Jimmy and Grace  
Our mission is to nurture the transformational leadership capacities of individuals and organizations committed to creating productive, sustainable, ecologically responsible, and just communities. Through local, national and international networks of activists, artists and intellectuals we foster new ways of living, being and thinking to face the challenges of the 21st century.
Living for Change News
June 12th, 2017
Thinking for Ourselves
Dream Questions
Shea Howell

I saw my first young person in the neighborhood walking with her graduation cap on the way to church this week. It is a common sight in Detroit at this time of year. All over the city young people mark their graduation from high school or college by wearing caps and gowns as they go to community gatherings or just walking down the street with friends.

I don’t know if this happens in other cities, but here, graduation is a public affair, celebrated on street corners. As in other places there are family parties and balloons, church acknowledgments and lawn signs, but here graduations are about more than individual achievement. Although often they signify remarkable accomplishments by our young people in a city where nearly half of them have dropped out and many never complete what is needed to get a diploma. Still, there is a sense that wearing caps and gowns as you go about normal life is a way of acknowledging the long, hard struggle for education by people who risked their lives to learn to read. It is a tribute to ancestors and a hope toward the future.

This image of my neighbor proudly wearing her cap was very much on my mind as I gathered with a small group of students in a nearby high school. All of the students were one or two years away from the possibility of having a cap. We had come together to talk about what they thought about their school. It was a dismal picture. Students shared concerns for the physical space and talked about mice, falling tiles from the ceiling and lack of heat in winter. Of the eight students we talked to, only one said she had learned anything in the past year. She had only one teacher who cared about her and really taught the class. She had come to love literature. All students said math and science were never taught. Instead, day after day worksheets were handed out, many never returned. They didn’t feel safe in the building, and the security guards were as much of a problem as the other students.

Perhaps the most disturbing thing was the young woman who had learned something over the year. She clearly loved the thrill of new ideas and insights and felt she had grown and developed in her understanding of the world. Yet she had also decided that she had to give up her dream to be an engineer. Given the poor instruction in math and science, she had concluded that she would now be too far behind to really learn what she needed. She had yet to come up with a new dream for herself.

There is something terribly wrong when children’s dreams are smashed. The message that many of our schools send them is quite simply, “you don’t matter.” In thousands of ways large and small our institutions tell young people they are incapable, useless, and not worth caring about. Our children get the message “you are disposable.”

As we left the school and walked out into the warm street, Langston Hughes would not leave me. He was with us, offering his questions:

What happens to a dream deferred?

      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?
      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?

      Maybe it just sags
      like a heavy load.

      Or does it explode?

Photo 2 by Ara Howrani

19th Annual Allied Media Conference Convenes Media Makers and Activists in Detroit June 15-18

DETROIT, June 8 2017 – The 19th annual Allied Media Conference will take place June 15-18 in Detroit at Wayne State University. As the conference approaches its third decade, the AMC has become the most important national convening for exploring how grassroots communities can harness the power of media and communications to affect change.

AMC2017 offers over 250 sessions including hands-on workshops, panel discussions, film screenings, performances, tours and more. New for 2017, the conference will convene participants for a series of daily plenaries on topics including storytelling, digital security, pop culture, and the 50th anniversary of Detroit’s 1967 Rebellion. The conference’s Opening Ceremony event will feature a keynote presentation from Alicia Garza of the National Domestic Workers Alliance and co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter.

The theme for this year’s conference is Get Ready Stay Ready, a call to to develop and innovate strategies of preparation, sustainability, and survival within the current political climate.

“This year we are gathering with an urgency to share the skills and strategies of visionary resistance,” says Morgan Willis, director of the AMC. “Get Ready Stay Ready is inspired by a Detroit-based disaster preparedness workshop. Through this theme we embrace our community’s skills, resources, ideas, platforms, and visions of media-based organizing.”

The full schedule of 250+ sessions is now available online at amc2017.sched.com and covers an incredibly diverse range of topics such as:

  • Reimagining food & media
  • Healing through Black radical jazz
  • “Emergent strategy” & movement-building
  • Designing community-based exhibitions
  • Building technology to hold police accountable
  • Starting an artist-run publishing press
  • Fact checking fake vs. real news

AMC programming goes beyond daytime workshops and presentations with “AMC @ Night,” a four day music showcase featuring performing artists working at the intersection of art and social change. Events include live music performances, karaoke and bowling, dance parties, a kids party, and more. Featured performers include Tunde Olaniran, Mic Write, Danni Cassette, DJ Rimarkable, and more.

