June 2nd, 2020
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The Detroit Board of Police Commissioners (civilian oversight body) has broad supervisory authority over the police. Email, call or share your voice at this Thursday’s BOPC meeting at 3pm ET. Join the meeting here. Enter your public comment here. Demand the BOPC step into their power and do the following:
1. Immediately end facial recognition use 2. Publicly endorse the Civilian Input Over Government Surveillance Ordinance 3. De-militarize police – end Operation Relentless Pursuit 4. Act swiftly on excessive force cases 5. Immediately stop expansion of Project Green Light 6. Move out of Detroit Police Headquarters
DEMAND THE BOPC SERVE YOU

“The urgent, crying need of the American people is to undergo a fundamental  transformation from the individualists and materialists they are today into a new breed of socially and politically conscious and responsible human beings.” – James Boggs 

A Message from Professor Stephen Ward Hello Comrades, Last week would have been Jimmy’s 101st birthday (May 28, 1919 – July 22, 1993). Here are some of Jimmy’s words. The statement above is from Jimmy’s book Racism and the Class Struggle: Further Pages From a Black Worker’s Notebook, published in 1970. Below is a longer passage from which the sentence comes, in the book’s final chapter, “The American Revolution: Putting Politics in Command.” Reading this today, 50 years after Jimmy wrote it, might raise several questions for us, such as:
  1. How does the way Jimmy approaches the crisis of that time (in the midst of the Black Power movement, the War on Vietnam, etc.) relate to how we think about and respond to the crises of our time?
  2. How well does this contradiction between economic (and technological) overdevelopment and social and political underdevelopment (an idea Jimmy and Grace further developed in Revolution and Evolution in the 20th Century, published in 1974) characterize the U.S. today, and how can this help us develop our concept of revolution as well as strategies and tactics today?
“In this crisis more and more people are beginning to feel that only a revolution can bring them release from their fears and anxieties. It is not difficult to feel. The difficulty comes in attempting to make the feeling concrete. This is not surprising since when we talk about a revolution in the United States we are talking about a revolution for which there is no historical precedent. History has nothing to tell us about a revolution in a country where so large a proportion of the population has materially benefited from the system even while being exploited by it and therefore feels that its own interest is bound up with the active defense of the system … The arena in which this country needs revolutionary change is not the economic, but the political, not the material but the social. The essential, the key, contradiction in the United States that must be resolved if this country is to survive is the contradiction between economic overdevelopment and political underdevelopment.” “The urgent, crying need of the American people is to undergo a fundamental  transformation from the individualists and materialists they are today into a new breed of socially and politically conscious and responsible human beings. Instead of being concerned only with their own material advancement and satisfied with the political decisions of the military-industrial-academic complex as long as they expand production and consumption, the American people must be dragged, pulled, and pushed into situations where they are compelled to make socially responsible decisions–until the energy, the skill, and the will to make such decisions have become second nature.” — James Boggs, 1970 [from Racism and the Class Struggle, p 165-166; also in Pages From a Black Radical’s Notebook: A James Boggs Reader, p. 232-233] ____________________________________________________________________________________________________ Thinking for Ourselves Not One More Shea Howell One week ago, we tried to grasp what it means to have lost more than 100,000 people in a little more than 100 days. How do we comprehend the depth of this horror? The sheer enormity of the pain and suffering of people makes it difficult to absorb.  How do we grasp the stark racism carried daily in numbers reflecting the death toll in African American communities far outstripping those in white, wealthier areas? Many of us felt our hearts could hold no more anguish. Then we saw Derek Chauvin kill George Floyd. Chauvin put his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck and held him down, squeezing the life out of him. Chauvin appeared calm and in control through the nearly nine-minute killing. He looked passively at the crowd urging him to back off. He was unmoved by the pleas of the man under his knee. Chauvin and his accomplices enacted the killing that is essential to this country. It is the slow, calm, and cruel certainty of death inflicted by white supremacy on black bodies,  unmoved by pleas to justice and mercy. The death of George Floyd was caused by a sickness that goes to the very beginnings of this nation. It is the same sickness that has allowed this virus to kill so easily in communities of color. It is the sickness that has made the US the most violent nation on earth, the most capable of killing, anyone, anywhere, anytime. Ten years and a few days before George Floyd lay on the ground dying, seven-year old Aiyana Stanley-Jones was asleep on the couch as her grandmother sat beside her watching TV. The Detroit police Special Response team burst through the doors of their apartment, threw flash grenades, and shot Aiyana through the head. The whole event was filmed for a reality TV show. Police tried to lie about Aiyana’s murder, blaming the grandmother, claiming she attacked the officers, attempting to grab the gun. The police had invaded the wrong apartment. No one was convicted of any crime. It took almost 10 years for the city to acknowledge responsibility to the family. In the 10 years since Aiyana’s death, the police have learned nothing except how to kill more efficiently. They have learned that it does not matter if they wear body cameras. It does not matter if they are videotaped. It does not matter if they kill a child with a toy gun. It does not matter if they kill a man sitting in his car. It does not matter if they use force and violence. They can do whatever they want. They can squeeze the life out of a person, in front of the world, and walk away. More than 1000 people are killed every year by police. Most of their victims are African Americans. Today, we need to say enough. Not one more person. Not one more name. Not one more life to mourn. The police do not make us safe. They do not protect us. They began as the militias organized to kill indigenous people so white settlers could steal and hold land. They used these killing skills to terrorize, trace, and capture African people resisting enslavement. They are sworn to uphold a legal system designed to protect property, not people. They should not exist in our communities. It is time to dismantle the police and to provide for our own safety and security. During this pandemic, we have seen the power of compassion and care, the capacities we have to establish new ways of living that value life, connection, and safety. We can create loving communities by creating real neighborhood safety, pledging to solve problems together, and learning how to live more peacefully.  The corrupt, corporate state is failing all around us. We can and must take responsibility now for the life and health of our communities.

10 Thoughts on Ending Anti-Black Violence

George 2
___________________________________________________________________________________________________ The Economy Isn’t Everything Grace Boggs (10/16/08 for the Michigan Chronicle) In these times of economic meltdown, when so many of us are losing our homes and our jobs and worrying about how to pay our bills, the temptation  is to believe that the economy is everything, and that you’re stupid if you don’t agree. That is why I’d like to share the email about the Dow that I received this week from Rosa Naparstek, an artist friend who used to live in Detroit and now lives in New York. In August, Rosa gave a very moving slide show presentation of her artwork at the Boggs Center. She called it “Childscapes” because it revealed  how our inner landscapes form the emotional roots of the world we create personally and politically. Her email is so refreshing  because it reminds us that life isn’t only about the economy and the Dow. We are, first and foremost, human beings who down through the ages have created our way of life according to who and what we are. Until the onset of capitalism only a few centuries ago, our relationships with one another and our communities, not the rapid growth of the economy, were what we valued. The current crisis provides us with the opportunity to reclaim those fundamental human values. “Last week,” Rosa’s email begins… “my sister and I went to Ellis Island, the portal of our entry into the United States in 1951. I remember standing on deck at the railing, holding my father’s hand and cheering at the sight of the statue and land. I knew we had arrived for a new life and home. My father was a socialist who brought me up to respect labor and recognize that capitalism was an exploitative form of human relationship. He was a scholar and by trade an ‘upper maker’ (the top part of the shoe) who worked at Henry Ford’s cutting upholstery. My mother worked there too, sewing the upholstery. She had been a seamstress. He wanted to teach me how to make shoes so that I could always earn a living. I told him I didn’t need to; that I would go to college and be safe. Now, after many professions, I find myself gathering things, the fruit of human labor, to put together in a form that honors the story behind them so that I too can finally say I have made something with my hands. We are at an interesting juncture. The sky is falling. Crisis, danger and opportunity are palpable. Evolution takes a long time, but emergent realities can sometimes break through. Many celebrated when ‘communism’ failed in what seemed ‘not with a bang, but a whimper.’  We won, we won!  And now, who will say forthrightly that capitalism, unfettered markets and unaccountable profits, have failed, bringing us down with a global bang? As much as I read and have read about economics now and in the past, I feel most of what we say about it is fiction. We do not live the truths in each theory/ideology.  We live and create from the truth of who and what we are. Socialism and communism are spiritual economic systems: to give according to our abilities and receive according to our needs. And, the final stage, the withering away of the state, is the time when we no longer need external rules, or laws because we have become our best, highest-self, and are unafraid to know that we are all one. Laissez faire also has its theoretical validity, a belief in personal freedom, which after all is also the highest goal,  ‘the withering away of the state.’ However,  personal freedom unmoored from spiritual development can become greed and ruthless disregard of the other and the best in ourselves. ”The land is still here. he people, hands, minds are still here. We can create an economy of caring, sharing and cooperation. It is an affair of the heart, giving and receiving.” A note and video from our friend, Toshi Reagon Durham fam who was there back in the day at the opening of Malcolm X Liberation University? Grateful to Shelley Nicole Jefferson for sending me this link. Please watch and at about 7 minutes in The Harambee Singers my moms group out of Atlanta Ga. Come smashing through with a song called The Black Magician. I was overwhelmed watching this. The narration. The movement. The people. The talk of the the “The Brothers” leading the way. Come on now… – Still my heart love exploded and I am now dropping my supposed to do work and looking down this road. Bernice Johnson Reagon. _______________________________________________________________________________________________- A note and video from our friend, Toshi Reagon
Durham fam who was there back in the day at the opening of Malcolm X Liberation University? Grateful to Shelley Nicole Jefferson for sending me this link. Please watch and at about 7 minutes in The Harambee Singers my moms group out of Atlanta Ga. Come smashing through with a song called The Black Magician. I was overwhelmed watching this. The narration. The movement. The people. The talk of the the “The Brothers” leading the way. Come on now… – Still my heart love exploded and I am now dropping my supposed to do work and looking down this road. Bernice Johnson Reagon. 
#powertothepeople #blackpower #revolutioninthestreetsandtheschools
 
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May 25th, 2020

revolution image final 

 


“We never know how our small activities will affect others through the invisible fabric of our connectedness. In this exquisitely connected world, it’s never a question of ‘critical mass.’ It’s always about critical connections.”    —Grace Lee Boggs

 

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Thinking for Ourselves
Water Connections
Shea Howell

In the last six months Michigan has experienced two potential nuclear disasters. Both were due to rising flood waters.  In late November the Revere Dock collapsed, spilling unknown amounts of limestone and aggregate materials. In the course of the investigation of his spill, it was discovered that the site also stored nuclear waste material, forgotten by the most recent owners. The Environmental Protection Agency has since found uranium, lead, toxic chemicals and heavy metals in water samples at the site.

This week the entire city of Midland was flooded as two dams burst under the pressure of rising water. Midland is the home of Dow Chemical and one of the most toxic Superfund cleanup sites in the country. The site also contains a nuclear research reactor.

As the waters rise and carry these surface contaminants down into the rivers and Great Lakes water shed, shorelines are eroded and the underwater sediments stirred up. Allen Burton, a professor of earth and environmental sciences at the University of Michigan explained,  
“You worry about the speed of the current, this wall of water coming down the river,” he said. “It just has a huge amount of power.”

 In both cases, officials assure us there are no radioactive effects. Thus far the water from Revere has been contained, and the nuclear plant was shut down due to the Coronavirus.

Even so, everyone knows that the flood waters are carrying the wastes of centuries of industrial poisons. We also know they are carrying the oil from the engines of the newest cars, now under water,  the chemicals stored in homes used to clean and protect them from bacteria, and the untold toxic materials used in businesses, manufacturing centers, schools, and churches. We all know that the Fermi plants are just down river, watching the waters rise. And we know that Fermi has the worst safety record in the US.

Flood waters, like the coronavirus, remind us that we are all connected. They warn us that we cannot return to” normal.” We need a completely different way of thinking about our responsibilities to each other, the earth and the waters.

This new way of thinking is not likely to come from our officials. They continue to deny reality, especially in Detroit. Here Mayor Duggan and Gary Brown insist water has been restored everywhere.  Yet two weeks ago we delayed the Riverwise editorial meeting, as one of our members stood out side to stop a water shut off of her 95 year old neighbor.  This week volunteers gathered at churches to distribute water to people who do not have it in their homes. 

At the heart of this contradiction is the insistence by the city that people need to contact them to get their water restored. Placing the burden on people who have been shut off, and may not even know of the restoration efforts, comes from a deep disrespect of those who could not afford high bills, and from a lack of fundamental understanding of government responsibility. It also comes from the fact that the city keeps poor records, and hides those from public view. As a recent article in Michigan Advance explained, the numbers kept by local governments are murky.

Charlotte Jameson, program director of legislative affairs, drinking water and energy at the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC), says Michigan’s deregulated reporting system makes it almost impossible to know exactly how many residents are still living with their water shut off…It’s incredibly difficult to know what is happening at any given water utility because they’re regulated at the local level…So there’s very little access to data, very little transparency in terms of how utilities do rate making, very little transparency into their operations, who they’re shutting off and who they’re not, why they’re shutting people off. We just don’t have that information.

What we know is that we need a comprehensive, thoughtful, and visionary approach to the waters that sustain us. We also know that the values of the past that cast water as a resource to be used and tossed away, that limits access to it by the ability to pay, and that denies our deep connections, are ideas that are killing us.  It is time to craft a way of living that begins with the basic understanding that water is a human right and a sacred trust. There is no other way to ensure our future.


Michigan Prisoner:
Covid Could Be Death Sentence We Don’t Deserve


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Disability Justice, Community, & Intentionality
Honoring Stacey Park Milbern #StaceyTaughtUs

Emma Fialka-Feldman 

Stacey Park Milbern passed away on May 19, 2020, her 33rd birthday. Her friends, community, and family — people she met and people who longed to meet Stacey immediately began telling their stories, #StaceyTaughtUs. Her first of many many memorials included a virtual celebration with over 500 registered guests on Zoom with a 150 car parade throughout Oakland, CA with ASL (American Sign Language) and live captioning. This growing collection of stories demonstrate how much people want to fight like hell, while building the world that centers the lives of disabled, queer, and BICOP. She lived in the possibilities of what it can be. She not only practiced living in the “beloved community,” she lived it. Every #StaceyTaughtUs story is evidence of that.

My brother, Micah Fialka-Feldman is who he is for many reasons (as we all are) — but when he connected with young disability leaders — they shaped my brother (and therefore our family’s story) in powerful ways. He saw his disability as an identity with history, pride, community, activism, and brilliance.

Stacey Park Milbern was one of those shapers. Stacey got “it.” The “it” that says people with intellectual disabilities must have their voices and presence at the disability justice table. The “it” that says we must, both, live in and for a reimagined world — where the lives of disabled people are dignified, honored, and supported — in a beyond capitalism, racism paradigm. The “it” that says we must always be learning, thinking, questioning, in conversation with our communities. The “it” that says we can not use a lack of familiarity with difference to stop us in for getting together. That’s what Stacey taught me. 

Micah was introduced to Stacey and her deep demand for creative justice when Micah attended the National Youth Leadership Forum, a national disabled led youth leadership project, in the early 2000s. This National Youth Leadership Forum (NYLF) connected him with other disability activists around the country. Micah, excited by his deepening understanding of his own identities shared this growing knowledge with our family. Given connections to various disability organizations (including NYLF), our family worked with the Allied Media Projects to see how disability justice could be brought into the work of the Allied Media Conference which had recently moved to Detroit in 2007. Stacey and a cross-section of disability organizers worked with AMP to make Allied Media Conference creatively accessible and weave in workshops and themes about disability justice. Years later, this eventually led to the first ever Disability Justice track.

Stacey reflected on this collaborative work in a December 2008 NYLF Newsletter. “I have been thinking a lot about an event I went to this summer, the Allied Media Conference (AMC)…It was amazing to see young people taking the city in their own hands. Through the AMC, I had a chance to really get to know an NYLN member, Micah Fialka-Feldman. He welcomed me to Detroit. Since I was new to the AMC community, he made sure I always knew what was going on. He made sure I had what I needed to participate. Conference organizers told me about how Micah and his family had worked with them to make sure that access wouldn’t be an issue for anyone. As a result, many disabled people attended the conference. Disability issues were on the table. Unlike other events, many workshops focused on integrating a disability analysis into broader social justice work. It was a transforming experience for me. I owe a lot to Micah for it…[then she described Micah’s lawsuit to sue Oakland University for housing discrimination]… I hope you will join us in talking about what access really can mean and how it can change how we interact with the world.”

Stacey continued to be connected to visionary activism in Detroit and the work of Grace Lee Boggs as she grew personally and politically. As Catherine Kudlick, Professor of History and Director of Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University wrote, “She was a co-founder and promoter of Disability Justice, a second wave of the disability movement that combats the disproportionate negative impact of ableism on people of color, queer, trans, and others who are multiply-marginalized. She called out and showed with each of her projects — and indeed with her very existence — the benefits that come from abandoning capitalism’s narrow definitions of who has worth. For example, last fall when the claims of activists proved true in the face of PG&E’s bungled planned power shutdowns, Stacey organized grassroots relief and protests. With the arrival of the pandemic, the Disability Justice Culture Club, which she ran out of her home, took on even greater significance and reach. In April, she partnered with Longmore on some of the pathbreaking work she was doing as co-chair of the Crip Camp film impact campaign!

Stacey wrote in 2009 an article titled, “On the Ancestral Plan: Crip Hands Me Downs and the Legacy of Our Movements,” I speculate that Grace Lee Boggs is loving the conversations happening right now about disability in the context of what it means to be human, and as Grace’s friends the Fialka Feldmans said to me last week, would ponder that the reason to add disability justice to social justice is not just because it’s another element of diversity or representation, but rather because disability justice (and disability itself) has the potential to fundamentally transform everything we think about quality of life, purpose, work, relationships, belonging. As a new colleague Ria DasGupta said in a meeting about cripping college campus this week, “we can no longer afford add and stir politics.”

Catherine Kudlick continued, “Stacey came to all of this from her perspective as a biracial Korean-American queer woman who arrived in the SF Bay Area from a southern fundamentalist Christian upbringing. She was forthright, demanding, focused, all while being unnervingly vulnerable with a giggle that could cut through every kind of bullshit. She never lost sight of the biggest goals, all while making you feel like you were the most important person in the world.”

Too often our movements work in silos. Too often we speak about intersectionality but leave out the voices and bodies of those most marginalized. Too often we speak about what the government isn’t doing. May you honor Stacey by building a bigger table, with chairs of various sizes, empty space for chair users, virtual spaces for folks who can’t physically be at the table and with a belief that by making access radical and intentional, our world will grow into beautiful possibilities. 

To learn more about what #StaceyTaughtUs check out this syllabus of videos and articles written by her.

If you did not know of Stacey Park, take time to sign up for one of Crip Camp’s Virtual Camp Series each Sunday. Stacey’s vision and force are behind the themes, the speakers, the accessibility, the outreach of it. You will fall in love with the possibilities of a future that centers disabled lives.


 


Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership
3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214
US
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May 18th, 2020

revolution image final


Building the Future


Thinking for Ourselves

Close to Home
Shea Howell

The failure of the federal government in the face of this global pandemic has created a space for protective, positive actions at the state and local levels. Across the country governors, mayors, and city councils have been stepping forward to respond in thoughtful and innovate ways. The orders to slow the spread of the virus came from governors, with Gavin Newsom of California, Jay Inslee of Washington and Andrew Cuomo of NY offering early, forceful actions with stay at home orders, closing businesses, and providing real, concrete information to people. Michigan joined the effort with aggressive shelter in place strategies as we suffered tremendous losses of life.

Mayors and local governments also moved swiftly to enact a range of policies that acknowledged our collective interdependence. In so doing, they highlighted the narrow cruelty behind business as usual. Rent collections halted, utility shut offs and water restoration policies were quickly put in place. Jail house doors were opened as thousands of people were set free. Evictions and debt collection stopped.  As one activist in Kansas  said, “We’re winning stuff that last week sounded radical.”

The success of these policies provoked the anger of the President, his administration, and right wing forces across the country. We have seen the petty withholding of protective gear to punish states critical of federal incompetence and armed protests in state capitals, demonstrating the violence inherent in those who would protect power and privilege.

These clashes are framing the contours of the choices ahead of us. In one way or another, the US Empire, long in decline, is falling apart. The failures to provide for the most basic security of life is evident. However we emerge on the other side of this pandemic, we can no longer evade the question of how to organize ourselves for the well-being of our communities, our families and the places that sustain us.

The actions of our governors are already reflecting a regional sensibility. Governors in the northeast are coordinating plans for reopening, as are those on the west coast.  Here around the Great Lakes, conversations are evolving that are not only coordinating re-openings of sate economies but discussing strengthening regional ties and production.

For more  than 50 years radical thinkers have been challenging us to undo the scale of life required by empire. In 1973, E. F. Schumacher published his influential book Small is Beautiful:  A Study of Economics as if People Mattered.”  At the same time members of the American Indian Movement, inspired by their earlier success occupying Alcatraz, took over the Pine Ridge Reservation. These events accelerated a growing understanding of ecology and indigenous wisdom,  providing the context for the North American Bioregional Congress a decade later. These congresses, which convened over nearly a 30- year time frame, argued for a rethinking of our political ecology, based on the laws of nature and the needs for sustainable life.

Thomas Berry, who described himself as a geologian, and advocated for a deeper understanding of history and evolution to inspire us to the “great work of change” was quoted in the original call to congress, saying:

“So now we experience a moment when a change of vast dimension is demanded… A period of change from the mechanistic to the organic, from an oppressive human tyranny over the planet to the rule of the earth community itself, the community of all the living and non-living components of the planet, that neither the nation states nor western civilization has ever seen before.”

This is the moment to do the kind of radical reconstruction of our relationships that is essential to protect our people and our earth. It is a reconstruction that has to be rooted in the values that best reflect what we know makes life meaningful, productive, and joyful. We are learning that the decisions about what matters to us, are best made close to home.

 


voices matter

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Contradictions Among the People
Rich Feldman

In 1963, the year of the Children’s March in Birmingham, the year of the assassination of Medgar Evers, the year Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in Detroit and later in Washington DC, the year Malcolm X gave his “Message to the Grass Roots” speech at Detroit’s King Solomon Baptist Church, James Boggs published his first book, The America Revolution: Pages from a Negro Workers Notebook.  James Boggs courageously challenged all concerned activists and thinkers to move from the declining Labor Movement to the rising freedom movement and black power movement because of the qualitative transformation of consciousness as well as the technological revolution creating a permanent underclass naming the outsiders.

Today, 2020, we are again in a Revolutionary period (Epochal Revolutionary Period) with great opportunities, tremendous obstacles and a growing counter-revolution.  In the 1950s and 1960s, the White Citizen Councils were holding onto the Jim Crow South, and today a strong minority of white Americans want to make America great again. The veil of American Racism was pulled back by MLK, Malcolm, the Black Panthers, SNCC and so many others.  Along with the Movements for Black Lives Matter, Occcupy, Me Too, the Global Climate Justice, Immigrant, Disability and Transgender Movements, it has been the barbarism of racial capitalism under the rhetoric, organizing and leadership of Trump, that has been become a national debate thru his call for a return to the 1950s or 1920a.  This is a defining moment for all of us.  It is a spiritual & visionary struggle as well as a material one. In the conclusion of “The American Revolution,” James Boggs he says:
In the 1930s, the problems were relatively simple.  All that was required was that the poor struggle against the rich, who were the capitalists and whose failure was clear and obvious.

Today in the 1960s, the struggle is much more difficult. What it requires is that people in every stratum of the population clash not only with the agents of the silent police state, but with their own prejudices, their own outmoded ides, their own fears that keep them from grappling with the new realities of our age.  The American people must find a way to determine policy in all spheres of social existence—whether it is foreign policy, the work process, education, race relations, or community life.

The coming struggle is a political struggle to take political power out of the hands of the few and put it into the hands of the many.  But in order to get this power into the hands of the many, it will be necessary for the many not only to fight the powerful few but to fight and clash among themselves as well.
I have highlighted this paragraph because, too often radicals are comfortable challenging the 1% rather than challenging each other to build a true national movement.

Grace Lee Boggs extended this revolutionary vision into our troubled times with her 2011 book, The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century. The chapter titles capture the peril and promise that confront us today: the opening chapter is “These Are the Times to Grow Our Souls,” and the book closes with “We Are the Leaders We’ve Been Looking For.”

It is with this foundation that I share this brief video to encourage conversation, challenging myself and others as we engage in theory and practice to answer the questions:
What time is it on the Clock of the World?

How do we create power, influence power and take power?

What does it mean to Change Ourselves to Change the World?

Get Your copy Books – American Revolution and The Next American Revolution  at  Books at Boggs Center Store

 



grocery


voices matter

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May 14th, 2020

revolution image final


Thinking for Ourselves
Questioning Science
Shea Howell

For many of us, the new-found effort to base decisions on data is a welcome change from ideologically driven pre-pandemic politics. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun insist they will continue to work with experts and provide fact based, data driven approaches to decisions, especially about reopening the economy.

The contrast between states embracing data for decision making and the increasing denial of even the existence of data by the Trump administration is stark. This week the Trump administration is shifting strongly toward denying the seriousness of the pandemic. 

The New York Times reported on an idea circulating in the White House that death figures are being exaggerated by Democrats for political gain.  This idea has been surfacing for a few weeks on right wing blogs, news, and talk shows. It is gaining increasing momentum as pressures for reopening the economy intensify.

The ideas of false data are not spontaneous. They are being advanced by ideologically driven groups that honed their arguments and propaganda strategies in climate crisis denial. Familiar players include the Heartland Institute, Exxon Mobil, Phillip Morris and the Mercer Family Foundation. The Times reported, “It’s the same individuals. It’s the same modus operandi, the same organizations and the same backers,” said Michael E. Mann, who directs the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University. “Right-wing conservative interests that are benefiting from the Trump presidency obviously want to see a continuation with the Trump presidency.”

Here in Michigan the usual right wing advocates have been behind the protests in Lansing. The Michigan Freedom Fund, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy and the DeVos Family Foundation are recycling old arguments, even reenergizing the  chant to “Lock her up,” aimed at Gov. Whitmer. Nationally, they are pushing pandemic denial.

This assault on data, presented as science, is dangerous for many reasons. Chief among them is that it can lead those of us who respect real science to the conclusion that data is a substitute for judgment. It is not. Data has its limits. It can give us a picture of what is happening, why something is happening and, at its best, predict what might happen. But information is not the same thing as wisdom.

Just days before the announcement of a State of Emergency, Gov. Whitmer said the “public health data” did not warrant an order to put a moratorium on water shut offs. She invoked scientific reasoning to support an inhuman policy. This, too, is a well-worn strategy of those who support policies of power and control.

Science can teach us many things and help us understand our world. But it does not tell us what we value, what we need to protect, whose lives matter, and what choices will nurture the creativity of our children. The questions we face now cannot be answered by facts. They must be answered in the context of the values and visions we embrace for our future. 

As we resist Trump’s efforts to destroy science and welcome the pledges by governors, mayors and councils across the country to “look to the data” as they make decisions, we need to remember that our choices will not be made for us on some objective standard. Our choices will reflect the kind of world we want to create together.


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Rethinking Health Disparities Messages
Johnny Ricks

When I graduated high school, I was fascinated with electronics and decided that I should study to become an electronics technician.  One of the first things you learn in an electronics lab (other than getting shocked can hurt, a lot) is electricity always follows the path of least resistance.

Materials like copper and gold are far more conductive than rubber or plastic because the former offer far less resistance to the free flow of electrons.  In that way, electricity is not so dissimilar to the COVID-19 pandemic that is ravaging the world right now – both are prolific in mediums that put up little resistance.  

The virus thrives, with sometimes fatal consequences, in the bodies and communities of people that can’t put up much of a fight (due to weakened immune systems and other underlying conditions).  
The similarities stop there.  

In the case of electricity, materials and objects that offer little resistance are a matter of innate physical properties.  With COVID-19, the frightening disparities we observe in the ability of some human bodies and communities to resist the virus are far from innate – it is something almost totally within society’s control vis-à-vis socioeconomic factors.

There is no shortage of stories and messages in the news and on social media reminding us that no one has been hit harder in this pandemic than Black Americans.  According to NPR, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 33% of all COVID-19 hospital patients are Black, though only 13% of the U.S. population is Black.  In Michigan, Black Americans constitute 40% of all COVID-19 related deaths, despite representing only about 12% of the state’s population.

These stories and messages, called “disparities messages” in scholarly literature, rightfully sound the alarm on a very dire situation with grave consequences.  However, while sounding the alarm is the compelling and ostensibly dutiful thing to do, it has several counterintuitive effects.

According to recent research, disparities messages can negatively impact health outcomes in both the target audience and the group(s) considered to be at lower risk. In the case of Black Americans, Black people may flat-out reject and simply not believe the information being disseminated, especially in the absence of anecdotal evidence.

