Archive for the ‘Living for Change’ Category

February 17th, 2021

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Thinking for Ourselves

Dangerous Forces
Shea Howell

The impeachment trial is over. The outcome was clear before the first words were spoken. In spite of overwhelming evidence of Trump’s responsibility for the Capitol attack, only 7 Republican senators had the courage to acknowledge his guilt. After voting against impeachment, Senator Mitch McConnell felt compelled to try and salvage his position by saying “There’s no question — none — that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of the day.”

McConnell’s hypocrisy reflects the problem we all face. The mob unleashed by Trump is not going away. It will haunt us all. Republicans out of a combination of fear, foolishness, and a desire to garner votes, have encouraged more violence to come.

The coming months will challenge us all in ways that we can only begin to imagine. It will be especially critical that we understand the difference between public actions that press for peace and justice and right-wing mob violence.

Unfortunately, our Police Chief will be of no help. He  fosters the misguided and dangerous reasoning that formed some of the main arguments of the Trump defense. He consistently confuses mob violence with public demonstrations for justice. He minimizes the racist treatment of BLM protestors, while excusing the hands-off approach accorded to right wing mobs.

Shortly after the attack on the Capitol, Craig went on Fox news to offer an argument in support of Trump. He invoked an example from  Seattle, where the city decided to remove barriers from a police precinct in the face of a Black Lives Matters action,  and claimed this was like the failure of law enforcement’s response to the Capitol. He said, “In those instances where law enforcement retreated and didn’t respond to criminal behavior by BLM protesters, what’s different with that than what was seen in the Capitol?” The Chief’s posing of this question, let alone his inability to answer it, is dangerous.

The Chief’s support for excessive force against people who challenge white corporate power is clear. He has established a record of hostility  to those who challenge injustice. He refuses to protect First Amendment rights. Instead, he attacks those who exercise them with as much force as he can amass.

Consider his first challenge after he was appointed Police Chief by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr. In the midst of draconian water shut-offs, as people protested and challenged a clear violation of basic human rights, Chief Craig backed outlandish charges against two young Detroit Artists who whimsically painted “Free the Water” on an abandoned water tower that graced the Detroit skyline. He supported the charges of “trespassing at a key facility,” a post 9-11 charge that could have resulted in 4 years of imprisonment for the artists. Charges were ultimately dropped.

More directly, he supported the three year ordeal of the Homrich 9, water activists who had used their bodies to block Homrich Trucks from leaving a garage to shut off water to homes.  The case was finally dismissed when the 36th District Court ruled the defendants’ constitutional right to a speedy trial was violated by “numerous unexplained and unjustified delays.”

Most recently, after a federal judge found that the Detroit Police used excessive force against Black Lives Matters demonstrators and barred the use of these tactics approved by the Chief,  Craig backed an expensive counter-suit, claiming Detroit Will Breath protestors have engaged in a civil conspiracy.

Chief Craig reflects the kind of thinking that most of the people in Detroit have rejected. He, like his republican friends in the Senate, are unleashing dangerous forces, while attacking those who offer the best hope of moving us forward as a people.

____________________________________________________________________________________ HOW TO BE AN ACTIVIST


Boggs Center boardmember and Detroit Justice Center founder, Amanada Alexander wrote letter to her young niece about staying true to your goals, deriving sustenance from nature, and other insights I’ve gleaned from activists.

Dear Fiona,

Last summer your mama asked me a question that I couldn’t shake. We were at a rally called by brave young people who are fighting for well-funded and safe schools, without police, in Detroit. If they win, you will never know cops in your schools. You may even think it strange they were ever there.

Our people were in the streets for more than 150 days last summer and fall. We’ve been in the streets since police killed Aiyana Stanley-Jones in 2010, since they killed Sean Bell in 2006, since they killed Amadou Diallo in 1999, and long before. As we were leaving the demonstration, your mama asked me: How do you stay focused on Black joy and liberation? And how can I raise my child with that sense of possibility? I didn’t know how to answer her in that moment, but I promised I’d give it more thought.

These are some of the insights I’ve kept close through 20 years of movement work. It’s basically what all of my life has been aimed at honing. I’ve learned these ways of being from elders, writers, and organizers — sometimes in community and sometimes alone. I’ve gleaned the most from Black women philosophers, prophets, community builders, and strategists who cultivated young leaders and ensured that movements could sustain themselves across generations.

When my mama died at age 60, I decided that I wanted every aspect of my life to come alive with color. And that I couldn’t numb myself with work — even noble work — or delay joy and pleasure. I’m sharing what works for me more days than not, with the hope that it might hold something for you. READ THE WHOLE LETTER @ BOSTON GLOBE.


The Realities of Mass Incarceration 
In conversation with author/columnist
Jeff Cohen and Exoneree Lacino Hamilton

FEBRUARY 17th 7pm

On September 30, 2020, Lacino Hamilton walked free after 26 years of wrongful incarceration in the Michigan prison system. At the hearing that exonerated him, Wayne County Judge Tracy Green apologized profusely:

“Twenty-six years is a very, very long time to spend in prison. I’m sure it’s
even harder for an innocent man.” He was freed by long-buried DNA evidence — after social activism demanded a review of his case. He’d been convicted, at age 19, largely on perjured testimony from a
“jailhouse snitch.”

Lacino spent 26 years fighting for his freedom, seeking help by writing thousands of letters to the outside world, and educating himself. He never gave up or gave in. On the inside, he became a columnist, writing about prison as part of a broader system of economic and racial exploitation. One of his columns, “The Gentrification-to-Prison Pipeline,” recalled his time growing up in Detroit’s Cass Corridor.
Lacino Hamilton has plenty to say about prison and about society. His articulate voice needs to be heard.

He’s eager to answer any and all questions.
After 26 years of being denied an opportunity to make a life , Lacino has nothing. A GoFundMe page has been set up on his behalf. Anything you can contribute will go directly to Lacino. He needs help with housing, transportation, clothes, food, eye wear, phone, medical needs denied him in prison, and resources to continue fighting for truth and justice. Donating will help Lacino secure the most basic necessities and help him foster and expedite his continuing efforts to build a broad dialogue to find more effective ways to challenge injustice and promote social justice through education. Thank you for being part of righting a terrible wrong. Donate! Help Lacino! And join our zoom meeting on February 17th at 7pm.

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Meeting ID: 846 6078 0872
Passcode: 897354
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Our Suburbs Are Up To Us
Rich Feldman

When I moved to Huntington Woods, a 1.5 square mile city, just outside Detroit, I was told it was integrated. I looked surprised and then they said it was Jewish and non-Jewish. For the past 50 years, most of my political activism and community-labor commitments have been in Detroit, the Downriver working-class suburbs, the Ford Wayne Michigan Truck Plant in Wayne, and the UAW Headquarters on the east-side of Detroit. Since my retirement and the 2016 Trump election, I have been working in the Tri-County suburbs of Oakland, Wayne & Macomb County with an organization called “Break our Silence.” We have focused on challenging anti-black racism with a belief that we need to move beyond being allies – mere cheerleaders for social justice – to being co-conspirators and co-liberators in the mold of the Abolitionists of the 19th century (John Brown and William Lloyd Garrison) or brave 20th century leaders like Viola Liuzzo. Since the murder of George Floyd, the energy, the opportunities, and responsibilities for organizing, education, actions, dialogue, engagement, and listening have reached new heights.

The opportunity to truly break the racist silence of the suburbs, to move beyond our suburban comfort, and to transform our values, our institutions, and ourselves is now on the public agenda.  This summer we saw tens of thousands of people across the metro area say, “enough is enough.” It was the organizing, vision, and commitment of the movement for Black Lives that unlocked this moment. At 73 years old, I am so fortunate to participate in a second historical social movement in my life. It is great to be alive.

Celebrating this moment and our challenges does not mean I do not feel and hold the pain, the fears, or the sadness of a world facing climate change, global poverty, continuous war, chaos, and a global pandemic. 400,000 Americans have been murdered by the heedless policies of a war criminal, Donald Trump. I do believe that out of pain emerge not just dreams but real possibilities. 2021 brings us the possibility of contributing to a multi-generational, multi-cultural, multi-racial movement – that can successfully resist “White Rage” and counter-revolution. “The times,” as a Sixties culture hero promised us, “they are a-changin’”.

This decade is an opportunity to usher in the  ”Third Reconstruction” and a fundamental transition, as Valarie Kaur has said:

This month in my small world of the suburbs of metro Detroit, I have seen a commitment by suburbanites, my mostly White neighbors, to move beyond the “initial outbursts, and the “righteous anger” which followed the murder of George Floyd. While we often think of the suburbs as White, it was a young African American woman in Royal Oak and Berkley that organized the two major initial demonstrations.

As 2021 begins, I wanted to share three exciting developments.

