trainer style program. This model of training “prepares teams of community organizers, people with construction skills, and techies to design and deploy communications infrastructure with a commitment to the Detroit Digital Justice Principles

·      Digital justice ensures that all members of our community have equal access to media and technology, as producers as well as consumers.
·      Digital justice provides multiple layers of communications infrastructure in order to ensure that every member of the community has access to life-saving emergency information.
·      Digital justice values all different languages, dialects and forms of communication.

·      Digital justice prioritizes the participation of people who have been traditionally excluded from and attacked by media and technology.
·      Digital justice advances our ability to tell our own stories, as individuals and as communities.
·      Digital justice values non-digital forms of communication and fosters knowledge-sharing across generations.
·      Digital justice demystifies technology to the point where we can not only use it, but create our own technologies and participate in the decisions that will shape communications infrastructure.

·      Digital justice fuels the creation of knowledge, tools and technologies that are free and shared openly with the public.
·      Digital justice promotes diverse business models for the control and distribution of information, including: cooperative business models and municipal ownership.

·      Digital justice provides spaces through which people can investigate community problems, generate solutions, create media and organize together.
·      Digital justice promotes alternative energy, recycling and salvaging technology, and using technology to promote environmental solutions.
·      Digital justice advances community-based economic development by expanding technology access for small businesses, independent artists and other entrepreneurs.
·      Digital justice integrates media and technology into education in order to transform teaching and learning, to value multiple learning styles and to expand the process of learning beyond the classroom and across the lifespan.

By utilizing these principles to govern the work that we do, we are able to ensure accountability to the communities we engage, while increasing community knowledge and capabilities to maintain their own networks.

One way of the major ways that we engage the community in technology discussions and training is through DiscoTechs. “DiscoTech is short for Discovering Technology. It is a term coined by the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition, which defines a replicable model for a multimedia, mobile neighborhood workshop fair. DiscoTechs are designed so that participants learn more about the impact and possibilities of technology within our communities.

DiscoTechs feature interactive, multimedia workshops designed to demystify, engage, and inform the community about issues of Internet use and ownership, and our communications rights on and offline.

The DDJC’s DiscoTech model has spread far beyond Detroit, as the model has been shared through sessions at the Allied Media Conference and through the 2012 publication of the How To DiscoTech zine. In 2014, the Codesign Studio of the MIT Center for Civic Media coordinated “Counter-surveillance DiscoTechs” in San Francisco; Karachi, Pakistan; Bangalore, India; Ramallah, Palestine; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Mexico City; Boston, and New York City. That same year, the Bento Miso Collaborative Workshop hosted a DiscoTech in Toronto, and there was a DiscoTech at the Internet Governance Forum in Istanbul.”

If you are interested in learning more about wireless mesh networks and Data Discotechs, or you want to consider facilitating a station at an upcoming Data Discotech, visit: Detroit Digital Justice Coalition.

We look forward to seeing you at the 2016 Allied Media Conference!

Thinking for ourselves

By Shea Howell

Disrupting Denial

December 12, 2015

sheaThis week the corporate elite celebration of the Detroit bankruptcy was brought to an abrupt halt. Gathered on the campus of Wayne State University, the Governor, Mayor, bankruptcy judge, and members of the mainstream media left the stage in the face of protests. Governor Snyder, who was greeted by boos from the audience, left in a huff. Judge Rhodes was drowned out. Mayor Duggan never appeared. Host Stephen Henderson admonished the audience saying, “This is not Detroit behavior.”

The Detroit Journalism Cooperative, a media collaborative that provided coverage of the bankruptcy and its aftermath, sponsored the event. The gathering was billed as a public meeting to assess the city in the wake of bankruptcy. Continue Reading »

Evolving Community Commitments

By Kim Sherobbi

December 12, 2015

kim_sherobbii_9_grace_kimFor years, I’ve been attending community gatherings on the northwest side of Detroit near the Jefferies Freeway and Wyoming. In the past, I would see the same faces at neighborhood events. Recently new faces have emerged. These newcomers appear eager to learn more about our community and have their voices heard.

On Friday, December 4, 2015 people from the area attended a Race & Power in Detroit discussion about blight sponsored by the Michigan Round Table (MRT). The event was held at the Northwestern Christian Church. It was the first time that several people had attended a MRT conversation. That evening, I was the moderator for the panel discussion, table dialogues and report-outs. Although the definition and framing of blight needed more grounding, many first timers experienced the satisfaction or frustration of hearing differing opinions about blight. Continue Reading »

CONTACT: Diane Reeder, 313 350 9091

ron-barbaraPublic viewing times for Ron Scott have been set for Thursday, December 10 and Friday, December 11. Please note that the Friday viewing time originally scheduled for 10-3pm has been shortened to 12-3pm. All other times remain the same.

