Boggs Center Living For Change News Letter – October 10th – October 17th

Our mission is to nurture the transformational leadership capacities of individuals and organizations committed to creating productive, sustainable, ecologically responsible, and just communities. Through local, national and international networks of activists, artists and intellectuals we foster new ways of living, being and thinking to face the challenges of the 21st century.
Living for Change News
October 10th – October 17th
It has been one year since Grace Lee Boggs made her transition on October 5, 2015. There were gatherings around the country as people whose lives she touched paused to remember her and reflect on her legacy. A small group of us gathered at the Boggs Center to share our memories of Grace, especially in the last year of her life. We also drank a toast to Stephen Ward, who brought the first copy of his soon to be released book, In Love and Struggle, documenting the lives of James and Grace Boggs. 

Complex Movements opened in Detroit, dedicated to her. The California band Trails and Ways also dedicated its new album to Grace, saying, “It was a crazy journey of touring and upheaval that taught us to make music this rockin and tender and passionate, and I wouldn’t give away a moment of it. Inspired by Grace Lee Boggs, I made these songs in dedication to the personal transformations that can make us braver to get to a more just, beautiful, socialist world.”
We think Grace would have liked this week’s Living For Change. It begins with an essay written by 12 year old Genesis Edwards. She is part of the Independent Freedom School movement that we are supporting and wrote this article to share her experiences.

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Living for Change
Genesis Edwards
Do the Right Thing

My name is Genesis Edwards and I am 12 years old. All my life I knew I was supposed to do the right thing no matter what. If I see something I don’t think is right, I was always going to take a stand. With this mentality I think I can change the world. I always thought I was different from kids around me. Most people don’t acknowledge the issues that happen in the world today. People see problems and do nothing about them. But if we all do that, nothing will change in the world we all have to live in. But this is how I am different. I see all the issues on T.V. and everyone will see murders and crazy things and just sit there for a second or two and say “that’s terrible” and act like nothing happened and go on with their day like no one had just lost a family member and someone they care about.

But with me I have seen all the awful things happen in America for far too long. I would look on T.V. and see another black man get killed by the people who are supposed to protect our country but do nothing but harm us. We are not supposed to be afraid that we will get shot or harassed when we get pulled over just for our skin color by police officers because they can’t do their job correctly. Not only do blacks get killed like this on a daily basis, there is no justice being served! I am sick of hearing this happen every day and having to go on the internet just to see things like this keep happening.

I feel that I am the only child who can see this happening, maybe one of the few people who can see this. But one day I heard my Dad talking to my Grandpa about Colin Kaepernick not standing for the National Anthem. This had me thinking about what the words in the National Anthem meant. I realized that this whole time America isn’t about everything we make it to be. We say in the pledge of allegiance “liberty and justice for all,” but if this was true, all the families of the men getting killed by the police would have liberty and justice.

I see that everyone is mad at Kaepernick for kneeling and some say it is “disrespectful to our country and the men and women who serve in it,” but he is trying to get people talking about the tragedies that happen in America and around the world. Here is where my point that people don’t acknowledge problems happening in America and in the world comes in.  People think he is an awful person, but he is just one of the people who sees we need change.

So after hearing this I felt like I had enough of just not being able to take a stand. So one day I was at school and we had to stand for the pledge. A friend of mine sat down for the pledge and my teacher told him to stand. By law he can sit, but she made him stand anyways. I wasn’t sure what my friend’s purpose was, but it gave me a good idea. I decided if I wanted to make a change and teach people the real issues going on in the world I have to get my voice heard.

So I went to class the next day as usual and sat in class. The announcement came on and the pledge started and everyone stood up, except me. The teacher is giving me a disgusting look and says, “Stand for the pledge, why aren’t you standing?” I shrug it off and I am looking around the classroom and everyone is staring while they’re standing. The teacher comes up to me and asks, “Why aren’t you standing.”  I tell her, “No disrespect, but there are a lot of issues in America still and the pledge has flaws all over it.” After I tell her that she says, “It Is your choice” and walks away.

My friend afterwards says, “I didn’t want to stand for the pledge either.” The next day I do the same thing. Everyone stands up and I am still seated and after everyone sits down the teacher says, “America is great!” While she said this, she looks straight at me in a sarcastic way. Everyone told me she did this because they thought I didn’t notice, but I did. I just didn’t pay her any mind.

I knew it was okay for me to protest because I told my Dad but I didn’t get the time to tell my mom yet. My dad tells my mom and my mom calls me. She asked me questions of everything that my teacher said in class. I tell her and she says don’t pay her any mind because that’s what she wants. I took that into consideration because that is what could get me in trouble if I paid anyone attention.