The recently formed Suburban Coalition of Collective Liberation’s first public event:  The Suburban Car Caravan of Spring 2020, which brought together hundreds of people under the banner of“Suburban Silence is Racist Violence & Disturb the Burbs.”1

Last month, the newly formed coalition sponsored its second event entitled Beyond Biden: Moving Towards Collective Liberation.  125 folks from local suburban organizations and residents from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties attended. Church members and others joined voices to uplift the local struggles against police violence, white supremacy, and the evil triplets of “racism, materialism and militarism.” People shared stories, some shared the poetic words of Amanda Gorman and everyone emphasized the idea that it was time to create a suburban coalition with a multi-year commitment.  A commitment to transform ourselves, the purpose of the suburbs and the relationship of the suburbs to Detroit and Pontiac.  The urgency of NOW is on our agenda.  While welcoming the victory over Trump in the election, the coalition has no illusions that the Democratic Party will redefine the future of the land its first inhabitants called “Turtle Island.”  Transforming ourselves, our values and all our institutions is our job.

A few days later Huntington Woods 4 Black Lives (HW4BL) hosted a zoom educational event on Prison and Police Abolition:  “A World without Prisons and Police.”  Huntington Woods for Black Lives is a group of younger adults and high school students working toward anti-racism in their hometown. A friend and 30-year Huntington Woods resident who was at the event said, “It wasn’t just educational – it was genuinely thought-provoking.”3

HW4BL is also organizing a campaign to CREATE A MORAL BUDGET, that involves high school students, long time residents, former residents and young people who grew up in HW and attended Berkeley Schools.4

These two small developments when combined with the work and vision of other suburban anti-racist organization & social justice organizations are ushering in a new era for vision, action, and change. Here are just a few of the groups that participated in the Suburban Coalition for Collective Liberation event in January:

  • Showing up for Racial Justice
  • The Beloved Community of Farmington Hills,
  • South Warren Radical Movement (SWARM)
  • Suburban Solidarity for Social Justice (SHIFT)
  • Accountability of Dearborn
  • We the People of Michigan
  • Mindful Generation
  • Resource Generation
  • Michigan Liberation and many, many others.

2020 witnessed the greatest visible birthing of a multiracial, multi-cultural movement in the history of our country. While it has been the result of decades of organizing, it was also a response to “the fierce urgency of now” – an urgency of now which was viewed and felt across our phones, and video screens when we witnessed the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and too many more. The older generation remembers that it was the image of the bludgeoned body of Emmet Till that appeared in JET magazine in 1955 that will never be erased from our minds and hearts.

We also remember that there were organizers, visionaries and activists engaging in organizational building, creating strategies, training, and educational activities before these historic painful events that said, “enough is enough.” The 1955 murder of Emmett Till lead to the arrest of Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, where 50,000 people joined together for 381 days, unleashing the modern Southern Freedom Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, and ultimately the Black Power movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Some call this the Second Reconstruction. Then came the response of white rage, Richard Nixon, the New Right, talk radio, and in 1980 the presidency of Ronald Reagan – the counter-revolution that culminated in proto-fascist President Donald Trump and the White supremacist riot he encouraged at the Capitol.

It was the murders of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown that sparked the birth of Black Lives Matter.  It was the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd that unleashed conversations, activism, and commitments in the suburbs that I have never seen in my life. While I remember Chicago Black Panther Party Leader Fred Hampton’s efforts to unite Puerto Rican, Chicanos, and poor Whites in Chicago with the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s, to form a multi-racial, multi-cultural Rainbow Coalition, we are currently witnessing a similar evolution in the northern suburbs of Metro Detroit, the rural areas of Iowa, and small towns across our country. These movements of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s were not separate from the anti-colonial struggles and the liberation and independence movements in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

None of this would be happening without the leadership and organizing skills of the Movement for Black Lives, predominantly Black women, which was birthed In July 2013.  The movement began with the use of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media after the shameful acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African American teen Trayvon Martin 17 months earlier in February 2012.

It is also not a coincidence that the Arab Spring in Tunisia in January 2021 and Black Lives Matter both emerged in such a close time frame. Nor is it difficult to understand the timing of Detroit’s US Social Forum uplifting the banners of: Another World is Possible; Another US is Necessary, and Another Detroit is Happening, bringing 20,000 people together. The decade that just ended witnessed Standing Rock, the MeToo Movement, Occupy Wall Street, the Immigrant Rights Movement, the voices of the Transgender and Disability Justice Movement and the movement to “Save the Planet” that lead global climate strikes across the globe.

It is precisely our winning and our success that unleashes the intensified “White rage.”
History is about movements in response to movements, and in response to the continuing crises of our economic and political systems, planet-wide and now planetary concerns.

Do we just go back and forth or is there a moment when new births and new visions emerge?  I believe this is one of those moments in human history, in our history.

In conclusion, I want to uplift the current Friends of Royal Oak Township campaign to “Tell the Truth and End the Lies”. This Truth Toward Reconciliation: Voices of Dignity and Stories of Royal Oak Township. It’s a suburban campaign to repair, heal, transform and reach reconciliation after more than 400 years of stealing, occupying indigenous land, enslavement and systemic racism, which runs deep within Metro Detroit and our suburban story.

We know in our hearts and minds that there will not be reconciliation, repair or moving forward until the voices of dignity and truth are heard. As James Baldwin often said:  American must face our  Lie. We are so honored and challenged that The Friends of Royal Oak Township has initiated this campaign: Without truth there is no transformation, healing, repair or co-liberation.

Thus I share the words of Brigitte Hall, Royal Oak Township resident: and invite readers to the February zoom public meeting:

Greetings Friends,

In this moment of national reckoning of history and race, the words “Systemic Racism” and “Structural Racism” are now in our national conversation. Most suburban communities have never confronted their historical role in the segregation, suburban sprawl, and racisms that have shaped our home. Friends of Royal Oak Township and our community partners aim to transform our understanding of our own histories in South Oakland County. Few know the history of Royal Oak Charter Township and how the Township’s original 36 square miles, currently .55 square miles, were siphoned off to create what is now Ferndale, Hazel Park, Royal Oak, Berkley, Madison Heights, and the rest of South Oakland County.  Therefore, the “Truth Toward Reconciliation” project.

Please join The Friends of Royal Oak Township and our partners throughout South Oakland County for an on-going introduction to our project: Truth Toward Reconciliation (TTR): “The Vision, Journey, and Voices of Royal Oak Charter Township,” which includes an oral history project with residents of the ten subject communities in Southern Oakland County, with priority given to documenting the voices of long-time (current and former) residents of historical ROCT.

We will be gathering Saturday, February 20th, at 3pm for a Zoom call to introduce the project and build community engagement through the collective exploration of our past, present, and future.5

Recent events in HW, the recent gathering of the Suburban Coalition, and the Friends of Royal Oak Township Truth Toward Reconciliation campaign move us along this journey. It is a journey of no simple answers utilizing few or no old solutions. Creating change is messy and much more than “lawn signs” and “study groups”. It is about taking risks into the Unknown.


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“Loving your people and loving questions are, I believe, the two most important qualities that an individual needs today to help create the new kind of politics we need to bring about fundamental social change in our country. Even if the people of our respective communities or of our country are acting in ways that we believe are unworthy of human beings, we must still care enough for them so that their lives and ours, their questions and ours, become inseparable. At the same time we must love the questions themselves, first, because every time we act on our convictions, we create new contradictions or new questions; and secondly, because we have no models for revolutionary social change in a country as technologically advanced and politically backwards as ours.”

Grace Lee Boggs, “I Must Love the Questions Themselves” 1985


December 8th, 2020

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Thinking for Ourselves
Limited Federalism
Shea Howell

The pandemic has enabled people to see the extraordinary inequalities and dysfunctions built into what we call the “normal” way of doing things.  We are recognizing that the federal system of government is filled with limitations. It is a system that is increasingly moving toward authoritarian methods of governing, while benefiting a smaller minority of corporations. Since 1980, this shift has been carried out by policies loosely termed “austerity.” In the name of fiscal responsibility, the Federal government has been systematically withdrawing support for the most basic services and responsibilities of collective care. It has been allowing states to determine their own responses to shared problems.

The effects of this policy shift toward austerity are felt every day as governments fail to provide basic elements essential to life.  Here in Michigan, we drive on roads that destroy cars and busses, cross bridges of questionable strength, use jails for mental health crises,  and have lost a city to a predictable damn collapse. Our public education is among the worst in the country, our healthcare reflecting deep racial and class divisions. Virtually all of our majority Black cities have been forced into bankruptcy, enabling corporate interests to amass wealth at the expense of public goods.

This week, as the federal government is getting closer to approving a stimulus package in response to the strains the virus has put on all of us, the limitations of federalism are clear. While congress seems to be responding to pressure to provide relief for people,  the  proposed $908 billion compromise is a drop in the bucket. Almost all economists agree that the proposal is inadequate. It will provide short term relief for an intensifying structural crisis. The right wing republican insistence on limiting aid to state and local governments will have long term destructive effects.

The essence of this crisis began long before the pandemic. It will continue to define much of the political terrain over the next few years. At the core of the controversy is a fundamental question: in whose interests do we constitute government? Can we create a living democracy that makes choices to care for people and the earth? Or will we establish an authoritarian state, serving the interests of an ever-smaller group of a white, wealthy elite, endangering the planet and future generations?

Much of this crisis has been masked, as state and local governments have worked to meet urgent challenges of providing for basic needs. But the demands on states to balance their annual budgets has meant that, collectively, we are allowing our infrastructure to crumble, our people to have less access to education, support in hard times, and to the things that strengthen community growth.