Registration for the conference is offered on a sliding scale rate, from $75 – $500. Individuals can register in advance online: http://bit.ly/2j1urqY

The Allied Media Conference is a project of Allied Media Projects, with support from The Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Open Society Foundations, National Endowment for the Arts, and the MacArthur Foundation. Allied Media Projects’ mission is to cultivate media strategies for a more just, creative, and collaborative world.

Photo by Ara Howrani

Notes from Freedom School
Here is a sample of what is happening at Detroit Independent Freedom Schools. Piper Carter offered this summary of the discussion there last week.

• What is Justice?
• What is Freedom?
• What is a Safe Space?
• What is Freedom School?
• What is our Purpose for meeting?
• What do we need for this to be a valuable experience?
• What are some attainable Goals we would like to achieve as a group?

We learned that everyone in the group identifies as an Artist and that making Art should be a part of how we Organize.

Some ideas they came up with:

1. Transportation is PARAMOUNT to participation, especially high school age and younger.

2. Food is necessary at every gathering.

We’ve identified they want to:

Do things in community 
• Create our businesses 
• Support Black owned businesses 
• Make Our own garden 
• Do things for the environment 
• Make people more aware of environment 
• Take care of our planet 
• Make Justice Music videos 
• Make a Justice Mixtape
• Record in a studio
• Learn Photography 
• Go on trips
• Build Leadership skills 
• Gain Knowledge of issues (Food Justice, Water Struggle, Education Struggle, Restorative Justice Practices, Gender Justice, Identity Training)
• Practice Meditation 
• Do some Fitness 
• Learn about Wholistic herbs and eating as medicine
• College Prep
• Songwriting
• Connect with other youth groups 

Regarding what a Safe Space looks like and what they identify as necessary to have a Safe Space and a Valuable Experience:

•More Girls
•Activities especially trips
•Attack the idea not the person
• Continue Building a safe space (Physically and Emotionally)
• As different come and go from the group establish a Safe Space at the get go
•Be responsible for the energy that you bring
•Leave negativity at the door
• Be comfortable with everyone being leaders
• Be open to helping each one become the greater version of themselves
•Bring resources together 
•How do we adjust one another 
uphold our own values
•Make the space comfortable enough for people to let someone know that their boundaries have been crossed 
•Respect boundaries 

We ended the meeting with them starting to create a song they’ve come up with temporarily titled Where is the Freedom?”

It’s a work in progress that they were inspired to create. We gathered around the piano while Kingg (from Southeastern High School) played various pop tunes they recognized until they all felt comfortable enough to freestyle rap & sing. So far there’s a possible chorus but mostly they just had fun playing around for about 20 minutes after the meeting. They decided that needs to be how we end every meeting.




Doors @ 5:30pm
Screening @ 6:00pm

Panel Discussion moderated by Soledad O’Brien and Miles O’Brien 7:30pm


The Reverend William Barber Talks to David Remnick About Morality and Politics



Ron Scott and Sandra Hines recounting the summer of 1967. 



The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214

Our mission is to nurture the transformational leadership capacities of individuals and organizations committed to creating productive, sustainable, ecologically responsible, and just communities. Through local, national and international networks of activists, artists and intellectuals we foster new ways of living, being and thinking to face the challenges of the 21st century.
Living for Change News
June 5th, 2017
Thinking for Ourselves
Questions in Education
Shea Howell


As the Michigan Elite gathering on Mackinac Island for their annual celebration of one another came to a close, another gathering took shape in Detroit. Actors, musicians, writers, poets, and cultural workers of all kinds gathered in the heart of the Cass Corridor for the 22nd annual Pedagogy and Theatre of the Oppressed Conference (PTO). Its theme was “Breaking the Silence.” Sessions explored storytelling and transformation, inclusion and collaboration. Conversations on language, power, choreography, and laugher flowed through the gathering.

The Saturday morning session focused on “The struggle for education in Detroit.”Simona Simkins and Rebecca Struch, of the conference leadership team were joined by Nate Mullen, Kim Sherobbi, Tawana Petty and me for a conversation about what people are learning in Detroit about the kind of education we need to shape a more human future. We were joined by two Detroit Independent Freedom School students who had participated in an earlier workshop and had much to offer the larger gathering. Chevon read her poem WHY (see below) and pressed us to think about the relationships between teachers and students. T. Jones, talked about young people becoming change makers.