In the case of White Americans, it may encourage them to not take an issue or crisis seriously (even openly rebelling against efforts to mitigate a crisis) and it stokes the flames of old racist ideas and pseudo-science that conjure people of color as physically inferior, even biologically squalid.

Disparities messages can also add to the cumulative stress associated with the stigmas and hurtful myths racial and social minorities endure.  Research has shown that messages highlighting Black-White health disparities often simply piss Black people off and are generally discouraging.

Last month, the U.S. Surgeon General, Jerome Adams, exacerbated feelings of animosity and discouragement in Black America when he very pointedly highlighted the disparate impact of COVID-19 on people of color in America and asked Black people to “do it for your big momma” (perpetuating the “mammy” caricature and other racial stereotypes), urging compliance with social distancing measures.

The goal of all public health messages is to persuade the public to comply with guidelines and recommendations designed to keep everyone safe from infectious diseases, preventable ailments and injuries.  Indeed, some groups are more at-risk for certain diseases and other health issues than others.  

However, all health messaging must strategically align to achieve the overall goal of promoting public health safety across the entire nation.  News stories and targeted disparities messages about COVID-19 and other public health issues are no good if they ultimately offend and discourage the target audience, while providing traction for misinformation and hurtful propaganda among lower-risk groups. 

We know that COVID-19 and certain preventable diseases disproportionately affect Black America.  

We. Know. That.

What we need to know more about is what we all can do, collectively, to deal with COVID-19 and reduce the prevalence of poor health outcomes for all Americans.  That will require less focus on health disparities and more focus on equitable solutions that are inclusive and non-partisan.

One other lesson I learned in the electronics lab is the flow of electricity generates byproducts such as heat.  Even if a material or object is not a conductor of electricity itself, it can be damaged by the heat of electric current nearby.  Given the myriad indirect consequences of the COVID-19 crisis, what’s understood does not need to be explained.  

Johnny Ricks is president and principal consultant of JL Ricks & Associates – Marketing Communications.  johnny.ricks@jlricks.com – 313-550-6088


Ruby Sales has been writing from her front porch to help us think about this moment. She recently offered:
Language is the gateway to freedom and to our full humanity. Black and Brown people are not wholly marginalized. Although the state marginalizes us, we are essential people in creation and in democracy. We are significant to our family, friends and our local and national communities. In short, we are more than what the White guardians of power make of our lives. Rather we are what we make of our lives. Our language must speak to reaffirm the multi dimensional aspects of our lives and the different spaces that we occupy.


turnwateron

 

May 6th, 2020

revolution image final


Thinking for Ourselves

Bankruptcy Consequences
Shea Howell

For many Detroiters, Senator Mitch McConnell’s comments that states should consider declaring bankruptcy was as frightening as that of the President’s pushing bleach to cure Covid-19. Certainly, it is as ill informed.

McConnell’s support for state bankruptcies  came in the midst of an interview with conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt. McConnell argued that the reason states are facing financial problems is because many of them, controlled by democrats, have been overspending all along.

In response to congressional efforts to increase funding to states and cities to fight costs of Covid 19 McConnell said,  “There’s not going to be any desire on the Republican side to bail out state pensions by borrowing money from future generations.” Singling out Democratic-led states such as New York, California and Illinois, he said, “We’ll certainly insist that anything we’d borrow to send down to the states is not spent on solving problems that they created for themselves over the years with their pension programs.”

Just to be sure his position was clear, after the comments, McConnell released a statement entitled “Stopping Blue State Bailouts.”

“I would certainly be in favor of allowing states to use the bankruptcy route,” he said. “It saves some cities. And there’s no good reason for it not to be available.”

No one really thinks state governments will face bankruptcy. Nor are people blind to the partisan politics at play here. But for most Detroiters, these comments are very familiar. They are the same ideas that were used to drag Detroit  into bankruptcy proceedings against the will of the City Council and the people. Always at stake was the argument that our “pension funds” were the real problem. Our retirees living too beyond what we could afford. In 2013 the newly appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr commented to the Wall Street Journal that “For a long time the city was dumb, lazy, happy and rich.”

It was this way of thinking that ultimately resulted in the 80% of the Detroit bailout being borne by Detroit retirees. As investigative reporter Curt Guyette concluded after a careful analysis of the results of the bankruptcy, “The real story of Detroit’s bankruptcy is the unprecedented hit retirees are taking.”

As McConnell spews hatred toward elders, unions, and states that have attempted to protect people and policies with some intergenerational responsibility, it is important for us to recognize the ripple effects of ideas held  by men who put profits before people. Ideas that lead to decisions steeped in racism and illusion.

For those decisions are now finding their ultimate expression in hospital beds around our city. They are surrounding our elders, dying alone after life times of giving to families, neighbors and communities.

Make no mistake. One of the main reasons our elders are so vulnerable is that their lives were made immeasurably more difficult by this so called “comeback” of our city.

Everyone knew this was the real cost of bankruptcy.  It was clearly reported that “The biggest hit comes in the form of health care cuts.”  Retirees saw  their insurance costs “skyrocket.”

At the time, long time activists Cecily McClellan, who spent 18 of her 23 years with the city working at the health department, said  her health care costs jump to about $500 a month.

“If nothing changes,” McClellan warned,  “this will be devastating. Many people who thought they had a decent nest egg are going to find themselves living in poverty.”

Since the bankruptcy the devastation of poverty has been the the slow erosion of life.  Evictions, water shut offs, heat interruptions, chooses made between medicine and food. Step by step our elders endure the conditions that allow this virus to spread.

Comments have consequences. The ideas of austerity and limited government, of dehumanization and devaluing essential city workers, have found their final extensions in the bodies stacked in refrigerator cars.

We need very different values as we move beyond this crisis. We can see the consequences if we continue the ideas that brought us here.


essential

 

It’s Time for the Essential Economy

RESOLUTION OPPOSING PREMATURE LIFTING OF PHYSICAL DISTANCING MEASURES AND URGING THE ADOPTION OF BUSINESS POLICIES TO LIMIT THE SPREAD OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC UNTIL A REASONABLE DEGREE OF PUBLIC HEALTH PROTECTION CAN BE ENSURED

By Council President Brenda Jones and Council Member Roy McCalister Jr. 

WHEREAS, In the face of the historically unprecedented Covid-19 novel coronavirus global pandemic, during the months of March and April 2020, millions of Americans dispersed from workplaces, schools, houses of worship, restaurants, bars, concert halls, sports stadia and other places where people congregate in public, practicing stringent and comprehensive physical distancing measures that have apparently spared the country even worse contagion and death as a result of this virus and the evident inability of the federal government or the U.S. health care system to cope with an intertwined public health and socioeconomic crisis of this magnitude; and

WHEREAS, Notwithstanding the incredible sacrifices and promising results to date of the broad physical distancing measures:

1) The loss of health, life, prosperity and value in the pandemic has already been huge;

2) Detroit has been one of the communities hardest hit;

and 3) Some irresponsible, public leaders have been arguing without any significant supporting evidence that Americans should stop or at least drastically limit these successful public health protections in the interest of “reopening” the economy, sending people back to inherently dangerous and unhealthy spaces for work, school, worship and commerce before the virus is adequately controlled; and

WHEREAS, the Detroit City Council vigorously and adamantly opposes any premature lifting of physical distancing measures unless and until the proponents of such regression to mass exposures can prove that it will not adversely affect public health; and

WHEREAS, the burden of demonstrating that ending physical distancing precautions would unreasonably harm public health, perhaps leading to a “second wave” of uncontrolled contagion and many more deaths, should not be placed on advocates of public health who oppose ending the current comprehensive, common sense restrictions on public assemblies; and

WHEREAS, Covid-19 has to date taken an extremely painful toll in the African American community, with a vastly disproportionate amount of coronavirus deaths in Michigan so far reportedly suffered by African Americans. Although making up only approximately 14% of the State of Michigan’s population, African Americans so far account for 33% of the coronavirus cases in the state, and 40% of the deaths; and

WHEREAS, the extreme racial disparity in Covid-19 cases and deaths among African Americans must be taken into consideration when considering the removal of the common sense physical distancing measures and state requirements that appear at this time to be working impressively to reduce the pandemic’s spread; and

WHEREAS, since none of the above conditions can currently be met, significantly easing or lifting the current measures in place for physical distancing to slow the spread of the pandemic at this time would be premature and would unreasonably risk even more severe damage to our country, state and city; and

WHEREAS, as the federal, state and local governments gradually increase their capacities to deal with this crisis, and additional data about the dimension of contagion and the incidence of death becomes available, there will be further opportunities in the future to responsibly and intelligently assess risk, gradually increase the size and frequency of social gatherings, and aggressively monitor and treat any further spikes in the transmission of Covid-19;

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED, that the Detroit City Council opposes premature limitation or lifting of physical distancing measures adopted in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, unless and until the following conditions can be conclusively shown to be in place:

1) mass testing of millions of Americans per day to identify those who are infected; \

2) comprehensive contact tracing based on any and all future diagnoses, to isolate other
people who may have been infected;

and 3) availability of sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) to shield frontline health care workers from the risks of contagion in the course of treating any flare-ups in the pandemic after easing physical distancing;

and 4) sufficient capacity of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds, mechanical respirators and other hospital medical space and equipment to adequately treat the foreseeable surge in need for care; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Detroit City Council will work with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and others to continue the practices of physical distancing and suspension of ordinary social, economic, business and entertainment gatherings, at least until the necessary conditions of adequate mass testing, contact tracing, protective equipment for frontline health workers, and adequate hospital and ICU resources are in place to protect public health; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Detroit City Council urges businesses across the City of Detroit to adopt the following policies:

1) Mandating wearing masks when employees and customers have the propensity to be within
6 feet of another individual.

2) Adopt procedures to meet the environmental cleaning guidelines set by the CDC, including by cleaning and disinfecting frequent touchpoints throughout the day such as point of sale terminals at registers, shopping carts, and shopping baskets.

3) Prohibit employees who are sick from reporting to work and send employees home if they
display symptoms of COVID-19.

4) Allocation of at least two hours a week of shopping time for vulnerable populations.

5) If an employee tests positive for COVID-19, establishments must notify other employees
without infringing on a worker’s private personal-health related information.

6) Require checkout employees or those handling food to wear some form of covering over
their nose and mouth, such as a homemade mask, scarf, bandana, or handkerchief.

7) Require all food handlers at restaurants to wear some form of covering over their nose and
mouth, such as a homemade mask, scarf, bandana, or handkerchief.

8) Accommodate employees who fall within a vulnerable population by providing lower- exposure work assignments or giving them the option to take an unpaid leave of absence with a return date coinciding with the end of the states of emergency and disaster.

9) Develop and implement a daily screening program, as described herein, for all staff upon
or just prior to reporting to work sites.

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that copies of this resolution shall be provided to Mayor Duggan, Governor Whitmer, mass media, City of Detroit residents and others in an attempt to clarify the life and death issues at stake in the decisions to be made in the near future about maintaining physical distancing measures, or “re-opening” the economy, in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.


data

 

A new way of thinking about data science and data ethics that is informed by the ideas of intersectional feminism.


4 DEAD

If you are old enough, you will recognize that snippet from a song by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.  If not, I am here to tell you that on May 4, 1970, four students were shot to death by members of the Ohio National Guard on the campus of Kent State University in Ohio.  Nine others were wounded.

The students weren’t doing anything wrong. Actually, they were doing something right. They were peacefully assembled to protest the U.S. war on Viet Nam, Laos, and Cambodia.  They were part of an eruption of nationwide campus protests that followed President Nixon’s announcement that the United States had launched a bombing offensive of Cambodia. KEEP READING


50th Anniversary
National Student Strike and the
Killings at Kent State, Jackson State
& the Chicano Moratorium

Join Us a Free Zoom Webinar
Featuring Event Participants

Songs by Peter Yarrow, of Peter Paul and Mary

SATURDAY, MAY 9
3 PM (ET)

REGISTER HERE


forum

Black educators were essential to the legal victory that was Brown vs. Board of Education, but over time, they saw the promise of greater access and greater equity grow dimmer, undermined by the way this now-iconic legal milestone was actually implemented. In a forum ranging widely over the past, present, and future of the long fight for justice in American schools, Emory University historian Vanessa Siddle Walker will explore the pedagogical and advocacy models that black educators developed, despite Jim Crow, that they hoped would be enhanced with the dismantling of racist school policies. She’ll describe how these practitioners came to make sense of what ultimately became a desegregation compromise, as the ruling took effect. And in a follow-on conversation moderated by HGSE assistant professor Jarvis Givens, Walker will be joined by Edith Bazile, the president of the Black Educators’ Alliance of Massachusetts, to examine the contemporary legacy of Brown – and how the perspectives of those earlier practitioners can create a new lens through which to view the continuing critical challenges of race and education today. WATCH


How Detroit’s farms and gardens are adapting to the COVID-19 crisis

farm

How Detroit’s farms and gardens are adapting to the COVID-19 crisis

READ

 

April 27th, 2020

revolution image final 


Thinking for Ourselves

Expanding Imagination
Shea Howell

This week our attention has been on the question of how the State of Michigan will begin to “open up”  as the number of deaths and instances of the disease decrease. Governor Whitmer extended her stay at home order through May 15 as the total deaths in the state reached over 3,300 and the number of cases approached 40,000. Meanwhile, Georgia, Alaska, and Oklahoma are reopening. Almost everyone is watching these moves with caution as the country marks the loss of more than 50,000 lives. No one thinks life will return to the what we remember any time soon.

Yet in the midst of this human tragedy many people are starting to question the wisdom of returning to “normal.” Normal is what got us into this catastrophe. Author- activist Arundhati Roy recently observed,
“Coronavirus has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to a halt like nothing else could. Our minds are still racing back and forth, longing for a return to ‘normality,’ trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists. And in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality.

“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”

Our imaginations were enriched this past week by a decision handed down by two justices of the 6th Federal District Court on the case on the right to literacy. U.S. Circuit Judge Eric L. Clay, joined by Judge Jane Branstetter Stranch, affirmed the arguments advanced on behalf of 6 Detroit children, agreeing that “access to literary, as opposed to other educational achievements, is a gateway milestone, one that unlocks the basic exercise of other fundamental rights, including the possibility of political participation.”

After a careful review of Supreme Court cases, the two justices conclude, “ We recognize that the Constitution provides a fundamental right to a basic minimum education.,”

The right is “narrow in scope,” the court said,  guaranteeing only the education needed “to provide access to skills that are essential for the basic exercise of other fundamental rights and liberties, most importantly participation in our political system.”

While this case is far from settled, there are two critical ideas here that could serve to guide our thinking as we consider how to recreate our futures.

First, the court affirmed that we are collectively responsible for the development of children. Learning is more than a private act. Second, the reason why literacy matters is because it is it is essential for “participation in our political system.”

Attorney General Dana Nessel advanced a similar argument in an amicus brief that said, “the absence of a minimally adequate public education jeopardizes the very foundation on which our American democracy rests.”

In normal times, this decision, and its reasoning, would have dominated the headlines. Today it passes barely noticed. But the fight over literacy as a fundamental human right, places in front of us two central questions that should guide the choices we are making as we reconstruct ourselves: How do the decisions we make reflect our responsibility to develop our children as fully creative, conscious and critical human beings? And, How are we supporting and encouraging children in their capacity to make become self-determining, capable of making judgements about their lives, their community, and their world? The ancient African greeting, “And how are the children?” can help us imagine very different ways of living.

(WXYZ) — “While the high death toll is painful and worrisome for Petty, who suffers from chronic respiratory symptoms, her anxiety is not just focused on the virus. She has a new, and less discussed, concern: mass-surveillance.” WATCH 


changing

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Frank Joyce
In Honor of Earth Day
Counter Punch

Don’t have a FOMO panic attack if you missed the new Holiday this past Sunday.  There were only a few of us who celebrated it. That’s because only a few of us knew about it.  Next year on  April 18, 2021 there will be more.

What’s the Holiday? Going forward, the Sunday before Earth Day, is going to be Repeal Human Dominion Sunday.

KEEP READING

 

How Do Workers Organize When We Can’t Go to Work?
Asad Haider
Salon

In 1947, the socialist writers C.L.R. James, Grace Lee Boggs, and Raya Dunayevskaya argued that the mass strikes that had led to the formation of the C.I.O. [Congress of Industrial Organizations] during the Great Depression represented an “invading socialist society” that already existed on the factory floor, within and against capitalism.

But the situation changed quickly, as Grace Lee Boggs’s husband, Detroit autoworker James Boggs, would describe in 1963 in “The American Revolution.” After the Second World War and the rapid economic development that followed, the bulk of the population moved from unionized manufacturing jobs to unorganized service jobs, and automation rendered superfluous much of the labor usually performed by society. A growing mass of unemployed people forced the state to introduce welfare programs to prevent civil unrest, but it still tried to avoid paying for people’s survival as much as it could.

KEEP READING

Dispatches from the Coronaverse

Two overweight, slightly confused retirees/veteran adventurers shelter in place in Detroit, Michigan, one of the 2020 pandemic’s hotspots.

 

April 13th, 2020

revolution image final 


Adrienne Maree Brown On Finding Joy During The Coronavirus Crisis

LISTEN HERE

on point
A pedestrian walks past a mural which reads “Stay at Home, Life is Beautiful” Thursday, April 2, 2020, in Los Angeles.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP Photo)

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Thinking for Ourselves

Choices Matter

Shea Howell

For more than 400 years, the decisions made by the powerful in this land have been to increase economic benefits over human life. From the onslaught of violence against indigenous peoples, to the human horrors of slavery, the economic well- being of some has been secured at the expense of the many. Over the centuries, this way of thinking has become commonplace. As James Boggs often said, “We are economically overdeveloped and politically underdeveloped” as a culture.

At moments, this direction has been challenged. Indigenous peoples resisted these choices, carrying on centuries of struggle against colonial expansion, cultural assault,  and the abuse of our earth. African people resisted, rebelled, and rebuilt in the face of enslavement. Immigrants brought ideas of collective and cooperative organizations. Abolitionists, past and present, the progressive era, the labor movement, African liberation, the Women’s movement, queer liberation, disability justice, and ecological protectors have brought out the best in us. Each, in its own way and time, forced us to confront the questions of what kind of people are we? What should be the basis or our relationships to each other? What are our responsibilities to one another and the earth on which we depend?

Once again, we are faced with stark choices, this time brought to us by a global pandemic. But in the response to it, we are seeing the strands of our humanity emerge, after being buried under decades of narrow self-interest and unbridled greed. Across the country people are emphasizing we are in this together. Mutual aid societies, free concerts, poetry, reading, love, and laughter are emerging in ways that are unexpected, bringing delight. Even in the darkest of moments, as people suffer death and pain, a nurse offers a song. We are catching sight of the values and practices that will enable all of us to have a future of joy, care, and compassion.

And we are also being hit full force with the destructive impulses of those who wish to protect economic growth. Some are making crude calculations, easily dismissed.  But the subtle arguments are emerging from our business leaders, now energetically lobbying to “open the economy.” The New York Times reported that corporate leaders “ have become more vocal about the need for the administration to create a plan for the reopening of the economy.”

The Times reports, “The bankers, corporate executives and industrialists plead”  with Trump, “ to reopen the country as soon as possible, while the medical experts beg for more time to curb the coronavirus.”

The President, of course, is not the one who shut down the country. For this we have Governors to thank. Acting often against the advice of business leaders, Governors have made decisions in the public interest.

In Michigan all of our Chambers of Commerce urged Governor Gretchen Whitmer to keep business open, even as the outlines of the pandemic were clear. The day before the initial stay at home order, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce orchestrated a letter from business leaders arguing against a widespread shut down.

Now, as there is a glimmer of hope that we are in fact flattening the curve, they are back at it.

As Stephanie Luce  wrote recently in Labor Notes, “The pandemic is exposing just how dysfunctional our economic system was to begin with. Capitalism is ideologically based on the principles of individualism and competition, but it becomes completely clear in a pandemic that what’s needed is solidarity: collective solutions that help everyone.”

The choices in front of us are as clear as they have ever been in our history.And the pull of destructive, individualistic, economic desires as powerful as ever. Each choice now matters in ways we can only begin to imagine.

turn water om

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MICHIGAN COVID-19 PANDEMIC RESOURCE GUIDE

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MICHIGAN Safe or Just Surveilled?
Tawana Petty on the Fight Against Facial Recognition Surveillance

 

READ HERE

xiaowei
(Image by Xiaowei Wang)


Try Email Marketing with VerticalResponse!

 

April 8th, 2020

revolution image final 


Every crisis, actual or impending, needs to be viewed as an opportunity to bring about profound changes in our society.
– Grace Lee Boggs, The Next American Revolution

 

Thinking for Ourselves

Water Games

Shea Howell


Mayor Duggan assured the city that he has restored water to everyone who has been shut off at his daily Covid-19 briefing on Friday, April 3.  He praised the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department for restoring water to 1,100 households.

Almost everyone who has followed the crisis of water shut offs believes this is not true. Just two days before this announcement, Freshwater Future and We The People of Detroit called upon Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to have the state environmental justice council watch over compliance with her order that requires water be turned on everywhere by April 12.

There are three very good reasons to doubt the Mayor and call for state level enforcement of the governor’s decree. First, the Mayor does not seem to actually know how many people are living without water. He has given wildly conflicting numbers of the dimensions of the problem. He has said he the city delivered fliers about reconnection to 5,000 homes. Meanwhile, Detroit Water Department Director Gary Brown said the had surveyed 9000 homes, where at least 2880 were occupied and without water. Taking the most conservative numbers the city has given us, there are still 1780 households without water. There are more people shut off from water than households  having had water restored.

Activists who have followed this situation closely for more than 6 years believe the real number is closer to 10,000 households. This means the Mayor has achieved about 10% of the goal for water restoration. This is based on estimates from 2019 where of the more than 25,000 accounts were shut off and service was restored to 13,721. That means 11,297 households still lacked water service when shut offs stopped due to weather. Of that total, the water department then believed 10,145 of those accounts were for occupied homes.

Second,  there has been little energy by the administration to restore people to water. Director Brown said the problem is under control, because calls to the city for restoration have slowed. His logic here reflects the refusal of the city to act as aggressively to restore water as it did to turn it off. There have been minimal commitments by the city to publicize the number to call. There has also been minimal effort to make that process efficient.

Activists are putting up signs and handing out leaflets, while calling on the city to put information at food distribution centers, on buses, and in other public places. Radio and TV ads should be provided by the city, as well as  notices sent to all customers. The Mayor does not even display a number to call for water restoration during his daily press briefings. These are simple measures that would say to people, we want to protect you, your family and your neighbors. We will do whatever is necessary to ensure you have clean, plentiful water.

Third, there has been no acknowledgement that the City has been wrong in pursuing a shut off policy, rather than a Water Affordability Plan based on income. It is this policy that has put all of us at risk, degrading the quality of life for people. Since 2014 almost 141,000 shut offs have occurred. Just days before the Covid-19 crisis hit our city, both the Governor and the Mayor denied any relationship between access to clean, affordable water and public health. This flies in the face of logic, history, and now our present, painful experience.

It should be obvious as we move through this crisis that public leadership lacks the necessary value framework to ensure the public health and thriving communities. It should be obvious to everyone that if we allow some of us to live less than full, supported, healthful lives, none of us will survive. We have choices to make.
water

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MICHIGAN COVID-19 PANDEMIC RESOURCE GUIDE

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This Is Our (Caring) Revolution

Ai-jen Poo
On Being

LISTEN

pen


Watch Elder Kathy Sanchez (San Ildefonso Pueblo), co-founder and former Executive Director of Tewa Women United emphasize the Bipowabeh (Butterfly Vision) and how important this medicine is for us today as we navigate and ground ourselves through these times.

tewa


DSC08355-adjust

(photo by Kenneth Smith) 


XRTV Interview: Chris Hedges on Coronavirus, Climate and What Next?

hedges


 


Try Email Marketing with VerticalResponse!

March 31st, 2020

revolution image final
headshot of James and Grace Lee Boggs outdoors, with trees in the background

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Loving your people and loving questions are, I believe, the two most important qualities that an individual needs today to help create the new kind of politics we need to bring about fundamental social change in our country. Even if the people of our respective communities or of our country are acting in ways that we believe are unworthy of human beings, we must still care enough for them so that their lives and ours, their questions and ours, become inseparable. At the same time we must love the questions themselves, first, because every time we act on our convictions, we create new contradictions or new questions; and secondly, because we have no models for revolutionary social change in a country as technologically advanced and politically backwards as ours.

Grace Lee Boggs, “I Must Love the Questions Themselves” 1985

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Thinking for Ourselves

Valuing Life  Shea Howell


For the second time in less than two decades, the US economy has collapsed. Each time, the government and forces of finance have joined together to craft a “bailout.” This time it is several trillion dollars. This time, it took only a few weeks to reveal the shallow, brittle, and often brutal nature of an economic system based on extraction, high tech controls, violence, and constant, unnecessary consumption. The political leaders who told us we cannot afford universal health care, living wages, and the Green New Deal, all allocated the trillions to shore up this economy. Efforts to protect the lives and well-being of ordinary people were minimal, resisted by the most ardent of neo-liberal republicans. They continue to worry that government support for life will “erode” our will to work.

This moment has not only revealed the weaknesses of finance capital, globalization, and the lack of a productive base. It has also revealed the ugly ideological framework undergirding the economic decision-making that has prioritized making war over building peace, pursuing profits rather than protecting people, and measuring human life in monetary terms. From framing education as valuable only if it leads to jobs, to creating massive systems of profit by holding human beings in cages, to forging economies based on weapons and war, some among us have lost any sense of the value of human life, the joys we take in one another, and the sanctity of places that hold, nurture, and protect us.

For some, if human beings are not able to “produce,” they do not deserve to survive. This philosophy was displayed vividly last week as the Texas lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick observed that if he were asked, “As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?” he would say: “If that’s the exchange, I’m all in.” The President has given voice to the same idea, as he threatens to “reopen the economy by Easter,” saying, “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF.” In other words, saving “the “economy” not only costs public money, it costs lives. And that is a legitimate trade off.

So, we are faced the opportunity for a public conversation on what are human beings for? What makes life matter?

Some of us are answering this question with affirmations of connection, care, compassion, and creativity. Mutual aid societies have sprung up everywhere. People are connecting, sharing,  and offering support to one other daily. Policies are being enacted to protect life, ensuring human rights to water, shelter, safety, and food. Music is flowing from front porches and over internet symphonies. Artistic visions are shared from images of sidewalk chalk to poetry slams.

This crisis will not be over quickly. We have choices to make about how we will reconstruct our lives. For many years, in cities, towns, and small communities across the country people have been evolving the values and practices of the living, local economies we all need to survive. Emphasizing  local production for local needs, cultivating art and care, and forging connections over private profit. These are the places we need to learn from so that we can accelerate the values and practices that support life. We know that an economy built on care, stewardship, and the development and protection of people and the earth that sustains us is the only way we will survive and thrive.


M4BL


Intentional Inclusion: Cultivating Circles of Support Webinar
Thursday, April 2nd
3 PM

Who among us doesn’t have a tribe, or a village, or a network of friends and family that supports us? In good times and challenging ones, we use circles of support to help us out. The same goes for people with disabilities, only they are sometimes even more intentional in seeking out just the right people to be part of the Circle. Come hear from a parent (Janice) and sibling (Emma) about how they have used Circles of Support with their son and brother, and how it’s also a model that has been used in schools and communities around the country. Emma has also had great success using Circles of Support with her elementary school students.

MORE INFO HERE

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#GreenStimulus and Beyond: A Resource

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Dear friends and colleagues,

I hope you are faring well in these strange and frightening times.

A decade ago most of you joined me in calling for clemency for David Gilbert, now 75, who has spent many decades in prison for his involvement in support of anti-war and Black liberation struggles in the 60’s,70s and 80s.

He is apart of our extended political family and we come to you once again to see if you will agree to sign a letter asking for David to be freed by the governor of New York on humanitarian grounds. We think there might be an opening and friends and comrades in NY state, along with Chesa Boudin(David’s son and the new progressive DA in San Francisco) are working hard to press Cuomo to reconsider. Read a recent article in the New Yorker on David’s case.

Here is the link to sign the letter. I have also attached the list of all those that signed last time. Please sign up asap before next Friday, April 3. Do not post this letter it is not public.

With love and in solidarity,

Barbara Ransby, Professor of History, University of Illinois at Chicago

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Apocalyptic and Revolutionary Education in Times of Pandemic

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March 24th, 2020

After This? Care

Shea Howell

What will our world look like after this virus? This is the question we all need to be talking about now, even as we struggle with managing our new day to day reality. One of the most hopeful signs that we can come out of this crisis better than how we went into it is the emerging recognition of how interdependent we are on one another for our health and well- being. For example, this week in New York, facing the most severe outbreak of the escalating virus, Governor Andrew Cuomo offered a version of what is becoming a commonly understood value. He said simply, “We need everyone to be safe. Otherwise no one can be safe.”