The ability and willingness of state and local governments to fill in these gaps is uneven at best. As this crisis has clearly shown, state and local leadership made a tremendous difference in the quality of the response to the virus. Some us have been protected by governors, mayors and township leaders who have closed economic activity and encouraged public health measures like social distancing and mask wearing.  Others of us have been living in places where the virus is not even considered “real” even as hospital beds are filled to capacity.

Right wing republic forces and their corporate sponsors have recognized this pandemic is an opportunity to advance control over state and local governments whose thrust has been to encourage social responsibility and democratic practices.

We, in Michigan know just how far these forces are willing to go to advance corporate interests. They will set aside elected governments in the name of financial responsibility,  close city halls, sell off public assets, close schools, privatize essential services, gut public spending, and create a police force equipped to control all those who object. This is what the drive to state bankruptcy brings.

To create a different future, we need bold thinking about programs and policies that begin with the recognition of our human responsibility to care for each other and the earth that sustains us.


What Might Sustain the Activism of This Moment? Dismantling White Supremacy, One Monument at a Time



“As most of you know, Rojava is the autonomous section of Northern Syria that has, since 2012, been run by a revolutionary bottom-up feminist “self-administration” that is developing a new model for organized social change. When Turkey invaded Afrin, its northernmost part, in 2018, a handful of us here formed the Emergency Committee for Rojava, to support the people there and draw US attention to their struggle. We have put together this very short film for our annual fundraiser.”


Over this year the demands on The Boggs Center have expanded to the point where we have made a commitment to engage an executive director and support staff, especially around social media. We invite you to make a financial contribution to the Boggs Center. This is a responsibility that requires us to create a clear financial plan and we urge you to become a Monthly or Yearly Sustainer. Our goal is raise $50,000 in 2020-2021 through this fund.

To contribute, click the “donate” button at the top of our homepage or send a check to

Boggs Center
3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan

November 30th, 2020

Radicals are only “too radical” in their own time so that their visions can be embraced, by some now, and by the many in the future.  Anti-slavery abolitionists were too radical in their time, women’s rights activists were too radical in their time. Dr. Martin Luther King was too radical in his time. And yet, as Dr. King and Bishop Tutu noted, there is a moral universe, and though that arc is long, it bends toward justice, and we are here to bend it! KEEP READING

Thinking for Ourselves

Bankruptcy Attempts
Shea Howell

As we move through these next few months of uncertainty, some things are clear. At least  12 million working people are likely to face the New Year without unemployment benefits.  Another 30 to 40 million people are facing the possibilities of eviction. As many as 54 million people are facing food insecurity. These crises are most acutely felt in our cities, among Black, Indigenous, people of color, and children. They represent human trauma on a scale we have not experienced since the Great Depression. Long standing structural injustices have been accentuated by this global pandemic and the ineffectual responses of the current administration.

Into the vacuum of leadership at the federal level, many state and local government officials stepped forward to protect people and provide some measure of safety and security. In most cases, these efforts have been attacked by the Trump administration and right-wing forces that he encourages.  They have done everything from mounting court challenges to plotting to kidnap and execute state officials.

Now right- wing extremists have decided to use bureaucratic maneuvers to withhold badly needed revenues that Congress has already allocated for state and local government relief. Recently, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced that he is planning on putting $455 billion of unspent coronavirus relief funds into an account that requires congressional authorization to access. The intention is to put these funds out of the reach of the incoming Biden-Harris administration and to slow down or stop funds from getting to state governments and people who are increasingly desperate. After initially objecting, it seems the Federal Reserve will go along with the plan, although Democrats are mounting challenges to the legality of shifting these funds.

The human cruelty behind these actions is hard to grasp. But they are more than the maneuvers of sore losers, attempting to box in a new administration. They are part of a larger effort by Republicans seeking power to diminish the capacities of state and local autonomy and to use financial crisis to undermine democracy.

In the early spring, as the coronavirus was just beginning to take hold in the country, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was running around giving interviews about how to address what was then recognized as a looming crisis in State finance. Everyone agreed that more than 25% of state revenues had evaporated do to the virus, and economists were projecting a half a trillion dollar budget gap for the states.

McConnell’s solution was straightforward. He told the Hugh Hewitt Show that he was opposed to giving federal aid to states. Rather, he thought states should cut their spending and declare bankruptcy. Later, on Fox News he said,  “We’re not interested in solving their pension problems for them. We’re not interested in rescuing them from bad decisions they’ve made in the past, we’re not going to let them take advantage of this pandemic to solve a lot of problems that they created themselves [with] bad decisions in the past.”

This line of reasoning is hauntingly familiar to Detroiters. It was the same sort of thinking that led to our own bankruptcy in 2013. Detroit was cast as an overspending, corrupt, incompetent, bloated government, providing big pensions to lazy people. Bankruptcy was the solution, pushed by corporate powers and right-wing legislatures.  Bankruptcy became a way to attack pensions, privatize city assets and services, and set aside all democratic decision making. The racial antagonism was clear.

Such a process directed at predominantly democratic states has long been a desire of right-wing republicans. Bankruptcy is a federal process, run by federal courts, now largely in the hands of republicans. In this process, pension funds and State owned assets evaporate.

We, in Detroit know what bankruptcy really means for people. And we understand that driving people out of homes, living with children going hungry, or suffering from poisoned water, lack of health care, poor schools, and constant insecurity are all acceptable costs for the protection of corporate power and privilege.

If we believe in different visions of lives that are nurtured and protected, we need to understand just how broken the current systems are. Creating self-determining, loving communities are our only choice for a future.  




Certifying the Elections

Deb Hansen

I am someone who gets my inspiration and hope from the beloved community.  The machinery of federal and state governments — its actors, dramas, raw power, corruption, and bureaucracy — rarely offers up anything i find compelling. But here I am feeling grateful for the antics around the certification of the election in Michigan.

Why? Because racialized politics has been such a toxic brew in this state. It runs deep, all the way to the bone, remaining largely unacknowledged. Racialized politics has meant that you could poison an entire city and get away with it. It’s meant that governors could suspend the pretense of democracy by appointing “emergency managers,” people who turn public wealth into private assets, people who are given the power to dismantle entire school systems.

Racialized politics is rarely something that’s spoken of in “polite company.” But those in power well understand how it works.  It transcends political party as the Democratic mayor of Detroit understands. There it was on display to the point of farce, in our faces, nearly impossible to deny. Bringing what’s been hidden out into the open is the real meaning of the word, “apocalypse.” You humbly bear witness to the mess. You reckon with it by facing the harm it has caused.  Finally, you heal and move on. For me, this is the spiritual work of our time.

We may have had an election. but let’s be real. We’ll still be living in a corporatocracy. The empire may be crumbling, but it’s still alive and grinding up life at an alarming pace. Alicia Garza, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter says that movements are about putting more power into the hands of more people. That’s what’s needed. not this.

I see you, Art Reyes of We the People of Michigan.  Thank you for your leadership and heart along with all the others who have joined in a coalition known as We Make Michigan. This is not about an election. it’s about a people learning to reclaim their power in community. May the force be with us.


bright blue t-shirt with revolution printed in white

Over this year the demands on The Boggs Center have expanded to the point where we have made a commitment to engage an executive director and support staff, especially around social media. We invite you to make a financial contribution to the Boggs Center. This is a responsibility that requires us to create a clear financial plan and we urge you to become a Monthly or Yearly Sustainer. Our goal is raise $50,000 in 2020-2021 through this fund.

To contribute, click the “donate” buttonat the top of our homepage or send a check to

Boggs Center
3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan


October 28th, 2020

revolution image final

Thinking for Ourselves

The Long Haul
Shea Howell

Tensions are building as we move through these final days toward the election. Almost everyone I know has been saying, “I can’t wait until this is over.” Of course, most of us know that no matter who wins the election, the tensions we feel and the challenges we face are not going to go away. They will intensify.

It now seems likely, that Joe Biden will win the popular vote. His lead a week before election day is in the double digits and is “without precedent in the 21st century.” Early voting has been heavily in favor of the Democrats, especially in key states like Texas and North Carolina.

However, winning the popular vote is no guarantee of winning the presidency. In an analysis of the power of minority rule in this country, Steve Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt wrote in the New York Times:

“Recent U.S. election results fly in the face of majority rule. Republicans have won the popular vote for president only once in the last 20 years and yet have controlled the presidency for 12 of those 20 years. Democrats easily won more overall votes for the U.S. Senate in 2016 and 2018, and yet the Republicans hold 53 of 100 seats. The 45 Democratic and two independent senators who caucus with them represent more people than the 53 Republicans.”

The Electoral College and the Supreme Court have been playing their intended role, thwarting popular rule.

But even if the Democrats assume the office of the President and manage to establish a majority in the House and Senate, their capacity to translate majority power into governmental action will be severely challenged.

First, anything the Democrats agree to do that will benefit the people and the planet will be challenged by Republicans. They Republican minority has the capacity to filibuster and use parliamentary maneuvers, but more likely they will depend on using the courts to challenge and overturn legislation.