I began the conversation with an overview of the role of the state in privatizing education and undercutting democratic decision-making. Since 1999 a combination of greed and hubris have taken a solid school system and twisted it beyond recognition into a form of child abuse that lines the pockets of folks like Betsy Devos and her friends. Kim Sherobbi emphasized the difference between education and schooling, and invited us to think about the many places we have for learning and growing in all aspects of our lives.


She also asked us to think more deeply about the question of what is education for? What is the purpose of education? Nate talked about the unique clarity we get in Detroit, where contradictions are so stark. Detroit makes it is clear that the old way of approaching schooling is dying. As a result, we have the opportunity to reimagine what we mean by education, by school, and by the development of children. Seeing children as capable of creating solutions to our common problems, rather than as empty beings that need to be controlled, he said, takes us in very different directions as we think about schools. Tawana Petty stressed that we need a new paradigm for education. We are not talking about personal problems or individual failings, but a system that is in collapse.

The dialogue with the audience began with a request by Rebecca for us to prioritize the voices of young people and Detroiters. The first person to come to the mic was a young woman from Detroit who recently graduated from the University of Michigan. She began by saying she wanted to acknowledge that this was the first time in her life that her status as a Detroiter and as a young person were honored.

In the course of the conversation people shared imaginative and creative possibilities for how we can learn and grow together.

The PTO supports “a world based on radical love and social justice instead of oppression and violence.” Inspired by the theories and practices of Paulo Freire and Augusto Boal, the gathering fosters “collaborative connections to share, develop, promote, and document liberatory theatre, popular education and other revolutionary actions.”

In his provocative essay on education and liberation, Friere offers us a perspective that is important for us to consider. He observes,“The power which creates an educational system in its image will never allow education to be used against it and therefore a radical transformation of the education system can never take place unless society itself is transformed.

And he challenges us to love the questions we face in this transformation, saying: Our hope lies in questions, whether in the school system or outside it. What must we do to promote liberation? How? When? With whom? For What? Against what? And in whose favor?


By Shavon Hopkins

WHY are the schools closing?
WHY are they taking away our learning?
WHY aren’t our educations valued like others?
WHY do we have to be managed?
WHY can’t we all be our own bosses?
WHY can’t we be welcomed instead of wanted?
WHY can’t we be trusted?
WHY can’t we have our phones?
WHY can’t we have freedom in the right way?
WHY can’t we make our decisions instead of the school board?
WHY can’t we get a say in our education?
WHY didn’t Hillary Clinton win?
WHY are teacher’s checks decreased?
WHY aren’t our teachers appreciated for their knowledge?
WHY do teachers say they know kids learn differently, but they still teach us the same way?
WHY do they let kids fail?
WHY don’t teachers think the failures might be theirs?
WHY do teachers make kids take tests that aren’t right for them?
WHY do teachers settle for mediocrity and structure?
WHY don’t teachers teach with their hearts instead of their fears?
WHY do you have to have a teacher’s certificate in order for us to learn from you?
WHY do we have to pay to be educated?
WHY does intelligence have to have a number assigned to it?
WHY can’t our youth step up and take a stand?
WHY can’t we all come together and defeat these situations?
WHY so many unanswered questions?

Boggs Center at AMC_Facebook

Detroit Equity Action Lab (DEAL)


Wayne State Law School (Keith Center for Civil Rights)RSVP

WHAT WE’RE READINGTurning Capital against Capitalism
Experiments in funding an equitable economy.In These Times



From ‘Turtle Island to Palestine’: Black4Palestine Congratulates Palestinian Prisoners on Win


Shortly after Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails ended their hunger strike with nearly 80 percent of their demands agreed to by the apartheid state, organizers from the U.S.-based solidarity group, Black4Palestine, sent a message of congratulations.



Baba Don’t Take No Mess


The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214

Jimmy and Grace  
Living for Change News
May 30th, 2017
Thinking for Ourselves
Budget Values
Shea Howell

No one thinks the budget proposed by the White House will get much support. The details will change. Various interests will do their best to protect vital programs and services.But there is an element of casual cruelty behind these projections that we need to address. Our elders, our children, and the people who care for them are especially targeted as excess expenditures. These projections are a clear articulation of values and polices from an administration that delights in chaos, manipulation, and lies.

Called “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” the budget would completely eliminate 66 federal programs, with the biggest cuts aimed at Health and Human Services. Over the next decade the budget projects cuts of more than $3.6 trillion, mostly from Medicaid, Food Stamps, Social Security Disability and insurance for children. Military spending of all sorts escalates.