After decades of public policies that have encouraged individualism, selfishness, greed, dehumanization, and destruction, we are all facing the reality that our lives are indeed linked. None of us can be healthy or whole, as long as some of us are not.

Nowhere is this shifting of perspective clearer than in the struggle by people for clean, affordable water. For decades people have been advocating two basic ideas: water is a human right and a sacred trust. They have been offering sensible policies embodied in water affordability plans that base payment for water on household income, rather than usage. A key aspect of these plans is that they would stop the draconian water shut offs that in Detroit, for example, meant that between 2014 and 2018, 112,000 households went without water, some for months and years. In cities and towns throughout this land, people shut off from water because they could not pay high water bills cannot do the most basic first line of defense against this virus. They cannot wash their hands. They cannot protect themselves, their children or their neighbors.

Two weeks ago, less than 5 cities took the demand to provide clean, affordable water to everyone, regardless of ability to pay, seriously. Today more than 289 communities have stopped water shut offs. Nearly 128 million Americans who could not turn on the tap to wash their hands, clean their homes or prepare their food, can now do so. This is a major contribution to our collective health. This must become the new reality for us.

In Detroit, we are suffering the consequences of long term shut offs. This Friday a broad coalition of activists, community organizations, and faith-based groups held a press conference to demand that the mayor and governor take swift action to restore water to the more than 9000 homes currently shut off. In spite of the Governor’s order to turn the water back on, the city had been moving slowly. By Thursday they had only managed to turn back on 434 houses.

The coalition is calling on the governor and the mayor to provide residential water access through emergency potable water stations in the city. They also are asking for bulk water, sanitizing products, and disinfectants to be made immediately available to people. Organizers explained that much of the independent water deliveries that people have come to depend on are no longer possible. And the City is moving too slowly to provide water. Meanwhile, bottled water is in short supply as people throughout the metro area have purchased large quantities, emptying selves and limiting supplies.

Many communities around Michigan and around the country are facing the same problems as Detroit. Weeks, months and sometimes years of living without running water has resulted in crumbling systems, not quickly fixed. More and more people are recognizing that the notion of shutting people off from water was a mean spirited, self-defeating notion of government that harms our collective well-being. The Michigan congressional delegation is leading the way in creating new national policies and understandings about the values we need to come out of this crisis. Reps. Rashida Tlaib, Debbie Dingell, and Dan Kildee sent a letter to congressional leaders, asking congress to shield people from high water bills and water shutoffs.

After this crisis, we should all be thinking about our responsibilities to one another and to the earth on which we depend very differently. We are learning, slowly and painfully, that creating ways of living that emphasize care for all is our only way to survive.

Coronavirus policy must account for those in Michigan jails and prisons

On Being with Krista Tippett
Rebecca Solnit
Falling Together

The singular writer and thinker on how kindness and compassion can blossom in times of emergency.

Listen on:

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From The Shalom Center

(Gaia and Shekhina Speak: Earth, Water, Fire, Air © Arlene Goldbard 2020)

“What can console us in the face of the Great Unknown? I thought I understood that safety was always an illusion: any of us could be struck down at any moment. But having the illusion of safety erased, that’s uncertainty of another magnitude, so vastly out of proportion to the “normal,” default reality that words can’t do it justice.” KEEP READING

March 17th, 2020

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As the coronavirus/COVID-19 affects more and more people, you might be wondering what to do.

Join Healing by Choice! and PeoplesHub for an online webinar on:

Immune System Boosting Tools for Self and Community in the time of Coronavirus/COVID-19

Saturday, March 21, 2020,
2pm-4pm est

Join us for sharing from a diversity of health practices on ways to approach respiratory illness and immune boosting for individuals and community.

We will have people sharing from the lens of: Chinese medicine, allopathic (MD) medicine, naturopathic medicine, and Iyengar Yoga philosophy and practice.

We will also share ideas for how to continue to maintain community connection, even in the face of possible isolation, so that our communal immune system remains strong.

For now, please save the date. More information on the panelists and registration coming soon.

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“The Only Way to Survive Is by Taking Care of One Another.” – GLB

10 Years Later. Still So Relevent. 

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Thinking for Ourselves

Reconnection and Care

Shea Howell

It has taken a global pandemic to stop water shut offs and restore it to homes in Detroit. Barely two weeks ago, the Governor and the Mayor denied the request of activist groups to stop water shut offs for public health concerns.  While we are all grateful that the city and state are acknowledging the danger, water shut offs create for everyone, state officials need to do some serious reflection about how they have been thinking about our connections to each other and their public responsibilities.

Robert Gordon, the Michigan Health Director said at the beginning of March, that “there are significant challenges faced by residents whose water has been shut off” but “those challenges do not rise to the level of an imminent danger” because data don’t indicate a “causal association between water shutoffs and water-borne disease.”  Seriously?

As Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha of Flint said, It’s a bit ridiculous to even have such a conversation,” she told Bridge. “Water is a medical and public health necessity. The fact that we have to wait to see the deleterious outcomes is backwards and antiprevention and anti-common sense and anti-science.” She concluded, “If Flint taught us anything, it’s the need to focus on prevention and not wait until we can prove harm.”

Now we are facing a crisis that denial cannot evade. And it is a crisis that is revealing the brutality embedded in the decisions made by our Mayor and his refusal to act to stop water shut offs for more than 5 years.

As many as 10,000 or more homes are now without running water. So far, the City has managed to turn the water on in 73 of them. This is unconscionable. When the city wanted to shut people off from water to do the bidding of wall street banks, trucks raced up streets, shutting off whole neighborhoods, without regard for the chaos and devastation left in their wake. The city shut off more than one in eight households in a matter of months. Now, with many homes facing problems caused by the water shut offs, we are being told the city needs to hire plumbers to be able to restore service.

Meanwhile the city has set up a system to reconnect people that simply doesn’t work. Requiring cash in hand before scheduling reconnection for people, setting up a single phone number that was quickly overwhelmed, and providing no sense of urgency, the restoration plan is collapsing under its own callous incompetency.

Mayor Duggan prides himself in his ability to solve problems.  He is often considered obsessed with tearing down houses at a speed that he claims is the envy of other civic leaders around the country. He does not have that same obsession for the well-being of nearly 1/3 of Detroiters who have had their water shut off.

This crisis is defining who we are as people. It is showing us that unless we care for the well-being of everyone, no one is safe or secure. We are reaping the chaos of disconnection. We now need to reconnect the waters of everyone, as we restore our relationships with a sense of compassion and care.

Wash Your Hands
Dori Midnight

We are humans relearning to wash our hands.
Washing our hands is an act of love
Washing our hands is an act of care
Washing our hands is an act that puts the hypervigilant body at ease
Washing our hands helps us return to ourselves by washing away what does not serve.

Wash your hands
like you are washing the only teacup left that your great grandmother carried across the ocean, like you are washing the hair of a beloved who is dying, like you are washing the feet of Grace Lee Boggs, Beyonce, Jesus, your auntie, Audre Lorde, Mary Oliver- you get the picture.
Like this water is poured from a jug your best friend just carried for three miles from the spring they had to climb a mountain to reach.
Like water is a precious resource
made from time and miracle

Wash your hands and cough into your elbow, they say.
Rest more, stay home, drink water, have some soup, they say.
To which I would add: burn some plants your ancestors burned when there was fear in the air,
Boil some aromatic leaves in a pot on your stove until your windows steam up.
Open your windows
Eat a piece of garlic every day. Tie a clove around your neck.
Breathe.

My friends, it is always true, these things.
It has already been time.
It is always true that we should move with care and intention, asking
Do you want to bump elbows instead? with everyone we meet.
It is always true that people are living with one lung, with immune systems that don’t work so well, or perhaps work too hard, fighting against themselves. It is already true that people are hoarding the things that the most vulnerable need.
It is already time that we might want to fly on airplanes less and not go to work when we are sick.

It is already time that we might want to know who in our neighborhood has cancer, who has a new baby, who is old, with children in another state, who has extra water, who has a root cellar, who is a nurse, who has a garden full of elecampane and nettles.
It is already time that temporarily non-disabled people think about people living with chronic illness and disabled folks, that young people think about old people.
It is already time to stop using synthetic fragrances to not smell like bodies, to pretend like we’re all not dying. It is already time to remember that those scents make so many of us sick.

It is already time to not take it personally when someone doesn’t want to hug you.
It is already time to slow down and feel how scared we are.

We are already afraid, we are already living in the time of fires.

When fear arises,
and it will,
let it wash over your whole body instead of staying curled up tight in your shoulders.
If your heart tightens,
contract
and expand.
science says: compassion strengthens the immune system
We already know that, but capitalism gives us amnesia
and tricks us into thinking it’s the thing that protect us
but it’s the way we hold the thing.
The way we do the thing.

Those of us who have forgotten amuletic traditions,
we turn to hoarding hand sanitizer and masks.
we find someone to blame.
we think that will help.
want to blame something?
Blame capitalism. Blame patriarchy. Blame white supremacy.

It is already time to remember to hang garlic on our doors
to dip our handkerchiefs in thyme tea
to rub salt on our feet
to pray the rosary, kiss the mezuzah, cleanse with an egg.
In the middle of the night,
when you wake up with terror in your belly,
it is time to think about stardust and geological time
redwoods and dance parties and mushrooms remediating toxic soil.
it is time
to care for one another
to pray over water
to wash away fear
every time we wash our hands

Today in the U.S., a number of contemporary poets carry the torch of their work pushing for social change in their communities.
KEEP READING

March 11th, 2020

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Thinking for Ourselves

Control and Containment
Shea Howell

The control and containment of human beings is a primary aim of right-wing forces around the globe. The efforts to refine methods of control are accelerating under Donald Trump. Although he is by no means the chief architect of these efforts, or solely responsible, there is no doubt that he and his allies recognize the political and financial gains to be made in surveillance, control, and containment of large groups of people. They are fostering fear and distrust to manipulate people and protect their own wealth and power.

We experience control and containment as isolated policies. But there is a deep connection among the moves to privatize education, establish for-profit prisons, expand surveillance technologies, increase access by law enforcement to personal data, open immigration detention centers, enact abusive educational practices, and increase militarization in communities of color, especially those with high immigrant populations. While the “school to prison pipeline” has been well documented, this larger network of control and containment is less understood. It is evolving into a multi-billion dollar industry, putting in place mechanisms that undermine the very foundations of democratic action.

Consider the events that have come to light most recently.

First, we learned this week that Erik Prince, founder of Blackwater, a vicious, private security force, has been working with Project Veritas, “a conservative group that has gained attention using hidden cameras and microphones for sting operations on news organizations, Democratic politicians and liberal advocacy groups.” Prince has joined with them to create a private intelligence agency, using former CIA and M-16 spies to infiltrate progressive groups. The Michigan office of the American Federation of Teachers was one of the targets of an operation to gain information and discredit its leadership. Prince has close ties to Trump, both through his business dealings and personal relationships. Betsy DeVos is his sister.

We also learned this week of the use of a new software tool by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials in New York that has been intentionally rigged to produce results to make detention of individuals a guaranteed outcome. Creating the illusion of neutral, mathematical decisions, the tool has been “perverted” to be used as “an unconstitutional cudgel that’s been rigged to detain virtually everyone ICE’s New York Field Office brings in, even when the government itself believes they present a minimal threat to public safety.”

Also this week, in cities across the country, ICE began an intense period of surveillance, arrest and public intimidation. They are deploying elite forces and SWAT units to cities deemed unfriendly to Trump’s immigration policies. Their directive is to “arrest as many people as possible” and to “flood the streets.” Dubbed Operation Palladium, they are employing door to door tactics, with agents in SWAT gear. Mindful of how this looks in the media, tactics are designed to be sporadic.

Many of the people swept up in this effort will be marked through the use of facial recognition technologies. This week we also learned of the use by ICE of facial recognition to find undocumented people by their drivers license photos, stored in state data bases.

No doubt many of the people arrested will find their way to detention in Criminal Alien Requirement( CAR) prisons, like the one in northern Michigan. These are specifically for non-citizens and form a for profit shadow prison network. Bárbara Suárez Galeano, organizing director with Detention Watch Network explained that these prisons are often located in rural areas, “hidden away from the public eye.” Their practices are shielded from public scrutiny by private profiteers like GEO and CoreCivic, both major Trump allies.

This increase in control and containment is exactly why public conversations about technologies are so important. Here in Detroit, we are fortunate to have strong community- based leadership challenging the assumption that these practices will make us safer. Many of us know they are designed to control us and make money off of containing our bodies.

These are dangerous times. They demand we understand how fearful the forces of power and privilege are of our capacities to create new ways to protect and care for one another. Anything less moves us toward high-tech barbarism.


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Interfaith Readings
People’s Water Board, Faith Outreach Committee
Hebrew:

~ “For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy and save the needy from death.” Psalm 72:12-13

~ Thirsty for Torah “They traveled three days in the wilderness and found no water” (Exodus 22), some mystically inclined Rabbis opined: “Water actually stands for Torah, as it is said (by Isaiah, 55:1), ‘Ho, all who are thirsty, come for water.’ Having gone for three days without Torah, the prophets among them stepped forth and legislated that the Torah should be read on the second and fifth days of the week as well as on Shabbat so that they would not let three days pass without Torah” (Babylonian Talmud , BavaKama 82a).

~ Water is one of the chief means by which God provides life to us every day. In the Jewish tradition both the Torah and water are inseparable sources of life.

~ “He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy; he will crush the oppressor.” Psalm 72:4

Isaiah 44:3 For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:

Muslim:

Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, said:“There are no rights that the son of Adam is more entitled to than these four rights: a house in which he lives, a garment to cover his nakedness, a piece of bread, and water.” Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhi?

~ References to water appear numerous times in the Qur’an. Islam ascribes the most sacred qualities to water as a life-giving, sustaining and purifying resource. The Arabic word for water, “ma’aa,” appears not less than sixty times throughout the Qur’an.

~ Water as a commons to all humanity “Humans are co-owners in three things: water, fire, and pastures (and therefore must share them)” (Muslim)

~ “We made out of water every living thing” (chapter 21, verse 30)

~ “…It is He who sends down water upon you from the sky with which to purify you…” Surah al-Anfal (The Spoils of War) 8:11

~ “O you who believe! When you prepare for prayer wash your faces and your hands up to the elbows, and wipe your heads and wash your feet up to the ankles…” Surah Maidah (The Table spread) 5:6

Christian:

~ Revelation 21:6 “And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.”

~ John 4:10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.

~ Matthew 10:42 “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”

~ John 7:37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jusus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.

ENCYCLICAL, Excerpts on Water – Pope Francis, June 18, 2015

Native American:

Someone needs to explain to me why wanting clean drinking water makes you an activist, and why proposing to destroy water with chemical warfare doesn’t make a corporation a terrorist. —Winona LaDuke, Anishinaabe

shelly


shelly

 


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March 4th, 2020

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Thinking For Ourselves

Connected Crisis

Shea Howell

Governor Gretchen Whitmer needs to rethink her refusal to declare a statewide moratorium on water shut-offs. If there is one major lesson from the spread of Covid-19, it is that we are all connected. More than three months ago, people went to purchase dinner in an open market in Wuhan China. This was a very ordinary, everyday task. But it was there that some few people were exposed to a new virus, emerging in crowded cages of live animals. Today the virus has spread to 58 countries. Over 83,000 cases have been reported and most people believe this is an understatement. At least 2,900 people have died, many of them health care workers. This week, for the first time, the daily toll of new cases outside China has begun to outstrip the rate of infection there. The first person in the US died from it.

This disease appears to spread through the most casual of contact, a hand that covered a cough, grabs an item, puts it on a surface and passes it on. Or droplets expelled from sneezes and coughs float through the air, remaining alive to be picked up by passers by. Much has yet to be learned about the incubation, spread and duration of this disease, but it is disrupting lives and challenging health systems globally.

In Michigan, Gov. Whitmer has taken aggressive action to both prepare the state and encourage residents to engage in safe behaviors. On Friday she activated the state’s emergency operations center to coordinate responses to the virus. More than 350 people in Michigan recently travelled to China and they are being monitored by local health officials. No one has shown any systems, but the Governor is acknowledging the potential spread here.

State actions are critically important, as we are all aware of how limited the Federal response is likely to be. At various points as the news of the virus spread, Trump and his men have cheered it on as good for business because it will hurt China, considered it a media hoax, said it is just a cold being politically weaponized by Democrats, and urged people to buy stocks. Now vice president Mike Pence is in charge. He is they guy who thought prayer was the best response to HIV-AIDS. These nonsensical ideas are backed by actual cuts in our infrastructure. As Paul Krugman reported, Trump consistently cut funding for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention with as much as an 80% cut in resources dedicated to fight global outbreaks. He also shut down the entire global-health-security area of the National Security Council. This week the biggest step Trump took was to make sure Mike Pence approves all public statements made by government scientists before they are released.

This corruption at the federal level is partly why people are calling on state governments to step up their capacities. Michigan is among the first to act decisively.

Beginning this week, Governor Whitmer will launch a handwashing campaign on radio and social media, aimed at slowing the spread of the virus as well as other diseases like the flu and Hepatitis A.  Washing hands requires water. As study after study has demonstrated, this is the single most important way to maintain public health.

Crisis can clarify what is important for all of us. Water is a human right not only because it is essential for life, but because it connects all of us to one another. The Governor has the opportunity to turn this crisis into a moment when we all reconsider our connections to each other and our responsibilities for how we live and share this planet. We need a moratorium on water shut offs statewide and a serious rethinking of how we care for each other.

News from the People’s Water Board
Statement on Gov. Whitmer Inaction on Water Shutoffs, Public Health Safety

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The Miracle of Kindness

 

February 26th, 2020

Thinking for Ourselves

Fear for Profit

Shea Howell

Facial recognition is big business. Since September the number of police agencies with access to this technology has doubled. Nearly 900 agencies across 44 states now have systems that not only increase police capacities, but interface with home security systems. One such system,  Ring, is promoted as increasing neighborhood safety. Ring spokeswoman Yassi Shahmiri says, “When communities and local police work together, safer neighborhoods can become a reality.” In most cases, this new, hyper-invasive technology has never been proven to be more effective than other, more human ways of creating safety.

One mother, in a suburban home, noticed that much of the behavior caused by people using these home surveillance systems can increase tensions in communities, not decrease them. She commented in a recent article: “We’re not a neighborhood that’s unsafe. We’re also not a neighborhood where people spend a lot of time outside, interacting with each other, so we turn our Rings on and start dissecting all the children. Shouldn’t we be encouraging each other to go outside, say hello and not just get alerts that you’re walking past?”

Spreading facial recognition technologies to combined police and home use is only one new avenue of money making. The newest thrust is to target school districts and exploit the fears communities have for child safety.

While some members of the Detroit City Council are resisting extended public conversation about surveillance technologies, parents in other cities are arguing that school districts are turning “our kids into lab rats in a high tech experiment in privacy invasion.” In early February the small city of Lockport, New York turned on technology to monitor its eight schools. The operation of the new technology caps a two year fight to block it. One of the most vocal opponents, Stefanie Coyle, deputy director of the Education Policy Center for the New York Civil Liberties Union said,  “Subjecting 5-year-olds to this technology will not make anyone safer, and we can’t allow invasive surveillance to become the norm in our public spaces.” She explained, “Reminding people of their greatest fears is a disappointing tactic, meant to distract from the fact that this product is discriminatory, unethical and not secure.”

Digital student monitoring is growing and it is contributing to data bases that will track, monitor, identify, misidentify, predict, and profile children. As Education Week reported in May, Florida lawmakers are planning to introduce a statewide database “that would combine individuals’ educational, criminal-justice and social-service records with their social media data, then share it all with law enforcement.”
Charlie Warzel recently wrote about this new K-12 Surveillance state explaining  the Lockport School District facial recognition technology has “the capacity to go back and create a map of the movements and associations of any student or teacher.” There have been gunfire-detecting microphones installed in New Mexico schools and playgrounds that require iris scans. A recent ProPublica report explored the deployment of unreliable ‘aggression detector’ cameras in places like Queens, New York. The increase is most likely linked to the number of security and surveillance technology vendors courting school district budgets.”

These new technologies are being aggressively marketed to school systems by claiming to provide safety. What they provide is profit to companies and data to marketers. They also provide dangerous new capacities for police powers to misuse so called “predictive” data.

The public debate that erupted last spring in Detroit around facial recognition technologies has helped educate all of us about the choices before us. The City Council has a responsibility to provide ongoing opportunities for us to discuss, learn and evaluate the direction we are being pushed by corporations who know that stoking fear is good for business.


BH-Flyer-Discotech-2-29-20-birwood

A note from Craig Regester @ Semester in Detroit

Semester in Detroit is thrilled to welcome the newest member of our team, long-time Detroit educator and community activist, Kim Sherobbi. We first met Kim when she was the inaugural building manager for the Cass Corridor Commons back when it launched in 2011. In addition, SiD Faculty Director, Stephen Ward, has worked with Kim for years on the board of the Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership, and more recently with her neighborhood-based organization, Birwood House.

The decision to hire Kim grew from SiD’s 10th Anniversary celebrations in April 2019, and in particular, is motivated by one of the main goals for that weekend: Challenge us to create meaningful and sustainable practices to share leadership with our Detroit community partners for the future development and direction of Semester in Detroit.

Kim’s initial work with Semester in Detroit will focus on three areas: 1) deepening how we prepare and support students to engage in community work, 2) helping us to develop a more strategic approach to community partnership, and 3) exploring new approaches to gathering feedback from community partners to further advance our mission.

Please join us in welcoming Kim Shrrobbi as the first Semester in Detroit Community Advisor. Feel free to reach out and send greetings to Kim at: kthinketh@gmail.com; and look out for more about Kim’s work in the coming months and year ahead!
kim

February 14th, 2020

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Thinking for Ourselves

Lives That Matter

Shea Howell

Many people hoped Governor Gretchen Whitmer would bring a more thoughtful, responsible approach to the education crisis. But her recent comments on the controversial third grade reading law and the future of public schools demonstrate a lack of serious understanding of what is happening to our children.

In her State of the State address, the Governor framed her concerns for our children in the smallest, most dangerous terms. Rather than beginning with the question of how are they?, or what is affecting their lives and deepest aspirations?, she linked education to jobs.  She said, “Protecting our workforce is one step, preparing our workforce is another. And that starts with our kids. Michigan ranks in the bottom 10 states for overall literacy. We’re doing something about that, too.”

Her goal for education was clear, “Ensuring that every child gets the skills to graduate and succeed in our workforce.” She explained that the workforce she wants to encourage will be with “good paying jobs–jobs in construction, IT, and advanced manufacturing. But they demand specialized skills training. Meeting our goal and filling these jobs depends on more than just passing a bill. It depends on our young people.”

Most of our young people are painfully aware of how inadequate this vision is for their lives. They know in their bones that the world is in crisis, our communities in chaos. Across our weary globe they are leading the rest of us into actions, large and small, to challenge the way things are, in a desperate effort to protect human life and the planet on which we depend.

In a recent article on the climate crisis, journalist Rebecca Solnit talked about the need for a deeper ethical understanding of our place in the world. She asks us to think about how this crisis demands more of us than ever before. She says,

“We must expand our imaginations and act on that bigger understanding of our place in the world and our impact on the future. That means making radical changes, like our homes and transit being powered by renewables, our government not plotting more extractivism. It means leaving fossil fuels in the ground, where they belong. We need to remind ourselves why these changes are necessary: that the earth is finite, that actions have consequences, that they go beyond the horizon of what we can see and hear, in time and space, that those who come after us have rights we can’t just annihilate. We must make sweeping changes by the end of the coming decade, and we must stick to them afterward by remembering why they matter.” 

In contrast, our governor offers the opportunity to become plumbers, electricians, and IT experts. Hopefully, we will have a world where we will need plumbers, electricians, and IT people, along with artists, bakers, chemists, carpenters, dentists, farmers, music makers  and zoologists. But going to school to get a job, no matter how “well paying” is a small vision, sure to diminish any child.

Those of us who have worked closely with children and seen them develop into thoughtful, warm, expansive, creative, and caring adults know it was because they saw themselves capable of developing lives that make a difference in the world. They felt loved and cared for, seen and encouraged. They learned about their past, respected who they were, and felt supported in finding their ways to who they hoped to become.

Today, our children are killing themselves. Recently Bridge Magazine wrote that “Michigan adolescents and teens are committing suicide at nearly double the rate of just over a decade ago.” This surge in suicide is among the highest in the nation.

Every day as children walk through metal detectors to enter crumbling, crowded schools, where they are often ignored or seen as a problem to be controlled, their lives made smaller and smaller.

Schools need to change, to become part of the radical reimagining of how we engage our children, and the rest of us, in creating ways of living that will sustain us, enrich the fullness of our lives, regenerate our communities, and protect our earth. This is no time for small, worn ways of thinking. Now, more than ever, we need education that enables us to create a new, life affirming world.

 

FREE DanceAbility Workshop
Let’s energize our hope, joy and power on Saturday February 15th by dancing together! This is likely our last “drop-in” workshop till May, so come check dance improvisation for everyone…however you move/sense…whether or not you’re a trained dancer…

 

…And then you can sign up for our March/April class series if you want! See class series info/registration link at the bottom of this e-mail.

 

For our Sat Feb 15th workshop:

Doors open at Light Box at 11am and the workshop is from 11:30 to 1:30. IT’S FREE! (Donations appreciated but never obligated.)

 

Click HERE for location details, to request accommodations by Monday, and to let us know you’re coming. We’ll again have an emotional support person from Healing By Choice present to provide extra emotional support to anyone who might be struggling with emotions like grief, anger, anxiety, or overwhelming joy because of gaining access to DANCE.

 

And click here for more info and to register for the March/April class series!

 

Justice system needs transformation, not quick fixes

Tell the Michigan Public Service Commission to make DTE work for us!

 

 


Try Email Marketing with VerticalResponse!

February 4th, 2020

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Thinking for Ourselves

Hand Washing

Shea Howell

The fragility of modern life was underscored this week. The spread of the novel coronavirus has been rapid. This weekend the death toll passed 300, with the first person outside of China dying of the disease. Authorities are reassuring people that there is no immediate risk to public health in the US. The New York Times reported “While the virus is a serious public health concern, the risk to most people outside China remains very low, and seasonal flu is a more immediate threat.”

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) gave a sober picture of what we are facing. They explained, “This is a very serious public health situation, and CDC and the Federal Government has and will continue to take aggressive action to protect the public.” As of January 31, they reported:

Every day this week China has reported additional cases. Today’s numbers are a 26% increase since yesterday.  Over the course of the last week, there have been nearly 7,000 new cases reported. This tells us the virus is continuing to spread rapidly throughout China. The reported deaths have continued to rise as well, and additional locations outside China have continued to report cases. There has been an increasing number of reports of person-to-person spread. And now most recently, a report from the new England journal of medicine of asymptomatic spread. While we still don’t have the full picture and we can’t predict how this situation will play out in the U.S., the current situation, the current scenario is a cause for concern.

This concern led to the first quarantine of over 50 years affecting people who are traveling from Wuhan to the US. “While we understand this action may seem drastic, our goal today, tomorrow, and always continues to be the safety of the American public.”

The primary tool to employ against this virus is good old fashioned hand washing. In exploring the global spread of the virus, The Times explained, “To avoid any viral illness, experts advise washing your hands frequently and avoiding your office or school when you’re sick.”

Earlier in the week, Elizabeth Rosenthal who worked as an emergency room physician and New York Times Correspondent during the SARS outbreak in China in 2002 and 2003, wrote about how she and her children got through that crisis with minimal disruption to their daily lives. She explained, “My main takeaways from that experience for ordinary people on the ground: 1) Wash your hands frequently. 2) Don’t go to the office when you are sick. Don’t send your kids to school or day care when they are ill, either.”

Her children attended public school every day during the outbreak. She reported, “The teacher led the kids in frequent hand washing throughout the day at classroom sinks, while singing a prolonged “hand washing song” to ensure they did more than a cursory pass under the faucet with water only.

As a result of this emphasis on hand washing she “observed something of a public health miracle: Not only did no child get SARS, but it seemed no student was sick with anything at all for months on end. No stomach bugs. No common colds. Attendance was more or less perfect.”

Rosenthal concludes, “The best first-line defenses against SARS or the new coronavirus or most any virus at all are the ones that Grandma and common sense taught us, after all.”

And along with Grandma and common sense, the number one strategy advocated by the Center for Disease Control, is hand washing.

The harsh reality in Detroit is that far too many people cannot engage in this simple strategy. They cannot wash their hands. They are victims of an inhuman system of water shut-offs that puts them and everyone else at risk.

If Mayor Duggan cannot be swayed by concern for basic human rights, compassion for children or human decency, perhaps he will notice that he is intentionally fostering circumstances that violate our most common understandings of what we all need to do. This week is another reminder of why we need to stop all water shut-offs and ensure that everyone in our city has access to clean, safe water. We need a water affordability plan now.