We have seen this time again, for example, with the Affordable Care Act.  But this use of courts to overturn Congressional legislation will be a central tactic moving forward. One of the accomplishments of the Trump administration is that he and the republicans have successfully shifted much of the federal court system solidly toward the ideologically fringe right wing. In his first three years, Trump appointed more judges than President Obama did in his entire time in office. Trump’s appointments now make up more than a quarter of the appellate bench. For most, their primary qualification is adherence to extreme right-wing ideas. It is likely that even small efforts, like a national mandate to wear masks during the pandemic, will be challenged in the courts. And, as here in Michigan, the originalists will find it an over reach of power, not supported by the Constitution.

Beyond legal maneuvering, we should expect increased extra-legal violence. Last week the Center for Strategic and International Studies, released a report documenting the depth of right wing extremist violence. They found that 41 of the 61 terrorist attacks, or  67% of all the attacks in the first 8 months of the year, were committed by white supremacist groups. This report comes on the heels of the annual assessment of the Department of Homeland Security “warning that that violent white supremacy was the ‘most persistent and lethal threat in the homeland’ and that white supremacists were the most deadly among domestic terrorists in recent years.”

It will be a relief for all of us if Joe Biden and Kamala Harris actually take office. We know they are limited and have no desire to make the radical changes necessary. But they represent a needed counter to naked abuse.  But we should have no illusions. We have reached the point where we must now remake this country, establish the kinds of  values that will govern us, and make the decisions that will protect not only the lives of people, but the health of our earth. The transformations required of us will not be quick or easy. But they are essential now. We are in for the long haul, requiring the stretching of our will and imagination.

Podcasts! Podcasts!
HOW TO SURVIVE THE END OF THE WORLD: This is a Detroit love affair of an episode. For How To Survive’s first appearance at the Detroit Podcast Festival, we invited two Detroit based warriors for justice – 313 Liberation Zone’s PG Watkins (ultimate_paygee) and Detroit Justice Center’s Amanda Alexander (@A_S_Alexander). We discuss visions, abolition, and the unique ground that Detroit is for practicing our beliefs. LISTEN

UNDER THE TREE: We have taken up the question and the problem of freedom from various angles of regard, and today we move from an expansive metaphor—freedom as the wide, wide sea—to a material reality—freedom as the concrete act of unlocking the prison gate and walking out, free. We visit with Kathy Boudin, a social justice activist who spent 22 years in a New York State prison, and has, since her release in 2003, helped to organize a remarkable network and a wide range of projects to dismantle the system of mass incarceration. LISTEN

Land and Power
Malik Yakini

In the mid-1970s, I was a member of the Detroit-based Pan-African Congress, USA. Inspired by the South African political party, the Pan-Africanist Congress, the PAC-USA asserted, that, “Land is the Basis of Power”. Of course, this slogan echoed the words of Malcolm X and countless other Black activists before him. It embodied the understanding that it is from the land that we get the food that sustains our lives. It is from the land that we get the materials needed for housing, and clothing. It is from the land that we get mineral resources that feed economies and generate wealth. It is on the land that we build, grow and create community. As we struggle to foster food security, food justice and food sovereignty the question of land, who “owns” it, who controls it, and who benefits from it, must be in the forefront of our discussions.

Many forces have shaped the past 700 years of human history, but none as profoundly as the global imperial expansion by England, France, Spain, Portugal, Belgium and Germany. The centuries long conquest, colonization, enslavement, domination and exploitation of Africans and other people of color and their lands was deeply rooted in a white supremacist worldview.

European explorers came to the shores of West Africa and the east coast of what we now call the United States, with ideas about the private ownership of land that were shaped by the feudal societies that they came from; highly stratified societies were the wealthy owned much of the land, and the masses were landless, impoverished and subject to all manner of abuse and exploitation. Those European explorers encountered Africans and “Native Americans” whose cultures suggested that the earth cannot be privately owned, but only wisely used by humans for the common good, and preserved for future generations.

Because Europeans eventually won the hard fought military campaigns they waged against Africans and the indigenous peoples of the western hemisphere and created institutions to maintain their cultural dominance, we have been taught the idea that the earth is a commodity that can be bought and sold. This idea has continuing impact. Many contemporary national boundaries are the result of colonization by Europeans. We can’t intelligently discuss the present economic, political, social and health disparities impacting Africans, both on the continent and in the diaspora, without understanding how these inequities were shaped by and continue to be perpetuated by European imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism and the global system of white supremacy.

Across the planet, this thirst for continued dominance plays out in land-grabs. More and more land “ownership” is being concentrated in the hands of the few. Small-holder farmers are being forced out of business. People leave rural areas coming to cities where, if they find employment, they become wage-slaves to the wealthy.

Land grabs are taking place in many African-American communities such as Harlem, Washington D.C. and Detroit. But, Detroit is unique. The population of the city declined from 2,000,000 in 1950 to its current level of about 675,000. The City government struggles with how to maintain city infra-structure and services for a geographic footprint which has not shrunk, with the meager resources afforded by a much smaller tax base. No easy task indeed.

With more than 1/3 of the city’s land-mass vacant, Detroit is a prime target for land-grabbers. One can clearly see the temptation facing City government to sell off unused city-owned land to the highest bidder, putting the land back on the tax rolls, and in the process ridding themselves of the responsibility of cutting the grass and otherwise maintaining the property.

But, this is not a time for easy solutions. This is a time for bold, innovative thinking that is informed by history and guided by values that work for the betterment of humanity. Because Detroit is viewed by many around the world as the poster-child for urban decay, there is great interest in our efforts to think, create and build ourselves out of the seemingly intractable situation in which we find ourselves. The eyes of the nation are on Detroit.

Detroit’s political leadership has the opportunity to shift the paradigm from more concentrated ownership of land in the hands of wealthy whites, to strategies that recognize the value and developmental potential of commonly held land, and the value of facilitating increased land “ownership” by the city’s residents. Besides for its people, land is Detroit’s most important asset.

Detroiters should ask our elected political leaders the following five questions.

1) How can fair, just and transparent procedures for the sale of city land be developed and implemented?

2) How can a developmental strategy be implemented that allows for commonly held land to be entrusted to city residents for beautification, recreation, gardening, environmental stewardship, teaching and generating income?

3) How much land should be sold to any one developer or consortium of developers?

4) What reciprocity should the people of Detroit expect for the sale of land to developers?

5) How do we close the historical gap between wealthy landowners, and the landless?

If the people of Detroit do not quickly learn the lesson taught by the Pan African Congress USA, that, “land is the basis of power”, we will find ourselves in a continuing subordinate position.


The Story of the album that took a decade to create featuring Jazz, Hip-hop, Soul, Gospel, and Detroit. Boldy James and Sterling Toles masterpiece Manger on McNichols is told in these in-depth interviews. Producer Sterling Toles shares the story of meeting Boldy James and crafting an orchestra arrangement around the heartfelt story of what led him into street life. The Manger on McNichols album is already acknowledged as one of the most dynamic and creative works of 2020. Introduce yourself to the collaborative brotherhood that created this expression of Detroit Life. – WATCH



“Summer 2020 marked a significant shift in civil unrest in the United States. With rising unemploymenta global pandemican open supreme court justice seat, and increased public around issues of police brutality and state sanctioned violence, this country has been in a state of lamentation. People, especially Black Lives Matter activists, have come to the streets to vocalize collective dissatisfaction with racial and economic inequality in the United States. We are living in a time that calls for revisiting James Baldwin and his blues.” – KEEP READING


Education, Three Generations, In this Moment

By Rich Feldman

What follows is an exchange of ideas between three generations of my family, at the intersection of public education, labor unions, and interpretations of social justice in a time of unprecedented strife.

Coequal with the strife is the corruption and runaway wealth of fewer than one percent of our population, racist capitalism with deep roots in the endemic and flawed ideology of white supremacy. Amid daily protests that are largely youth driven, the Black Lives Matter movement demands big, bold institutional change.  In more subtle and insidious ways, institutions that have not served people of color equitably are being internally corrupted and reinvented by those who seek to preserve our white supremacist ways. We cannot run or hide any more. Institutional change is coming, and we must leverage the will and wrest back the power to ensure that change is just, decent, humanizing and inclusive in all of our social institutions, including and especially our system of education.

Beginning with my daughter Emma, a teacher for seven years in a Boston elementary school, who shared these heartfelt thoughts on Facebook, titling them “Re-Imagining Safety”:

Can we please expand our notions of safety as we talk about “going back?”

I don’t want to go back to our schools. They have failed — kids, educators, families, communities for generations (yes, even pre-covid). SCHOOLS WERE NOT SAFE BEFORE THE PANDEMIC.  Do you remember Columbine, Metal Detectors, Police in schools, water safety?

Please stop perpetuating this false dichotomy. When we don’t broaden our notions of safety — we are letting Trump and DeVos set the agenda about what reopening looks like.

What would you (you: educators, families, kids, community members) add as we say: What are the 6 ADDITIONAL things we MUST ensure to go back to school safely?

Some ideas I have heard include (but aren’t limited to):

  1. Police out of our school
  2. place-based curriculum that honors and learns from the brilliance of the communities where our students live,
  3. Outdoor classrooms that demonstrate we must learn not just from the 4-walls of our “classrooms”
  4. Anti-racist, Anti-Sexist, Anti-Ableist curriculum and pedagogy (yes, no more color sticks for behavior management),
  5. Moratorium on firing any teachers of color from a system that currently has no clue on educating black children, or children of color.
  6. Inclusive classrooms so ALL children learn with the kids from their communities (not just those disabled kids labeled “inclusion ready”),
  7. Joyful classrooms where teachers have time to grow as educators and have time to breathe throughout the school day,
  8. Recess spaces that allow kids to play, solve conflicts, and grow, lunch spaces with food that is found, cooked, and prepared with the community at the center…
  9. Oh yeah, and lots of love, imagination, and healing.