No where is the relationship between budgets, priorities and values clearer than in the projections for education. Betsy Devos proposed $10.6 billion in cuts to educational programs. She wants to cut funding for Special Olympics, parent support programs, teacher training, and academic and psychological support for students. While cutting public education, Devos proposes increasing funding for charter schools by 50% and she intends to encourage corporate incentives to support her “school choice” schemes.

These schemes are not some effort to “transform education.” They are a deliberate effort to shift public money to private, primarily religious schools. In the process, they would further enrich the Devos family and friends. As Michael Sainato wrote recently,  “Devos’ approach to the United States Education System is to benefit the private corporations that have leeched off it for personal profit at the expense of the public. From the student debt collecting agency she was personally invested in, to the for-profit schools that benefit from tax credits, vouchers, and other financial incentives, Devos is further increasing the polarizing class divide in the education system to benefit those already wealthy and powerful.”

Nor are these schemes motivated by religion. Rather, they cynically use religion to protect and promote white supremacy. The drive to private, Christian Academies supported by Devos has its roots in the backlash against desegregation of public schools. Between 1964 and 1972 hundreds of white Christian academies were set up, “in response to anticipated or actual desegregation orders.”

In an editorial opposing the Devos appointment, Felicia Wong of the Roosevelt Institute, said:

“An estimated half-million white students left public schools between 1964 and 1975 to enroll in schools that were known as ‘segregation academies.’ This move to private schools was part of a larger ‘white flight’ movement.  White flight was one of the greatest demographic shifts in American history. Millions of whites nationwide moved out of cities and into racially isolated suburbs. Scholar Kevin Kruse has called white flight ‘the most successful segregationist response to the moral demands of the civil rights movement and the legal authority of the courts.’ The character and quality of most American schools today, like the neighborhoods in which they are found and which they shape, have a racial past.”

Across the country people are organizing to resist this assault on our children. The #WeChoose campaign is now in 35 cities. #WeChoose demands:

“A robust, rigorous and relevant curriculum, support for high quality teaching (smaller classes, teacher aides, effective professional development), wrap-around supports for every child (nurses, counselors, clubs, after-school programs), a student-centered school climate, transformative parent and community engagement and inclusive school leadership. The result: sustainable, community schools.”

The Detroit Independent Freedom Schools (DIFS) are part of this effort. Join us as we begin a summer of growing and learning together.


A quick note from El Kilombo
the EZ communiques announcing “the Candidate” or, that is, the announcement of a proposed indigenous governing council for Mexico with an indigenous woman as its spokesperson.



Dudley Street is Re-imagining its future
Rich FeldmanAfter returning from North Carolina where I had the privilege to spend time with comrades and friends like El Kilombo and Nelson and Joyce Johnson of the Beloved Community of Greensboro, I was lucky to visit my daughter, Emma, where she is a second grade teacher at Dudley Elementary-Community School. This school is located in a neighborhood where folks have been “putting the neighbor back in the hood.”

My wife Janice and I spent two days with the class as they engaged in writing, math, recess and shared stories on the carpet. The patience, love and challenges I saw were truly a learning experience.  As I read the letters that each parent wrote to his/her child about their hopes, dreams and high expectations, I was again reminded me how deep our responsibility is to keep those dreams & expectations alive.

During the short visit, we had a chance to see the Dudley Community Center and visit the area urban gardens and mural, that demonstrated both history and a daily commitment to turn vacant lots into community safe spaces. Some of the current organizers from the Dudley Street Community Initiative were raised in the neighborhood, as are some of the students from the school.

I learned more about the Community Land Trust initiative, which has proved to be an antidote to  the foreclosures which have been rampant across the city for the past decade. Dudley hasn’t been as hard hit because of a commitment of interdependence that states, “The community cares about each other and protects each other.” Almost all the stores in the neighborhood had written signs stating, “No One is Illegal.”  These signs were from the children who marched last week in a demonstration welcoming all immigrants and opposing Trump’s Bans and Walls.

As I walked with the second graders in the rain around the Dudley area, it reminded me of Detroit and the community gardens, urban farms, murals, and placed-based schools. It reminded me of the Boggs tour:  From Growing Our Economy to Growing Our Souls.

The Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative’s vision was crystallized in a “Declaration of Community Rights.” The declaration, produced by the Human Development Committee, highlights fundamental DSNI objectives in all areas of community development.”