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This piece is written in honor of every person who, for reasons of the sediment of generational pain or the violence of targeting and/or random accidents, have died before we got the chance to find out if they were elders or just old. There’s a reason why people vote more conservatively as they get older. The ones who survive are disproportionately the ones who have been most protected. We are missing whole sections of our people.  If you know their names, whisper or shout them now. Actively miss them. If you don’t know their names, remember them anyway. Miss them still. It’s that space, that emptiness behind your back, where someone should have been who looks like you, who experienced things that you might have learned from, who loved and fought their generation’s version of the same loves and fights as you do. KEEP READING

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jobes

 

Detroit: Twenty Minutes Apart

A Musical Conversation about Neighborhood, Race & Friendship by Kresge Award Winner Robert Jones and Folk Hall of Famer Matt Watroba
On Thursday, February 20, 7 pm, at the Center for Detroit Arts & Culture Theater at Marygrove, the veteran Detroit musicians Robert Jones and Matt Watroba will present this multi-media production with music and storytelling.  

The event is free and open to the public.
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The Huntington Woods Peace, Citizenship, and Education Project is organizing a campaign to persuade a public broadcasting station, either Detroit Public Television, WDET Public Radio, or Michigan Public Radio to air Democracy Now! (“DN!”).  DN! produces a daily, global, independent news hour hosted mainly by award-winning journalists Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez.

On DN! a diversity of voices provide a unique and sometimes provocative perspective on global events, not often found on mainstream US media. These include independent journalists, grassroots leaders, artists and academics, African Americans, women, Hispanics, Asians, and activists in areas such as labor, immigration, the environmental, LBGTQI rights, disability rights, and peace and justice politics. Getting DN! on the air in the Detroit Metropolitan area would be a great public service to our community.

DN’s reporting includes breaking daily news headlines and in-depth interviews with people on the front lines of the world’s most pressing issues.  In more than two decades of fearless independent reporting, its groundbreaking coverage of critical global events have included the following.

1999: The DN! team covered the World Trade Organization’s meeting in Seattle, broadcasting an eight-day special titled The Battle of Seattle which documented the action in the streets and the explosion of anti-corporate globalization activism onto the world stage.

2003: With the U.S. mainstream press parroting Bush administration claims of Iraqi WMD’s and  involvement in 9/11, DN! provided world-wide daily reporting with experts challenging these assertions. DN! also covered the massive global protests against the invasion of Iraq, largely ignored by  U.S. media.

2004: Amy Goodman was the only reporter on the plane with ousted Haitian President Jean-Bernard Aristide as he defied the U.S. government and attempted to return to Haiti from forced exile in Africa.

2005: DN! provided extensive Hurricane Katrina coverage, from the Ninth Ward to the crises at the Superdome and convention center, exposing the government’s inadequate response.

2004-2020: DN! has covered climate change continuously for more than ten years, from the 2009 United Nations Conference of the Parties, through the 400,000-person People’s Climate March in New York City in 2014 and the Paris Climate Summit in 2015, to the unsuccessful 2018 Madrid Climate summit and this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, focusing on the inspirational work of 16 year old Swedish climate activist, Greta Thunberg.

2011: DN! provided on-the-ground  coverage of the Arab Spring, with correspondents on location in Egypt and Libya. DN!’s incisive live reports from Tahrir Square reverberated globally, breaking through the Egyptian government’s electronic media shutdown.

2011: DN! extensively covered Occupy Wall  Street, from its inception to the dramatic standoffs between protesters and police.

2016: DN! was one of the few media outlets to cover the protest encampment at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota. DN! reported on the indigenous peoples’ unprecedented resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline, engaging  the world’s attention.

Today: DN! has continuously covered the Israeli/Palestinian conflict without ignoring Israel’s violation of Palestinian human rights, as the corporate media usually does. In 2018 DN! covered the Gazans’ Great March of Return where approximately 200 peaceful Palestinian demonstrators were killed by Israeli snipers.

Today: While the mainstream media obsessed over “Russiagate” and “Irangate,” DN! also covered grass roots anti-government protests in Lebanon, Chile, France, Bolivia, Haiti, and Hong Kong

These many accomplishments and others explain the rapid expansion of DN!’s reach:  One of public broadcasting’s fastest growing programs, DN! now broadcasts through more than 1,400 non-commercial TV and radio stations in the US and around the world including nearly 100 public television and public radio channels and over 300 community and college radio stations.

While DN! airs in Lansing, Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Muskegon and elsewhere in Michigan, it is nearly absent in southeast Michigan. (It can be seen via several expensive cable providers in just a handful of communities, not including Detroit.) When Amy Goodman’s staff requested Detroit Public TV to consider adding DN! to its schedule several years ago, they were rejected. In the current grass-roots campaign, we are mounting a grass-roots campaign of public pressure to bring change to the priorities of our public broadcasting stations.

Detroiters deserve to see and hear DN!, one of the world’s leading U.S independent daily news broadcasts.  Many prominent peace and justice organizations and individuals) have joined the campaign, including the Boggs Center, and the list grows daily.

If you are interested in joining or assisting with this campaign, please go to don-dn@googlegroups.com.

January 28th, 2020

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EB4DD2F6-74A8-41CC-BF13-773225507632
All middle school children are welcome at 11:00 every Saturday morning.
This semester the Freedom School is focusing on reading skills and African American literature.
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Thinking for Ourselves

Support Community Input, Reject Benson Amendments

Shea Howell

This week nearly 200 people attended the Detroit City Council meeting hosted in district 5, by President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield at Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church. Much of the meeting was devoted to the progress made on the “People’s Bill of Rights,” a package of bills “aimed at creating upward economic and social mobility for Detroiters focusing on low income and generational Detroiters.”  Sheffield, who had introduced the package, acknowledged support of other council members in passing key aspect of the legislation. She emphasized progress on resident parking ticket discounts, affordable housing trust funds, home repair grants, cash bail reform,  poverty tax exemptions, low income fare reduction, and a homeless bill of rights resolution. Indicating that there is much work to be done on water affordability, hiring, community benefit agreements, and control over surveillance technologies, Sheffield, demonstrated the capacity of Council to tackle difficult questions with a sense of values that protect our most vulnerable.

Unfortunately not all the members of our Council are so far sighted.

This became clear as people spoke in support Sheffield’s efforts to establish a Community Input Over Government Surveillance Ordinance.  This Ordinance, as written is the product of months of negotiation and research, reflecting agreement by the Police Department, the ACLU and a broadly based city wide coalition concerned with unchecked surveillance. While many of the supporting organizations think the ordinance does not go far enough in holding police accountable for violations, it is an important effort to mandate citizen oversight of technologies purchased by the Detroit Police Department or any other city department.

Support for the ordinance is critical. Across the country people are recognizing that surveillance technologies are out of control.  Corporate and police capacities to gather and use data has far outstripped our legal protections for citizens or for basic freedoms.
Last week,  Shoshana Zuboff, author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism wrote in the New York Times:

Our digital century was to have been democracy’s Golden Age. Instead, we enter its third decade marked by a stark new form of social inequality best understood as “epistemic inequality.” … Surveillance capitalists exploit the widening inequity of knowledge for the sake of profits. They manipulate the economy, our society and even our lives with impunity, endangering not just individual privacy but democracy itself. Distracted by our delusions, we failed to notice this bloodless coup from above… Lawmakers will need to champion new forms of collective action, just as nearly a century ago legal protections for the rights to organize, to strike and to bargain collectively united lawmakers and workers in curbing the powers of monopoly capitalists. Lawmakers must seek alliances with citizens who are deeply concerned over the unchecked power of the surveillance capitalists and with workers who seek fair wages and reasonable security in defiance of the precarious employment conditions that define the surveillance economy.

In spite of this growing recognition that democratic controls need to be put in place to protect all of us, Councilman Scott Benson is making every effort to gut the current proposal. He is doing so, he claims, because he is concerned about fighting crime in his district.  Yet none of his proposed changes have anything to do with criminal behavior. In his memo to the Council dated November 12, 2019 he aims amendments squarely at reducing transparency and eliminating citizen input.

Benson proposes to remove the mandate for the disclosure of the number of days and times surveillance technology is used,  to remove requiring written reports if technologies are used in unusual circumstances, to remove the requirement that departments disclose the factors that determine surveillance technology placement strategies,  and to remove the mandated public hearing for the purchase of new surveillance technology.

Benson is not concerned about the complicated questions raised by these new technologies and seems to have little interest in protecting democratic rights. Instead he seems determined to eliminate public oversight.

We urge you to encourage City Council to reject the efforts of Councilmember Benson.  He appears more interested in lining the pockets of data collection corporations than in protecting citizens. The Community Input Over Government Surveillance Ordinance deserves our support.

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Historian Peter Linebaugh, author of numerous books on The Commons, Magna Carta, and the revolutionary struggles of the transatlantic, multiracial working class in the 18th and 19th centuries, at the time of the American, French and Haitian revolutions, will discuss his new book “Red Round Globe Hot Burning”

“This wide-ranging, intricate, penetrating analysis provides fascinating insight into the origins of our society.”
—Noam Chomsky

“Evokes and contextualizes moments of crisis and possibility in the past with a vividness that casts new light on our own time.”
—Rebecca Solnit, author of A Paradise Built in Hell

red

WHERE: The Boggs Center
3061 Field St, Detroit, MI 48214

WHEN: 1- 3 PM Saturday, February 8

REFRESHMENTS WILL BE SERVED

THIS WILL BE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR DETROIT’S ACTIVIST COMMUNITY TO CONNECT WITH SOME OF THE DEEPEST SOURCES OF OUR MOVEMENTS AND IDEAS.  DON’T MISS IT!

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intelligent lives friendship circle

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After years of fighting Detroit water shutoffs through litigation and advocacy, a coalition of civil rights lawyers and organizations publicly calls on Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to order a moratorium on the interruption of water service to thousands of Detroit households to end a public health emergency.

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After years of fighting Detroit water shutoffs through litigation and advocacy, a coalition of civil rights lawyers and organizations publicly calls on Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer to order a moratorium on the interruption of water service to thousands of Detroit households to end a public health emergency.

The coalition privately asked the Governor to end the water crisis in a letter nearly three months ago, but yet Detroit water shutoffs continue. The coalition approached the Governor because of years of Detroit city and state officials’ inaction, apathy or disregard. READ MORE @ ACLU of Michigan

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flint

January 20th, 2020

Thinking for Ourselves
Do The Right Thing
Shea Howell

Detroiters have been faced with the horrific news that many of our family, friends, and neighbors have been driven out of the city illegally. Thanks to careful reporting by the Detroit News, we have learned that 90% of the tax delinquent homes were illegally over assessed between 2010 and 2016. The News calculated 28,000 homes were foreclosed since 2013 because of this. The amount of over taxation was estimated at $600 million. The dimensions of this scandal are staggering.

Losing a home to tax foreclosure is one of the most violent, traumatic things that can happen to people. I have seen a 14-year-old boy refuse to leave the pile of goods in the front yard belonging to his mother, who died weeks earlier of cancer. I have watched neighbors, too embarrassed to acknowledge they could not pay their bills, break down when they were forced to abandon a home where they had raised their children, and I have stood with people resisting what they knew was not right.

The devastation done to people and to the community can never be made right. But if we are to create a city that fosters the values we need for the future, we must find ways to acknowledge and respond with as much imagination, compassion, and creativity as we can find.

Mayor Duggan and his administration are not up to the task. The Mayor’s response to the crisis demonstrates why he is not capable of providing meaningful leadership. Duggan says there is “little he can do.” For a man who loves to brag about his abilities to “fix” things, this response is inadequate.

But his reasoning is far more troubling, explaining his lack of will. Duggan claims that doing something to fix the injustice suffered by those who could not pay illegal taxes would somehow be “unfair” to those who managed to pay them. This immediate identification with those who pay, rather than those who cannot, is why Duggan is so dangerous now. He is fostering a politics of division that fuels racial and class antagonisms in ways that are as ugly as the tweets of Trump.

This line of unreasonable reasoning is familiar to everyone in the city. It is the same one he invokes over the water crisis. It argues that “good people” pay their water bills and Duggan claims it is “not fair” for those who pay their bills to have others in the community get water “for free.”

For public leaders to invoke individualism, to advocate that fairness rests with those who are most able to provide for themselves, and to claim that some problems are just too big to be fixed, is disastrous thinking. We need leadership that acknowledges problems, seeks solutions and encourages us to care for one another and the earth upon which we depend.

This last week we saw some of that kind of leadership emerge on the City Council. Council President Brenda Jones is holding hearings on the issue. President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield convened a working group to gather information, listen to citizens, and propose a series of solutions. They have already issued a report with some imaginative solutions.

As the country begins in earnest to talk about reparations and restorative justice, we in Detroit have a responsibility to advance the values, ways and means to do the right thing. There is no other way to secure our future.

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Extreme worship of the Constitution is a feature of U.S. life. It’s been that way for a long time. Even so, the zeal with which it has been deployed throughout the current impeachment process is a wonder to behold. KEEP READING.


January 15th, 2020

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Global Water Summit
January 24-25
Cass Community United Methodist Church
MORE INFO

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Thinking for Ourselves
Finding New Ways
Shea Howell

The possibility of war with Iran cooled a little this week, thanks to the mature decisions of the Iranian government. Unlike President Trump, who took the most extreme action offered him by his advisors, Iran chose a limited show of force, firing 16 missiles into a base housing Americans in Iraq. Miraculously no one was hurt. But in the tensions caused by Trump’s decision to kill Maj Gen. Qassim Suleimani, 176 people were killed when a civilian passenger jet was shot down by Iranian defense forces, fearing it was a missile attack.

None of this needed to happen. The justification for it has been slippery at best, with the President claiming he was preventing an “imminent” attack, even while other State Department officials call it “a mistake” to use such language.

Certainly the U.S. has a long and sordid history of assassinations, many of them in the middle east. But this killing appears to have been done on a whim, an impulse born of frustration. The shadows of this decision will be long. They will weave into the fabric of these last two decades of war, where the U.S. has taken international violence to new levels. We have claimed the right to strike anyone, anywhere, anytime, if we think they endanger us. We justify torture and perpetual imprisonment. We pick up civilians off streets and drop them in “black holes.” We act without accountability to the opinions of other nations. Yet all of these actions have consequences, some we have seen, many unfolding in generations to come.

In the wake of this week, the drive toward impeachment seems a small response. We have come to the point where those who control the triggers of some of the most deadly weapons of war cannot be trusted to make considered decisions. We are, as Dr. King said, a nation with guided missiles and mis-guided men. We have come to this place as we step by step believed we should protect our own comforts at the expensive of the rest of the world.

At the end of his speech against the Vietnam War, delivered at Riverside church, Dr. King said, “We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent coannihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace in Vietnam and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.”

Surely finding these new ways to peace is our most urgent task. Such a task requires radical rethinking of how we live and what we value. But as the actions of this week so clearly show, those in authority stand against all that is sacred, cherished, and loved by most human beings. We have no choice but to fine these new ways of being.

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MLK

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The Padre Guadalupe Carney Latin American Solidarity Archive (CLASA), a rare collection of Spanish and English books, human rights reports, independent newspapers and newsletters, and social justice papers broadens its message of social justice to the Detroit Mercy community with speakers and exhibits of art, photography, and archive documents. Most events take place on the McNichols Campus. Check out their slate of free events starting tonight!

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January 25 DanceAbility Workshop

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Moms 4 Housing: Meet the Oakland Mothers Facing Eviction After Two Months Occupying Vacant House

December 9th, 2019

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Thinking for Ourselves

Water Warnings
Shea Howell

As thousands of people across the country participated in the December 6th Climate Strike lead by youth activists, many Detroiters were wondering if their drinking water was safe. Sketchy reports were surfacing about the collapse of the shore line holding land long contaminated with toxic chemicals, including uranium. The Wall Street Journal listed the site as one of “America’s forgotten nuclear legacy wastelands” in 2013. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health said in 2011 that the “potential exists for significant residual radiation” on the site.

But no one seemed particularly concerned until last week end. Having been passed along through a series of “owners,” including the city, only people with long memories thought of the piles along the river as the Revere Copper and Brass site. Few, including its current owners, seemed aware of the critical role the former pot and bearing company had played in the development of the Atomic bomb. But during the 1940s and through the 1950’s uranium was processed there. Between 1943 and 1944 , under the Manhattan Project, at least 1,220 tons of uranium were extruded on the site. Today we are told that the possibility of uranium contamination is slight, but there is no question that the soil contains a toxic mix of chemicals including mercury, PCBs and PAHs.

As various news outlets began to report on the collapse into the river, long-time activist and water plant expert Russ Bellant said:

The Detroit Free Press reported today that with the radioactive material entering the Detroit river “the news is concerning because the Detroit drinking water intake lines are nearby downriver.”  This is not true and thus needlessly alarming.

Detroit’s main intakes are at about seven miles upriver and therefore not subject to this material. The Detroit system has one intake on the Canadian side of the Detroit River that supplies the Southwest Water Treatment Plant in Allen Park. That plant feeds downriver communities. That plant should cease its intake and receive water for its customers from the huge Springwells plant. We are in a low demand season for water so shifting these loads is doable.

Of more concern are cities like Wyandotte, Monroe, Toledo and many Ontario communities that have their own intakes downriver from the spill. They need an aggressive investigation by EPA and EGLE and quick remedies, but their record to date is disconcerting. The Free Press reports that EPA did not know of the November contamination until the Windsor Star called them Wednesday, while EGLE says don’t worry. Neither agency shows the alarm and urgency required. The same attitude they had regarding Flint for far too long.

I urge folks to contact the Great Lakes Water Authority to urge protection of the downriver communities by shifting the load from the Southwest plant to the rest of the Detroit system until safe water can be assured for all their own intakes downriver from the spill. They need an aggressive investigation by EPA and EGLE and quick remedies, but their record to date is disconcerting. The Free Press reports that EPA did not know of the November contamination until the Windsor Star called them Wednesday, while EGLE says don’t worry. Neither agency shows the alarm and urgency required. The same attitude they had regarding Flint for far too long.

I urge folks to contact the Great Lakes Water Authority to urge protection of the downriver communities by shifting the load from the Southwest plant to the rest of the Detroit system until safe water can be assured for all.”

This most recent, predictable possibility of contamination to our water is a reminder of how urgent the message is of young people gathering on our streets to demand action on climate change.  Business as usual is what has brought us to the point where shifting sands can poison entire cities, where waters are rising, and the legacies of war, empire, and industry are threating all life. The  river reminds us that we urgently need to make broad, deep changes to how we are living if we are to find our way to the future.

Neighborhood on the Edge

Who chooses what happens to our neighborhood? This is the question posed by the multi-media installation, Neighborhood on the Edge, by Shaun Nethercott, activist, 2016 Kresge Arts Fellow and award-winning co-founder of Matrix Theatre Company in Hubbard Richard.  This Art X Detroit 2019 art experience will take place at the Mexicantown Latino Cultural Center, 2835 Bagley, Detroit, 48216.

December 8 – December 22

Installation visitors will encounter the voices and images of ten Hubbard Richard residents and hear them tell their stories, why they may stay or go and how the area has changed over the years. The installation is part of a city-wide, multi-disciplinary series featuring twenty-two newly commissioned exhibitions, performances and events developed by alumni Kresge Artist Fellows and Gilda Awardees.

Find out more at @mexicantowncdcdetroit

November 26th, 2019

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Thinking for Ourselves

New Thinking about Development
Shea Howell

The Detroit City Council voted 6 to 3 to reject Mayor Duggan’s $250 million bond proposal. This is an encouraging sign of new leadership emerging. But the victory is likely to be short lived. Duggan will continue to push for a bond in some form. After the vote the Mayor told reporters , “I respect the other perspective, and so, we’re going to have to slow the demolitions down, temporarily. But we are going to sit with council quickly, come up with a process that people feel good about and hopefully move forward later in the year. I’m really confident that council and I can work out something that will take care of the problem.”
Duggan seems to have little grasp of just how much the majority of the people in the city reject and mistrust his leadership. Following the vote, the Detroit Free Press provided a strong analysis highlighting the growing lack of trust in the administration. Wide spread concerns for transparency and accountability, and  the fall-out from a growing number of criminal investigations are all taking a toll.

These public perceptions are fueled by everyday experience as people see projects Duggan touted fail to address daily needs.  Public transportation is a continuing disaster and the Q line is an embarrassing , costly joke, plagued with delays. Land around LCA remains undeveloped. Water continues to be shut off with a growing cumulative effect in the city, touching nearly half of the population. Evictions continue as far too many people cannot meet existing tax burdens. Home owners, who should have received assistance from the Hardest Hit funds, struggle to keep homes functioning. Rents are escalating and increasingly our houses are owned by people who neither live in the city or the country. Meanwhile, basic repair and restoration of the city seems to bring in mostly white suburban contractors, with little representation of the majority of the people who live here benefiting.

The failures of the Hardest Hit Fund money to be directed to preserving home ownership is an especially clear example of the Mayor’s questionable use of federal money . He chose to tear down homes instead. In the process it seems a lot of people who don’t live in the city made a lot of money, while Detroit and especially African American owned firms, received little. Meanwhile, the costs of demolition have more than doubled. Basic concerns for the health and safety of neighbors have been ignored as demolition accelerated.

All of this has provided the context for a No vote from the majority of the council and growing numbers of citizens.

It is time to rethink where we are and what values we need to guide the choices we are making about how to advance our city. Instead of trying to strong arm council or push through a bond proposal, the Mayor should announce a moratorium on water shut offs, on foreclosures and on tax breaks to corporations. He should make all public transportation free to encourage its use. He should halt all demolition.

This would give us an opportunity to come together and think in new ways  about how to restore, protect and recreate city life. We can develop our people as we redevelop our neighborhoods. To do this we need comprehensive, connected, compassionate, and imaginative ideas about our future. This current vote gives us an opportunity to accelerate  this kind of new thinking.

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University of Michigan students, faculty and community members discussed discrimination and “sham” investigations at the “UM: Corruption, Complicity, Coverups” town hall in Weill Hall Sunday night. The event was hosted by UMich is Complicit: a movement dedicated to combating discriminatory hiring practices and sexual misconduct policies at the University.

SCOTT

The panel featured Scott Kurashige, former director of the Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies Program and tenured professor at U-M, and his partner Emily Lawsin, a lecturer in the departments of Women’s Studies and American Culture. They filed a discrimination lawsuit against the University under the Michigan Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act in December 2016. KEEP READING


If you are a sibling or have a family member with a disability check out this video.?


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Please take a moment to fill out the MI Roundtable for Diversity & Inclusion:
Needs Assessment Survey


Leaders and Best? Questioning the UM “Detroit Center for Innovation”

If you are a sibling or have a family member with a disability check out this video.?

Please take a moment to fill out the MI Roundtable for Diversity & Inclusion:
Needs Assessment Survey

October 29th, 2019

A Radical New Sharing Economy

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Thinking for Ourselves

Sharing Peace
Shea Howell

Detroit has a long history in developing international relationships. During the cold war era, citizens created friendship associations with the then USSR, China and later Cuba. These early people to people exchanges formed a context for political leaders to challenge official U.S. policy. Detroit elected officials were among the first to participate in civil disobedience against the apartheid South African government. We established official sister cities around the globe and sent delegation to Pan African conferences. As one of the first places in the U.S. with elected African American leadership, we became a symbol of liberation, attracting visitors engaged in struggles against colonial empires.

This legacy was very much on my mind as a small group gathered for a conversation with the Rev. David Latimer and his wife Margaret. They had travelled from Derry, in Northern Ireland to visit with Hush House and to exchange ideas with Professor Charles Simmons and Rev. Sandra Simmons. This was an extension of relationships begun over the summer when the Simmonses travelled to Derry to share their experience around establishing a community museum honoring the Black Freedom struggle in the US.

The Rev. David Latimer is no stranger to controversy. He played a critical role in the Irish peace process as he established an improbable friendship with former Sinn Fein deputy first minister Martin McGuinness. Their friendship evolved out of efforts by Latimer to create peace and stop the violence surrounding Latimer’s church. During the most violent stage of the conflict in Ireland, called “the Troubles,” First Derry Presbyterian Church was frequently attacked. In 1983 a section of the church was bombed.  Five members killed by the IRA were buried from the church over the years. In 2006 attacks compelled Latimer to reach out to find another way. After a radio appeal for Martin McGuiness to use his authority with the IRA to stop the assaults, Latimer was stunned by a phone call requesting a meeting. From that moment, the friendship between the two men grew to one of respect and affection.

Latimer speaks often now of how McGuiness gave him the confidence to believe that people can change. Latimer wrote,

“Changing so dramatically to become the person he became and refusing to deviate, fluctuate or even hesitate on his onward journey furnishes us with evidence of God’s amazing grace…By so doing he was paying attention to the present knowing if you improve upon the present what comes later will also be better. And he wanted the future to be markedly different especially for children growing up in every city, town and village.”
Rev. Latimer continues to press for peace. He told us of his latest project, engaging almost all the schools in his city in writing peace pledges. Students were asked to develop a 25 word statement on what peace in their schools means. The young people are probing question of what is peace? How is peace shattered? How is peace re-established?

Through this process, Latimer believes young people are encouraged to think about “what we need to be doing to make life better together.” He has 415 of the 417 schools working on the project and 11 County Councils have joined in.

In late November each pledge will be inscribed on a metal leaf, attached to sculpted tree, “offering a vision of peace for the future.”

The work of Rev. and Margaret Latimer and Professor and Rev. Simmons offer strong direction for the kinds of actions we all need to engage in if we are to find our way to the future.


APRI


What We’re Studying…braidingcare
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A Radical New Sharing Economy

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Louise Seamster Flint event UM

What We’re Studying…

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 Thinking for Ourselves

Rising Waters
Shea Howell

Water protectors continue to push the Mayor and his administration to develop a comprehensive policy reflecting two fundamental principles: water is a human right and a sacred trust. This week two reports underscored the need for us to think more deeply about the waters that give us life.

First, the Army Corps of Engineers provided their predictions for Great Lakes water levels though 2020. It appears that we will once again be facing high waters throughout the region. Currently, all of the Great Lakes are well above normal, reaching 100 year highs. For this month, Lakes Huron, St. Clair, and Erie are all around 3 feet higher than normal.

Across Detroit this has meant flooded homes and streets, washed out roads, flooding on Belle Isle and other city parks, and shoreline erosion. Hazardous sink holes are appearing on roads and walks. Blocked catch basins increase dangers to health and well-being. And the city offers little coordinated response. It is shifting the burden to home owners and has little more to offer than a sand bag strategy depending on volunteers. This is not only inadequate to the level of climate change we are experiencing, it is courting disaster.

The second study illustrates additional concerns about the high water levels. Erosion caused by water flow and the coming ice packs increases the disruption of toxic sediment.

Representatives from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) offered this assessment, “The entire Detroit River shoreline needs remediation.” This conclusion is based on nearly 900 samples taken from along the shore line. “Significant amounts of mercury, lead, asbestos, cyanide, chromium, pesticides and more were found.”

The highest levels of contamination are near the old industrial sites. While the buildings are now gone, their legacy lingers deep in the soil. At the river bend an old copper facility and fuel dock have left behind the highest concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHS), toxic chemicals released from burning trash. A bit further down, the Uniroyal Tire site is now covered with grasses and has the highest concentration of a range of poisonous contaminants. A sediment sample taken from the river bank was left unanalyzed over one weekend and eroded its polycarbonate container.

This degradation of the land and waters is the result of the ways of thinking that dominated the extractive, industrial culture that shaped our city. To pretend that we can simply go about business as usual only intensifies the depth of the climate crisis we face. After two hundred years of industrial production and waste, we need to systematically work to revitalize the soil and waters upon which we depend.

Water protects of We the People and the Peoples Water Board are continuing to press for a deeper understanding of our need to think in holistic, interconnected ways about the qualities necessary for life in our city. Central to these questions is restoring and regenerating the waters that give us life, ensuring that all of us have access to safe, affordable, protected and cherished waters.

Every day the Mayor ignores these deeper questions brings us closer to disasters of his making. In 1920 it was possible to believe that water and land were simply backgrounds to the stuff of city life. But today, on the eve of 2020, such thinking is no longer acceptable. It belongs to a dangerous, destructive past.

We can imagine a future that holds water and life sacred. It requires only the  political will to bring this vision into being. Waters are rising.

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October 10th, 2019

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October 15 is the 50th anniversary of the massive local demonstrations against the US war on Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia. It’s an opportunity to explore myths about the antiwar movement and helpful lessons for today. So that’s what I’ll try to do.  I hope you can come and especially encourage young people to attend. Peace, Frank Joyce

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 Fifty years later—The antiwar movement then and now. 

Swords into Plowshares Peace Center & Gallery

Tuesday, October 15th, 7 p.m.

Lecture and discussion is Free
light refreshments served.