Emma is also active in the Boston Teachers Union.   She is the grand-daughter of my mother, Pearl Feldman, who went on strike in 1968 with the United Federation of Teachers for all the wrong reasons.  My mother rejected the commitment and aspirations of black parents putting forward the demand for community control of schools in the Ocean Hill –  Brownsville neighborhood of NYC.    My mother was protecting her seniority, her livelihood, our family opportunities and her dreams at the expense of “the other.”  Her choices supported my opportunity to go to college but what about the rest of the students and children?

As teacher unions,  educators, parents and students continue to debate the challenges of “returning to school,” I cannot get my mother and Emma’s grandmother out of mind.  Nor can I get the vision, the understanding, or the commitment of my daughter, to her students first, and to her precious work with them.  With thanks to Emma’s mother (her other biggest fan and a teacher) my wife, friend, comrade  of 40 years, these deep-seated beliefs that Emma holds dear grow from her heart, and are the foundation of  a deeper understanding and unveiled acknowledgement of the failures of education in our country.    Emma  was raised in a family of committed activists and surrounded by elders like Vincent Harding, James and Grace Lee Boggs and so many others.   Janice is one of the greatest listeners on this planet and  Janice always listened to Emma’s frustrations, dreams and fears.  This is important for all children but especially important for Emma  because  she  is also a younger sister of Micah who was born with an intellectual disability.  Micah has been a self-advocate and pioneer in the inclusive education movement.  Check out the film “Intelligent lives” and Janice’s book What Matters: Reflections on DisabilityCommunity and Love.  Emma and Micah lived, learned with dreams, agony and ecstasy about the importance of inclusive education and that “a community that excludes even one of its members is no community at all,” (Dan Wilkins).

Education and Unions: at a Crossroad

     The growth of teachers’ unions gave me opportunities and also denied others their opportunity.  Today can be different.  We do not want to repeat our history, we want to change our story.

In 1967, I was able to go to “out of town” college because my mother was in the United Federation of Teachers in NYC.  I moved from Brooklyn, NY to Ann Arbor, Michigan in August of 1967.  Ann Arbor is 40 miles from Detroit.  August 1967 was one month after the Detroit & Newark Rebellions.

The opportunity to go to University of Michigan changed my life and my aspirations.  I joined the anti-war movement, became active with Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), attended the demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, traveled to the 1969 United Front Against Fascism organized by the Black Panther Party and even drove to Woodstock. These choices informed and shaped my life. They continue to inform my thinking, values and vision for activism, unions, and community transformation.

I have been privileged by my opportunities and by my more than 50 years of radical, revolutionary relationships, connections, study, challenges and dreams.

After leaving Ann Arbor, I worked the assembly line for 20 years at the Ford Truck Plant, was an elected union official for about a decade and worked for the international staff of the UAW before retiring in 2015.

I also worked with James and Grace Lee Boggs for more than 40 years.  During the Community Control Movement and in response to Brown versus Board of Education, Grace Lee Boggs challenged activists to re-define the purpose of education.  She wrote Education to Govern and later she and Jimmy Boggs wrote and spoke extensively about the need for a paradigm shift in education.

With all my good intentions, my attempts at transforming my union, challenging and struggling with the union to listen and learn from the communities and the evolving community issues in our country, primarily the need  to confront racism among white workers,  I know that more than 50% of white workers in the UAW voted for Donald Trump.   The union essentially became a temporary insurance agent for an  economic and seniority crisis.  When our union “did the right thing” it had little to do with the membership and mostly to do with the “left leaning intellectual tradition of some staff and elected leadership.

While I have no regrets from my journey, I believe that the relevancy of unions in 2020 will only matter when they/we take on the needs and concerns of parents, community members, students and not just the unionized workforce.

The Freedom Movement, the Non-Violent Struggle, Black Power Movement of the 1960s and the Movement for Black Lives has captured the imagination and dreams of a generation assuming leadership in our organizing, our communities and in our unions.  Today’s bold leadership has been informed and grown from the struggles of those in all the humanizing movements of the 20th century.  From LGBTQ to the Disability Justice Movement, the anti-apartheid movement to the rights of the Palestinian people.  From Standing Rock to the Global Climate Struggles of this century we now find ourselves confronted with a world-wide pandemic, which, in a dearth of national leadership, has cost us almost 200,000 human lives. Somehow, amid almost nightly protests, since the horrifying murder of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, there has not been attributable spread of the virus due to these large gatherings. Facial masks that have been mandated in some states and locales, have also become signage; many masks are printed with Black Lives Matter, #BLM, “I can’t breathe” and more are prominent still in marches and protests. These masks, that cover our mouths and noses, do prevent some spread of the coronavirus. Even so, COVID-19 has limited some immuno-compromised and older citizens from engaging in these examples of Democracy. Protestors do incur some additional risk during the pandemic.

Questions of Purpose, Courage, and Safety

To return to Emma’s original question – what does it mean to be safe now, in 2020?  Schools have been closed since March, reopening is a scatter-shot attempt to try to get students back safely, which means a checkerboard of “solutions” that feel wholly unsatisfying, not scientifically informed and locally decided by school boards who are likely not public health experts. Moreover there are increased costs of cleaning and sanitizing classrooms, and more purchasing of technology for students in schools that are using hybrid models for safe return. As of this moment, there is no national plan for how our public schools should re-open. States and cities are working hard to get students back to school in the absence of good guidance. The national  teachers’ unions, the National Education Association (NEA) and The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have varying degrees of information about COVID-19 on their websites. Following suit, the local unions are involved in these “community” based decisions to varying degrees, probably based on the strength of their local leadership. Teachers are stressed and afraid; the pandemic and its relentless spread not only affects teachers and students, but extended families, too.

Returning to the mistakes made in 1968, by my mother and her national union president, Albert Shanker, of the AFT, where in New York City (NYC) they prioritized the demands of their membership over the concerns, needs and voices of the community. To be sure, we are in a unique time and space, but equally true is the fact that the system of education is broken and growing numbers of parents, teachers, students and educators know it. Emma’s questions and suggestions listed earlier are the result of knowing this, and asking bigger deeper questions, and taking some risk. Teachers have the opportunity to stand for something beyond “protecting”;  to move from protecting themselves, sometimes with good intentions,  to leading and becoming active players in creating the future.

It is not only Trump and Devos who are breaking the system.  It has been totally bankrupt since No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, from Bush to Obama. It has been broken for decades and decades.  Lip service reforms (i.e. we support social & environmental justice concerns) or solutions dedicated to failed concepts of success have not worked and will not work.  If our children continue to experience  failed Individualized Education Programs ( IEPs),  attend underfunded schools with insufficient resources,  face trauma daily because too often teachers, administrators and school systems have been concerned with their/our “professional-union lane” rather than building a new highway.  There are, however, signs of hope. We can learn from the Chicago Teachers’ Union (CTU) which made a commitment to create critical connections and relationships with community, students, educators AND parents to remind us that education must include art, music, counselors, nurses, health, safety, play time, outside time and          concern for the dignity of each student.

Here is a credo for education and a challenge to our “usual union thinking.”  It is time to strike for the common good and public good.  I remember that teachers in Oaxaca, Mexico raised up the demand and initiated a strike stating that, “there will not be a new contract until every student had new shoes on the first day of school. “  In 2006, In These Timesreported:

Since May 22, tens of thousands of teachers and administrative workers belonging to

Oaxaca’s Section 22 of the National Union of Education Workers have been on strike,

camping out in the colonial town square, shutting off highways, blocking government

buildings and marking their territory–all of downtown Oaxaca–with political graffiti,

reading, “The movement has no leaders; it is from the grassroots!” The teachers’

demands include school uniforms and shoes for all students, more scholarships, and an

increased budget for school buildings and equipment.

Beyond safety and protectionism: What kind of courage and vision is required of each of us and our institutions?

These ideas and proposals have come from educators, teachers, principals  and friends.

Point One:

We face this moment of a continued out of control Pandemic because our national leadership fundamentally ignored reality, science and the lives of its citizens.  This failed policy was intentional.

It has exposed the bankruptcy of this leadership and has uncovered the 400 year veil of racial capitalism, the decades and centuries of systemic racist policies, values and culture. When we look at the data of the percentage of black people and people of color who have died, there is not much argument to be made for a return to normal.  We also have learned that nursing homes, group homes, homeless shelters, prisons and detention centers  are not safe places; they are particularly vulnerable to the ravages of the virus.

Point Two:

There is no going back to “Normal” because Normal is the seeds and roots of the system that has failed and been totally broken down for decades and even centuries.  The public school system and schools have failed and the time for reform is over.  We now hear the words of Abolitionist Education.  No reforming slavery, no reforming the school system, no return to normal.

We need to allow teachers to prioritize relationships with their students and families, thus minimizing the trauma of this difficult time.  Our priority is to provide the love and support for authentic relationship building between teachers, staff, parents, and students.