Public Viewing Times for Ron Scott
Thursday, December 10, 2015
Wilson Akins Funeral Home
17500 Fenkell
Detroit, Michigan 48227

Friday, December 11, 2015 (PLEASE NOTE TIME CHANGE)
Wilson Akins Funeral Home
17500 Fenkell
Detroit, Michigan 48227


Friday, December 11, 2015
Historic Little Rock Baptist Church
9000 Woodward
Detroit, Michigan 48202

No picture taking will be allowed during the viewing.

Funeral Service for Ron Scott
Saturday, December 12, 2015
10am Family Hour
11am Funeral Service
Historic Little Rock Baptist Church
9000 Woodward
Detroit, Michigan 48202

In lieu of flowers, the family asks the public to honor Ron Scott’s memory and work in the following ways:

Peace Zones for Life (501 c 3 organization)
PO Box 441877
1401 W. Fort St.
Detroit, MI 48244

Ron Scott Foundation (Scholarship Fund)
PO Box 180129
Utica, MI 48318


Order Ron’s e-book, How to End Police Brutality, on Amazon.com. Proceeds from book sales will go to Peace Zones for Life.

James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership
in collaboration with Allied Media Projects
Cordially Invites You to Our
ANNUAL HOLIDAY PARTY December 19th 2015
 6pm to 11pm
 Allied Media Projects
4126 3
St., Detroit, MI 48201
Please R.S.V.P. by December 13th to
Tawana at
Food by Meiko Krishok, live harp playing by Ahya Simone, karaoke
hosted by Millionaire and photo booth available all evening!
Children and loved ones welcome! Bring a treat or drink to share!
We look forward to celebrating with you!

Get on the Bus! Water Justice Call to Action!


water2Hey all this is the plan for Thursday.

Last week was really pressed for Rep Chang so we completed planning today.

Please help us reach our goal of 100 people on the capitol steps

Spread the word, Call 7 persons, to make the trip, encourage persons with water shutoffs to go with us, make it happen.


Leaving at 7am from Central United Methodist Church, Woodward at Grand Circus Park returning at 3:30, Thursday, December 10th

Register at our website peopleswaterboard.org or call 313.520-7465


Bring your message for the governor!!!


Lobby Day Training Monday, Dec 7, at

2727 Second Ave Food and Water Watch

5:30-7:00 Continue Reading »

Thinking for ourselves

Last of democracy

By Shea Howell

December 5, 2015

shea25The outcome of the trial against two of the defendants who blocked trucks from shutting off water to Detroiters is unclear. In an unprecedented move, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Michael Hathaway intervened and halted the trial of the two of the Homrich 9 on the eve of closing arguments.

The trial had been going on for more than a week, providing a defense of civil disobedience before an all black jury in the 36th District Court Room of Judge Ruth Ann Garret. Garret was the second judge to preside over the efforts to bring this case to a jury. Defendants Bill Wiley-Kellerman and Marian Kramer had fought for a jury trial, trusting that Detroiters would recognize that their actions were justified.

In an opening statement to the jury the Reverend Bill Wiley Kellerman explained,

“I and others have waited a long time to bring this case to you. It’s now going on a year and a half, but events are still vivid to us, because they were full of meaning. When we were arraigned last summer, we asked immediately for a jury trial. Back then, you may remember that every elected official in the City of Detroit had been replaced by one man – the Emergency Manager – who had put the city into bankruptcy. The elected school board had been replaced by emergency management. Even the Library commission was under assault. So we were mindful that a jury of Detroiters represented the last remaining form of democracy in the city. We were eager to put this case before you to vote on the matters of justice.

“What I would ask of you in these days at hand: keep your eyes open; keep your ears open, your hearts open, your conscience open. Look for the meaning and spirit of these events. If you do that I will gladly put myself in your hands.” Continue Reading »

In Memory of Ron Scott, Spiritual Warrior

From James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership

December 2, 2015

Ron ScottLifelong community activist Ron Scott died on Sunday November 29, 2015 after a difficult battle with cancer. We mourn his passing and will greatly miss his voice and insights.

