Boggs Center -Living for Change News – October 17th – October 24th

Jimmy and Grace  
Living for Change News
October 17th – October 24th
Community Conversation (Oct 29) Flyer

Thinking for Ourselves

Who Benefits?
Shea Howellshea25As Election Day approaches Detroiters are being flooded with high priced, deceptive appeals for our vote.  Expensive TV and radio commercials, slick flyers, and glossy mailers are all urging us to vote against the one proposal that could actually make a difference in how development happens in our city.  Proposition A holds the real promise of equitable, thoughtful, and neighborhood based development.  It is this possibility that is driving the business community and its friends in the Mayor’s office to near panic.Developers, the Mayor and their shadow surrogates have pulled every trick they could think of to stop this proposal. They tried to bury it in committees. They tried to prevent an open City Council vote. They tried to block the petitions to have this put before the public. Then they introduced a competing watered down version of the bill to confuse voters. Now they have launched an expensive campaign to tell us “A is Awful.” Yes awful for the business interest that have been making millions off Detroiters, pulling in lucrative tax breaks for themselves, and getting cheap land, without giving anything back to the community.If the stakes were not so serious, the effort to attack Proposal A would border on the comic. A newly formed “dark money” group calling itself Detroit Jobs First, held a press conference at the site of the new Red Wings/Ilitch stadium to launch its slogan Proposal A is awful.  Awful for whom seems a good question.

Just days after the launch of the attack on A, news accounts surfaced that the Red Wings/Ilitch gang are facing $500,000 in fines because they have not been able to uphold their promise of hiring 51% of Detroiters for construction jobs.  This deal, usually touted by the Mayor as an example of his successful negotiating skills, is exactly why we need a strong community benefits agreement.

Billionaire Mike Ilitch received more than $250 million in tax-backed bonds to build this stadium. He has received breaks in land acquisition around the stadium and displaced hundreds of local residents, many of them elders who had lived in the Cass Corridor for years. In exchange, he promised 51% of the jobs would go to Detroiters.  Thus far we are at 40%. Not only is the percentage less than what he promised, the actual number of people involved is minimal. Currently, we are talking about work for 300 people. Ilitch has the money, the land, the tax breaks and will soon have the stadium. Forever.

Community groups, progressive labor leaders, and Council President Brenda Jones have fought for Proposal A for years.  They had done this openly, publicly and on the record. They have argued Proposal A would require developers of projects costing $15 million or more or with more than $300,000 in public subsidies to enter into legally enforceable agreements with communities most affected by the development.

Those against A, and backing B are hiding in the shadows. Maybe they are embarrassed by the failure of the Ilitch deal. Maybe they are embarrassed by the Marathon Petroleum deal.  In 2014 Marathon got a $175 million tax break, expanded it refinery to further pollute our air and Detroit got 15 jobs.

For far too long s developers have said, support us and we will give you jobs.  Repeating the lie on glossy paper does not make it true.

Detroiters have long experience with where the interests of developers really are. It’s time to put an end to the exploitation of our people, our resources, and our city by those who promise jobs, pocket tax money and don’t have the courage to publicly stand for their convictions. Enough is enough.  Spread the word to vote Yes on A and No on Business Backed B.

Proposal A Will Give Detroiters a Seat at the Table
Cindy EstradaIn November, Detroit voters will decide whether to give themselves a seat at the community benefits bargaining table when they choose between Proposals A and B: competing community benefits agreement ordinances.For those who haven’t followed the story, Proposal A is on Detroit’s ballot because community members and grassroots organizations mobilized a successful petition signature drive. They were motivated by the chance to create a structure that would allow developers seeking public assets for major construction projects to sit with impacted communities and negotiate an enforceable agreement that could include jobs, affordable housing, educational opportunities and community programs.Proposal B does not give the community a seat at the table. Nor does it allow communities and developers to negotiate an enforceable agreement. Instead, it calls for a toothless process that the city can already authorize. Proposal B got on the ballot in a last minute maneuver by those who fear that Proposal A will win in November. It’s widely understood that Proposal B is on the same ballot as Proposal A to confuse voters.

The debate over Proposals A and B reminds me of what happens during a typical workplace organizing campaign. Detroit voters are now going through the same challenges.

Workers organize when management ignores or dismisses their demands for workplace fairness. Community members organized to put Proposal A on the ballot because they were tired of seeing major publicly funded developers build in their neighborhood, create adverse conditions, promise to address community concerns and renege, or take taxpayer resources without a requirement to discuss giving back to the impacted community in a meaningful way.

Workers face swift backlash when they successfully join together to demand union representation. A classic way to erode union support is for the employer and its allies to tell workers that if they form a union, the business will suffer or close. Immediately after Proposal A’s ballot signatures were certified, anti-Proposal A interests framed Proposal A as dangerous to Detroit’s financial stability and scary for developers – contrary to the community benefits agreement experience in other communities.

Workers fighting for a voice in their workplace are often vilified for being selfish, reckless and even un-American for inviting a ‘third party” into the employer-employee relationship. Proposal A’s backers were accused of seeking “entitlements” by Gov. Rick Snyder’s senior advisor for economic growth, and adding a layer of “bureaucracy” to Detroit’s property development process by the president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation.