  • Creating curriculum and education to engage in “caring for each other and the earth as the focus of all school curriculum and activities.
  • End the anxiety and trauma epidemic
  • Significantly slow down the pace of schooling so that school communities, youth and adults and families. neighbors can heal & reflect together.
  • Engage with the education community to discuss, deliberate and make decisions collectively into learning instead of focusing on content memorization/coverage which students forget after the course anyway. There is no data that show that standards and accountability strategies for “school improvement “ worked.  It is time to come to terms with the fact that the system has been an utter failure and that its only function is to support the few who keep the many down.

Point 3: 

As the AFT continues to announce its support for strikes to “protect” its membership, what  will local leaders and teachers say or do?

  • Can the AFT unleash a discussion for the public good, the common good and initiate policies that represent the change in schooling that is so necessary. Make these strikes a “common good” strike which would mean striking to protect the health of every child, families, teachers, staff, bus drivers, and the broader community?
  • Can it strike and still engage in creative educational opportunities?

Point 4:

What do we dream is possible?  How do we create new practices and unleash the creativity and imagination to support families, students and teachers in the birth of the new.  What can education look like now?  What is the difference between education and schooling?

Programs for practice:  Unleash thinking and possibilities?

  • Set up neighborhood community freedom schools. Create small pods in neighborhoods with teachers, support staff and parents.  (Study history of Freedom Schools in the south and emerging freedom schools of today. Share examples of current freedom school initiatives across our country. Share resources and tools. Detroit Independent Freedom schools, Chicago Freedom Schools, Marian Wright Edelman Freedom Schools, among others.
  • Listen to parents and students: Learn from Chicago Teachers union evolution and others.
  • Engage in truth telling about 1968 teachers’ strike in NY against community control in Ocean Hills Brownsville. This was put forward in the Boston Teachers Union as they voted to get police out of schools.  It united a challenge to the system outside and a challenge to the system inside our unions and all our organizations.   Union power and racism  or community power.
  • Create respite time for parents of children with disabilities. They have been in their home with little supports for the past 5 months.
  • What is the purpose of education? Success or sicksess? At a time when technology is creating a permanent underclass and outside class, we need to move beyond  Jobs or Prison?  What has been the lie of schooling?   How does each student find their passion and create work that matters to their dignity, the community and the planet?
  • Create outdoor classrooms and schools in every stadium not being used today in every city?
  • Free computers for every student and free computer access for the entire country.
  • Where will the money come from? Defund the pentagon and the police and pay for everything
  • End all high stakes tests permanently and switch to tests using a purposeful sampling method as Deb Meier suggests.
  • End all teacher evaluation where student testing data is used. Not statistically sound and only functions to burn out teachers and administrators.
  • Provide teacher leaders and coaches with the time they need to do real instructional support instead.
  • Increase teacher pay so that teachers do not have to work two jobs and can afford college. Increase parents’ income so they can send their kids to college as well.
  • Increase teacher planning time, decrease teaching load.
  • Increase art, music because this is where healing takes place,

Re-imagining safety and protection begins with the thinking and historical understanding emerging with Abolitionist thinking and the need to re-define the purpose of education in the 21st Century based upon the words:  “A community that excludes even one of its members is no community at all” (Dan Wilkins).

Concluding Thoughts

Education and teacher unions are at a crossroads.  A crossroads because of the breakdown in the system;  the COVID-19 pandemic; the  opportunities, challenges, and creativity raised by the Movement for Black Lives, as well as growing examples of ingenious educational practice by creative teachers, parents, staff and students.

There is a growing belief that our needs and our relationships matter more than our things and our stuff.  If we listen closely, we hear the rising voice that our values are more important than our valuables and our needs are different from our wants. We often hear the words that we “are in this together” –  well then, we need to create a vision that is for all of us, not just some of us.  There is no protection of self – without protection of all.

Our choices today matter.   Returning to “normal”, returning to old solutions and paradigms that have failed, or cheerleading within the institutions that continue to self-examine and reproduce our own histories will destine us to continued failure. Decisions made today will be the marker from which we move forward or continue to move backward. If we believe that education should provide the opportunity for every human being to reach his, her, their potential, then let strikes be for the Common Good.

October 8th, 2020

revolution image final

Teach In Flyer new copy


Thinking for Yourselves

Daily Destruction
Shea Howell

This week the Detroit City Council voted to approve a two year $220,000 contract with DataWorks Plus to continue the use of facial recognition software in the city. This vote came after a contentious public hearing where the vast majority of speakers objected to the use of facial recognition technologies and to the extension of the contract. Councilmembers Mary Sheffield and Raquel Castaneda-Lopez , who have been reliable critics of police practices, voted against the expenditure.

Let’s be clear. Not a single council person who voted for this measure thinks it works. Everyone acknowledges that this software is racially biased. The National Institute of Standards and Technology did a study that found Black faces were 100-times more likely to be mis-identified than white ones.

Moreover, the Detroit Police Department did not even pretend that this is an essential part of their work.  They indicated that so far this year they have used the system 106 times and made 12 arrests.  That is about $18,300 per arrest attributed to this contract alone. The police have given us no indication to think that facial recognition was critical in any of these arrests. Nor do we know the outcomes of them. What we know is this is an expensive, inaccurate, flawed and dangerous tool.

We also  know that the use of facial recognition by the Detroit Police Department underscores why we need to defund police and why we need to vote out the majority of this city council.

In the course of the hearing, the Detroit Police offered assurances that they have established policies to prevent the egregious mis-identification of people like Robert Williams, who became the first person publicly known to be wrongfully arrested based on this technology.

But the case of Mr. Williams reveals far more than flawed technologies. It reveals the arrogant bullying and disrespect for people that is part and parcel of the Detroit Police Department.

In undisputed accounts of Mr. Williams arrest based on a facial “match,” Detroit police showed up at his home in Farmington Hills.  In clear violation of his most basic rights, the officers refused to tell Mr. Williams why he was being arrested. They handcuffed him in front of his wife and two young daughters, shoved him into a police car, and took him to a detention center where they still did not tell him why he was in their custody. When his wife asked where the police were taking her husband she was crassly told to “Google it.”

Such illegal and crude behaviors was overshadowed by the emphasis on the technologies  that engendered the situation. But they are familiar behaviors to most people in Detroit. In the last 4 years there have been 20,000 complaints lodged against police officers. Most often these are complaints related to the use of force, the demeanor of the officers, and the violations of basic procedures.

This is the routine experience of most people in Detroit. We are not safer because of police. In far too many daily, ordinary interactions, our souls are wounded by the disrespect and disregard for people that is normal police behavior.  This disrespect is often overlooked because of the possibility that any challenge to police power can result in death.

Yet, if we are to create true community safety, we need to look honestly at not only the most egregious violations of power, but at the daily use of destructive force. Policing must end.


We are urging members of the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety committee to support Senate Bills 830, 831, and 1152 which would create Pregnancy Standards of care in prisons, a Community Advisory Oversight Committee for Michigan’s only women’s prison, and Pregnancy Standards of Care in jails. LEARN MORE.




September 28th, 2020

Elandria C. Williams, our beloved friend, comrade, collaborator, co-visionary, mentor to many, and the Executive Director of PeoplesHub, has become an ancestor. We are holding E’s family and vast community in love and in hope.

Elandria passed in Knoxville, Tennessee on September 23, 2020. They were 41 years old.
elandria 2
A proud child of Civil Rights leaders, Elnora and Erven Williams, a twin and an auntie, Elandria learned early on that as a Black, queer, disabled and chronically ill person, you have to carve spaces for yourself because the system will not. In carving out space, E brought others along with them, and made space for so many more to join in. Their life was a testament to the collective, to claiming space and creating space for Black, Southern, disabled, queer, elders, youth and more.

E understood themself as a part of a lineage, as part of a tradition of freedom fighters. They carried with them the histories and memories of what it took to arrive at the present. In their words, “I sit everyday in legacy… I feel it’s really important to sit in the legacy of the people who’ve done the work before us.” As a Unitarian Universalist faith leader, a yoga practitioner, and a youth leader, Elandria’s been part of creating, fortifying, and supporting hundreds of projects over their lifetime, with a focus on the global solidarity economy, youth empowerment, transformative leadership and spiritual fortification.

Elandria’s entire life was about lifting up and mirroring back to people our divinity. 

Elandria is a part of all of us.


Join us in expressing your love and honoring of Elandria’s legacy by posting on social media using the hashtag #ElandriaTaughtUs. 

If you would like to make a donation in honor of Elandria, please make it out to PeoplesHub and mark it for: Chronically Ill and Disabled Leadership Project, Solidarity Economy, or just generally to PeoplesHub.

If you would like to make a donation in honor of their work and life you can do that here.

Please find Elandria for social media in this folder. You may also email us with memes to contribute.
It will take a collective effort to archive, fortify and disseminate Elandria’s work for many years to come–they had so many of the visions and dreams we yearn for in their unpublished writings, conversations and thinking.


Thinking for Ourselves
Trump Endorses Craig
Shea Howell

This week Chief James Craig was openly endorsed by President Trump. After watching the Chief on Fox News, Trump called the Detroit Chief “terrific.” The Chief parrots Trump’s assertions that the national demonstrations against police brutality and the killing of black people by police are organized by “outsiders,” “professionals,” “anarchists,” “leftists” and people advocating a “Marxist ideology.”