Ron was a board member of the Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership. He first met Grace and James Boggs when he was 16 years old and exploring the ideas of Black Power and Community Control. A founding member of the Detroit Chapter of the Black Panther Party, Ron remained a comrade and friend of the Boggs’ for the rest of their lives. Since the early 1970s he worked with members of the Boggs Center in organizing Detroiters For Dignity, We Pros, SOSAD, and Detroit Summer. Continue Reading »


Bill Wylie-Kellermann

Note: Homrich 9 press conference and rally 8:45am Wednesday 11/25

This is a quick report on the Homrich “9” trial in progress – though only Marian Kramer and myself are actually on trial before a jury. The remaining group have been separated off by prosecution motion and are involved in an important legal battle over the right to the “necessity defense” which argues that an act was justified if it prevented or was intended to prevent imminent harm. Water shut-offs are a great case for that and we are now able to demonstrate the we cut shut-offs by 90% on July 18, 2014. Marian and I have been able to go to trial because we withdrew our objections to the prosecutor’s motion precluding the defense, so we cannot call expert witnesses or have the jury instructed about the defense. Continue Reading »

Thinking for ourselves

Justice for Water

By Shea Howell

November 29, 2015

shea25At the beginning of the New Year, the Great Lakes Water Authority will take over responsibility for providing water to more than 4 million people. This new Authority is the product of the bankruptcy process and has been unfolding behind closed doors under court control.

What we do know is not reassuring. Management of the Detroit elements of the water department has been placed under the leadership of Gary Brown. Mr. Brown has absolutely no claim of expertise on water systems. A blue ribbon committee has been appointed to explore water affordability, but the committee intentionally excluded all local community advocates for water affordability from its deliberations. Continue Reading »

Dear Friends of the Boggs Center,

We are deeply grateful for all of the support you have given to us as we face this moment of transition. We feel an enormous responsibility to continue the commitment to revolutionary change that was at the heart of the lives and works of Grace and Jimmy.

jmmy and grace2

We believe that their vision of the possibilities of a new America is especially important today. Across the globe people are struggling to bring forth a new world based on values of love for each other and caring for our earth. Even in the last days before her own transition, Grace frequently reminded us, “A new dawn is emerging, a new epoch was being created.”

We in Detroit are engaged in bringing forth this new time. After decades of abandonment by corporate capital, Detroit is now at the spearhead of efforts to retake the city as a whiter, wealthier playground for some, while the majority of people are subjected to ever more violent efforts to strip us of dignity and basic human rights. We are working to resist these assaults as we build the kind of visionary alternatives that express our best hope for a meaningful future.

Continue Reading »


100 Years a Freedom School

for Grace Lee Boggs

by William Copeland aka Will See

these kids are colored indigo
they don’t need all the limits, yo
you don’t have to tell a flower
when to grow

Freedom Schooling is community identity beauty
Where the workers, artists, makers, students
Do things in unity/ we’re not enemies
We can be interdependently
And put the children’s needs at the center
Where our attention be.
Coz no one’s living perfectly. Continue Reading »

Complete disregard

By Shea Howell

November 21, 2015

sheaThe drive to establish safe, affordable water in Michigan intensified over this past week. Through direct action, public education, legal initiatives, public testimony, and court trials, people are pressuring federal, state and local governments to live up to their responsibilities of providing safe, affordable water while protecting our Great Lakes.

On Friday, the jury was seated in the trial of two members of the Homrich 9, who blocked water shut off trucks from leaving their garages in July of 2014. The Reverend Bill Wylie-Kellerman, Pastor of St Peter’s Episcopal Church, and Marian Kramer of Michigan Welfare Rights Organization explained their decision to stop the trucks at a press conference on Wednesday. They said their decision was necessary. All other avenues were blocked because of the limitation on democratic rights under the bankruptcy process and emergency management. “It was, at the time, the last vestige of democracy in the city,” Wylie-Kellermann said. Protesters acted out of necessity to defended “the rights of Detroiters to have water in their homes.”

“What we did, we understood to be preventing harm,” Wylie-Kellermann said. “Water is a human right, and that’s why we’re here.” Continue Reading »


James and Grace Lee Boggs Center

To Nurture Community Leadership

3061 Field St. Detroit, Michigan 48214

November 2015

 Dear Friends of the Boggs Center,

 We are deeply grateful for all of the support you have given to us as we face this moment of transition. We feel an enormous responsibility to continue the commitment to revolutionary change that was at the heart of the lives and works of Grace and Jimmy.