My mom sent my teacher an email about the issues going on in class and still to this day there is no response. When I went back to school the teacher brought me and my friend out in the hallway and said, “I didn’t mean to offend you and if you want to sit, it is your choice.”

I felt at that moment that she was saying this so she wouldn’t lose her job. I still feel that way. The teacher stopped messing with me, but on the way I gained more support from my friends. I decided to write a rap song about this issue and I will perform the song in the talent show at my school. I will not stop my protest because my doing this isn’t hurting anyone and I feel that I am changing the world one step at a time!

Thinking for Ourselves

Ebbing Water Wars?
Shea Howell

shea25Daniel Howes recent article on regional water wars distorts critical questions facing everyone in Michigan. The news hook for the article is the upcoming sale of $1.4 billion in bonds by Wall Street for the new Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA). Wall Street has upgraded the bond ratings. Howes claims that the new regional authority, forced by the bankruptcy process, is responsible for this good fortune.

He asks why this matters and concludes:
If this region’s war over water and the long-running Flint Water Crisis have proven anything, it’s that competent and fiscally responsible management of arguably Michigan’s greatest resource — clean, fresh water — should be a bedrock role of government. It’s also critical to help ensure public health.

Yet Howes article celebrates the kind of incompetent, bottom line ideology that lead to the poisoning of Flint. Howes praises the continued cut backs of workers, the limitation of their benefits, and the shifting of funds away from Detroit to placate suburban interests. His silence on the draconian shut off policies that have brought national and international condemnation to Detroit and its Mayor, show how little he understands of the “water wars” he invokes. The war that he sees is the decades long war by suburbanites to take control of water away from the people of Detroit. The war he ignores is the one raging through Detroit and around the globe to establish water as a human right and sacred trust.

Howes highlights a statement from Moodys Investors Services that says it expects “key financial metrics will remain sound despite economic weaknesses in the service area and significant capital needs.”

It is the “weaknesses in the service area” and “significant capital needs” that should be getting our attention.  The primary lesson of Flint is that the desire to save money results in decisions that save pennies and poison people.

Weakness in service areas and infrastructure improvements are phrases evading the harsh fact that thousands of people are denied access to a basic necessity of life, and everyone is placed at greater risk of a serious health crises. When thousands of people cannot wash regularly and provide for basic sanitation, disease is not far behind.

As the rains of this year have shown, cutbacks in personnel and aging infrastructure mean flooding waters, contaminating basements, churches, streets, and streams.

Howes evades the reality that an essential building block of the GLWA was the racist view of the city as “incompetent.”  Its formation required a guarantee that no suburban dollars would subsidize people in Detroit who cannot pay their water bills and that no suburban dollars would go to support the needs of the city. The racism beneath these decisions is something he not only supports, but fosters as he continues the myth that the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department was somehow responsible for the city’s debt, or reflected city incompetence. In fact the water department was under the control of the federal court until one day before the bankruptcy process began.

Howes rightly notes that ensuring safe water is an “essential role of government “and “critical “to public health.” Yet he refuses to ask the hard questions of how does the government ensure safe, affordable water to all its people? How do we create sustained investment in infrastructure? How do we not only provide water, but insure public health and public responsibility?

Howes, like Governor Snyder and his emergency managers writes of water wars, but talks only of banks and bonds.  There are no people in his article, and certainly not those whose livelihoods are lost, pensions cut back, or water shut off. Until we face these questions, the spirit of cooperation Howes celebrates is nothing more than a twisted tale of a city unable to meet its most basic responsibilities.

 

What We’re Reading
Ava DuVernay’s ’13th’ documentary is a scorching indictment of American racism
Aaron Morrison
Vox

NEW YORK CITY — As of Oct. 5, 201 black people had been killed by law enforcement officers in the United States in 2016 alone. The circumstances leading to their deaths varied greatly. The reasons, generally, did not.

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay, who directed the Academy Award-nominated Selma, explores these reasons in 13th, a powerful 200-minute documentary that premieres on Netflix Friday. The film tells the story of how white, wealthy and politically-powerful Americans responded to the abolition of slavery in 1865 by creating new forms of bondage for black people — and encoding them through a racist criminal justice system.

These forms of bondage included, but were not limited to, aggressive incarceration and its fallout, including parole. The film argues these systems are maintained today through racially asymmetrical law enforcement practices — including racial profiling by police and, more recently, mandatory minimum jail sentences for nonviolent drug offenses.

By the film’s conclusion, DuVernay demonstrates that racism under the law may be a hot-button topic of discussion today, but it’s also part of a centuries-old tale that still hasn’t been told enough — and, perhaps, won’t ever be fully told.

KEEP READING

 

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

{R}evolution in the 21st Century Anthology

…or the classic, Conversations in Maine

The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership

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3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214
US

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