Trump said, “You have a great police chief. I watch him. I really like him a lot. Say hello to him. I think he’s terrific. I think he’s just an incredible representative; he speaks so well about a very important subject, which is crime and rioting, and all the things you
see in certain cities.”

Meanwhile Craig has continued his appearances of Fox and Friends. If the implications were not so serious, his recent  commentary on the use of a cheap U-Haul truck by protesters in Louisville to cart around home made signs and drums would be laughable. He explained with a straight face that such efforts were signs that protestors are “financed by Marxist outsiders” trying to “undermine our government.”

People across the city are taking notice of Chief Craig’s cozying up to Trump. They are also taking notice of his attacks on people who are publicly protesting his actions. They are taking note of his efforts to invoke fears of communists and left wing influence on demonstrations.

This tactic of invoking charges of “communist” against those who criticize the US government and its policies is an old trick. It is a trick Detroiters have proudly exposed and rejected.

In 1952, as US Senator Joseph McCarthy held hearings to intimidate critics of U.S. domestic and international policies, Detroit played a critical role in unmasking the foolishness behind the viciousness of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).

It was by standing up to this committee that Coleman A. Young became a Detroit hero. His testimony was broadcast over WJR and records of it were sold around the city. It is still worth listening to. It is a model of courageous truth telling in the face of powerful, destructive forces.

Instead of being intimidated by the Congressional hearing, Young turned the tables on his questioners, aggressively attacking them.  He challenged Southern committee members on their pronunciation of the word “Negro,” and actually forced them to apologize to him.

When one committee member accused Young of being unwilling to fight communism, Young replied:

“I am not here to fight in any un-American activities, because I consider the denial of the right to vote to large numbers of people all over the South un-American.” To the HUAC congressman from Georgia, he said: “I happen to know, in Georgia, Negro people are prevented from voting by virtue of terror, intimidation and lynchings. It is my contention you would not be in Congress today if it were not for the legal restrictions on voting on the part of my people.”

To another HUAC congressman he said:

“Congressman, neither me or none of my friends were at this plant the other day brandishing a rope in the face of John Cherveny, a young union organizer and factory worker who was threatened with repeated violence after members of the HUAC alleged that he might be a communist. I can assure you I have had no part in the hanging or bombing of Negroes in the South. I have not been responsible for firing a person from his job for what I think are his beliefs, or what somebody thinks he believes in, and things of that sort. That is the hysteria that has been swept up by this committee.”

Coleman Young understood the historic role Communists, Socialists, Marxists, Anarchists, Black Nationalists, revolutionists,  and all progressives have played in the long struggle for human rights and for the liberation of Black people.

Chief Craig may call himself a Detroiter.
But Craig is no Coleman Alexander Young.

For an extended discussion of the hearings and the atmosphere that led up to them, we recommend: “I’m Fighting for Freedom”: Coleman Young, HUAC, and the Detroit African American Community. 

Detroit City Council will vote this Tuesday, September 29th at 10am on whether to approve DPD’s request for an additional $219,984.50 to extend their current facial recognition software licenses with DataWorks Plus.

If you are still torn on where to stand on this incredibly important issue, please take a look at this short investigative report and call in and tell them not to give DPD one more dime for this discriminatory technology!!

To attend by telephone call one of the these numbers:

1 929 436 2866
1 312 626 6799
1 669 900 6833
1 253 215 8782
1 301 715 8592
1 346 248 7799

Enter Meeting ID: 330332554##

To attend online:





Inclusion is a process, approach, and attitude not a place or a program.  This scale is to help evaluate your communities’ initiative. The goal is by working together we will all be striving to attain a level 5 (Full Inclusion/Transformation). Inclusion is not looking at how one person can fit into a situation; inclusion looks at how to transform a system so it can better respond to diverse communities.




NLG Responds to Grand Jury Proceedings in the Murder of Breonna Taylor

The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) condemns the outcome of Kentucky’s grand jury proceedings and renews its calls for justice for Breonna Taylor. On March 13, 2020, Breonna Taylor was murdered in her home by police officers executing a no-knock search warrant. The officers were acting outside of the scope of the warrant, which required them to knock and announce their presence at Taylor’s apartment, and with a wanton disrespect for human life which ultimately led to her death. Protests erupted in Kentucky—and around the world—over the summer in response to Taylor’s death, as well as in reaction to the killing of George Floyd, and state and local law enforcement have reacted with extreme force and brutality, arresting over 500 activists in Kentucky since June. On September 23, 2020, a grand jury investigation of the police killing led to the indictment of only one officer involved in the no-knock raid on three counts of wanton endangerment—in other words, not for Breonna Taylor’s death. There were no charges issued for the other two officers. 

The results of the grand jury proceedings over the killing of Breonna Taylor highlight the historically unjust and uneven criminal legal system that protects the interests of white supremacy, continuing the oppression of Black and Brown lives. The NLG renews calls for an end to the racist criminal legal system, abolition of incarceration, and accountability and reparations for the countless victims of police violence. As the grand jury proceedings in the murder of Breonna Taylor show, the criminal legal system will not resolve the injustices done to Black people by its own volition. Justice will remain elusive until the police are defunded, prisons closed, and resources are reallocated to Black and Brown communities in the form of the social services, education, and economic support needed to reverse centuries of racist exploitation and oppression. It is imperative that we dismantle white supremacy and settler-colonialism in all its manifestations.

We redouble our commitment to support those demanding radical social change and we also encourage people to mourn, take care of themselves, and build with each other as we engage in this fight.

The NLG is a proud endorser of the #8toAbolition platform, which emphasizes that abolition is not only about dismantling law enforcement, but creating life-affirming systems under which everyone can thrive, rendering these old institutions obsolete. As leading scholar, activist, and abolitionist Angela Davis, who will be speaking as part of the NLG’s #Law4ThePeople Convention states, “Abolition is not primarily a negative strategy. It’s not primarily about dismantling, but it’s about re-envisioning. It’s about building anew.” The NLG unequivocally reaffirms its continued support of Black communities and all those organizing in support of abolitionist movements for liberation.

The National Lawyers Guild, whose membership includes lawyers, legal workers, jailhouse lawyers, and law students, was formed in 1937 as the United States’ first racially-integrated bar association to advocate for the protection of constitutional, human and civil rights.





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September 22nd, 2020

revolution image final



Thinking for Ourselves
Chief Craig Joins Trump
Shea Howell

This week, Chief Craig made national news, appearing on Fox News program “Town Hall.” This is a program that frequently promotes Donald Trump and right wing propaganda. It is the network favored by Trump and his supporters. It turns out, Chief Craig is one of them. Or at least he is saying the very same things that Trump is saying. 

Consider this. In a recent brilliant essay on right-wing violence in America, Ibram X. Kendi wrote:

“Adherents of Trumpism think they are facing a choice between white male supremacy and “anarchy.” And right now, Trump’s federal agents, Trump-supporting paramilitary domestic terrorists, and Trump-supporting police officers from Kenosha to Austin believe they are fighting against anarchy. Which is to say, they are fighting to maintain white male supremacy. Which is to say, they are defending law and order. Defending their America—where white men can rule and brutalize without consequence.”

As Chief Craig likes to say, sometimes it’s not about race. Over the last few months Trump has consistently called people marching for freedom “anarchists,”  “thugs,” “terrorists” and “left wing extremists.” Since June 3, the Trump campaign has run more than 2,000 ads fearmongering against what it calls “Dangerous MOBS of far-left groups,” according to Media Matters for America.

And now it can add Detroit Police Chief Craig to its list of supporters. Craig said of the protests stretching to every corner of America, “it has little to do with racism and more to do with ‘anarchists and Marxist ideology.’”

“I can tell you that this group that’s marching, like so many across the country, the anarchist factions of these groups are promoting violence and attacks on police officers. They don’t speak for Detroit.” 

“I can tell you: Detroiters don’t like it. They support this chief.”

“The real issue is not as much about the race,” the chief told the website. “The anarchists and the Marxist Ideology, they have no support for anybody in government. They want to undermine that so it doesn’t matter what race your race is. It’s less about that.”

Chief Craig is entitled to whatever political opinions he wants as a private citizen. But he is the primary spokesperson for a city that is more than 86% African American, that has a proud history of resisting policies, practices and governments that dehumanize people, destroy and disrespect life. We are a movement city that has been in the forefront of human rights struggles since our very beginnings.  And we are also a city shaped by the sensibilities and actions of many anarchists, Marxists, Stalinists, Maoists, Wobblies, Revolutionists, Garveyites, Kingians, feminists, liberation theologians, activists, theoreticians and sensible people who recognize that violence in America comes from its history of genocide against indigenous people, the enslavement of African people and the protection of white power and privilege. We know such a history must be challenged if we are to change our futures.

Chief Craig is not speaking for Detroiters. He is speaking for Donald Trump. He is echoing Trumps words and sentiments. He is fostering fear. He knows his budget depends on it.

By early July there had been 7,750 anti-racist demonstrations in 2,400 locations across all 50 states. More than 26 million people participated. More than 93% of these demonstrations have been peaceful. Typically violence emerges in response to excessive force.