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Thinking for Ourselves

Lighting Fires
Shea Howell

The possibility of repealing the third grade reading statute that requires mandatory retention of students falling below state standards dimmed this week. Republican lawmaker Pamela Hornberger, who chairs the House Education committee, withdrew her support of a provision she helped draft last January to repeal the “read or flunk” portion of the law.

Hornberger’s flip is not much of surprise. What is critical for those of us who care about the education of our children is to take a close look at her reasoning. In justifying her “change of heart” she demonstrates just how dangerous it is to have state legislators dabble in educational policy.

News accounts of Hornberger’s shift say that she was motivated to support retention by two factors. First, she noted that state researchers now are estimating that only 5% of third graders state wide are likely to be held back. This is much smaller than earlier data that suggested many 50%  or more of our third graders would face retention. This is still more than 5,000 children facing being held back. The smaller predicted number, according to Hornberger, is because the law has “lit a fire under some people’s rear ends.”

Aside from the crudeness of her remark, the disrespect for teachers and students contained in it, and the notion that pain inflicted on people causes them to progress, the grasp on what is really happening in our schools is tenuous. No data supports Hornberger’s position that fear of retention works, or that teachers have just been too lazy to get kids to read.

Here is what data does support. From 2003 to 2016 Michigan has steadily been falling in reading scores. We are now 35th in the country, down from 28th.  During this period republican state legislatures have installed one failed scheme after another, including a series of emergency managers and the creation of alternative school districts like the Educational Achievement Association. Every effort to bolster learning has failed as schools are under-resourced,  disrespected, and closed down. At the same time, in large part thanks to Besty Devos and family, our children are being turned into private profit centers as charter schools proliferate and public schools deteriorate. All of this can be traced right to the state legislature.

In spite of these conditions, teachers, parents and administrators are trying to find ways to protect children from the worst of legislation made by people who rarely even notice their existence.

In Detroit, reports indicate that nearly 20% of third graders, about 800 students, would have been held back last year according to the law. Usually  only 4% are retained each year. The lower retention figure that sparked Hornberger’s shift has emerged not because students now magically have improved to evade the “fires.” It is because administrators, teachers and parents are wising up to the possibility of “good cause exemptions.” In Detroit these exemptions are widespread. About 5% of students who rank low on the test are in special education or are new English language learners.  Others are already in intensive reading programs, or have only been enrolled for a short time. This is true across the state.

In other words, once again the right wing, ideologically driven state legislature has created obstacles to learning that require people who actually care about children to find ways around the most damaging aspects of it.

The deep lesson here for all of us is laws having nothing to do with reality. They need to be resisted.  Fires are being lit.

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State of the City Forum featuring the Hon., Ed Vaughn

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Tuesday, October 15th
6 PM
1000 Eliot St, Detroit, Michigan 48207
info

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10 Ways that the Climate Crisis and Militarism are Intertwined

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DETROIT 48202: CONVERSATIONS ALONG A POSTAL ROUTE examines the rise, demise, and contested resurgence of the City of Detroit through the lens of African- American mail carrier, Wendell Watkins, and the committed community he faithfully served for thirty years.

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FREE SREENING:
Saturday, October 19th
1 PM
Chandler Park Branch of DPL

Today we honor the 4th anniversary of the day Grace Lee Boggs (June 27, 1915 to October 5, 2015) joined the ancestors after her 100 years and 100 days of a remarkable life that has left an enduring imprint on humanity. Of the many great tributes to Grace, we are reposting this must read article from historian Barbara Ransby.

About this website

 

INTHESETIMES.COM
Boggs’ love for humanity ran strong and deep, serving as a generative force for creating change.

“We must join together to resist and defeat the growing counter-revolution.” Grace Lee Boggs (2013)

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September 30th, 2019

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Thinking for Ourselves

Reading Tests
Shea Howell

School has barely begun, but many of our youngest students are getting ready for a test that most educators think is dangerous and disastrous. Under the Third Grade Reading statute, children must pass a series of tests and establish a “proficient” reading score, or  face being held back from fourth grade. The first of three mandated tests outlined in this process by law must be given within the first 30 days of school.

Virtually all educators agree this is misguided meddling by State legislators that will damage children. Over the last two decades of Republican dominated legislatures, Michigan has been steadily sinking in relation to other states. In  2017 data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress found that Michigan was tied with Tennessee for 35th in the nation on fourth grade reading scores.

Since the passage of the law in 2016 many districts have been targeting reading and providing additional training and support for teachers and students. The result has been “modest gains.” The 2019 M-STEP results reported the number of not proficient students going from 31% in 2018 to 30.4% in 2019. According to analyses of national testing data, Michigan students are performing among the bottom 10% of states. According to 2017 results from National Assessment of Educational Progress, Michigan ranks in the bottom third of states for fourth grade reading and eighth grade math. It’s also 43rd in school funding equity.

It is not likely that the complicated process of learning to read will see a quick improvement as children are subjected to a series of tests. Nationally, state mandated efforts to punish children who are not learning to read by third grade have been a failure. Four years before Michigan passed this legislation, North Carolina tried it in 2012. After spending $150 million researchers from North Carolina State University concluded that the state was “going backward” and “treading water.” Nearly two decades ago Florida tried the “read or flunk policy , and while it produced initial gains, they faded quickly. It, too, was a failure.

On the eve of this policy taking effect current data indicates nearly 55% of third grade students failed the predictive test with only a slight improvement in scores statewide. According to 2019 results of the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress released this month by the Michigan Department of Education, 54.9% of third graders — or 55,336 students — scored less than proficient on the English language arts test. That’s a modest improvement compared with 55.6% last year.

The Michigan Department of Education is downplaying these results, saying that they estimate only 5% of third grades students will be held back. There is little reason to believe this number.

There is every reason to believe the majority of students held back will be in our urban areas. In Benton Harbor only 5.6% of students passed a similar test last year.

Community groups like the Detroit Independent Freedom Schools Movement are advocating for the repeal of mandatory retention. Educators and state officials are beginning to join the effort. But in the meantime, parents should be aware that they have a right to intervene in this process. They can ask the superintendent for an “exemption” for their child. The law provides:

  • Coordinators for a student with an individual education plan or a disability can request an exemption for the student.• An English language learner with less than three years of instruction in English may be granted an exemption.• A student may be eligible for an exemption if he or she has received intensive reading intervention for two years and was previously retained.• A student who has been in the school district for less than two years may be exempted.• A parent can request an exemption within 30 days of being notified of possible retention.

    • Parents, teachers or school personnel may request a good cause exemption, and superintendents have the final say.

Our children have been consistently abused by decisions made by the Republican dominated legislature and its meddling in education. We know that love and individual attention create learning. As a community, we can provide these, no matter what the state continues to do. That is the ultimate test of our commitment.

emergent(this art is from Soraya Jean-Louis McElroy)

Apply today for the Detroit Emergent Strategy Immersion
 taking place October 24-27. We’re interested in building connections state-wide, so please share with Michiganders working towards justice. We are prioritizing the applications of Black people, Indigenous people, and people of color.

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Climate Strike
Rabbi Moshe Givental

We are on the heels of another round of Climate Strikes around the world. This was organized around the impetus of 16-year old Greta Thunberg, encouraging school children to skip school on Friday in protest of the childish actions of our adult leaders. At least 4 million gathered around the world making their voices heard.  Southeast Michigan held protests in Ann Arbor, Detroit, Troy, among others. After hearing from Emma Lockridge from Michigan United, Justin Onwenu from the Sierra Club a number of High School Students and others, Richard Feldman from the Boggs Center reminded us that we were continuing Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight against the 3rd triplet of evil, materialism, on that corner in front of Somerset Mall, on the intersection of W. Beaver Road and Coolidge Hwy., where about 200 people gathered. The following remarks were delivered there on Sept. 20th, 2019.

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“This is what democracy looks like. All of us, gathered right here. Don’t believe the people who say that you must be voting age to make a difference, nor that voting is your most powerful tool in the struggle for justice. Voting is important, but it’s the meekest of our weapons. Only taken out of the shed once every few years, lulling us to sleep the rest of the time, as if there is no other work to be done. What we are doing today, the agitation for change and justice that you can do every single day of the year, however young you or old you are, that is part of our most powerful arsenal. Are you ready to agitate?

I want to take a few steps back now to zoom out and look at the causes for our environmental and climate crises for which the overuse of fossil fuels we’re protesting today is just the tip of the iceberg. The disregard for human life, and the life of other species and eco-systems around us is much, much older. Sadly, it is part of the very structure of how we organize society. The systems of Patriarchy and Colonialism which form the subconscious and structural foundations of all of our lives, buildings illusions of meaning and power through power-over and control, have been wreaking destruction and death for centuries and millennia. Even our hunter-gatherer ancestors, while gathering in peace, eventually developed hunting tools powerful enough to wipe out multiple species off the map of the world. The development of large-scale agriculture, in controlling what was to grow where, destroyed entire eco-systems to supplant them with what was comfortable for our species. To a significant degree, all of this is normal animal behavior, we did what we needed to do as communities and as a species to survive. The issue and difference today, is that the scale of destruction is so massive that we are not only causing global extinction, but undermining the very life-support systems of the planet.

The next piece I want to share might sound even more radical. There is a way, I think, in which Republicans and “Climate Denialists” get this reality on a deeper level than the average Democrat who supports measured step-by-step change. While Climate Denial is clearly based on political and corporate propaganda, I think that on another level, this Denial is a subconscious coping mechanism, trying to cope with the reality that stepwise change is no longer sufficient. As the slogan goes, “We need System Change, not Climate Change.” So, while they may be in “denial” – they’re at least trying to cope with the reality of system change, while most democrats still believe that piece-wise measures will be sufficient. Dropping fossil fuels is just one small part of the necessary recipe. The dangers before us, sanity, as well as ethics, demand that we rethink and redesign our entire relationship with Life. Even the Green New Deal is just one step towards that. Like the Copernican revolution which forced humanity to remove itself from the center-focus of the universe, this (r)Evolution calls upon us to remove ourselves from the colonialist privilege as overlords of all life on the planet. Just like that revolution challenged not just facts but authority, values and people’s basic sense of reality, so will this too.  I’m pointing this out to remind us that no one here created this problem, no matter what generation you belong to. Nor are we free from committing to lean-in beyond our capacities and wildest imaginations, to work together to create the more beautiful world we know is possible. This is what democracy looks like, all of us gathering here, waking each other up, agitating for more awareness, and supporting each other in the work ahead. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that voting is your most powerful or only weapon for change, democracy demands we exercise its muscles over and over, not just a few times a year at the ballot box.

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The historic town of Idlewild was founded in 1912 and quickly became a place of refuge, restoration and rest from the segregated society of America. Prominent African Americans built cabins, homes, churches and businesses in this hideaway community.

After WWII, entertainment, in the form of clubs, bars, theaters, restaurants, concert halls, and other venues became the major draw for this town. 30,000 people would visit Idlewild on the summer weekends.

Join this bus tour led by historian Jamon Jordan of Black Scroll Network History & Tours as he takes you through the Jim Crow era to a Black resort haven of history, recreation and music.

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A Visit with Grace
Kamau Ayubbi
(September, 2014)

Yes, last Saturday I was honored to visit with Grace Lee Boggs on behalf of my mother Nobuko. It was meaningful in all aspects so I will describe some of it.

First of all, in my drive there from Flint I was stopped a few blocks away by a bike race running through Grand River Avenue in Detroit. After waiting some 15 or 20 minutes it occurred to me to park my car and walk across the river of bicycles to Grace’s house. So on my walk through it and down the block I came across Genesis Lutheran Church. This is the site where my mother worked with Grace and other folks in Detroit to create “I dream a garden,” a song and dance about the reimagining and repurposing of Detroit through Gardens and other important work. This all began probably more than 10 years ago when I lived in the Bay Area and my mother would tell me about Detroit and Grace. There still remains a thriving garden present at the site and hundreds or maybe thousands more throughout Detroit and Flint these days.

When I reached Graces’ home two blocks away from Genesis, I was met with a piece of mail just arrived from Jenny and Maiya. That mail was immediately handed to me for reading to Grace. Grace recognized me and acknowledge me right away asking about my four children. We got my mother on speakerphone to exchange some words so that Grace and she could hear each other’s voices. As we sat quietly in presence and reflection I thought about all the important work leading up to this moment and all to come. I read Maiya’s short stories and poems as requested by Shea Howell. Grace chuckled and appreciated what we read. Letters and poems written about social justice, imagination, and transformation. Ending with a piece about the Caterpillar, cocoon, and butterfly.

Afterwards, I sat quietly, thought about legacy and asked Grace if there was anything she wanted to share. Perhaps she will share something of social, political or ideological relevance I thought in my mind. “Tell your children that they are geniuses”. When someone in their late 90s who has spent their life struggling to improve the human condition speaks, there’s a profound resonance. Much of what we tell ourselves, our children, our spouses our community is what we become. Perhaps the simplest advice is the best. What if my entire generation spoke these powerful words into their children? And in addition to that, left out any other words or behaviors that would contradict the innate potential within each of us?

As I think about it, genius speaks of creativity, the ability to conceive, identify and implement solutions to our human condition.

And then I think about the importance of speech. That in order to speak the truth we must cultivate the ability to recognize it. And further, in order to recognize it we must train our hearts minds and vision to identify its presence. Grace gave me some good homework.

When someone like Grace Lee Boggs, Maya Angelou, Yuri Kochiyama, and others who spend their lives dedicated to higher purposes speak to the particular person (in this case myself) I like to think of how it applies to the people around me and hence I share these words.

September 23rd, 2019

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” …confronting a threat to their existence and livilihoods of millions more being undermined “climate justice” promises to be the defining issue of the twenty-first century. ” The Next American Revolution ch. one, These are the Times to grow Our Souls   pp. 32     2010

#ClimateStrike Highlights

Thinking for Ourselves

Digital Justice, Climate Justice
Shea Howell

Two critical moments came together this week. On Thursday the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners approved a new policy governing the use of facial recognition technology in a contentious 8 to 3 vote. The next day, Detroit youth took the lead in joining the Global Climate Strike. Over 4 million people worldwide took public action to encourage serious efforts to face the reality of climate catastrophe.

The struggle to limit technological invasions of our lives is not immediately understood as a climate justice issue. But it should be.

Ben Tarnoff, a digital justice advocate, wrote recently about how the expansion of data collection has a major impact on the health of our planet. Machine Learning (ML), what the Detroit Police are counting on in their expansion of Project Green Light and facial recognition technologies, requires enormous amounts of energy. Tarnoff offered this assessment of the impact of increasing reliance on the amount of data we collect, store and analyze:

“Digitization is a climate disaster: if corporations and governments succeed in making vastly more of our world into data, there will be less of a world left for us to live in. This is a demanding process. It takes place inside the data centers we call the cloud, and much of the electricity that powers the cloud is generated by burning fossil fuels. As a result, ML has a large carbon footprint. In a recent paper that made waves in the ML community, a team at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, found that training a model for natural-language processing – the field that helps “virtual assistants” like Alexa understand what you’re saying – can emit as much as 626,155lb of carbon dioxide. That’s about the same amount produced by flying roundtrip between New York and Beijing 125 times.”

At the heart of the connection between these two moments is the imperative for us to find ways of asking basic questions. Just because we can do something, should we? What values should guide our decision making? Whose interests are served?

Many people are taking comfort in the fact that the new policies in Detroit place clear limits on police power. Largely because of public protest, the new policy now incorporates some limits on police actions. It prohibits the police from using the technology for immigration enforcement, minor crimes, and identifying people at protests.

Coalitions opposing this technology, however, understand that such limits are simply not enough. Facial recognition technology and the digital surveillance of public spaces should be banned altogether. A new coalition, BanFacialRecognition.com, represents more than 15 million people concerned about this technology. Tawana Petty, the  Data Justice Director for Detroit Community Technology Project said recently:

“In Detroit, we are under constant watch through Project Green Light and related surveillance technologies. Project Green Light, coupled with the use of facial recognition threatens the civil liberties of hundreds of thousands of Black residents at a scale unheard of since the Tuskegee Experiment. If we do not resist these pervasive and extractive biometric technologies, Detroiters will be further marginalized through digital redlining, spacial racism, and ultimately predictive policing. We know the things that make us safe. Our communities need clean and affordable water, adequate and affordable housing, accessible and healthy foods, resourced public school systems and well lit neighborhoods – – none of these things can be created through surveillance and facial recognition, even if the algorithms are fixed.“

Stopping digital data collection is a human rights issue and a climate justice fight. As Tarnoff explains:

“Ubiquitous “smartness” largely serves to enrich and empower the few at the expense of the many, while inflicting ecological harm that will threaten the survival and flourishing of billions of people…which computational activities should be preserved in a less computerized world is a matter for those billions of people themselves to decide. The question of whether a particular machine hurts or helps the common good can only be answered by the commons itself. It can only be answered collectively, through the experiment and argument of democracy.”

The Detroit Board of Police Commissioners acted against the voices and interests of the people they are intended to serve. They took a step back from democracy, but, as the Global Strike makes clear, this fight is far from over. It is not going away. People are moving toward democracy and life.

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New Work/New Culture
Frank Joyce

As led by Frithjof Bergman, author of NEW WORK NEW CULTURE, a recent Saturday afternoon conversation at Source Booksellers was itself an exercise in New Work and New Culture.

As Frithjof points out, organizing the work of humans via a system of employers and employees, also known as JOBS, is only 200 years old. Nevertheless it is deeply ingrained as a component of what I call the white way of thinking. (I use this term not only to capture the centrality of race but as a lens into the entirety of the system created by to the 500 year evolution of colonialism, capitalism and white supremacy.) Wrestling with what it takes to even imagine, let alone implement, an alternative is new work and important work. Which is what made the discussion so stimulating and productive.

Inventing genuine democracy is new work. Combatting the consumer way of thinking is new work. Urban gardens are a form of new work. Restorative justice is new work.  Ending white supremacy is new work. Place based education is new work. This is work that people really, really, really, really want to do. It is different from work that is required to fit yourself into the boundaries and requirements of the dominant JOB system.

In many ways, the work required to survive/thrive under very difficult social, political and economic conditions is new work too. That’s what Detroiters, especially Black Detroiters have needed to do all along in the face of relentless hostility from all of the systems and subsystems of white power.

One critical distinction that emerged in the lively discussion at Source Booksellers was between Frithjof’s visionary approach as distinct from the more common and dominant oppositional framing.

Oppositional framing presumes that replacing capitalism is the task at hand and treats that as a settled question from which all else proceeds. Visionary thinking seeks to start more with a “clean sheet of paper.” As such, creating a new vocabulary is part of the new work required. (To be clear, insofar as any part of New Work New Culture deviates from the status quo it automatically becomes oppositional to some degree or other.)

By way of illustrating the distinction, here’s an Old work/Old Culture question that came up during the discussion:  “This new work idea sounds nice, but what’s it got to do with whether I can pay my utility bill?”

What’s the New Work/New Culture response? It’s to ask a different set of questions altogether:

Why do you have a utility bill in the first place? What is it that is compelling you to participate in that much consumption of, say,  electricity? And by the way, what are bills and why do I have any of them at all? And wouldn’t it be better to join with others to create a community to use technology to share the production and consumption of energy?  For example use solar, wind or other tools to create a micro power grid. There are people all over the planet who are doing just that. Some of them are in Detroit.

If you want to explore the reimagining work process yourself, I definitely recommend that you buy the book. It’s available at Source Booksellers and through the Internet.

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Challenging Racism in White Relationships
October 13

10am – 3 pmtgive

In this training/workshop for people who want to lovingly confront and transform racist white people we will:
-Explore the roots of whiteness and why a challenge to racism is so volatile for many whites
-Tap into an inner wisdom to guide effective challenges to white supremacy

-Generate transformative processes for effectively challenging racism in white relationships

REGISTER

” …confronting a threat to their existence and livilihoods of millions more being undermined “climate justice” promises to be the defining issue of the twenty-first century. “

The Next American Revolution ch. one, These are the Times to grow Our Souls   pp. 32     2010

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Thinking for Ourselves

For Nkenge Zola
Shea Howell

Over 100 people gathered at Arthur Brush Ford Park in Detroit to celebrate the life of Nkenge Zola. Zola made her transition to the ancestors at the end of August, after many years of battling with cancer. She was 65.

Nkenge Zola was a spirit that shaped and nurtured much of what is the best in us as a city.  Jerome Vaughn, who worked closely with her at WDET said,

“Zola and I worked together at WDET for roughly eight years. Whenever I thought of her, which was often, she was laughing, smiling and educating folks – whether they wanted to be taught or not. During that time, she gave me instruction as a news intern, coached me on my voicing and gave me the low down about some of the “real” history at WDET.

I worked with as her producer for a number of years on a short program we put together called “State Edition Plus.”
But most importantly, I got to watch her perform her craft on a daily basis. I got to learn how she thought about a story – often in very unconventional ways – before producing features that were nothing short of art.

Zola’s work showed her love for Detroit and for Detroiters. She championed African culture in the city. She asked tough questions and didn’t let “officials” or anyone else get away with nonsense….Zola brought a deep sense of culture, language and history to everything she did. Those who knew her can think of a million more small things she did to shape our lives in big ways. She regularly urged us to live “in the moment fully.” I’ll continue to take her advice on that. I will miss her.”
At the celebration artists, media makers, political activists, family, and neighbors gathered to share stories of life that mattered deeply to our city and to each of us.
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I met Nkenge when she was 19, while she was organizing the Association of Black Communicators at Wayne State and working with Black Artists in Television with Ron Scott. We were in a revolutionary study group with James and Grace Boggs. Over the years we worked together in the National Organization for an American Revolution, Save Our Sons and Daughters, Detroit Summer, and the Boggs Center, which she co-founded. We worked with the Michigan Citizen where she brought her insights and talents to the art and culture section of the paper. We shared a love of music production through the Detroit Women’s Coffeehouse where she brought together musicians, poets and visual artists. After she left WDET, she joined our faculty at Oakland University, teaching new generations about broadcasting for nearly a decade.

Zola had uncommon courage and a capacity to push us lovingly toward a deeper humanity. This was evident in her art, her loves, her family, her most ordinary interactions. It was evident in the gathering of people, holding her in the center for the last time.

As we walked with African drums to the River to send flowers off into the current, we were escorted by  butterflies and bees, signs that her fierce gentleness endures.

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Someone asked a while back about suggestions for what to write. This is what I sent off to the Board of Police Commissioners. Feel free to pass along. It should give an idea of crafting an email response with some tweaking and adjustments as fit your individual ideas, situation, and feelings. Peace, Lottie

ATTN: Detroit Board of Police Commissioners
1301 Third Street -Suite 767 – South,
Detroit, MI 48226
bopc@detroitmi.gov
It has been brought to my attention that in the most recent Board of Police Commissioners meeting there were 2 votes, both were voted down by the Board.

One vote was to halt the unauthorized use of facial recognition technology. It is my understanding that this technology has been in place for quite some time without appropriate approvals. As a citizen of the city of Detroit, I am very alarmed at the outcome of this vote in which the majority of the Board of Police Commissioners voted to continue the use of facial recognition technology that has not been properly approved. Many residents already have a grave concern about the implementation of facial recognition technology period. To further disconnect citizens from the Democratic process by using mass surveillance systems and technology without our consent and without our knowledge and without a policy in place is unacceptable.

The other vote in question further underscores my fear as to how this issue is being treated by the Board of Police Commissioners. The second vote, it is my understanding, was that these meetings be held in public, outside of the Public Safety Headquarters building. Why would you vote against that? Is this non-compliant with the Open Meetings Act?

The role of the Board of Police Commissioners is to provide civilian oversight of the goings-on of the Detroit Police Department. You have a supervisory role regarding police department oversight regarding policy and rules, budget approval, officer discipline and citizen complaints. I don’t feel as if you are acting in the best interest of the citizenry that you have been elected/appointed to serve. The actions of the Board of Police Commissioners regarding this manner makes me feel as if we are just under an illusion of representation.

With no policy in place you have agreed that this practice should continue. This sets a dangerous precedent. It is my hope that you will take the people’s perspective in consideration as this manner moves toward the official vote on the policy directive. There is sufficient national evidence regarding negative impacts and probability of error in facial recognition technology that make further investigation imperative.

I appreciate the work of board members William Davis (District 7) and  Willie Burton (District 5) for speaking up and acting on behalf of the residents of this city who deserve to be seen and heard, not surveilled and silenced. I hope the other members of this board will follow suit.

Thank you for your time,

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September 12th, 2019

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Thinking for Ourselves

Ring and Recognition
Shea Howell

In the midst of public debate about facial recognition technologies, the Detroit Police Department quietly partnered with Amazon’s neighborhood surveillance program, Ring. The news of this partnership was spread by investigative reporters attempting to document the extent of a growing threat to civil liberties. Detroit is one of 14 Michigan cities that have partnered with the Ring “Neighbors” program. This technology allows police access to digital images captured by home doorbells. The programs offer live streaming to users’ devices, enabling people to remotely see and speak to people on their door steps. Through the Neighbors app, individuals can share images and information. Police departments have access to the images.

Digital justice advocates are concerned that this new technology is rapidly spreading without any regulation. Police partnerships began in the spring of 2018 and now include over 400 cities. While Ring says its mission is “making the neighborhood safer,” it is clearly making Amazon richer.

Amazon purchased the company last year for $800 million. This was not a donation to public safety. Rather, it is the basis for a sophisticated partnership with police departments, aggressively marketed through conferences and programs, offering webinars, technical advice, media strategies, discounts, free cameras, and talking points to help police increase the presence of this Amazon product in neighborhoods.

These partnerships increase the capacities of authorities  to have real time surveillance of communities and people. Mohammad Tajsar, an attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, called the system “an unmitigated disaster” for the privacy of neighborhoods. He noted, Amazon “gets to offer, at taxpayer dime, discounted products that allow it to really expand its tentacles into wide areas of private life way more than it already has.” And so do police.

Andrew Guthrie Ferguson, author of The Rise of Big Data Policing, examines the use of fear as a sales technique. He explains that by tapping into “a perceived need for more self-surveillance and by playing on consumer fears about crime and security Ring has found a clever workaround for the development of a wholly new surveillance network, without the kind of scrutiny that would happen if it was coming from the police or government.”

Evan Greer, the deputy director of Fight for the Future says this Amazon effort is “a privately- run surveillance dragnet built outside the democratic process, but they’re marketing it as just another product, just another app.”

Across the city people have been raising concerns about expanding police powers through Facial Recognition technologies. These technologies are wrapped into the development of the Ring program. Last month Amazon announced it was upgrading its facial recognition capabilities for its program called ReKognition. Also Amazon has filed a patent describing how a network of cameras could work together with facial recognition technology to identify people and respond accordingly.

The Detroit Police and the Mayor have been developing digital capacities of control without sufficient public conversation or attention to democratic safeguards. We need to support all efforts for a moratorium on the expansion of these police powers. We need sustained public conversation about how to enhance our relationships with our neighbors. We need to develop ways to support and nurture one another, not react out of manipulated fears.

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Face Our Fears Or Run From Our Differances?

Rich Feldman

These are complex times filled with anger, tears, hope, lessons and challenges.

I often ask myself: Where does courage come from? Does our humanity come from our courage to speak truth and break the silence among ourselves and our own kind? Does it start with us? I believe it does!

These past weeks were filled with lessons to learn from— or NOT!  Your choice. Our Choice! The urgency of NOW.

Tuesday, August 20th, I had the privilege to join with around 150 folks at the Farmington Hills Holocaust Memorial Museum. They spoke loudly and clearly:

“Close Down the Camps: Never Again.”

Their banner was clear:

“The Birmingham Temple Declares Solidarity with immigrants and refugees.”

I listened to Renee Lichtman, a child survivor and an individual I have known for more than 50 years. It was humbling to see their sign: “ICE = Nazism”

I listened to Adonis Flores from Michigan United as he shared his family’s story. During WWII, his father had worked in the fields in Farmington Hills picking fruits and vegetables for the war effort. Adonis was clear that his family played their part and we had to play ours. Today Adonis continues to oppose US style fascism. He is a leading activist in our area. He linked the need to close the camps on our southern border with the need to oppose the prison industrial complex across our state. In 2019-2020, Neither Wayne County nor Macomb County need new county jails. We do not need jails to house thousands upon thousands of African Americans because they cannot make bail.

There were also 25-50 Trump Supporters in attendance, waving the American and Israeli Flags and wearing T-shirts proudly claiming to be members of Detroit’s Proud Boys (a neo-fascist movement who more than likely supported the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville). They chanted: “Obama built the cages, Trump is filling them!”

Two days earlier, on Sunday, August 18th, I was at the Hazon Michigan Food Festival in Eastern Market. Thousands of folks came from across Metro Detroit and the Midwest to feel, smell, taste and support the amazing work of local farmers and local businesses. I staffed a table for the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership (www.boggscenter.org) and Detroit’s Community visionary magazine, Riverwise (https://riverwisedetroit.org).

