Boggs Center Living for Change News letter May 15th – May 22nd

“the goal is to further real relationships.”

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

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

In the ‘90s, it became:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Facilitating Diversity

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


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

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

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


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


The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214





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