This week, Detroiters joined suburban friends in a demonstration to show support for an African American family in Warren whose home was vandalized. They were met by a group of “law and order” counter-protestors. At the end of the march, the mother of the family that was attacked, Candace Hall, thanked the demonstrators for their “outpouring of love.”

She said, “It’s not just about me and my husband or our children, but it’s about each and every one of us so that we can live neighbor to neighbor, heart to heart. … We don’t believe in hate or violence, we just want to live peacefully among our neighbors.”

These demonstrations are about love. Chief Craig is about protecting power and supporting Trump.

queering survival

“I voted yes on #HRes908 in memory of Vincent Chin, in solidarity with my sister in service @stephanielily and in the spirit of #Detroit‘s Grace Lee Boggs. We must commit, as Grace did for 100+ years, to liberate our world from hate. Anti-Asian racism related to #COVID19 must end. – @RashidaTlaib

that Land



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September 16th, 2020

revolution image final


Thinking for Ourselves
Welcome Efforts
Shea Howell

This week the calls for an independent investigation into the Detroit Police Department’s response to demonstrations in the city were given support  from popular, elected officials. In a strong letter written by U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib, State Senator Stephanie Chang, Detroit City Council President Pro Tem Mary Sheffield and City councilwoman Raquel Castaneda-Lopez, the Mayor and Police Commission were called to establish an investigation in to the “use of excessive force against (protesters), legal observers and journalists during recent demonstrations.”

The four officials explain their motivation for the inquiry saying “The right to free speech is one that is fundamental to our country’s democracy and critical to ensuring that our beloved city is one where everyone is heard…” “(Protesters) and others exercising their constitutional right to speak up about police brutality and racial justice deserve the same protection others receive. No person should fear being beaten, tasered, tear gassed, shot, or killed by law enforcement officers.”

Chief Craig’s responses to this latest call for an independent investigation are another indication of why he should resign. He is blaming his own actions and those of his officers on others. He is claiming he is standing against “terrorism” and rampant “crime.” He is even asserting that the lives of heavily armored and armed police are endangered by water bottles.

The call for Craig’s resignation has been growing as people examine the facts. It  emerged at the end of June in response to the aggressive use of force by police officers who drove an SUV through a crowd of demonstrators, speeding away with people on the hood. At the time Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib reviewed video taken by demonstrators, posted it on Facebook, and described the police behavior as “outrageous.”

Now, for Chief Craig to “rip into a group of lawmakers, accusing them of “giving rioters a free pass for attacking cops,”  is absurd.  Craig said, “It’s unfortunate that these representatives have chosen to repeat a number of false claims in their letter without verifying the facts,” he said in a statement, the paper said. He told Fox News that  “Some who are in political leadership are folding to the pressure by the protesters.”

“When you think of US Congresswoman, Rashida Tlaib, she would say these are peaceful protesters and to support their free speech. We do support it, but we are not going to let you terrorize the community, period.”

None of the lawmakers are responding to pressure. In June they were able to see a different account of what the Chief called “justified force.”  Since that time more than 50 community organizations have called for independent investigations into the police. A federal judge has reviewed videotapes and issued a restraining order on the use of specific weapons and tactics including batons, shields, gas, chokeholds, rubber bullets or sound cannons. We have all seen the photographs and images of people beaten just a few weeks ago.

Even the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, usually the first in line to cheerlead the police, has been forced to take a stand against routine tactics used by the police. The new policy directives “require a de-escalation continuum and a minimal reliance on force” and set measures for reporting when an officer threatens to use force. It also requires that the public be better informed about complaints against officers.

These are small but important measures. They are reflective of a responsiveness by at least some in authority to the recognition that the police are the problem, not the answer to creating safe communities.  Chief Craig is resorting to name calling, innuendo, and blatant disregard for fact. He is not the leader we need.


matt 2

The Green Light Black Futures Coalition is dedicated to educating and creating a movement with Detroiters who are most affected by government surveillance to build communities that center racial and economic justice for all. The group is collecting input from residents through a community survey that I encourage you to take, and to share with your networks so that more people can submit their input as well. The survey takes about 10 minutes to complete and can be accessed here >>




The future is dark. But is this the darkness of the tomb — or the darkness of the womb? We are a nation waiting to be born & this is our great transition. @ValarieKaur’s book #SeeNoStranger shows us how to show up to the labor, and last.

In case you missed the discussion, Beyond Acting: The Enduring Impact of Chadwick Bosemanhere is the video.


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September 1st, 2020

revolution image final 


Thinking for Ourselves

New Consensus
Shea Howell

Over the last few weeks, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Detroit Police Department routinely uses deadly violence and excessive force as a normal part of their operations.  This week Detroit Will Breathe filed a federal lawsuit against the city. The lawsuit documents the use of tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, chokeholds and beatings, all without cause as people demonstrated to protest these very tactics and the white supremist culture that produces them.

Chief Craig responded predictably. He said he is “pleased” the group filed the suit, because the City of Detroit plans a counter suit. Craig is appreciative of the city efforts “fighting to reject…another example of the perpetual false narrative.”

Since May, every single time anyone has raised a question about police conduct, Chief Craig has said the same thing: It’s a false narrative. So. when police initially responded with brutal force in early May against demonstrators, it was false. In June the use of force by police was so outrageous, demonstrators held a public tribunal. At the tribunal Nakia Wallace, one of the founders of the movement happening in our city said. “What we saw over the course, particularly the first two weeks, was excessive use of force and violence towards people exercising their constitutional right to protest.”

A few weeks later police drove an SUV through a crowd, speeding away with at least two people on the hood.  The video was publicized nation- wide. At the time, Gabriela Alcázar of the Black Brown Alliance said, “It was awful, and attempted vehicular manslaughter against clearly peaceful protesters” and added that the people were “very concerned, and we definitely demand a thorough investigation take place.”

Because of the initial public outcry about both the righteousness of these protests and the quick condemnation of the use of force, the Detroit Police became more cautious in their tactics. But as we continue to witness the relentless killings of Black People by police across the country, and the increased violence of police everywhere, Detroit police are responding to demonstrations with more force. Unless, of course, it is demonstrations by white people, carrying guns to “protect property” or demand legislators act in their interest.

This police violence is being encouraged at the national level, especially through the use of federal troops and para military actions.

Most recently, as “Operation Legend” unfolded in Detroit, people demonstrating against the federal escalation of force in the city were met with brutal violence from the police.

Violence against demonstrators is not the only problem we face. We have had 4 killings in less than a month. These come in the context of nation-wide protest and a long history of police abuse. At the beginning of this century, independent studies documented that the “Detroit police were the deadliest in the nation.” The rate of police shootings was 2.5 times higher than in New York City and 1.5 times higher than in Los Angeles. This culture of violence is deep within the institution of policing. It has historic roots, and will not evaporate because the Chief of Police refuses to address it. He is playing a very dangerous game.

We need to support the demonstrations and demonstrators in our city who are challenging this culture and demanding the defunding of the Detroit Police so we can begin to create a new kind of responsibility toward protecting each other.

While many in our city have been supportive of the Chief, that consensus is beginning to unravel. Former Chief, and one of the most respected men in the city, Ike McKinnon, is calling for “transformation.” Labor unions, sports teams, and community groups are challenging the official line and demanding change.

As people continue to gather to envision a culture of peace, one narrative is clear:

Change gonna come.

we will dance

We Will Dance with Mountains: Let us Make Sanctuary is a hybrid course (online and offline practices), collective research inquiry, and cartographic project emerging on the heels of cataclysmic endings and strange inflections.


The Coalition for Police Transparency and Accountability

Contact: Kim Hunter, 313-287-2992

Detroit Must Resist Operation Legend, Trump and Barr’s Escalation of Violence
Groups cite federal involvement and major increase in police violence against demonstrators 

DETROIT – The Coalition for Police Transparency and Accountability has issued a statement calling for the Detroit Police Department to stop taking orders from the racist Trump administration’s Attorney General William Barr and to stop the police violence against the people of Detroit.

Saturday’s major escalation of police violence against activists and Police Chief James Craig’s cooperation with AG Barr have increased the urgency for Craig to step down. The Detroit Police Department must end its liaison with the most openly racist US president in living memory.

While Detroit Police have previously used violence and falsely accused protestors in the past, Saturday’s protest against federal policing in Detroit featured more direct and violent attacks from police than ever including attacks on the press, legal observers, street medics, and those not involved in the protest. Lawsuits against the city have resulted from the use of excessive police force, including force used on those who followed police orders on where to stand.

The level of violence and the attacks on observers and demonstrators repeats a pattern in other cities where the Trump administration has been involved. Beating, lacerating and pepper spraying nonviolent protestors is never acceptable. And, in a mass meeting following the Saturday action, participants reported that Detroit Police charged the crowd with batons and shields, not to arrest people engaging in alleged unlawful behavior, but rather to fight and attack unarmed people.

We believe this brutal, unacceptable increase in police violence and attacks stems from the Trump administration’s influence through Attorney General Barr who has been working closely with Chief James Craig. It has increased the urgency of our call for Craig to step down and for Detroit Police to end the attacks on unarmed people exercising their First Amendment rights.

We demand the immediate end of police violence against protestors and observers. We demand the immediate resignation of Police Chief James Craig.


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