With all the progressive Jewish organizations participating, I did not see anyone lifting the banner to engage people in a discussion or introduce the importance of “never again” as it relates to the concentration camps on the southern US border, ICE, or the continued mass incarceration of black Detroiters and people of color across our country.

So many people said: “this is not a time for politics.”

I did not see one sign that said: “We support Rashida Tlaib right to visit Palestine without restrictions.” “We support individual rights to support boycotts,” “Shame on Senator Stabenow,” or even that they disagree with current Israeli policies toward the Palestinian people.

Are we afraid of controversy, debate, dialogue?  Are we afraid of losing our donations? Are we unable to create safe and brave places for public conversations?

That were the fears I was raised to feel. We were told to “never discuss our dirty laundry”—even though everyone else could see the stains and smell the odors.

That is not how I raised my children, though.  I raised my children with voice, dignity and a moral center.  Listening, Disagreeing, Trusting to continue to engage were important to them from the beginning.
DirectlyImpactedDinner_SeptemberFlyer

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DJEF FilmFest

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August 21st, 2019

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The Siwatu Freedom team is overjoyed to report the news that Siwatu’s conviction has been reversed — see the full press release here!

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Thinking for Ourselves

Climate Controls
Shea Howell

The images coming out of Newark, New Jersey this week could easily be mistaken for Flint, Michigan. Long lines of people, mostly black and brown, are pictured next to stacks of bottled water. After repeated denials of a water crisis, and inadequate, often chaotic attempts by officials to address it, the city and state are finally acknowledging a systemic, widespread crisis. Lead from aging pipes is leaching into the water of thousands of households, especially in poorer neighborhoods.

The New York Times reported. “A growing crisis over lead contamination in drinking water gripped Newark on Wednesday as tens of thousands of residents were told to drink only bottled water, the culmination of years of neglect that has pushed New Jersey’s largest city to the forefront of an environmental problem afflicting urban areas across the nation.”

Newark and Flint are examples of the problem older cities face in providing the basic sources of life to people. Marc Edwards, the professor from Virginia Tech who helped document the Flint water crisis, estimates that 11 million homes in the U.S. are at risk of dangerous levels of lead contamination.

Access to safe, affordable drinking water is a global crisis, intensified by climate change. A recent report warned that by 2030 nearly half the population of India, one tenth the of all people on earth, will not have adequate drinking water. Groundwater is running out. Meanwhile from Michigan to California, Nestle and other bottling companies continue to pump out millions of gallons of water, virtually for free, to sell back to people in crisis.

This system is unsustainable. Already much of the migration on a global scale is directly linked to the literal drying up or flooding out of communities made vulnerable by climate catastrophe.

Recently Phillip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights explained that we are increasingly at risk of “climate apartheid.” Alston explains that as basic elements of life become more fragile, political and economic powers move to protect themselves. Alston said, “Climate change threatens to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction,” Poor people everywhere will be most devastated as they will “bear an estimated 75% of the costs of the climate crisis” even though “the poorest half of the world’s population (is) causing just 10% of carbon dioxide emissions.”

The political implications are obvious. Democracy and human rights are endangered everywhere. Alston’s report said, “The risk of community discontent, of growing inequality, and of even greater levels of deprivation among some groups, will likely stimulate nationalist, xenophobic, racist and other responses. Maintaining a balanced approach to civil and political rights will be extremely complex.”

This global context helps us understand why the current fight in Detroit over facial recognition technologies is so important. Increasing tools of technological repression places the majority of people at risk. It only serves to intensify and expand the powers of the state. This is the wrong direction.

If we are to construct a future for all of us, we need to think very differently about the choices we are making today. We need to move toward policies and practices that increase our human connections and our ecological sensibilities. There is a deep tread that ties together protecting the human right to water, food, education, and creative life while resisting dehumanizing, technological efforts of control us. Each time we chose to act toward life, we are shaping a better tomorrow.

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Final_2nd Annual PP Festival
We hope to see you at the 2nd Annual Petty Propolis Art Festival in Historic Idlewild, Michigan!

Join us as we continue Historic Idlewild’s legacy of celebrating Black history and culture! Enjoy incredible artists like Mollywop!, Nique Love Rhodes & the NLR Experience, Monica Blaire and so many more! Check out the Black History 101 Mobile Museum, play big board games, race one of the miniature race cars and enjoy the entertainment for free! For a nominal fee, go kayaking, take a bike ride or go paddle boarding.

This year, we are offering a 1 day roundtrip bus ride to Idlewild for ONLY $30! The bus leaves from Detroit at 8am on September 1st and leaves Idlewild to head back to Detroit at 830pm the same evening.
Limited bus seating available.

Get additional info and your day pass here

See you there!
#PettyPropolis

#PettyPropolisFestival

#ExperienceIdlewild

#NextGenIdlewild

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  2019-2206 Riverwise Surveillance proof 5

Detroit’s creative community has gained a valuable resource in the Riverwise Storytelling Workshops, which focus on grooming storytellers within the city. KEEP READING

Riverwise-Workshop

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Online Class by Visionary Organizing Lab

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Many are marking 2019 as the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first captured Africans in Jamestown. So, even more than usual, we will hear chattel slavery referred to as the nation’s original sin.

It isn’t.

KEEP READING

August 12th, 2019

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Field Street Block Club Clean Up & Meet Up

Saturday, August 17th
2514 Field St.
Detroit

CLEAN UP: 9-noon
EAT UP AND MEET UP: 1-4

Thinking for Ourselves

Constant Sorrow
Shea Howell

This has been a week of constant sorrow. We have witnessed the murders of 31 people in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. As hospitals worked to save lives and repair people, brutal ICE agents rounded up nearly 700 people in Mississippi, leaving children sobbing uncontrollably for their parents. White supremacy and white nationalism are everywhere. By Sunday a young white man walked into a Mosque in Oslo with guns blazing.

These tragedies overwhelmed our hearts and saturated the media. The 74th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima on August 6th and on Nagasaki on August 9th went by with little notice. These nuclear weapons of mass destruction caused the deaths of 146,000 people in Hiroshima and 80,000 people in Nagasaki, changing the world forever. The US remains the only nation to have used these bombs, though each day the world comes closer to another such holocaust. Nor was there much space to publicly acknowledge and reflect on the five years that have passed since the murder of Michael Brown, even as the town of Ferguson calls on its artists to help heal wounds still raw.

The violence and brutality of this moment invades everything we touch. For many of us, the current President embodies the worst of it; encouraging hate, distorting lives, thoughts, and language, spewing hate.

In the midst of this, Toni Morrison left us. Her death marks the loss of one of the most vital and visionary thinkers of our time.  Her voice will be greatly missed. Angela Davis wrote in her tribute:

“Toni was cleareyed about the United States, about the lies it tells itself, about the truth of its dark side and about its potential, rooted in its traditions of dissent, to offer a better future. A student of history, she understood that nations come and go, but that human beings had the capacity for change, evolution and growth, and that a more just world awaits if only we would commit to bringing it into being.”

Tracy K Smith, former poet laureate of the US, wrote similarly of Ms. Morrison’s belief in the possibilities of America, fully knowing the brutality woven into us from the beginning. She said:

“I believe her subject is America, this place founded upon conflict and driven by the need to define one group against another. Her work asks: Who are we? What have we built and broken together? What does it mean to regard one another deeply, humbly, hopefully? And what are the consequences for our refusal to regard one another? Across Ms. Morrison’s novels and essays, these questions operate in the intimate spaces — in families, friendships, marriages — that serve to determine the terms of our engagement with the wider world. And the reverse is true as well: The terms of the wider world seep inevitably into the most private regions of our lives.”

Toni Morrison helps us all face the fact that the violence of today is an enduring part of our collective life on this land. Angela Davis said:

“Decades ago, she warned about the rising tide of authoritarianism in a series of astute and prescient lectures and essays. In 1995, she compelled us to heed the signs of people who “construct an internal enemy as both focus and diversion” and who “isolate and demonize that enemy by unleashing and protecting the utterance of overt and coded name-calling and verbal abuse.” These, she warned, were the first steps toward “a final solution.” These essays are as important today as they were when she wrote them. Perhaps even more so.

As with all of our greatest thinkers, she held up a mirror that shows us our capacity for tremendous evil as well as for good. In one of her late novels, “A Mercy,” she returned us to a period before racial slavery was consolidated, when a new nation might have made a different set of choices and everything was in flux and possible. She does not take us down the path of the devastating choice that was made. We know that. We are living it. She simply uses the power of imagination to remind us that at any given stage, we might have chosen differently.

Today the choices before us cannot be evaded. Terror is rising in ways that cannot be denied. Toni Morrison offers us deep wisdom. She challenges us to hold fast to our capacity to find our way to the choices of life rooted in love and longing.

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Calling all people with a disability or chronic illness living in the Detroit area!  Calling all caregivers
of a person with a disability or chronic illness – family, friend, aide, teacher, loved one or professional!

We invite you to join our process of exploring, listening, supporting, sharing, healing, reflecting, and transforming our lives in a community with others doing the same.

-Do you need assistance and resources for a more balanced life?
-Are you tired or feeling stressed from your day-to-day struggles in Detroit?
-Do you want to expand your support system and be a part of a caring community?
-Are you ready to share stories and strategies in a safe space?
-Do you want to have fun and meet new people?

?
Our monthly Community Care Circles will launch August 18, 2019, meeting the 3rd Sunday of each month, 2-4 p.m. at Delray Senior Housing, 275 W Grand Blvd. in Detroit.

Please RSVP here.
Click here for more details!

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Try Email Marketing with VerticalResponse!

August 7th, 2019

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dialec


 Thinking for Ourselves
A Green New Deal
Shea Howel
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As Democratic contenders for President convened for the second series of debates, more than 2,000 people gathered outside the Fox Theatre in downtown Detroit in support of a Green New Deal. This demonstration, organized by the Frontline Detroit Coalition offers new possibilities to deepen the national perspective on the twin crises of our time: climate catastrophe and income inequality.Detroit has unique contributions to make in the understanding of a Green New Deal. As one of the first cities developed by large scale, industrial production, we were also one of the first abandoned by it. As a result, Detroiters long ago gave up the notion that there will some single, simple action to restore work to millions of people and provide secure ways of living. Instead, drawing on the rich roots of African American culture, many people in the city have been ”making a way out of no way.”For example, in the face of what many in power call abandoned lots, Detroiters saw the potential for urban gardens, not only to provide personal sustenance, but as ways to restore community and re-establish intergenerational ties. Today the concepts of food justice and food sovereignty enrich our understanding that a “city that feeds itself, frees itself.”

And as the mayor and his minions continue to shut off water, Detroiters are insisting that we shift our thinking from water as a commodity, to be owned, bought, and sold, to water as a human right and sacred trust. These concepts are the foundation for continued pressure for water affordability and the insistence that we make responsible decisions that protect people as well as the planet.

Detroiters have also seen the ease with which capital finds new ways to make money. We have seen our schools devastated by profit seekers. We have endured increased pollution and persistent threats to our air and water as corporations pursue expanding refineries and transporting fuel through fragile ecologies. We are told the best we can expect is a few jobs in exchange for poisoning our air and risking our health. More and more of us are rejecting that logic.

These experiences collectively frame one of the most important and little reported acts of the Detroit City Council. This spring Council President Pro Tem Sheffield and Council member Castened-Lopez introduced a resolution in support of the Green New Deal. It passed unanimously. It offers an honest look at the magnitude of the crisis we face and the possibilities for action. It states in the opening:

WHEREAS, The world is presently entering the climate change era, which is already causing epic transformation of our home planet as a result of increasingly unstable climactic and environmental conditions, intensified and more frequent and destructive storms, floods, droughts, fires and resulting disruptions of social and economic life.  …and

WHEREAS, In response to this unprecedented series of existential threats to the very ecological basis for human civilization itself, climate justice activists have demanded a Green New Deal … an urgent ten (10) year plan to mobilize every aspect of American society, leading to a national social, industrial and economic policy transformation, on a scale not seen since World War II and the New Deal era..and.

WHEREAS, The proposed Green New Deal appropriately calls out several related crises in social, political and economic realms, that are directly related to environmental challenges…and

WHEREAS, The proposed Green New Deal names multiple systemic injustices in frontline and vulnerable communities as among the most far-reaching evils of our climate emergency which must be fought and prevented…and

WHEREAS, The proposed Green New Deal is a transitional program to, among other things, protect the basic human rights of the most vulnerable, stimulate the economy by funding full employment through ecological restoration projects – on the model of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) of the original New Deal – to ensure that basic needs of the most seriously endangered and harmed will be met in the process of a necessary planned, just transition to a sustainable economy and society; …

The statement resolves “THAT The time for action is now.” Yet since this resolution, actions have been slow from the Council and the Mayor.

But within the community, the sense of urgency is encouraging the imaginations of people determined to find new ways of living, of relating to one another and the earth that sustains us.

The crises we face are not natural. They are the direct result of choices we have made. The future depends on our capacity now, to make different choices about who and what we value.

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“Facial recognition technology is racially biased and poses a grave threat to privacy,” said Rodd Monts, Campaign Outreach Coordinator for the ACLU of Michigan. “It will disproportionately harm immigrants and communities of color, who already bear the brunt of over-policing. A city like ours should be taking the lead in resisting the use of dangerous and racially biased surveillance technology — not advocating for it.”

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On Wednesday July 24th, the first meeting of the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jails and Pretrial Incarceration took place at Wayne State Law School. Lt. Governor Garlin Gilchrist introduced the purpose of the task force, which is to make policy recommendations based on data being compiled by Pew Research, community input, and the task force’s experience in the field. Following opening statements, every member of the task force introduced themself and the work that they do. DJC’s founding ED Amanda Alexander addressed the audience in the room.

July 29th, 2019

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Thinking for Ourselves

Duggan and Deceit
Shea Howell

The debate over increased surveillance in our city is not going to go away. Last week the Detroit City Council voted in a 6 to 3 split to allocate of $4 million for the expansion of DPD’s Real Time Crime Center and the development of two “mini” crime monitoring centers.The 8th and 9th precincts will receive new centers, for $2 million. Another $2 million will be used to upgrade the current Real Time Crime. Like the original $8 million used to set up the main center in Public Safety Headquarters, these efforts will be funded by bonds.

The decision to establish and expand these Centers is linked to the controversial use of facial recognition technologies. Increasingly the public is becoming skeptical of the Mayor and his motives.

Over the last few weeks the public debate has established that these technologies are racial biased. It has been made clear that there is no evidence that these technologies actually deter or solve crimes. As Free Press editor Nancy Kaffer observed, the questions surrounding the use of this facial recognition technologies are complex and “should cause any reasonable person to wonder why the Detroit Police Department has pushed forward with the controversial software, absent, for some portion of the period it has been in use, a departmental standard operating procedure, a policy directive approved by the board of Detroit Police Commissioners, satisfactory answers about how and when the software is to be used, its error rate, the implications for its combination with Detroit’s expanding Project Greenlight network of video cameras, or transparency with the residents the software is meant to either police or protect.”

This debate is also surfacing manipulative efforts flowing from the Mayor’s office. One clear technique the Mayor uses is to divide up the various programs he is putting together. Consider for example the lack of a full accounting of the cumulative public funds committed to creating this network of surveillance.

While still in the shadow of bankruptcy, in 2016, Duggan allocated $8 million to set up the first digital video surveillance center. This week he added $4 million. In 2017 he spent another million to contract with DataWorks, buying and implementing facial recognition technologies. Now he is planning a “Neighborhood Real Time Intelligence program setting up high definition surveillance cameras at traffic lights with a goal of establishing nearly 500 such cameras by 2020. The city will spend approximately $8.9 million in local and federal traffic signal modernization funds for the installation of the cameras. Aside from whether or not it will be legal to redirect federal funds for this, Duggan will have spent more than $21 million on a network of cameras without a single piece of evidence that it works. This is before the possible expanded contract with DataWorks. At a time when crime is going down nationally and locally why is the Mayor committing such vast expenditures of public money to this project?

The Mayor is dividing up more than the money. He is also hiding the extent of the network he is creating and his efforts to consolidate public support. In March of 2019 neighborhood groups began getting emailsfrom Duggan’s staff asking them to circulate petitions to support his multi-million dollar crime program linked to surveillance cameras. The email read: “In order to continue making Detroit a safe place to live, work, and play, we are asking you to gather signatures from your neighbors pledging support for the Neighborhood Real-Time Intelligence Program.” These cameras were described as extending the Project Green Light efforts and pitched as a crime fighting tool.

Now Duggan is running around trying to separate Project Green Light from Neighborhood surveillance, and both from facial recognition.

There are many ways for us to create safe, healthy, sustainable communities. But none of these are encouraged by Duggan. Instead his record is one of deceit and manipulation.
Let’s All Take Our Shoes Off
Frank Joyce

What an inspiration it was to attend the dedication of a statue of Viola Liuzzo this past Monday. It was one of those moments where the Beloved Community came together in real time.

Hundreds of people were there. Young, old, black white, etc. Most of Viola’s children and grandchildren attended. The MC for the program was her grandson Josh. All of the children spoke briefly and gave voice to the values their mother embodied.

In the middle of the program Susan Bro was introduced and gave a short but moving speech. Susan is the mother of Heather Heyer, the young women killed in Charlottesville. Heather is sometimes referred to as the modern Viola Liuzzo.

The statue is located at Viola Liuzzo park. It is a beautiful and well maintained neighborhood space near 8 Mile and Greenfield in Detroit with fitness equipment, children’s playground stuff, bio-retention ponds and now the statue. The evolution of the park itself has been a decades long effort to pay tribute to her life and her sacrifice. It is close to the home she left to go to support the Selma to Montgomery march in 1965. Dorothy Dewberry Aldridge, a member of the National Council of Elders (NCOE) has been a dedicated member of the committee that has brought the park and the statue to life. (Note in the photo the delightful detail that she is carrying her shoes.)
(photo credit: Detroit News)
Here’s hoping we all have more opportunities to spend time in the Beloved Community.

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(photo credit: Detroit News)

Here’s hoping we all have more opportunities to spend time in the Beloved Community.


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July 22nd, 2019

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siwatu

Dear Freedom Family,

Thank you for all your endless love and support! You embody what community power is and what is possible when we join forces toward true liberation.

Come on out to Grace in Action (1725 Lawndale) for I Believe in Our Power (Part 2)

Friday, July 26 from 5-8pm.

At this event we’ll be sharing legal updates on my appeal along with calls to action on how to support our community members coming home, building power around policy/legislation, and other efforts toward visioning and building a world without prisons. We will be welcoming some of the amazing women who I met at Huron Valley who are now home! We must show them our love and solidarity.

For those of you who are not in Detroit- or unable to attend- you can continue to support (as many of you have generously done already) by donating at this link. Donations continue to support legal fees, media documentation, other women who have been released and need support, abolition organizing and much more. Legal fees are also paid by speaking engagements and workshops. If you are interested in either of these options please email us at freesiwatu@gmail.com.

We will keep all of you in the loop as we get more legal and policy related updates, and to keep you informed of other ways to get involved.

Let us continue to hold onto one another and imagine a world without prisons.

Gratitude,

Siwatu
FreeSiwatu.org
#KeepSiwatuFree

Thinking for Ourselves

Emotional Weapons
Shea Howell

This week Mayor Duggan issued a letter that increased the confusion around police use of facial recognition technology.  His carefully worded statement, designed to give the appearance of protecting privacy while expanding police powers, underscores why we cannot trust this mayor, or any police department, with such powerful tools of surveillance and control.

As the controversy is accelerating in Detroit, the New York Times published an article on the private use of digital surveillance as a new profit-based industry. The article by Sharon Weinberger explains how high-tech surveillance is now “a highly secretive multibillion-dollar industry.” Thanks to the Patriot Act, “lawmakers inadvertently created a market for companies interested in providing services and technologies to collect and analyze the new trove of data.”

Later Weinberger explained we need a moratorium on the use of these technologies, precisely because there is both so much misunderstanding and so much misuse. She says clearly, “Intelligence-gathering systems should be treated by the American government like what they are: weapons.”

None of us should welcome the use of these new technological weapons in Detroit, especially not in the hands of public officials who cannot tolerate honest debate. Over the last week we have seen the violent arrest of a police commissioner who opposed this technology, we have been told that this technology is not related to Project Green Light, and we have been told that opposition is “emotional” and “misinformed.” We have been assured by a Mayor who is known for his inability to tolerate criticism that these capabilities will never be used against political opponents or activist organizers. In a recent letter to the public Duggan said bluntly, “I strongly oppose the use of facial recognition technology for surveillance.”

However, the history of police power in the US and everywhere else contradicts this statement. The police have never met a weapon they didn’t use. Nor have citizen rights stood in their way. Whether to protect state power or resolve personal grievances, the desire to identify, surveil, and ultimately control others propels police to use every weapon they have. Usually these weapons cannot be stopped, even when they clearly create great harm.

The lie behind these statements by the Mayor is made clear in the next section of his letter where he accuses the opposition of providing “misleading reports that have confused Green light or Traffic cameras with facial recognition technology. They are not correct.”

The Mayor rests this claim on the carefully crafted sentence, these “cameras do not have any facial recognition technology.” But that is beside the point. These cameras feed into the Control Center that does have this technology.

Moreover, his own contract for facial recognition technology explicitly links facial recognition to Project Green Light.

It is not the opposition that is misinformed or confused. It is the Mayor.

As Eric Williams of the American Civil Liberties Union explained, “Language games and a capitalization on general confusion around the technology have been a core feature of the city’s surveillance initiatives. He indicated that, “Because they keep breaking it up — just traffic cameras, just Green Light participating businesses, just Green Light corridors — you can’t comprehend,” the overall impact.

The Mayor attacks “emotional responses” to placing powerful surveillance weapons in the hands of police. Yet, he plays on the emotion of fear, pointing to car jackings, kidnappings, and murders, claiming, without a single piece of research, that this technology will make us safer.

Many of us who oppose facial recognition technology are emotional about it. We care deeply about the direction of city, the safety of our lives, and the quality of our relationships. We know that history and evidence do not warrant putting facial recognition in the hands of  the police or the mayor.

July 16th, 2019

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Thank you to everyone who participated in the JB100 events to celebrate what would have been James ‘Jimmy’ Boggs’ 100th year of birth! We are grateful for the connections, lessons, and leadership that made it possible, and for each person who engaged with ideas and with each other. As we rest and reflect from the celebration, we want to hear from you about what you learned and experienced for the event(s) you attended. Please share them with us on this form: 

To continue the work of the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership, we welcome monetary support through tax-deductible donations. Become a sustainer, today! 

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Thinking for Ourselves

Commission Lesson
Shea Howell

This week  the Detroit Police Department and the Mayor gave us the strongest reason yet to call a halt to the use of facial recognition technologies and Project Green Light.  Mayor Duggan and Chief Craig have asked us to have faith in their judgment, but they cannot even tolerate criticism from an elected Police Commissioner. They condone pushing him to the floor, handcuffing him, and hauling him off to jail because he made forceful comments during a routine Commission meeting.  They cannot handle public criticism without resorting to force and violence. Yet they are asking us to “trust them” with some of the most intrusive and dangerous technology now available.

On Thursday, Commissioner Willie Burton was forcefully removed for the Police Commission meeting as he tried to question the steamrolling of the Commission to endorse facial recognition technology. Earlier in the week, Commissioner Barton had published an editorial in the Metro Times. He wrote:
We, the people of Detroit, do not want pervasive real-time facial recognition surveillance in our city. However, despite the public outcry, the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners has forced this invasive and unconstitutional overreach of their authority upon us through an expansion of Project Green Light. Their tactics were reprehensible, and I stand with the community in calling for a public referendum.

He explained that the proposed programs “would create a massive net of real-time surveillance that could monitor people in their cars, on the street, or even on their own properties.”

Researchers have consistently warned that facial recognition “is known to have a bias against people of color: the system is much less accurate at identifying African Americans.” Commissioner Barton concluded, “The system also has massive potential to be abused by targeting vulnerable populations like our undocumented neighbors, or by users who can virtually stalk a jaded lover, for example.”

He went on to explain that in spite of growing public outcry “the Board used non-transparent, draconian tactics to jam through approval of this system. They circulated a policy document among board members with no explanation of where it came from, no opportunity to debate, and no public comment. In the June 27 meeting, the Board approved this document and the program. When I tried to question the process and call for delay, I was undemocratically shut down by the Chair, who has no regard for the voices of the 100,000 Detroiters I was elected to represent.”

During this same week that Commissioner Barton was arrested, the widespread concern that facial recognition would be abused was affirmed. We learned that ICE has been scanning driver’s license images to find people who are in the country without documentation. We learned that the FBI routinely uses this technology. And we learned that across the globe, from Ferguson to China, these technologies are being used to target activists.

Mayor Duggan and Chief Craig have shown little regard for inhuman treatment of people. They have supported the expansion of surveillance without any evidence that it enhances the safety of people. They have refused to condemn the round up of our neighbors who want nothing more than to live in peace and raise their families. They have not condemned the cramming of people into concentration camps, nor the separation of children from their families. Their voices have been silent in the face of escalating state violence. Unlike leaders in other cities, they have made no public protections for people who face prison and deportation.

Neither public safety nor democracy are well served by the use of brute force. We cannot trust these men to run a routine public meeting. We should not trust them with technologies that will increase their powers of control.

Gentrification
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On Press: Making Visible an Unseen Detroit
Printing Demo: Saturday, July 13th, 3-5 pm | Free!
Reception: Friday, July 19, 5-8 pm

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On Press: Making Visible an Unseen Detroit
Printing Demo: Saturday, July 13th, 3-5 pm | Free!
Reception: Friday, July 19, 5-8 pm

People are watching, visiting and writing about Detroit, too often putting a superficial spin on a complex city. A more textured story exists and it is critical that Detroiters do the telling.  Not all artists are activists and not all nonprofit organizations are connected to the world of art. Signal-Return, a traditional letterpress print shop and community arts center, paired twelve Detroit artists with twelve Detroit nonprofit organizations, which resulted in powerful creative collaborations. As part this On Press project, artists received honoraria for their time and talent, and proceeds from poster sales benefit partner organizations. This collaboration created a creatively rich opportunity for engagement for both groups, for Detroit and for those looking at us from the outside.  The project was directed by Lynne Avadenka and the artists were guided by Lee Marchalonis.

This exhibition includes the twelve relief printed editions created by the artists to celebrate the nonprofits, along with original works by each artist, and information about the selected nonprofits.

The artists and nonprofits are:
Mark Arminski/Georgia St. Community Collective
WC Bevan/WNUC
Olayami Dabls/Mariners Inn
Louise Jones/Detroit Hives
Andy Krieger/The Children’s Center
Nicole Macdonald/Wild Indigo Detroit Nature Explorations
Sabrina Nelson/Black Family Development
Renata Palubinskas/Keep Growing Detroit
Pat Perry/Freedom House
Renee Rials/Cots
Azucena Nava-Moreno/Detroit Horse Power
Vito Valdez/Last Day Dog Rescue

On Press was made possible with the support of The Windgate Foundation and The John S. and James. L. Knight Foundation.

July 8th, 2019

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Thinking for Ourselves

Independence Day
Shea Howell

This Fourth of July Donald Trump staged a militaristic, made for media moment to celebrate Independence Day in the USA. As planes flew over his head, often drowning out the sound system designed to reach his select crowd, about 150 Detroiters gathered on the East side to talk about freedom, peace, art and liberation. The gathering at Feedem Freedom Growers offered a workshop on creating peace zones for life, celebrated the new Fox Creek Artist collective, and provided food from local vendors. Children made art projects and played on tire swings fashioned on the low branches of ancient maple trees.

Detroit Police came by three times. At one point, an officer got on a loudspeaker to yell at people crossing the street. Of course, people were moving freely back and forth between gardens, water stations, art exhibits, and play areas. The street was closed to all but local traffic.

This police intrusion, unasked for and unwanted, reflected the prison mentality taking over our country. It was in line with the words and actions of Trump. Its most brutal expressions are encouraged by him daily.

This police presence is a reminder to all of us that we are at a critical moment in the evolution of capitalist economies. In 1980, with the ascent of Ronald Reagan to power, capital began to shift as primary sources of profit. Prior to Reagan, as industrial capital replaced people with robots and technologies of production, human beings became more important as consumers than as producers. But with Reagan, the use of tax dollars to support consumption by those thrown out of work eroded. Hard won victories by welfare rights organizations and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Poor People’s Campaign, which had protected many of our most vulnerable people from the reality of no longer being needed to produce goods or provide services, were overturned.

Reagan attacked “welfare” as supporting laziness and corruption. He introduced a racialized pretext for ending the public consensus that we had a responsibility to one another to ensure that all people had some level of dignity and the ability to secure food, clothing, education, and shelter. Until Reagan, capital supported public assistance to those made obsolete to production. Capital endorsed using taxpayer dollars to stimulate consumption. Consumption was seen as necessary to keep profits going.