 We believe that their vision of the possibilities of a new America is especially important today. Across the globe people are struggling to bring forth a new world based on values of love for each other and caring for our earth. Even in the last days before her own transition, Grace frequently reminded us, “A new dawn is emerging, a new epoch was being created.”  Continue Reading »

Thinking for ourselves

By Shea Howell

Bedtime stories

November 7, 2015

shea25It has been one-year since Detroit exited bankruptcy. The corporate elite are celebrating their success. On November 19 the Michigan Bar Association will gather at the Detroit Institute of Arts to give the 11th Annual Dennis Archer Public Service Award to bankruptcy judges Gerald Rosen and Steven Rhodes. Without a hint of irony or shame, lawyers are invited to stroll through the DIA to enjoy gourmet food and an open bar. They are promised that the money raised by the event will support “justice initiatives” for foster children. Guests are assured they can “get home in time to read our own children a bedtime story.”

Perhaps it will be a bedtime story about how a city celebrating African American political power and ingenuity was stolen by white corporate elites through legal fictions.

Probably not. The bedtime story the corporate elite like to tell is that they charged into the city to save it from itself. In the process they saved the art of the DIA, got rid of overblown pensions, jolted people out of a culture of not paying their way, and got rid of crooked politicians.

Both Emergency Manger Kevyn Orr and his follow up Mayor Mike Duggan agree that the bankruptcy is a success. “I think the early indicators exceeded our expectations,” Orr said in an interview last month. Duggan weighted in with the Detroit News saying that there are signs of a substantial recovery. Buses meet schedules, police and ambulance response times are improving, and more than 7,000 homes have been torn down. New housing set for the riverfront and the Red Wings arena district all lead to the Mayor to say, “We’ve got jobs coming back, and we’re feeling good.”

These storytellers acknowledge dark clouds on the horizon. Mostly they don’t think they have done enough to get rid of pensions. In a recent article assessing bankruptcy, the News pinpoints the “balloon pension payment” coming in 2024 as a major problem.

For most of Detroit, this bedtime story is pure fiction. It begins with the false claim that there was no alternative for the city but bankruptcy. It is a fiction that evades the real costs of this legalized theft from elders whose pensions were decimated. As was widely reported, but generally ignored by the corporate elite, of the $7 billion eliminated from the debt, “ nearly 80 percent is being taken from retirees.”

Now we have street lights to illuminate the 100,000 people shut off from water, the foreclosures of more than 62,000 homes, and the use of money that was supposed to help people stay in their homes and repair them being used instead to tear them down.

This reality cannot continue to be ignored. Bankruptcy has achieved nothing but the legal framework to strip pensions, hurt unions, and drive out the most vulnerable. It is resulting in a whiter, wealthier city at the expense of the poor and people of color.

Since the very beginning of this story, Detroiters have argued there is a better way. We have argued that it is possible to have fair, just, and shared development. It is no bedtime tale. It is pragmatic policies. We need legislation to collect suburban income tax and to allow rent control. We need our fair share of our revenue sharing. We need community benefits legislation, the elimination of corporate tax breaks, and a moratorium on water shut offs and foreclosures. We need an income based water affordability plan.

Unless we face reality, the stories we tell to our children will be of collective failure to meet the critical challenge of redeveloping a city for all of our people.



Living for Change News
October 24, – October 31, 2016

Does this election season have you feeling sad, isolated, angry, or hopeless? Join us for a night of celebrating community, movement, and struggle at the Cass Corridor Commons.Instead of spending the election disappointed, frustrated, and alone we will come together to remind each other of why we fight and will continue to fight. This event is open to all those who believe in justice, liberation, freedom, and love.There will be a separate space for election monitoring, an org fair with food vendors and ways to get involved, and an open mic followed by a dance party featuring local DJs. Come for part or stay all night.

We’re asking for a $5 donation at the door, but no one will be turned away! This is a fundraiser for the Cass Commons, a space where movement work never ends.

Interested in tabling at the event?
Email juliascuneo@gmail.com for more info.
Support The Party that Supports You!!#DetroitCultureCreators

Thinking for Ourselves

Imagining the Impossible
Shea Howell

100_1694The Without Borders (un)conference sponsored by the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership this week made an important contribution to the convergence of people seeking solutions to a just and peaceful world.  Activists, authors, scholars, students, artists, and educators gathered to explore possibilities for true liberation and freedom.

The conference opened with a discussion of Afrofuturism, emphasizing that imagination as central to creating a future that secures life and love for all of us. Panelist talked passionately about the possibilities of creating a future that is better than our present.

