Boggs Center – Living for Change News – June 26th – July 3rd

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Birthday Grace
Tawana Honeycomb Petty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy birthday Grace!

An Update from the Trumbullplex

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

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

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

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

Rosa at Rio
Ruth Lilienstein-Gatton

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

For more information, please visit

Visionary Voices
Katie Doyle Myers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…or the classic, Conversations in Maine

The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214


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