But with Reagan and the development of what has come to be called “neoliberalism,” capital found new sources of profit. It is making money from controlling our bodies. In much the same way as early capital in the US sold human beings into slavery for profit, capital is again turning our bodies into money. Putting elders into hospitals and nursing homes, cramming children into for profit charter schools, stealing dreams of education from people seeking advanced education through for-profit colleges, and forcing people into prison cells and detention centers are now all big business.

In this new evolution of capital, controlling people becomes essential. For capital not only makes money off warehousing us in hospitals, nursing homes, schools and prisons, it makes money off of publicly financing and building these institutions. Municipal debt impoverishes cities while advancing the wealth of a few individuals.

This dynamic is most insidious in the evolution of technologies of control. This week the New York Times published an important article on ankle bracelet monitoring, emphasizing that people who have not been convicted of crimes are often placed by courts into “home monitoring” systems that end up costing them hundreds of dollars. Snared in an ever-expanding criminal net, people are forced to pay daily fees for monitoring, for installation costs, late fees, and outrageous interest rates.

These mechanisms are supported by the Trump policies encouraging the arrest of more people. The “fear of crime” whether by people living in urban areas or immigrants coming across borders is being twisted into a vast financial network.

Since the days of the first poor people’s campaign, the number of people in prison has jumped more than 500%. Increasingly those people in this system are being steered into technological monitoring programs.

This Fourth of July, we gathered to talk of a different kind of future, one without prisons or borders. Gathering to dream together of peace, of a future that embraces children, values art, and encourages joy threatens the foundation of those whose attempt to profit from controlling us.
On the Betsy DeVos Agenda and Raising Our Collective Critical Consciousness for Social Change

Summer Reading Recommendations

GetImage

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JB @ 100
7-1
 Detroit Summer Oral History Presentation
7-3 Study In-Teach Out
7-4 Feedom Freedom Art Installation
7-5 Jazz Lovers Paradise Tour

Join the Week-long Celebration

Thinking for Ourselves
Our Children, Our Communities
Shea Howell

This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Detroit revolutionary philosopher, writer, and activist James Boggs. To explore the contributions of his thinking to understanding our present crisis and what we must do to advance our common humanity, the James and Grace Lee Boggs School and the Center to Nurture Community leadership are hosting a series of events.

The celebrations began on Saturday morning at the Church of the Messiah, just down the street from the home James and Grace shared for nearly 50 years on the east side of Detroit. More than 500 people marched in the 11th Annual Silence the Violence Million Children March.

Pastor Barry Randolph, whose leadership has framed the March explained in his call:

The purpose of the march has been to shed light to the issues facing young people in America today, specifically urban communities. The event also focuses on connecting community organizations making positive impacts in the community, to create Detroit (IN)powerment Village Alliances (D.I.V.A.) across the city.

Community groups, religious organizations, governmental leaders, law enforcement, business leaders, as well as the average citizen, will all gather and participate in this annual event to celebrate community and honor those who have died because of gun violence.”

For the first time, other cities are joining in the initiative, including  Chicago, Atlanta, New Orleans, Baltimore, New York, Boston, Pontiac, Flint, Highland Park, and Ypsilanti.
Although James Boggs was a man of ideas who urged us to think more deeply, he was vitally concerned with actions in public life. There is no doubt he would have participated in the march if he was still with us. Certainly, his spirit was there as people walked for peace, to share ideas about how to live with more consciousness and care for one another and for the earth we share.

This year’s march held the promise of peace against the pain of the recent murder of DeMarkkus Washington, a member of the Messiah community who had been active in their Makerspace. Like thousands of young people, he was preparing for his prom and graduation from Martin Luther King High School. He was one of seven people shot to death in Detroit the night of May 24th.

Jimmy would have marched to say DeMarkkus’s life matters. We are all poorer because of his death. And we failed him. We failed to create a community where he could sit in a car and talk to a friend and be safe. We failed to create a community that enables all of our children to thrive, to develop to their full capabilities and deepest dreams.

Jimmy said in 1987 in a speech on Community Building:

The level of our human relationships has never been so low. We live in a social environment where there is little or no respect for human or natural life; where violent crimes against those close to you and the abuse of women, children, the old, the blind and the crippled have become normal; and where even those who have increased their access to material things and to high positions restore to drugs and alcohol because they are so spiritually impoverished…That is why the main question before us is “How can we become new men and new women?—willing to accept the challenge to live by the vision of another culture, a new culture which we still have to create, a culture which is based on social responsibility and respect for one another instead of individualism and materialism and on a love for and kinship with the Land and with Nature—instead of viewing Nature as something to be conquered and Land as a commodity to be owned? How do we create a culture that is life-affirming rather than life-destroying, which is based on caring and compassion rather than on the philosophy of the Survival of the fittest?
Jimmy believed the only solution to this violence is in the creation of loving communities. He said, “In order to create this new life-affirming culture, our first priority must be the rebuilding or the regeneration of our communities because it is in community that human beings have always found their personhood…you can’t find your human identity by yourself. It is in the community that our human identity is created because it is in community that Love, Respect and Responsibility for one another are nurtured.

Creating a new public culture begins with stepping toward one another, finding our way to a future that nurtures, loves, and protects all our children. As Pastor Barry said of this moment, “It’s everyone coming together, standing up for our community, standing up for the rights of children and creating the type of community of which our children can be proud.”

Notes of a Journey . . .
Jim Chaffers

These notes arrive from my hometown, deep south of the Mason-Dixon; a ‘stone’s throw’ from Jimmy’s homeplace.

My journey with Jimmy, began in the spring of 1974. I was a newly hired faculty member at the (UM) College of Architecture and had recently opened a ‘store-front design center’ on Buchanan Street, near West Grand Boulevard. With the help of many, many neighborhood hands (and hearts) and a $100 land purchase from the City of Detroit, a once thriving, but now abandoned, Polish bakery was converted into a ‘buzzing hub’ of energy and optimism; more specifically, a buzzing “hub for skill and talent exchanges” home-grown from a neighborhood of approximately 700 (Black/Polish/Greek/Latino) families.

Jimmy’s and my chance crossing of paths resulted in a visit, with Grace, to my (UM) graduate design seminar later that fall. That ‘visit’ eventually became the first of eighteen consecutive yearly “UM conversations.” As one might imagine, the (intellectual, visionary, and all otherwise) ‘highlights’ were many and ever-lasting.

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During one of our earlier conversations, we sat deep into the Boggs homestead, around a quite compact kitchen dining table. I was offered coffee or tea. I chose tea and my first offering of sweet cakes. (Being the deep south, ‘Louisiana boy’ that I am, I knew immediately what sweet cakes were. Taking our first bites, Jimmy and I rather easily moved into a lengthy give-and-take about my Louisiana ties and his deep south upbringing in Alabama. Our conversation then naturally flowed into the importance of “family.” And before we were done, Jimmy—in his special, unhurried way— quietly suggested that I should consider myself a part of his kin.

At a point in later conversations, Jimmy and I shared thoughts about architecture and the idea of “beloved community” . . . leading me to share my dream of designing something like a ‘spatial-spiritual dictionary’ for life navigating; a design of everyday vocabulary and meanings that would bond the idea of “sheltering space” and “nourishing spirit.” Jimmy was very encouraging and I am now very close to a publication that will allow me to realize my dream (and Jimmy’s) as a shared reality.

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YANG Zhengjun, WEI Zhili, and KE Chengbing: 
Three Labour Rights Defenders Held under RSDL for Helping Pneumoconiosis Workers Fight for their Occupational Disease Compensation

Background of the Detentions

The detention of the three “iLabour” activists is a further clamp down on labour movement after Jasic struggle. On January 8th, Chinese police stormed an urban village residence and detained “iLabour” website editor Yang Zhengjun. Less than three months later, on March 20th, police detained two other—Wei Zhili and Ke Chengbing. The three activists are with “iLabour”, an independent online labour rights media platform created in November 2013. It mainly covers worker-related stories, news and shares workers’ rights defense experiences and provides workers with a platform for labour rights consultation. At the time of their arrest, the three were reporting on and supporting a struggle for occupational disease compensation by Hunanese construction workers who had contracted pneumoconiosis doing blast hole drilling in Shenzhen.

Since the 1990s, workers from Hunan have been engaging in drilling and blasting in Shenzhen to construct the foundations for city landmarks. After working in a dusty environment without adequate protective gears, many of the workers have been diagnosed with the incurable occupational disease pneumoconiosis later. As the employers failed to provide workers with labour contracts and social security contributions, the workers have had difficulty accessing occupational disease identification, treatment and compensation, and ended up in huge debt. Since early 2018, hundreds of them have petitioned to Shenzhen for over ten times to campaign for defend their rights.

The three “iLabour” activists began supporting pneumoconiosis workers’ struggle in early 2018 by counseling on labor law and sending out rights defense updates online to make their plight visible to the public. The three iLabour activists have been promoting worker’ rights to health, a dignified living and the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association vis the online platform. However, on January 8th, only one day after fifty pneumoconiosis workers were forcibly sent back to Hunan. Yang Zhengjun, was arrested in Guangzhou. During the interrogation, the police told Yang that he was arrested because of the protests of pneumoconiosis workers. After Yang’s arrest, Wei Zhili and Ke Chengbing continued to help the Hunan workers and provided them with legal advice. On March 20, Wei and Ke were also arrested in Guangzhou. The police also told Wei’s family that he was arrested for helping pneumoconiosis workers.

Held in RSDL, a System of Enforced Disappearances

Currently, Yang, Wei, and Ke are held in “Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location” (hereafter RSDL). RSDL is a controversial system of enforced disappearances enacted into law in 2013. In RSDL, family members are not notified of the person’s whereabouts, and the suspects have no access to their lawyers. Due to the lack of oversight allowing torture and forced confessions. UN experts consider RSDL may constitute a form of forcible disappearance. According to RSDL Monitor, many lawyers, journalists, and other human rights defenders, have been subjected to this system.

Further Information of the detained “iLabour” Three 

“iLabour” is an independent online labour rights media platform created in November 2013. Its core values include “promoting economic democracy, safeguarding labor value, and building a just society”. It mainly covers worker-related stories, news and shares workers’ rights defense experiences and provides workers with a platform for labour rights consultation.

YANG Zhengjun, born in 1986, editor of “iLabour”. Yang graduated from Minzu University of China with a Master’s in Political Economy. After the graduation, Yang participated in the editorial work of “iLabour”and continued to speak out for workers. After Yang’s arrest on Jan 8th, he was detained at the Shenzhen No. 2 Detention Center for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. On February 6th, he was transferred to RSDL. As of today, Yang has been held for over 100 days, but the four requests to meet him from his lawyers between February and April have all been refused; the police has been arguing that Yang has written a statement stating that he has terminated the appointment of the lawyer appointed by the families, yet the police never been able to show the families the statement.

WEI Zhili, born in 1988, the editor of “iLabour”. Wei graduated from Guangzhou University in 2011. During his college years, he participated in various labour-related studies and provided services to frontline workers. He decided to devote himself to improving the living conditions of Chinese workers after reading a booklet in the University about the tragic story of pneumoconiosis workers. In 2013, he joined “iLabour” to further promote labor rights. On March 20th, he was arrested and detained at the Shenzhen No. 2 Detention Center for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and transferred to RSDL on April 20th. Since Wei was held in RSDL, all requests submitted by Wei’s lawyer to meet him has been refused.

KE Chengbing, born in 1989, the editor of “iLabour”. After graduation from Jinan University in 2012, Ke devoted himself to serving workers in the Pearl River Delta, participating in research on the situation of Foxconn workers. In 2013, he became editor iLabour to speaking out for workers. On March 20th, he was arrested and detained at the Shenzhen No. 2 Detention Center for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and transferred to RSDL on April 20th. On March 23th, the police forcibly took away Ke’s family, after controlling and threatening for over 8 hours, Ke’s family was forced to sign a document to terminate the appointment of the lawyer under huge pressure.

News Reports 

South China Morning
https://www.scmp.com/news/china/politics/article/3002732/chinese-labour-rights-activists-detained-authorities-try-shut

Buzz Feed News
https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/nishitajha/zheng-churan-feminist-five-china-running

Le Monde
https://www.lemonde.fr/international/article/2019/04/10/zheng-churan-militante-des-droits-humains-en-chine-n-importe-qui-peut-se-faire-arreter_5448457_3210.html
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The African American Mysteries, Underground Youth Ensemble, is designed to bring African American history alive in an exciting, informative, and creative manner for both the youth and adult audiences.
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(There were almost 100 businesses owned by black people in Detroit prior to the Civil War. A black man was the first to own and operate an Ice Cream Polar which was located on Bates Street in the 1860’s Bates Street which was home to many minority businesses was “gentrified” in the 1970’s to make way for the I-75 freeway.)

ENROLL IN THE ENSEMBLE TODAY!

June 25th, 2019

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Thinking for Ourselves

Asking Questions
Shea Howell

The future of our city is driven by countless small decisions. Of course, political choices, like giving 200 acres of land to Fiat-Chrysler, or flattening a community for a Cadillac plant, have enormous consequences. But often, the things that touch our daily lives are far less dramatic.

Most of these small decisions happen without much public attention. Small conversations, routine committee meetings, and group planning sessions can be the spark for big changes. Such a moment occurred last week in the Public Health and Safety committee discussion convened to explore the transfer of responsibilities from the Land Bank back to the city of Detroit. This transfer is critical in the upcoming effort by the Duggan administration to pass $200 million bond to accelerate “blight” removal and the tearing down of vacant homes.

What started out as a routine administrative effort to show a power point and move on was quickly turned into a thoughtful discussion by the only two council members present, Janee Ayers, who chairs the committee, and Roy McCalister, who happens to be my representative.

The head of the Detroit Building Authority laid out his case for helping the committee understand the need to shift housing demolition away from the Detroit Land Bank and into the Housing and Revitalization Department (HRD). This shift was motivated by the running out of federal dollars to underwrite demolitions and to lay the ground work for greater “flexibility” in acquiring “targets” to knock down.

It is no secret that housing demolition is a contentious issue.  Since Duggan took office, 18,000 homes have been destroyed. Duggan frequently brags about this. In his speech to the elite of Mackinac Conference he said “We’re going to take down 4,000 houses a year, and in five years by the end of 2024, we will not have a single abandoned house in any neighborhood in the city of Detroit.”

However, many of the homes, now abandoned and suffering from want of care, were created by illegal taxing and foreclosure policies. The persistent over evaluation of poorer neighborhoods and under evaluation of wealthy neighborhoods has been a powerful tool in clearing people out of their homes. The use of foreclosure to drive people out has been especially contentious because Duggan decided to use federal money intended to be used to keep people in their homes to demolish them instead. Since 2008 one in four Detroit homes have been foreclosed. We have shifted from being a majority African American home owning city, to a majority of renters. Often these rents go to faceless companies in distant lands.

In the small committee meeting, Ayers and McCalister asked critical questions based on fundamental ideas about developing people and place. They probed: Who decides what gets demolished? Who decides how and when neighbors are engaged in decision making about what happens in their neighborhoods? Who is responsible for land that is opened up? What is the thinking about using demolition as a way to increase the skills of Detroiters? What is the thinking about how to encourage community driven planning? What about ensuring that we keep people in homes, rather than encouraging abandonment or take overs?

It is clear in the conversation that HRD looks at land as a commodaty to be bundled, “packaged,” and sold. It does not think about it as the place of neighborhood life, where people care for one another and what is around them. It is asking only transactional questions.

Ayers and McCalister introduced transformational questions that open the way for a new dialogue about the kind of city we want, who is responsible for it, and how we enact policies that encourage collaboration and protection for those who are vulnerable.

As the Mayor touts knocking down houses to fight crime, we should all remember that our safety rests in the hands of neighbors who look out for one another, not in” knocking down” “targets” to “package.”

The Story of Water
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The People vs Us Ecology

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Join us Saturday June 29th 10:00 am at Eastern Market to demonstrate and educate! The Coalition to Oppose the Expansion of US Ecology will be joined by Detroit and Hamtramck neighbors to advocate for the protection of our water supply and for a healthy environment. Our goal is to keep our neighborhoods safe from the massive increase of poisonous chemical waste being brought into our cities. We think it’s wrong for companies to wreak environmental havoc on POC and low income communities. We’re here to demand that US Ecology + the MDEQ (EGLE) take our concerns seriously and to share information on how you can join in the fight. Bring your signs, noise makers, friends and neighbors!! DETAILS.
LOVE

At the intersection of Grand River Ave. and 15th Street in Detroit’s Core City neighborhood, there is a four-story brick building covered in murals. The most prominent one, spanning the top half of the front facade, is of four hands shaping the letters L-O-V-E. For nearly 20 years, this building was a home for artists and small businesses. Through low-cost studio space, gallery space, and community, it nurtured a kind of creative love, the impact of which is visible along Grand River, and will be felt for many more decades. KEEP READING

SILENCE

June, 17th, 2019

Thinking for Ourselves

Stop Spreading Surveillance
Shea Howell

Several hundred people gathered at the Detroit Police Commissioner Board hearing at St. John’s Lutheran Church to discuss the expansion of a facial recognition system tied to Project Green Light. Currently, Detroit and Chicago are the only cities in the country implementing real-time facial recognition.

Representative of the Detroit Police Department strongly advocated the use of this technology, saying it would enable them to catch criminals.

To blunt fears of the new technology the police said it was like using fingerprints or DNA, just another way to identify who committed a crime.

Such sloppy arguments were echoed by some community members who spoke of their fears of crime and their willingness to do almost anything to feel more secure. Predictably, some people echoed the sentiment that if you aren’t doing anything wrong, you have nothing to fear from the government.

These arguments represent one of the primary reasons we should oppose facial recognition systems and Project Green Light. The advocates of these programs are taking the deepest fears of people and twisting them into a distorted idea of what will improve their lives. The supporters of surveillance take our best impulses and turn them against us. This willful manipulation of fear, and the promises of some kind of security, distort our capacity to make meaningful decisions about how to create peaceful, compassionate relationships.

Several major studies have concluded that there is absolutely no basis to claim that either the real time monitoring of people or the introduction of facial recognition systems reduces crime. There is no evidence that facial recognition impacts crime. There is ample evidence that facial recognition increases injustice against African Americans, people of color, women, and youth.

In September 2011, the Urban Institute, an economic and social policy think tank published a paper analyzing surveillance trends in Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Chicago. Drilling into the question of whether the program was worth the cost, the organization reported mixed findings.

“Results varied, with crime falling in some areas and remaining unchanged in others,” it said, noting that success or failure depended on how the surveillance systems were set up and monitored and how they balanced privacy and security.

Baltimore police did use facial recognition technology successfully to identify people who protested the police killing of Freddie Gray.

In 2011 the University of Texas at Dallas conducted a study concluding that racial bias was predictable because of the nature of the data sets being used.

In 2016 A Georgetown University Law School study raised similar concerns and noted that nearly half of all adults have been entered into a law enforcement facial recognition data base.

In 2017 Shelli Weisberg, legislative director of the American Civil Liberties Union tested the Michigan system saying, It’s shocking how inaccurate it is.”

“When MSP showed me their program, they put my face in and brought up a number of false positives. Falsely identifying people as criminal suspects could lead to a host of other potential issues.”

Weisberg said, “The programs seem to have a population bias,” she said. “I think the bias comes because you have more white faces to use as the models for perfecting the technology.

In 2019 two new reports by the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy & Technology say facial recognition has been deployed irresponsibly by the police and conjure images of a futuristic surveillance state in Detroit and Chicago. Clare Garvie, an author of both reports, believes that a moratorium on facial recognition is necessary, given the lack of regulation around the technology.“There is a fundamental absence of transparency around when and how police use face recognition technology,” Ms. Garvie said. “The risks of misidentification are substantial.”

Researchers at Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy & Technology say they’re alarmed by Detroit’s extensive surveillance system and facial recognition software, saying the network “risks fundamentally changing the nature of our public spaces.”

Last week, the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition released its report. Tawana Petty, one of the authors said, “The Detroit Digital Justice Coalition (DDJC) through its coalition member Detroit Community Technology Project (DCTP), has joined the growing number of fellow Detroiters concerned or opposed to the controversial expansion of Project Green Light and related facial recognition technologies. It is on this basis that we release our report, “A Critical Summary of Detroit’s Project Green Light and its Greater Context.”

Surveillance technology is big business and powerful interests are telling us this will make us safe. But researches consistently point out there is no basis for these claims.  The sample size is too small, the time frame too short. “Violent crimes have been declining in many cities across the country” and “without rigorous evaluations that use comparison groups, it is difficult to attribute the decline in any city to a specific program or policy,”  researcher Bryce Peterson of the Urban Institute concluded, “I have not seen any direct evidence of its effectiveness. It’s only anecdotal information that we’ve heard from sources with a vested interest in it.”

We need to tell the Police Commissioners and the City Council to stop facial recognition and eliminate Project Green Light.

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June, 4th, 2019

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“My vision of a new society in the United States comes out of my life in the United States and my reflections on my experiences and on the history of humanity as I, in my small way, have been able to grasp that history… I have many turning points in my life. I have won some battles, and I have lost a great many. But I would never say that I have won any great victories or lost any war. Because it is out of these struggles, my historical experiences and my reflections on the past and the present that I have arrived at my vision of a new society in America. My life and my struggles have always been full of passion and hope because I believe that wherever human beings are, there resides in them a desire to strive to become more human.” — James Boggs, 1979

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 Thinking for Ourselves

Assaults from Mackinac
Shea Howell

For 39 years, Michigan’s business and political elite have gathered on Mackinac Island to discuss plans and policies for our state. Hosted by the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, this gathering produces some of the most vicious and damaging ideas effecting people. For example, as the Detroit bankruptcy was unfolding, the Mackinac gathering was credited with framing the “Grand Bargain,” pitting pensioners against the DIA and stiffling any creative thinking about how to address financial issues in the city.

This year is no different. The gathering is troubling both for what it addresses and for what it evades.

Education got a lot of attention on the agenda, but there was little sense of urgency. The sessions on education offered no new thinking about our common responsibilities, the kind of education our children need and deserve, or the destruction of local control via emergency management laws. There was no reflection on how the decades of meddling by state level entities have done nothing but destroy public schools and create an abusive environment for children and teachers. To pretend that this gathering has either the intention of the capacity to advance the education of our children is foolish and dangerous.

It is under the leadership of the Regional Chamber, the assembled foundations, and the Mackinac Policy Center that we have endured the drive to “improve” schools through a false “accountability” based on punishing and controlling teachers. They have encouraged the opening of “schools of choice,” and pushed for profit-making charter schools.

Michigan was among the top centers for public education in the early 1990’s and was developing impressive new ideas about urban education. Creating programs that supported children and their families, working on curriculum that emerged from addressing real issues in the community, and fostering African-centered educational philosophies and practices, Michigan’s urban centers offered serious perspectives on moving education away from the factory models of the earlier century.

But as these new ideas of education started to reflect concerns for social justice and cultural integrity, right wing forces reacted. Under the influence of ideologues like Betsy DeVos and the legislators she helped elect, Michigan has fallen to near the bottom in comparison to other states.

Our children, teachers and schools have been under assault. Most of it led by the people highlighted in this Island gathering. The very people who created the problems we face are not likely to have any answers for the future.

Meanwhile, the legislature is refusing to eliminate its most recent weapon, the third grade reading law. This law mandates the retention of children who are falling behind in reading.  Almost anyone who cares about education knows this is a disaster. We are likely to see a six-fold increase in the number of children who will be forced to repeat the third grade. The Governor is quickly backing off of her effort to repeal the law and has come out against a “right to literacy.”

In sharp contrast to the gathering on Mackinac, people around the state are looking for new ways to develop our children rooted in love and compassion. For example, as elites gathered on the Mackinac Hotel porch, the Detroit Independent Freedom Schools begin their summer gardening program with the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. Here is where progressive thinking and commitment to children can be found.

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A message from Russ Bellant (russbellant@gmail.com)

Despite clear campaign positions supporting school districts in African American, Latino and low-income districts, Gretchen Whitmer followed her last three predecessors practices by ordering the Benton Harbor school board to close their only high school and send those students to nine surrounding white districts and charter schools. Those districts want those students to boost the state funding to their schools, which guts the Benton Harbor district. Her staff also let it be known that if they do not do what she demanded, she will close down the entire school district ! To add insult to injury, no Benton Harbor school board member was consulted before this edict.

Despite pledges last year from the State that the Benton Harbor school board would return to control of their school district July 1, the Whitmer administration from its outset was privately threatening the school district if they did not retain the school district superintendent previously put in place by Lansing. Many thought that matter was resolved but instead Whitmer is now escalating.

By way of background to Lansing education dictation, only African-American districts have had “emergency” managers and only African American school districts have been completely dissolved, with others near dissolution.

Whitmer’s actual constitutional authority to do this does not exist. The Michigan Constitution gives no power whatsoever over K-12 education to the Governor (see Article V). All power over K-12 is vested in the the State Board of Education (Article VIII), which says that “Leadership and general supervision of all public education…is vested in a state board of education. It shall serve as the general planning and coordination body for all public education, including higher education, and shall advise the legislature as to the financial requirements therewith.” Already some Board members are in opposition to Whitmer’s move and more may speak out..

Yet governors and legislators corrupt the Constitution in order to run over Black students, their families and communities. This abuse today is a warning that Detroit schools are not immune. During her campaign, Whitmer said that Detroit schools need a “Detroit solution,” which was not elaborated upon.

There is a response forming to stand up to these racist practices, this corruption of power and related looting of community resources, to threats of future abuse and injustice. This Tuesday people from across the state are going to Benton Harbor’s school board meeting to uphold the right of their school district to exist and control their schools. From my point of view it is a message to the Governor to not go down the path of her predecessors or play to the racist corruption of Berrien County, the De Vos empire and their delegation in the Legislature.

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May, 29th, 2019

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Thinking for Ourselves

Mayors Matter
Shea Howell

Mayors can make a difference. Chicago’s new Mayor Lori Lightfoot took office this week, becoming the first African American, openly queer woman to head the city. A few days before she took the oath, she announcedshe would stop water shut offs. In unequivocal terms she said, “Water is a basic, basic human right. If you’re turning off water, you are effectively evicting people. And we know that that disproportionately affects low income people of color who are going to be shut off from water services.”

Mayor Lightfoot called water shut offs “heartless,” and said, “When you cut somebody off from water, you’re effectively evicting them and putting them on the street. We will not do that in the city.”

As with Detroit, Chicago has experienced rapidly accelerating water bills. They have tripled in the last decade. In the past 12 years 150,000 households have received shut off notices. Illegal reconnections have actually outpaced the legal ones.

The decision by the Mayor to move Chicago systematically toward a water affordability plan was based on a thoughtful report prepared by her transition team. It is a document worth reading. I especially recommend it to our own Mayor and City Council.

The report also provides a basis for the Mayor Lightfoot to “(resume) leadership in Great Lakes issues” such as climate resilience, restorative infrastructure and aquatic invasive species. “Chicago City government has an absolute responsibility to protect Chicagoans from environmental harms,” Lightfoot said. “This starts with bringing back the Department of Environment to combat climate change and ensure that residents have clean air to breathe and safe water to drink no matter their race, economic status, or zip code.”

These actions are important because they bring into the public sphere values that are badly needed as we develop policies in the face of increasing challenges around access and safety of water.

The values behind the choices the new Mayor is making are essential as we prepare for long term struggles around the role of cities and democracy in our country.  Increasingly we are coming to understand that right wing, corporate forces are aggressively limiting direct democracy in cities. Pursuing state level preemptive actions, right wing, corporate financed legislatures are blocking direct democratic actions by local governments.

The rate of preemption bills introduce by state legislatures has spiked dramatically with the rise of conservative power. For example, “six out of 10 Americans now live in a state where a city can’t pass a minimum wage that’s higher than the state minimum wage,” according to Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, an assistant professor of political affairs at Columbia University and the author of the new book, State Capture: How Conservative Activists, Big Businesses, and Wealthy Donors Reshaped the American States—and the Nation.

We in Michigan have seen plenty of this doctrine in action, from the effort to  limit residency requirements, to forced cooperation with ICE, and emergency management, the State has deemed cities, especially Detroit, as nothing more than administrative units.

Yet the growing power of progressive cities will not be stopped. For centuries, cities have been the natural site of politics.  Part of the deep, structural changes we are finding our way to creating, begins with a new understanding of the power of cities, the purposes and responsibilities of local governments. The new Mayor of Chicago is helping make clear what kind of values are at stake for our futures.


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(A Father’s Day letter from our friend, Rachel Elizabeth Harding)
Dear Folks,

Today I am honoring my daddy, Vincent Harding, who passed into glory on this day, five years ago – May 19, 2014.