We – the youth, adults, seniors of African, Latin American, Caribbean, Native American, Asian and European ancestry – are the Dudley community. Nine years ago (1993), we were Boston’s dumping ground and forgotten neighborhood. Today, we are on the rise! We are reclaiming our dignity, rebuilding housing and reknitting the fabric of our communities. Tomorrow, we realize our vision of a vibrant, culturally diverse neighborhood, where everyone is valued for their talents and contribution to the larger community. We, the residents of the Dudley area, dedicate and declare ourselves to the following:

We have the right to shape the development of all plans, programs and policies likely to affect the quality of our lives as neighborhood residents.

We have the right to quality, affordable health care that is both accessible to all neighborhood residents and culturally sensitive.

We have the right to control the development of neighborhood land in ways which insure adequate open space for parks, gardens, tot lots and a range of recreational uses.

We have the right to live in a hazard-free environment that promotes the health and safety of our families.

We have the right to celebrate the vibrant cultural diversity of the neighborhood through all artistic forms of expression.

We have the right to education and training that will encourage our children, youth, adults and elders to meet their maximum potentials.

We have the right to share in the jobs and prosperity created by economic development initiatives in metro-Boston generally, and in the neighborhood specifically.

We have the right to quality and affordable housing in the neighborhood as both tenants and homeowners.

We have the right to quality and affordable child care responsive to the distinct needs of the child and family as well as available in a home or center-based setting.

We have the right to safe and accessible public transportation serving the neighborhood.

We have the right to enjoy quality goods and services, made available through an active, neighborhood-based commercial district.

We have the right to enjoy full spiritual and religious life in appropriate places of worship.

We have the right to safety and security in our homes and in our neighborhoods.


Patrisse Cullors and Robert Ross— The Spiritual Work of Black Lives Matter
Black Lives Matter co-founder and artist Patrisse Cullors presents a luminous vision of the spiritual core of Black Lives Matter and a resilient world in the making. She joins Dr. Robert Ross, a physician and philanthropist on the cutting edge of learning how trauma can be healed in bodies and communities. A cross-generational reflection on evolving social change.





The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214

Jimmy and Grace

Revolution and Evolution

by James and Grace lee Boggs

“Technological man/woman developed because human beings had to discover how to keep warm, how to make fire, how to grow food, how to build dams, how to dig wells. Therefore human beings were compelled to manifest their humanity in their technological capacity, to discover the power within them to invent tools and techniques which would extend their material powers. We have concentrated our powers on making things to the point that we have intensified our greed for more things, and lost the understanding of why this productivity was originally pursued. The result is that the mind of man/woman is now totally out of balance, totally out of proportion.  That is what production for the sake of production has done to modern man/woman. That is the basic contradiction confronting everyone who has lived and developed inside the United States. That is the contradiction which neither the U.S. government nor any social force in the United States up to now has been willing to face, because the underlying philosophy of this country, from top to bottom, remains the philosophy that economic development can and will resolve all political and social problems.”

Living for Change News
May 22nd, 2017
Last month, The Michigan Coalition for Human Rights honored Dr. Gloria “Aneb” House with a lifetime achievement award in recognition of her contributions to justice. She offered this poem in response.
for you this circle

Thinking for Ourselves
Poor People’s Campaign
Shea Howell

A few days after the national reflections on the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s call to break the silence and engage in a radical revolution of values against racism, materialism and militarism, Rev. Dr. William Barber II announced a renewed Poor People’s Campaign.

I was part of the first campaign. Announced by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in December of 1967, Dr. King had called for a nationwide march on Washington on April 22, 1968. Massive civil disobedience was envisioned, combined with a Resurrection City, a permanent encampment on the Mall until demands for full employment, better housing, health care and educational opportunities were met.  

The Campaign was thrown into chaos with the murder of Dr. King. What began as a plan to reinvigorate direct action and non-violent confrontation to humanize the country ended in despair and confusion. The broad coalition of African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and whites never materialized. After a few weeks of mud, conflict and lack of leadership, the murder of Robert Kennedy on June 5th removed the last vestiges of hope.

I welcome this renewed effort. Almost everyone knows the conditions that propelled this movement a half century ago are with us today. A study by Pew Research concluded: “The economic gulf between blacks and whites that was present half a century ago largely remains. When it comes to household income and household wealth, the gaps between blacks and whites have widened. On measures such as high school completion and life expectancy, they have narrowed. On other measures, including poverty and homeownership rates, the gaps are roughly the same as they were 40 years ago.”

