Boggs Center – Living for Change News – June 26th – July 3rd
Living for Change News
June 26th – July 3rd
Thinking for Ourselves
July 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
Tomorrow, Grace Lee Boggs would have been 101 years old. I have had the honor of serving on the board of the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership for the past several years. I have had the honor and challenge of struggling with Grace, being challenged by Grace and now missing Grace.
In the 264 days since Grace has passed, I have been on a world wind as a much younger revolutionary organizer. I have presented on militarization at the SOA Watch Vigil, traveled to Brazil to learn more about their community wireless infrastructure, presented on social justice organizing for North Dakota Study Group at the border of Mexico, shared my Water Love story, took on a new job as the Detroit Community Technology Researcher for the Detroit Community Technology Project, co-organized the North American Social Solidarity Conference, organized several Data DiscoTechsaround Detroit, hosted the Black Organizing for Dignity cohort, four international civil society leaders from Colombia for the Ethnic Communities Historical Memory Initiative Program, and seven political & economic leaders from Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Serbia, Sweden and the United Kingdom at the Boggs Center. I have had the honor of serving on the first Advisory Board for the Allied Media Conference, completed my second book for release at my one woman show – Coming Out My Box, had my workshop accepted into CommonBound 2016 and began the planning for Detroit: A Call for 10,000 Black Women, Girls & Femmes.
This is not an exhaustive list and it’s not meant to be a resume. This is an internal reflection that I have decided to share outward, because sometimes in the work we do, we can feel like we are everywhere, but nowhere all at the same time. I am finally at the point in my life where I feel like my work matters. I am at the point where I feel like my contributions matter. Our stories are so important. This is a small part of who I am.
Soon, to be 40 years old, it is difficult for me to imagine seven decades of activism and even harder to imagine 100 years of life. Grace’s stamina in this work, in political theorizing, strategizing and organizing, traveling defies my logic, but what I do understand is Grace’s commitment to the struggle until her last breath. I share in her commitment.
I have also chosen to share these accomplishments/reflections because who I am, who I am becoming, shapes the work I choose to do. I was born and raised in Detroit. I grew up in poverty and didn’t realize I was being considered “poor” until my mother got a “good paying job” and we moved to a “better neighborhood.” In that better neighborhood, my new neighbors told me I was poor nearly every day. It didn’t stop until I reached my teenage years and spent nearly all of my money pursuing the American Dream, pursuing my escape from poverty. But, somewhere between being a corporate trainer for a restaurant franchise in my teens, to working in the factory in my early twenties and ultimately managing in corporate America for nearly ten years, I woke up and realized that the work I was doing was not meaningful. That I was dying physically, emotionally and spiritually. So, to make a very long story short, I walked off of my $70K per year job one day and a year later I landed on the steps of the Boggs Center. My relationship with the Boggs Center, my relationship with Grace has shaped my development as an organizer, as an artist, as a revolutionary.
As I helped to distribute emergency water to residents on my street the other day, after a Homrich contractor swept through four blocks turning off water, I witnessed elders crying and mothers reluctantly admitting that their water was turned off for fear they may lose their children. The massive water shutoffs had finally made it to Field Street, right up the street from the legacy of James and Grace Lee Boggs. It was an exhaustive and emotional day, but rewarding to see how swiftly neighbors and community members sprang into action. This coming together made me think of the days when Grace would march these same streets with community members exhibiting what it meant to turn to one another. Facing massive water shutoffs on your street is a soul growing experience, an “opportunity in crisis.” As Grace would call it.
As we approach what would be Grace’s 101st birthday, I have been in deep reflection about her legacy and an even deeper reflection about my roles and responsibilities as a evolutionary. I hope that we can all take a deeper look at the work we commit ourselves to, and remember the words of James Boggs, “It is only in relationship to other bodies and many somebodies, that any of us is somebody.”
Happy birthday Grace!
An Update from the Trumbullplex
Wayne Association for Collective Housing, also known as Trumbullplex, will be purchasing the two lots at 4238 and 4232 Trumbull. This land, which is adorned with fruit trees, is an extension of the non-profit along with the two homes, Zine Library, community arts center and the green space that has been formally owned by WACH since 1993 at 4202, 4210 and 4220 Trumbull 48208.
It has been proposed to form a fourth collective (in addition to the to the Housing, Booking and Zine Library collectives) to maintain and creatively collaborate around the Trumbullplex green space. Community members are invited to join the new collective or send ideas toTrumbullplex@gmail.com.
So far, the community has collectively contributed $2, 000 toward the $10,000 required by the City to buy the properties. Paypal and credit card can be made at Trumbullplex.org. Checks can be made out to WACH and mailed to 4210 Trumbull Detroit, MI 48208.
Work on the exterior of “corner house” will begin soon, having been delayed by the property dispute. Fundraisers have been happening all winter for this purpose.
We are so grateful for the show of support for this long-standing radical art space and housing collective, which has been a nurturing home for so many, collective-members or not. The strategy meeting held in the art space a few weeks ago drew 50 supporters. A beautiful gathering of neighbors, show-goers, former and current collective members.
We want to remind people in Detroit and beyond, that everyone is welcome at the Trumbullplex. Whether you’d like to attend an event, look at zines, host a meeting or a puppet show, you are welcome to knock on our doors or send us an email to email@example.com. Our mission statement includes commitment “to create a positive environment…in which economic and social relationships are based on mutual aid”, as well as to “support other projects that share our goals of dismantling racism, sexism, homophobia, and the oppression of poor people”.
Our motto is, “For roots to grow, seeds must be planted.” Thank you for strengthening our roots and planting more seeds. Onward!
(by Angie Coe)
Rosa at Rio
The Boggs Book Shop is open and waiting for you!
Among many other titles, don’t miss…
Ron Scott’s – How to End Police Brutalityevolution in the 21st Century Anthology
…or the classic, Conversations in Maine