When I think about my daddy and my mama, Rosemarie Freeney Harding, at this juncture of my life, what comes most strongly to my mind is the way they embodied together a tremendous warmth, dedication and depth of spirit in the midst of struggle. They wrapped faith and resistance very beautifully in imagination and a wide, inclusive understanding of family. And they gave me room to find my own way in the world with their support. I am grateful every day to Creator and Creation for my parents. My mama and daddy’s work is, in many ways, the model I take for my own life.
Daddy was a historian in love with the best possibilities and most humane potentials of this nation. He believed that any TRUE democracy the country could claim was created by the great river of struggle of Black people and many allies who were able to envision the United States of America beyond the limited and stultifying sights of the “founding fathers.”

Daddy was a teacher with a marvelous gift of encouragement. He credits my mom with recognizing, sustaining and modeling that gift for him/in him. Over the course of his life, Daddy developed the capacity to listen carefully and intently and to offer guidance, sometimes in just a few words, that sent students in the direction of deep introspection and in search of ancestors (blood and chosen) who could be models for them in “freedom work.” And he LOVED young people and liked to be in the midst of their questioning, probing, challenging, risk-taking energy.

My prayer for this day, is that Daddy’s spirit will enliven and protect the youth in Denver, Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Barbados, Boston, New Mexico, California and all the places between and beyond where young folks are looking for new ways to care for one another, to be human with each other, to stand up for poor people, for Black people, for Native people, for the water and the land, for the wellbeing of plants and animals, and to imagine healthy ways for us all to live together in this beautiful, suffering, tenacious world.

May 20th, 2019

grace and jimmy
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Thinking for Ourselves

A Path Towards Life
Shea Howell

The city of Northville MI faced a boil water advisory this weekend. Over the last few years these advisories are becoming more common. This latest directive to boil water before drinking it was because of a water main break on Friday morning.

Just a few days earlier, images began to circulate revealing the extent of the damage done to the oil pipeline that runs under the Straits of Mackinac. In April 2018 a tugboat anchor dragged across line 5, creating gashes in the pipe, allowing oil to spill out. Enbridge, the company that controls the pipeline, tells us there is nothing to worry about. “Everything’s fixed and operating.” It took them nearly 4 months to complete repairs on the line. There is no repair for the oil that seeped into the lakes.

Nor is there any repair for a newly documented group of chemicals, called PFAS. They are appearing in people’s water systems in Michigan and the Great Lakes Basin. They’re used in our waterproof clothing, nonstick cookware, food packaging and industrial waste. Communities that were home to shoe manufacturing and military bases show especially high levels of contamination. Dubbed the “forever chemical” in a new documentary, they’ve moved into our home water supplies, wells and communities’ water systems. These chemicals have been linked to fertility issues, high cholesterol, thyroid and liver problems and cancer.

Along with newly discovered toxins, we have known for decades that lead and other heavy metals lurk in our waters. We have known that more and more people are finding it impossible to pay ever escalating bills to provide safe water and maintain the system.

It should be obvious we cannot continue to segment the issues of providing and protecting our waters. Safe, affordable water is no longer a taken for granted part of life anywhere in Michigan.

The PFAS that flows from the cleaners and fire suppressant in Selfridge Airforce Base finds its way into ground waters and Lake St. Clair. The oil from the pipeline spill mixes in. The infrastructure that carries our water and waste is deteriorating rapidly. And the technologies of testing for contamination cannot keep up with the new toxins we are dumping without thought.

Jeffrey Insko recently gave a picture of just how vulnerable the 4 million people who depend on the Detroit water system are when he wrote:
Hundreds of chemical spills over several decades contaminated Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River, released cancer-causing toxins into the air, and produced increased levels of cancer and low birth-rates among First Nations inhabitants of the region. That pollution also—as a Bridge Magazine report explained in 2017 and as the City of Detroit warned in 1953 — poses a serious threat to the drinking water of millions of Michigan residents. Detroit knows this story all too well. Having also suffered from decades from a polluting oil refinery, it is Sarnia’s own twin brother, linked, literally and metaphorically, by the St. Clair River like a poisoned umbilical cord.
The water crisis we face cannot be fixed quickly, nor with small patches attempting to respond to each emergency. We need to shift how we think about the way of life that is literally poisoning us. This shift has been given a new framework in the Green New Deal. It is an opportunity to think holistically about the interconnections of our waters, the earth, the ways we make a living, and relate to one another. The Green New Deal offers the possibilities of reimagining how we can live in ways that acknowledge the intricate connections that form the web of life that sustains us. It is an invitation to look honestly at the horrors we are creating and to choose a path toward life.


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ON BEING

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Community organizers Rami Nashashibi and Lucas Johnson have much to teach us about using love — the most reliable muscle of human transformation — as a practical public good. Nashashibi is the founder of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network, a force for social healing on Chicago’s South Side. Johnson is the newly-named executive director of The On Being Project’s Civil Conversations Project. In a world of division, they say despair is not an option — and that the work of social healing requires us to get “proximate to pain.”

LISTEN

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A note from our friends at Veterans of Hope…

We hope all of you are very well.  As the summer unfolds, the Veterans of Hope Project is excited to announce a series of programs we are coordinating/co-sponsoring over the next three months. It’s a busy time for us but we are looking forward to a rich set of experiences and we invite you to join us – and please support our work.

As part of our ongoing collaboration with the Terreiro do Cobre Candomblé community in Salvador, Bahia, we are hosting three Afro-Brazilian ritual leaders and activists this summer – Iyalorixá Valnizia Pereira, Ebomi Marilene de Jesus Cruz and Ogãn Claudio Santana de Freitas. The visit of the Brazilian elders is a partnership with our friends, Daniel and Marcia Minter, who have recently founded the Indigo Arts Alliance, in Portland, Maine, a wonderful center for artists of the African diaspora.  Our principal events this summer (May and June 2019) are:

·      May 19 @ Campbell Chapel AME church in Denver.  2-5pm. Invisible Knowledge. An interfaith conversation circle with African American and Afro-Brazilian elder women on resources of spirit and community for social justice work.
·      May 29 @ the Iliff School of Theology in Denver.  5-7pm.  Women’s Handwork– a panel and demonstration of Afro-Indigenous women’s cultural and spiritual heritage traditions.
·      June 8 @ Indigo Arts Alliance in Portland, Maine.  All day. The Welcome Table – a celebration of creativity, community and culinary brilliance in the African Diaspora.

For more information on these programs, please see our website: veteransofhope.org

May 13th, 2019

grace and jimmy
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Thinking for Ourselves

To Shelter One Another
Shea Howell

The Trump administration is ramping up its efforts to attack local, democratic, compassion efforts to protect people who are seeking safer and more secure lives. Recently the administration announced a new programto allow local law enforcement officers to arrest and detain immigrants, even if local policies prevent them from doing so. Local officers will be encouraged to arrest people based on ICE warrants.

This latest effort is sharpening the contradiction between local governments, where people are most likely to make their will known, and the consolidation of federal force.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has condemned this measure. A statement issued by Lorella Praeli, the ACLU’s deputy political director, said this is the “latest scheme by ICE to enlist local police in its abusive deportation agenda.” “The agency explicitly aims to subvert the will of local communities that have passed ordinances to prevent exactly this kind of cooperation between police and ICE.” They also said the ACLU “urge(s) local law enforcement to resist this dangerous proposal and stand by their commitment to the communities they serve.”

Meanwhile, right wing republicans in Lansing are joining this federal effort to attack local community initiatives. House Bills 4083 and 4090, perversely called Local Law Enforcement Protection Acts, eliminate sanctuary cities and would force local governments to cooperate with federal officials investigating a person’s immigration status. These bills are working their way through committees.

State Rep. Mari Manoogian, a democrat from Birmingham, responded saying:

The individuals pushing this legislation want us to believe these policies are in our community’s best interest, but that could not be further from the truth. We have seen the negative effects similar policies have had around the country — further eroding the fragile trust between immigrant populations and local law enforcement and disincentivizing community members from coming forward when they witness or are the victims of a crime. That makes us all less safe in the long run. If public safety is truly the goal, we need to work to foster an environment characterized by cooperation and togetherness, not finger-pointing and division.
Across the country, local communities are taking principled stands for the dignity and rights of people. From California to Michigan, city councils and county officials are cancelling contracts with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which rents bed space from local, county, or state-owned jails across the country.

Since last summer at least five counties in California have severed ties with ICE and 4 counties in Michigan have done the same. In response, Trump is accelerating private prisons outside the purview of public policies. As local communities withdraw support, private corporations are seeing new opportunities to profit from human bodies.

In response to the cancelling of contracts for city and county jails to house people detained by ICE, private detention may actually expand under a new deal with ICE. Just a few months after Governor Whitmer cancelled a private prison deal negotiated by Snyder, a new  private prison company announced a 10-year federal contract to house non-citizens sentenced for immigration offenses or other federal crimes in a facility it owns in Baldwin. The Florida based Geo Group Inc. said it plans to “reactivate” its 1,800-bed North Lake Correctional Facility under a contract with the Federal Bureau of Prisons. In spite of its questionable record, GEO expects to generate roughly $37 million a year in incremental annualized revenues from the deal.

We need to resist these efforts to establish private prisons, to turn people’s bodies into profit centers for corporate powers. We need to assert our responsibilities to welcome people to our communities, to protect each other and to work together for justice. We must find new and creative ways to shelter one another.

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Detroit City Council hits pause on Fiat Chrysler Project

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Detroit City Council hits pause on Fiat Chrysler Project

Last week, City Council Planning and Economic Development Committee took the first step toward regaining the confidence of Detroiters by putting our health and welfare first over that of large multi-national corporations like Fiat Chrysler. As a result of 100s of phone calls to council expressing alarm around the impact of the plants expansion on the quality of the air our children and seniors need to breathe and the lack of transparency and community engagement around the land deals, the PED committee hit pause on this rushed project.

Thank you to all Detroiters who reached out the Economic Development Corporation (EDC), the Planing and Economic Development Committee and Detroit City Council about the Fiat Chrysler benefits package and land transfers.

Today, both the EDC Board and the PED Committee failed to move the land transfers and benefits package forward for a final vote by the committee of the whole.

By hitting the pause button City Council Members have an opportunity to hold FIAT Chrysler accountable around the environmental and health impacts relations to their planned expansion.

Now there is an opportunity for the Neighborhood Advisory Council to go back to the table and fight for a better CBA package for residents.

Fiat Chrysler is a global corporation that earned $4.1 billion in 2018. They have only committed 8.8 million dollars in community benefits on a project that will use up to $280 million in public investment.

Next steps:

Continue to keep the pressure on Detroit City Council, demand that Fiat Chrysler not only address environmental health impacts and negotiate a bigger and better CBA

Detroit City Council Contact Information

Brenda Jones, Council President, At-Large
313-224-1245 – @DetCouncilPres
bjones_mb@detroitmi.gov
Janeé L Ayers, At-Large
313-224-1027 – @Ayers4Detroit
ayersj@detroitmi.gov
James Tate, District 1
313-224-1027 – @CouncilmanTate
councilmembertate@detroitmi.gov
Roy McCalister Jr., District 2
313-224-4535 – @RoyMcCalisterJr
councilmemberMcCalister@detroitmi.gov
Scott Benson, District 3
313-224-1198 – @Scottinthe3rd
bensons@detroitmi.gov
André Spivey, District 4
313-224-4505 – @AndreLSpivey
councilmanspivey@detroitmi.gov
Mary Sheffield, President Pro Temp, District 5
313-224-4505 – @MsMarySheffield
councilmembersheffield@detroitmi.gov
Raquel Casteñeda-Lopez, District 6
313-224-2450 – @Raquel4Detroit
councilmemberraquel@detroitmi.gov
Gabe Leland, District 7
313-224-2151 – @GabeLeland
lelandg@detroitmi.gov

More Details: 

FCA CBA Update 2
http://detroitpeoplesplatform.org/2019/05/fiat-chrysler-cba-update/

FCA Call to Action #1
http://detroitpeoplesplatform.org/2019/05/call-to-action-vote-no-on-the-fiat-chrysler-cba/

FCA EGLE Permit to Install Approval
http://detroitpeoplesplatform.org/2019/04/fiat-chrysler-air-permit-approval-with-additional-monitoring-and-community-benefits/

FCA Environmental Concerns and Demands
http://detroitpeoplesplatform.org/2019/04/fca-expansion-environmental/

FCA CBA Update 1
http://detroitpeoplesplatform.org/2019/04/fiat-chrysler-expansion-community-benefits-update/

You’re Invited! 
 2019 SEMIS Summer Institute  
 June 25, 26, 27 Reflecting and Exploring
August 6, 7 Engaging and Planning

During this year’s institute we will focus on deep cultural analysis and place-based experiences related to interconnectedness, interdependence, and resilience. We will ask ourselves how the Great Lakes and humans in their watersheds are inextricably linked. Together, we will continue to “seek complex answers, in complex places.” (quote by Amy B. Demarest)

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REGISTER TODAY!

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May 7th, 2019

grace and jimmy
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Thinking for Ourselves

More Moroun Outrage
Shea Howell

Mayor Duggan announced last week that he has secured nearly 215 acres of land on the east side to hand over to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), ensuring the development of the first new auto plant in the city in 30 years. FCA is making a $4.5 billion investment in the new plant and expansions to five other Michigan plants. FCA says it will create 6,500 jobs. They had given the city a short 60-day window to come up with the land for the new plant.

Duggan, proud of his accomplishment, said at the press conference announcing the feat, “We did something that I doubt any other city would have tried and we did it without the benefit of eminent domain.”

The acquisition of the land cost the city $107.6 million, with 50.6 million coming from the city. The rest is coming from state grants and loans (which presumably will also come back to the city). Along with the cash, the city is swapping a total of 155 acres of land, including 117 given to Crown Enterprises and 25 to DTE energy.

The size of city investment brought the deal under the Community Benefits Ordinance. This ordinance, backed by business interests to thwart one with real enforcement powers, is a flawed effort. But east side residents, among the most organized in the city, have put forward visionary ways of thinking about how the current FCA development can be leveraged toward a more sustainable and just future. The CBA being pushed at the grassroots level anticipates a world beyond mass production and extractive industries, arguing for the development of solar and wind power and for the skills and capacities of people to encourage self-sufficient and self-sustaining communities. Residents have also called upon the FCA to create neighborhood stabilization policies, including a moratorium on water shut-offs and tax foreclosures.

This forward thinking by community organizations has unsettled the city administration. While the mayor has attempted to control the CBA process, he cannot limit the power of the ideas being generated there.

It is also now clear that if the Mayor is to retain any credibility about the CBA, he is going to have to address the enormous costs associated with the acquisition of the land. The land give-away to Hantz Farms is completely overshadowed by the deal with Crown Enterprises.

Crown Enterprises is the name of the company owned by the Moroun family. The Moroun’s are not noted for their civic consciousness. In this latest deal in order to get the 82.2 acres owned by them, the city agreed to pay $43.5 million and 117 acres of land. This is ten times the cost for a little over half the acreage of the remaining land. The city paid only $4.6 million for the other 132 acers.

At the very least the Moroun Family and the City should enter into another CBA so that the community can gain direct benefit from the public lands and cash given the Crown Enterprises.

Detroiters have become wary of deals done under deadlines. There is a long list, including Poletown, Marathon, Detroit Axel, Hantz Farms, and the drive to bankruptcy, where corporate powers press the city for quick decisions. Almost always these are decisions that benefit the corporations and leave the city with broken promises.

Perhaps Duggan thought that the good news of jobs would overshadow the outrageous deal with the Morouns. Or the outrageous deal with Hantz. This kind of deal making has never benefited the people.

Whatever the limitations of the CBA process, we have the strength of committed, experienced community organizations dedicated to finding pathways toward a just future. This gives us all a strong basis for hope.
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Honoring Mama Lila Cabbil_final

In an effort to educate the Citizens of Detroit about the current status of the Detroit Charter Commission and the revision process, there will be an info discussion to ensure the Citizens have a better understanding of what the elected body has accomplished this far. The info discussion will include a presentation by The People’s Slate that outlines the following:

  1. Purpose of the Charter Revision
  2. Structure of the body
  3. What the Charter has done since Nov 21, 2018
  4. How this impacts Citizens of Detroit
  5. Next Steps

May 9, 2019
5:30 PM
DABO Center
12048 Grand River
Detroit, MI 48204

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At the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights annual dinner, Frank Hammer shared the continuing struggle and update of the Colombian Injured Workers. Representatives from MCHR visited Colombia in 2018.

ASOTRECOLThe Association of injured workers and ex-workers of GM Colmotores – Colombia

Out of a recognition of the interconnectedness of struggles for social and economic justice between the peoples of the US and the countries the US dominates, the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights proudly recognizes the struggle and achievements of the ex-GM workers in Bogota, Colombia in their fight for justice.

Those autoworkers, injured on the job because of a blatant disregard for their health and safety and then fired by General Motors, formed the association ASOTRECOL.  Detroit-area activists know these workers from their dramatic tent encampment at the US Embassy now reaching its 2,823rd day, and their acts of moral witness, including stitching their lips shut as part of three hunger strikes.

The MCHR embarked on a campaign of Solidarity, awarding ASOTRECOL leader Jorge Parra with an “International Labor Activist” award in 2013.  Some of you met Jorge on his journeys to the US and have become supporters of ASOTRECOL. Your solidarity has been deeply appreciated not only on a spiritual and material level but because it’s been impactful, even after its 7+ years!

Last Spring, MCHR sponsored a 6-member delegation to the tent encampment in Bogota, led by Board members Kim Redigan and Frank Hammer.  The delegation witnessed first hand the heroic stand by Jorge and his comrades, their support for other struggles, including families fighting the banks over unjust evictions, and other fired injured GM workers. Inspired, delegation members and others took the justice of ASOTRECOL’s fight into the GM shareholders’ meeting on June 12th and confronted GM CEO Mary Barra on the unjust management actions perpetrated in Bogota.  Some of us were booted out, only to join a spirited rally there at the Ren Cen!

Though ASOTRECOL hasn’t reached its goal of a just settlement with GM, much has been achieved:

  1. Whereas the fired injured workers who formed ASOTRECOL were denied justice through the courts in 2011, recently-fired GM workers have succeeded in winning reinstatement.  Judges have referenced the letters of international support for the encampment in their decisions ordering GM to reinstate fired, injured workers.
  2. A robust injured workers’ movement is emerging in Colombia, inspired and encouraged by the ASOTRECOL tent encampment.
  3. ASOTRECOL contributed to the defeat of an employers’ offensive, including GM and other transnationals, to pressure the Colombian lawmakers to pass legislation legalizing the firing of injured workers.
  4. ASOTRECOL’s resistance against GM inspired workers in the plant to organize; today there are four organizations representing 25% of the workforce, including an injured workers’ association and – a first of its kind – an injured workers’ union.
  5. ASOTRECOL’s persistence is paying off, winning support from the largest Colombian labor federation, even in the absence of support from US labor unions.  Consistent grass roots support here in the US is winning hearts and minds among Colombians.
  6. ASOTRECOL, in tandem with the MCHR and numerous other social justice groups and union locals, has aided in winning US workers to an internationalist perspective on their own struggles against GM and other transnationals.  Workers are grasping an important lesson: resisting the “race to the bottom” requires supporting workers at the bottom.
  7. ASOTRECOL has put General Motors on the defensive regarding the company’s illegal firings and abuse of workers’ rights. GM has had to invest in better health and safety practices at the Colmotores plant.

We urge MCHR supporters to keep up the fight! We’re making a difference! Online donations for ASOTRECOL are welcomed at www.asotrecol.org. Keep up with our latest actions by visiting us at www.mchr.org.

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  • Subject: Silence the Violence | One Detroit

    https://youtu.be/yvI1HuDc-u8

    Check out the link above about our Silence the Violence march. Join us this year Saturday June 29th at 10am at Church of the Messiah. We will honor the innocent victims of gun violence as well tackle some of its root causes such as poverty, unemployment, drug addiction, and mass incarceration.
    After the march and rally there will be on the spot employment opportunities, information on home ownership and affordable housing, mentorship and summer camp for kids, and entrepreneurship opportunities for neighborhood residents. Highlighted on this day will be Young Empire Detroit. (YED) This is a collaboration of over 60 groups, individuals, and organizations who have come together with knowledge experience and expertise in creating businesses. Mentors are created from this to help young people become entrepreneurs. Also featured will be BLVD ( building leaders for village development) Harambee. This 5o1c3 specializes in entrepreneurship, job readiness, activism, and community development. At the event will also be support groups for families dealing with grief and organizations created after the tragic loss of a loved one to help others now being affected by gun violence. Community organizations and activist  from across the country will join us on June 29th. At 10am we gather for the rally. At 11am we march. At 12noon we network and strategize. The next day we continue to go to work on behalf of those who no longer have a voice. Stand with us, march with us, work with us. Let us put an end to gun violence!!!
    For nor information:
    Church of the Messiah
    231 E Grand Blvd @ Lafayette
    Detroit Mi 48207
    (313)633-5331
    Rev. Barry Randolph
    Please share the video !

April 21st, 2019

grace and jimmy
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Thinking for Ourselves

Hantz Farms Land Grab
Shea Howell

Hantz Farms is briefly back in the news this week. By the time you read this, the City Council will most likely have approved the swap of 37 parcels of land on Beniteau Street for 450 parcels scattered throughout the East side. That means Hantz is getting a more than 10 parcels for every one he is giving up. And he is getting these additional parcels for 8.33 cents per square foot. That is the price he negotiated six years ago with the Bing administration. Currently, similar properties are going for between $1.25 and $1.75 a square foot, meaning that he is paying less than 10 cents for every dollar. He also gets 80 houses to “rehabilitate” within two years.

It is a sweet deal for Hantz. He is getting ten times the property and at one tenth the cost. In addition to helping consolidate the land the city wants to give to Fiat Chrysler, this little deal will allow Hantz to consolidate his one square mile farm dream.

All of this is happening without any public oversight or comment. The proposal has been rushed to City Council and they are set to vote on Tuesday April 23, 2019. The last time City Council discussed a deal with John Hantz, the chambers were packed.  An open meeting with them on the East side saw more than 1000 people turn out to voice their objections on one of the coldest nights in January. People were overwhelmingly opposedto the land give away being proposed by Mayor Dave Bing on the cusp of bankruptcy.

That vocal opposition is probably why this current deal, roughly ¼ the size of his previous effort, has received little attention in the media and no public notice.

But it makes some things very clear. The purpose of the Land Bank is not to stabilize neighborhoods or keep people in their homes. It is to enable the Mayor to give away the city at the lowest possible price to the richest, whitest people he can find.

Last year when there were rumors that Hantz was looking for developers, Mike Score, president of Hantz Woodlands LLC, said, “The purpose of the farm, the whole mission of the investment, is to create truly livable neighborhoods on the lower east side of Detroit and the farm is doing that. It’s not that the farm is for sale. It’s that we have made progress of eliminating blight,”  He went on to say, “We have had a lot of inquiries from developers who have told us from their perspective that Hantz Woodlands has become attractive. We are exploring options.”

It is hard to believe any developer could have come up with a better set of options than those offered by Mayor Duggan.

We should all remember that the primary reason people objected to Hantz was because he foolishly told the Wall Street Journal his real motive. He wants to take land off the speculative market to drive the prices up.

The consequences of rising prices are clear. Higher property taxes, higher insurance, more financial speculation and less stable neighborhoods.

While the City Council is not likely to stop this deal, there is a great deal they can do to stop the worst consequences of it in the lives of people. They should immediately establish a moratorium on property tax increases for currently occupied homes, develop the capacity for community land banks, and put a moratorium on water shut offs and foreclosures. They should also establish effective rent controls and mechanisms for people to hold absentee land lords accountable.

This latest land grab by Hantz is an outrage to any sense of fairness or justice. It reveals who the city values and the extraordinary efforts this mayor will make to assist white businessmen in getting what they want.

James Baldwin & Nikki Giovanni, a conversation

From Growing Our Economy to Growing Our Souls
Rich Feldman

Students from Purdue University, young people from Great Britain, high school students from The Bronx, NY and teachers from Vermont visited the Boggs Center this past week. They all joined with members of the Boggs Center Board to learn about the writings, practice, and legacy of James and Grace Lee Boggs. The tour and the reflective conversations provided a space to share the evolutionary thinking as we carry out our mission to nurture community leadership based upon visionary organizing.

In the tour format we are able to tell the story of the rise and fall of the American Dream and the question what it means t be living in a moment of great transition from one historical epoch to the next stage in human evolution.

Dakarai Carter shared his involvements with Detroit Summer, Wayne Curtis talked about the importance of the urban farming, peace zones for life ,and his involvement with the Black Panther Party. Kim Sherobbi shared her work at Birwood with middle school student, the evolving block club network and Women Creating Caring Communities.  Our visitors learned the importance of placed based organizing, the need to create liberated territories, and about efforts to create new, value based relationships among people.
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This tour is one method to share the Boggs Center’s journey to redefine the concept of revolution since the rebellion of 1967 and help people understand the potential of this moment to create something very new and urgently needed.  We are facing an epochal crisis in capitalism requiring us to redefine our relationships to each other and to the planet.

Today we have responsibilities and opportunities to usher in a new system.  It is our time to create the beloved community rooted in local history and emerging contradictions. In Detroit we are able touch some of this new future through the work of  individuals and organizations that are creating solutions offering visions of resilience and regeneration.

Our tours begin at Elmwood Cemetery , acknowledging the presence of ancestors who give us wisdom and strength. Here, in land holding the shape of centuries of wind and water, we remember the resistance to colonialism by Chief Pontiac and honor Bloody Run Creek that still flows defiantly.

We visited Carlos Neilbok of CanArts and Tyree Guyton of the Heidelberg project.  Carlos and Tyree introduce people to challenge rationalism and linear thinking through unleashing their imaginations as they relate to upcycling and creating wind power for energy and through found art initiatives.  They represent the challenge to find your passions and commit to do what we really, really want to do.

It was an honor to host our visitors and introduce them to Detroit’s east side visionary organizing and  the Boggs Center as we continue the work of James and Grace Lee Boggs to move from rebellion to revolution.

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MCHR Dinner
Rich Feldman

The Michigan Coalition for Human rights began in 1980.  In that year the US elected Ronald Reagan as president, ushering in the political power of counter revolutionary forces. In those days it was called the New Right.  Still fighting communism and determined to re-establish US military might after its defeat in Viet Nam, Reagan solidified the organizational and intellectual foundations of the forces that would ultimately bring Donald Trump to the White House.

In Detroit, as industry continued to leave and as federal supports disappeared, we faced deep questions about the kind of city we would be.  After a bitter struggle and entire community was leveled for the Cadillac Poletown Plant for GM. We organized to keep Casino gambling out of the city and to create peace in our communities with Save our Sons and Daughters and d We the People to Reclaim our Streets . The hip hop generation emerged offering new visions for how we might live and Central  American Solidarity struggles gave a new urgency to the ideas of Revolution and Liberation. The Sanctuary Movements provided direct, critical information of US terror in El Salvador and Guatemala. The struggle against Apartheid in South Africa and the divestment movement inspired national civil disobedience and organizing on campuses, town halls and churches as people took a stand for human rights.

This year’s MCHR gathering showed the evolution, deepening spirit, and continued work of decades of resistance and programs of engagement and hope for Detroiters.

Rashida Tlaib was the guest speaker, offering clear direction and analysis for this time. She began with her mother’s story of love.  She then shared the following:

  1. Stop being distracted by the absurdity of Trump and recognize that he needs to face serious investigation through the impeachment process so that others to not think that individual multi billionaires should run the country as if they were CEOs of a multinational corporation.
  2. The women of color and other recently elected congressional members are not going to wait, be patient or “learn the ropes”.  Congress women Tlaib was clear. This is a group of sisters of color who are organizers and activists . They have the courage to call out and barbarism of Trump There is an urgency of now and they are not waiting.
  3. We need to visit the southern border and speak loudly and clearly that caging of children (thousands upon thousands) must stop.  At the same time Rashida Tlaib was clear to remind us that we are at a northern border and ICE, Homeland Security and other police forces in our metro area are harassing, arresting and threatening our neighbors in southwest Detroit.
  4. Lastly, Congress woman Tlaib was clear that we need to build a movement and not rely solely on those elected to be on the inside of this government. Social Movements create change, and courageous elected officials bring forth policies. As Grace Boggs often said: Change goes to Washington not from Washington.

MCHR then gave out awards. The first award wen to Jonathan Roberts who also talked about movement building, the urgency of now and the need to focus on liberation. In 2018, he spearheaded city-wide campaign preventing 500 homes from being auctioned off after foreclosure.

The Lifetime achievement awards went to Sam Stark and Kae Halonen. And East Michigan Environmental Action Council received the organization activist award, was accepted by Darryl Jordan.

The program closed with a call for young people, to join the 2019 and 2020 Freedom Tours. 2019 tour will focus on Detroit sites of struggle and 2020 will again travel south visiting the sites and cities that were the foundation of the Freedom Struggle which birthed all other social humanizing movements of the 20th century.

This gathering acknowledged the spirit that we live in movement times, in times of urgency and calls for actions beyond voting, beyond calling your representatives.  The future is now! Thank you MCHR for a spirited and engaging evening.

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