Looking at all of the work from Gaza to Jackson, Ferguson, Flint, Detroit, Chicago and Standing Rock, people throughout the conference talked of coming together to find new ways of thinking, new paths for action, and new, deeper visions of the kind of future we want to create. Detroit science fiction author Adrienne Maree Brown encouraged us to “unlock our radical and compassionate imaginations” to place justice at the core of our collective thinking. From the oldest of spirituals and community rituals to graphic novels, hip-hop, and beliefs in an afterlife, people drew on the multitude of ways human beings have struggled to move beyond the boundaries that confine our deepest longings.

Throughout the two days people especially drew upon the legacy of black radical activism and imaginative politics as a source of strength and inspiration. Questions were welcomed as more important than answer.

People explored:

What does freedom look like?
Is it possible to create a world without police?
Can we create new forms of community and kinship?
Can we disrupt not only the school pipeline to prison, but the pipeline to capitalism?
How do we create a politics of the impossible?
What are new forms of power?
Where does knowledge come from?
What do decolonized structures look like?
What new languages can we create to de centralize “ the colonial?”
What is the relationship between resistance and revolution?
What is a sustainable future?
What new ways do we create a public sphere?
How can we govern ourselves?
What does democracy look like?
What does the next economic system look like?
How do we develop means of production that embody cooperation and care for the earth?
How doe we shift from an economy based on extraction to one based on care?
How do we create a world that is regenerative and passionate?

Naomi Klein provided a provocative keynote emphasizing the importance of finding ways to dream together about new futures as the fossil fuel frontier closes. Talking of the tension between what is politically possible and ecologically necessary she encouraged us to look at the LEAP Manifesto, for ways to think about the kind of direct political action and broad vision needed now.

This conference affirmed that there is a new political energy emerging in our country. It holds the potential of transforming all of us as we assume responsibilities for the shape of our future. Reaching beyond the borders of this gathering, organizers have made much of the conversation open to everyone by sharing the live streamed sessions here. The impossible is not longer unimaginable.

Detroit entrepreneurs: Young imaginations hold the key to solutions
Tawana Petty
There is something to be said about youth who manage to escape harsh realities imposed upon them by inhumane systems, by imagining a way forward, a more beloved community. The children who go without water, who don’t have enough to eat, who move between homes or schools many times before they leave their adolescence, yet somehow find enough humanity in their souls to keep creating.I can recall the day I made a working lamp for my bedroom out of a dish liquid bottle. I was in elementary school. I couldn’t begin to recount the formula I used to create my concoction, but I do recall that at that time in my development, I had no knowledge of the impossible. I believed that whatever I wanted to do could be done. Whatever I wanted to create could be created. My imagination was powerful. It was the one space where I could escape any curveball life threw at me. And life did throw its share of curveballs my way.Growing up in poverty in my early years, although very tough, afforded me an opportunity to see beyond what was present before me. By middle school I had handmade napkin holders, key chains, dollhouses with popsicle sticks and lots of other cool items, that I would actually use at home. I was lucky enough to have teachers who nurtured a space that allowed me and the other learners in my classes to innovate. A space that allowed us to discover our talents and imagine our solutions. I have been an artist for as long as I can think back, so I didn’t always appreciate the academic portion of school. I’ve always valued the skills I learned in my woodshop, home economics and newspaper classes. They helped me to build character and taught me life skills that I still use today. It’s unfortunate that this creative energy is not a priority in every academic institution. It has been proven that the cookie cutter testing model has failed so many of our children. So, no matter what we feel about an institution, children exist inside of them and our focus must be on them.A couple of years ago, I was invited to visit the Brightmoor Maker Space at Detroit Community High School by teacher Bart Eddy. When I arrived I was immediately nostalgic. I witnessed Black children building rain barrels, making wooden signs for neighbors in their community, rehabbing and turning trikes into fruit and vegetable delivery tricycles, and designing and printing their own t-shirts. The young people showed so much pride in what they were doing and were very knowledgeable about the importance of their new skillsets.

I was so impressed that I invited the students to showcase their work at the New Work New Culture Conference I co-organized in Detroit with the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership and other community partners in 2014. The students designed a custom trike as well as t-shirts for the conference, and taught young people and adults who visited their station some of their skills. It was wonderful to watch their interactions.