Workers win their union rights when they stand together against the inevitable fierce backlash by their employer and its allies. It will be the same with Proposal A. In November, Detroit voters will have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to win a seat at the community benefits bargaining table and try to negotiate good things for their community with developers who are benefiting from valuable public assets. That’s not selfish. That’s not reckless. That’s not un-American. That’s what democracy should look like.

Birth of a Nation’s Missing HERstory
Tawana Petty
The watered down narrative of Black revolutionaries and freedom fighters struggling and dying for the liberation of Black folk, which negates the front line foot work, strategic planning and organizing genius of Black women, is a revisionist HIStory that must be turned over on its head.We must also start to consistently struggle against any narrative that makes invisible the whole in order to lift up charismatic messiahs as liberators of Black people.One of my Ancestors, James “Jimmy” Boggs often said, “it is only in relationship to other bodies and many somebodies, that anybody is somebody.”

When provided an opportunity to lift up the true story of Black revolutionaries who are missing from the text books and narrative of American history, Nate Parker used his money to water down the legacy of Nat Turner, further perpetuating the damsel in distress narrative of Black women who only exist as “yessir masta” mamie’s and/or sex slaves. Parker also used his cinematic opportunity to feed his narcissism by regurgitating a story showing himself as a Black savior who’s sole motivation for struggling against injustice is the thought of Black women’s ownership being transferred from Black men to white men. As long as he could continue to live a captive, yet historically inaccurate comfortable existence without having to think of Black women being possessed by someone other than Black men, he was non-resistant.

I have read much commentary about whether Birth of A Nation should be viewed by women because of Nate Parker’s rape allegations, and ultimate acquittal. I have also read and listened to Nate Parker’s own commentary regarding the rape allegations and listened to his dismissive demeanor towards the now deceased woman.

As a rape and suicide survivor, I will say that it took deep meditation and a calling upon the Ancestors for me to decide to go see this film. Although Nate Parker was acquitted of the rape of his accuser, it is recorded in court documents that while having sex with her, he summoned in two friends to sexually assault her inebriated body. One of the men who was asked to participate in the sexual assault, but declined, testified to that. Because the young woman had engaged in a previous sexual encounter with Parker, he felt entitled to her body. He felt entitled to share her body without her consent with other men. Parker and his friends tormented, bullied and prevented this teenage woman from moving on with her life. They prevented her from leaving her home and they stalked her. So much so, that she refused to testify in the appeal case, leading to his friend, now co-author of the film, having his conviction overturned. The thing that we’ve seen time and time again on college campuses and in sports in general is, if you’re a male star athlete, it tends to transcend race and accountability when it comes to the abuse of women. At least momentarily. The harassment case against the accused was settled for $17,500.00.

This young woman ultimately took her own life after making several attempts. It is for this reason that I decided to go and look Nate Parker in his face on screen, so that I could tell the stories of the women I was nearly 100% sure would be marginalized.

Nat Turner is a revolutionary who’s bravery should not be watered down. His legacy deserves to be taught with honesty and integrity. It is also true that Turner acted with dozens of others to liberate Black people. This is a fact, that is depicted in the film. However, what is not present in the film is the resistance of Black women who participated in Nat Turner’s rebellion. The negligence of rebellion stories written in this way negates the possibility of Black woman revolutionaries existing outside of Harriet Tubman. I would also argue that the ability to paint Harriet Tubman as a masculine and singular charismatic leader is one of the reasons why Tubman’s legacy of rebellion is so well known.

Most of the acts of rebellion were handled by slaves against their own slave owners. Some of those who rebelled were women.

Enter Charlotte, who by several accounts attempted to stab her mistress owner, but was intercepted by another slave who came to her slave owner’s rescue. This same slave owner was also held down by another slave Lucy, who by all accounts and court records, attempted to hold down her mistress owner during the attack from the rebels, but because of intervention from the same slave who had previously intervened, was unsuccessful. Charlotte was murdered without trial and Lucy was tried and hung for her participation in the rebellion. Although these are recorded events, of Black women rising up against their captors, they are rarely portrayed in the tellings of the rebellion.

This is not to say that there was massive support for the rebels by any gender at the time. Many were fearful of the immediate ramifications of their resistance, so it was difficult to recruit participation. But, by limiting the narrative of an uprising that saw dozens voluntarily sacrifice their lives and their families lives by portraying only a singular male hero, we contribute to the revisionist HIStory that plagues the fabric of patriarchal America.

It is far too tempting to water down our stories to fit a version of history that America can stomach. We must resist this temptation in order to force this country to face itself in the mirror. In order to force America to deal with the fact that there is and has always been organized Black resistance against oppression in this country. This includes the resistance of Black women.

When we marginalize the contributions of thousands who have struggled and continue to struggle for self-determination and liberation in this country by limiting them to men only, handing them a bible and putting them on their Sunday’s best, we play into the narrative that the acceptable negro is the only negro worthy of investment and depiction, and that the minute they resist the box they’ve been allowed to function in, their existence and all the helpless, unkept folks around them are doomed.

It’s 2016. Time to tell a different story, one which includes HERstory in the plot.


DEMOCRACY NOW: Climate Direct Action: Activists Halt Flow of Tar Sands Oil by Shutting Off Valves of Five Pipelines

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

The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214


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