In early 2015, I received a call from Bart telling me that the young people felt compelled to do something about the water crises in Detroit and Flint. They had been donated some industrial trikes by the UAW and wanted to use them to help support people without water. Bart invited me to speak to the students about the water crises and I accepted. I spent a half-day with the students and instructors, and by the time I left that day, they were well on their way to designing a water filtration trike. Brightmoor Makerspace agreed to donate the first trike beyond their prototype to We the People of Detroit, an organization that has done tremendous work supporting the efforts of residents in Detroit, Flint and other cities across the globe that are struggling with a water crisis. They recently produced the book, Mapping the Water Crisis: The Dismantling of African American Neighborhoods in Detroit, through the We the People of Detroit Research Collective.

I was ecstatic about the possibilities of the water filtration trike when I left the Brightmoor Maker space that day, but had no idea what the trike would become.

A few months ago, I received an email update from Bart and I could sense the joy in his print.
“The great thing about this project is that it has been a truly collective and imaginative effort on the part of students and instructors to connect with a real community need with global implications i.e. Climate Change. It also addresses the more immediate needs of residential water shut offs in Detroit and the lead water crisis in Flint . . . There is much more that can be said, but I will leave that for a further letter.”

The intergenerational team who calls themselves the Water Cyclers have since completed their prototype and are currently working on their first production model for donation to We the People of Detroit.

Photo credit: Brightmoor Makerspace, used with permission

Through this project, the students of DCH have been able to collaborate with The Stamps School of Art Design at University of Michigan, Ross School of Business, community activists and many others who have invested in helping them to see their vision forward.
A bit about the Renewable Energy Industrial Trike:

  • Battery-operated electronic assist
  • Solar-charged
  • Dual water purification with battery powered pump
  • Can be connected to rain barrel water collection systems

Through the innovation of this trike, the students are not only attempting to address the issue of clean water, but they are attempting to tackle the issue of immobility that ironically plagues the “motor city” by creating a trike that can travel up to 30 miles per hour.

Of course, this is just the beginning for this dynamic team, but be on the look out for more from these brilliant young minds, as they teach us that no idea is too large when you have a big enough imagination and a village that supports you.

A Library in Every Neighborhood
Kim Sherobi

Three weeks ago, a Little Library was installed on the corner side lawn of my house. What is a Little Library you ask? It is a small or medium size container with shelves and a door that contain books for the purpose of exchange or to be given away. Books can be placed on the shelves or taken by anyone. Frequently, Little Libraries look like large Bird Houses propped on a pole with books in them. The one on my corner lawn, has a glass door framed in wood so people can see the books displayed.

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Since the installation of the Little Library, I have been fascinated by the amount of attention and interaction that people in my neighborhood have had with it.  Where I live in Detroit, there are many burned out houses and foreclosed homes. It is often assumed by numerous people that residents in neighborhoods like mine do not have a love for reading or learning. Yet in the brief time that the Library has been here, I have witnessed people of all ages engaging with the book holder on a regular basis. I have seen students on their way to and from Nobel Elementary Middle School get books, adults who live on my block have been talking to me about how they have been reading books from the Little Library and adding to its collection of books, I have had conversations with a local resident who is a teacher and parents who were walking their children to school about how glad they are to have the Little Library in our community.

The Little Library has given me the opportunity to meet new people in my neighborhood, get better acquainted with some and reacquainted with others. For instance, recently I flagged down a car in which my childhood friend, Gail, was in the passenger seat. Gail has always been an avid reader so I figured she would be excited to know about the Little Library and she was.  Gail and I live different lifestyles so we do not interact with each other too much anymore. Talking about the Library gave us a chance to genuinely connect. It was good sharing a brief and exciting moment talking to my childhood friend about her love for books and reading.

The Little Library has caused me to think about having some type of event pertaining to books. Maybe a read out loud or tell your favor Little Library story. Whatever the gathering, the point would be to get to know my neighbors more. I look forward to inviting Gail and others to the event. We are all that we have. Our relationships should be cherished.

I would encourage anyone to build a Little Library in your community or contact littlefreelibrary.org to find out if they can install a Little Library in your neighborhood like they did in mine.

Community Conversation (Oct 29) Flyer

The Boggs Book Shop is open and waiting for you!
Among many other titles, don’t miss…

Ron Scott’s – How to End Police Brutalityevolution in the 21st Century Anthology…or the classic, Conversations in Maine

The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214

Our mission is to nurture the transformational leadership capacities of individuals and organizations committed to creating productive, sustainable, ecologically responsible, and just communities. Through local, national and international networks of activists, artists and intellectuals we foster new ways of living, being and thinking to face the challenges of the 21st century.
Living for Change News
October 10th – October 17th
It has been one year since Grace Lee Boggs made her transition on October 5, 2015. There were gatherings around the country as people whose lives she touched paused to remember her and reflect on her legacy. A small group of us gathered at the Boggs Center to share our memories of Grace, especially in the last year of her life. We also drank a toast to Stephen Ward, who brought the first copy of his soon to be released book, In Love and Struggle, documenting the lives of James and Grace Boggs. 

Complex Movements opened in Detroit, dedicated to her. The California band Trails and Ways also dedicated its new album to Grace, saying, “It was a crazy journey of touring and upheaval that taught us to make music this rockin and tender and passionate, and I wouldn’t give away a moment of it. Inspired by Grace Lee Boggs, I made these songs in dedication to the personal transformations that can make us braver to get to a more just, beautiful, socialist world.”
We think Grace would have liked this week’s Living For Change. It begins with an essay written by 12 year old Genesis Edwards. She is part of the Independent Freedom School movement that we are supporting and wrote this article to share her experiences.


Living for Change
Genesis Edwards
Do the Right Thing

My name is Genesis Edwards and I am 12 years old. All my life I knew I was supposed to do the right thing no matter what. If I see something I don’t think is right, I was always going to take a stand. With this mentality I think I can change the world. I always thought I was different from kids around me. Most people don’t acknowledge the issues that happen in the world today. People see problems and do nothing about them. But if we all do that, nothing will change in the world we all have to live in. But this is how I am different. I see all the issues on T.V. and everyone will see murders and crazy things and just sit there for a second or two and say “that’s terrible” and act like nothing happened and go on with their day like no one had just lost a family member and someone they care about.

But with me I have seen all the awful things happen in America for far too long. I would look on T.V. and see another black man get killed by the people who are supposed to protect our country but do nothing but harm us. We are not supposed to be afraid that we will get shot or harassed when we get pulled over just for our skin color by police officers because they can’t do their job correctly. Not only do blacks get killed like this on a daily basis, there is no justice being served! I am sick of hearing this happen every day and having to go on the internet just to see things like this keep happening.

I feel that I am the only child who can see this happening, maybe one of the few people who can see this. But one day I heard my Dad talking to my Grandpa about Colin Kaepernick not standing for the National Anthem. This had me thinking about what the words in the National Anthem meant. I realized that this whole time America isn’t about everything we make it to be. We say in the pledge of allegiance “liberty and justice for all,” but if this was true, all the families of the men getting killed by the police would have liberty and justice.

I see that everyone is mad at Kaepernick for kneeling and some say it is “disrespectful to our country and the men and women who serve in it,” but he is trying to get people talking about the tragedies that happen in America and around the world. Here is where my point that people don’t acknowledge problems happening in America and in the world comes in.  People think he is an awful person, but he is just one of the people who sees we need change.

So after hearing this I felt like I had enough of just not being able to take a stand. So one day I was at school and we had to stand for the pledge. A friend of mine sat down for the pledge and my teacher told him to stand. By law he can sit, but she made him stand anyways. I wasn’t sure what my friend’s purpose was, but it gave me a good idea. I decided if I wanted to make a change and teach people the real issues going on in the world I have to get my voice heard.

So I went to class the next day as usual and sat in class. The announcement came on and the pledge started and everyone stood up, except me. The teacher is giving me a disgusting look and says, “Stand for the pledge, why aren’t you standing?” I shrug it off and I am looking around the classroom and everyone is staring while they’re standing. The teacher comes up to me and asks, “Why aren’t you standing.”  I tell her, “No disrespect, but there are a lot of issues in America still and the pledge has flaws all over it.” After I tell her that she says, “It Is your choice” and walks away.

My friend afterwards says, “I didn’t want to stand for the pledge either.” The next day I do the same thing. Everyone stands up and I am still seated and after everyone sits down the teacher says, “America is great!” While she said this, she looks straight at me in a sarcastic way. Everyone told me she did this because they thought I didn’t notice, but I did. I just didn’t pay her any mind.

I knew it was okay for me to protest because I told my Dad but I didn’t get the time to tell my mom yet. My dad tells my mom and my mom calls me. She asked me questions of everything that my teacher said in class. I tell her and she says don’t pay her any mind because that’s what she wants. I took that into consideration because that is what could get me in trouble if I paid anyone attention.

My mom sent my teacher an email about the issues going on in class and still to this day there is no response. When I went back to school the teacher brought me and my friend out in the hallway and said, “I didn’t mean to offend you and if you want to sit, it is your choice.”

I felt at that moment that she was saying this so she wouldn’t lose her job. I still feel that way. The teacher stopped messing with me, but on the way I gained more support from my friends. I decided to write a rap song about this issue and I will perform the song in the talent show at my school. I will not stop my protest because my doing this isn’t hurting anyone and I feel that I am changing the world one step at a time!

Thinking for Ourselves

Ebbing Water Wars?
Shea Howell

shea25Daniel Howes recent article on regional water wars distorts critical questions facing everyone in Michigan. The news hook for the article is the upcoming sale of $1.4 billion in bonds by Wall Street for the new Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA). Wall Street has upgraded the bond ratings. Howes claims that the new regional authority, forced by the bankruptcy process, is responsible for this good fortune.

He asks why this matters and concludes:
If this region’s war over water and the long-running Flint Water Crisis have proven anything, it’s that competent and fiscally responsible management of arguably Michigan’s greatest resource — clean, fresh water — should be a bedrock role of government. It’s also critical to help ensure public health.

Yet Howes article celebrates the kind of incompetent, bottom line ideology that lead to the poisoning of Flint. Howes praises the continued cut backs of workers, the limitation of their benefits, and the shifting of funds away from Detroit to placate suburban interests. His silence on the draconian shut off policies that have brought national and international condemnation to Detroit and its Mayor, show how little he understands of the “water wars” he invokes. The war that he sees is the decades long war by suburbanites to take control of water away from the people of Detroit. The war he ignores is the one raging through Detroit and around the globe to establish water as a human right and sacred trust.

Howes highlights a statement from Moodys Investors Services that says it expects “key financial metrics will remain sound despite economic weaknesses in the service area and significant capital needs.”

It is the “weaknesses in the service area” and “significant capital needs” that should be getting our attention.  The primary lesson of Flint is that the desire to save money results in decisions that save pennies and poison people.

Weakness in service areas and infrastructure improvements are phrases evading the harsh fact that thousands of people are denied access to a basic necessity of life, and everyone is placed at greater risk of a serious health crises. When thousands of people cannot wash regularly and provide for basic sanitation, disease is not far behind.

As the rains of this year have shown, cutbacks in personnel and aging infrastructure mean flooding waters, contaminating basements, churches, streets, and streams.

Howes evades the reality that an essential building block of the GLWA was the racist view of the city as “incompetent.”  Its formation required a guarantee that no suburban dollars would subsidize people in Detroit who cannot pay their water bills and that no suburban dollars would go to support the needs of the city. The racism beneath these decisions is something he not only supports, but fosters as he continues the myth that the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department was somehow responsible for the city’s debt, or reflected city incompetence. In fact the water department was under the control of the federal court until one day before the bankruptcy process began.

Howes rightly notes that ensuring safe water is an “essential role of government “and “critical “to public health.” Yet he refuses to ask the hard questions of how does the government ensure safe, affordable water to all its people? How do we create sustained investment in infrastructure? How do we not only provide water, but insure public health and public responsibility?

Howes, like Governor Snyder and his emergency managers writes of water wars, but talks only of banks and bonds.  There are no people in his article, and certainly not those whose livelihoods are lost, pensions cut back, or water shut off. Until we face these questions, the spirit of cooperation Howes celebrates is nothing more than a twisted tale of a city unable to meet its most basic responsibilities.


What We’re Reading
Ava DuVernay’s ’13th’ documentary is a scorching indictment of American racism
Aaron Morrison

NEW YORK CITY — As of Oct. 5, 201 black people had been killed by law enforcement officers in the United States in 2016 alone. The circumstances leading to their deaths varied greatly. The reasons, generally, did not.

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay, who directed the Academy Award-nominated Selma, explores these reasons in 13th, a powerful 200-minute documentary that premieres on Netflix Friday. The film tells the story of how white, wealthy and politically-powerful Americans responded to the abolition of slavery in 1865 by creating new forms of bondage for black people — and encoding them through a racist criminal justice system.

These forms of bondage included, but were not limited to, aggressive incarceration and its fallout, including parole. The film argues these systems are maintained today through racially asymmetrical law enforcement practices — including racial profiling by police and, more recently, mandatory minimum jail sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.

By the film’s conclusion, DuVernay demonstrates that racism under the law may be a hot-button topic of discussion today, but it’s also part of a centuries-old tale that still hasn’t been told enough — and, perhaps, won’t ever be fully told.



The Boggs Book Shop is open and waiting for you!
Among many other titles, don’t miss…
Ron Scott’s – How to End Police Brutality

{R}evolution in the 21st Century Anthology

…or the classic, Conversations in Maine

The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214

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