The study also found, “Black men were more than six times as likely as white men in 2010 to be incarcerated in federal and state prisons, and local jails, the last year complete data are available. That is an increase from 1960, when black men were five times as likely as whites to be incarcerated.”

This new campaign has the potential to help us confront our past and to ask what kind of future we want to create together. What values should define our relationships to one another, to other peoples and to the planet?

Reverend Barber talked about his spiritual calling saying, “The future of our democracy depends on us completing the work of a Third Reconstruction today.”

He continued, “Americans across the country are crying out in defiance?—?and for change. Bringing this cry into the public square, a Resistance has emerged: The Fight for $15, the Movement for Black Lives, Moral Mondays, the Women’s March, The People’s Climate March and No Ban/No Wall protesters have taken to the streets.”

He said, “At such a time as this, we need a new Poor People’s Campaign for Moral Revival to help us become the nation we’ve not yet been.”

Barber’s faith in our future comes from an understanding of our past. He explained, “Throughout America’s history?—?from abolition, to women’s suffrage, to labor and civil rights?—?real social change has come when impacted people have joined hands with allies of good will to stand together against injustice. These movements did not simply stand against partisan foes. They stood for the deep moral center of our Constitutional and faith traditions. Those deep wells sustained poor and impacted people who knew in their bones both that power concedes nothing without a fight and that, in the end, love is the greatest power to sustain a fight for what is right.”

“This moment requires us to push into the national consciousness a deep moral analysis that is rooted in an agenda to combat systemic poverty and racism, war mongering, economic injustice, voter suppression, and other attacks on the most vulnerable.”






The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214

Living for Change News
May 16th, 2017

unnamed (1)

Thinking for Ourselves
Real People, Real Questions
Shea Howell

I have always loved streetcars. As a child, my bedroom window overlooked the last stop of the line that brought miners and mill workers to the top of the hill every morning. I was fascinated by the turn around of the car, achieved by men and muscle in those days. I imaged growing up to be a streetcar driver. So I wish I could find more joy in the new M-1 rail line that opened last Friday to incredible fanfare. Even the automobiles on the tracks, broken signals, delays and malfunctions of the first day could not diminish the enthusiasm of its backers.

Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans, who sank money and energy into the project and bought the naming rights, dubbing it the Q Line, said to the Detroit News, “QLine has already spurred billions of dollars of investment with billions more to come. “It is more than a transportation machine, it is a jobs-creating machine.”

Columnist Daniel Howes surpassed Gilbert’s enthusiasm, calling the line a “symbol of Detroit’s reinvention.” Howes argues that the 3.3 mile track reflects the “long game” of “powerful business and philanthropic interests” dedicated to the “revitalization of a downtown that a lot of Detroiters—in the city and in the suburbs—long ago gave up for dead.”

It is precisely this kind of enthusiasm that makes it difficult to celebrate the new streetcar. Howes, Gilbert, Penske, Rapson, Duggan, and Snyder cannot put their actions in perspective. Instead they use every opportunity to repeat the worn out narrative that some new downtown project will benefit the majority of the people of the city. They do this despite the fact that the majority of the people of the city know full well we are increasingly unwanted in their whiter, wealthier downtown serviced by these new cars.

The constant casting of criticism as “righteous cynicism” by people like Howes is especially reflective of the lack of vision of the power elites in their drive for self congratulations. Howes says of those who raise concerns, “How ’bout giving the venture a chance, and letting the real people living and working along downtown’s central spine have their say. It’s them, not the voices lobbing cheap shots from the comfort of their keyboards, who will decide whether the big bet will pay off.”

Real people, beyond Gilbert and his cronies, know this tiny line does nothing to touch the real challenges facing our city. Mason Herson-Hord, who was on hand at the opening festivities with the Motor City Freedom Riders to call attention to the limits of the Q as a transportation vehicle pointed out, “Most employed Detroiters have a job north of 8 Mile and for the thousands of Detroiters who need to use the bus system to get to work, that can be a pretty serious hardship because there aren’t many consistent lines that are moving across 8 Mile.”

The need for a real regional transport system is obvious. Q backers claim it is the first step. But this rings hollow as they were missing in action last fall when yet another ballot initiative to achieve this failed. One commentator argued, “The failure to wage an overwhelming campaign in support of the ballot proposal should be regarded as one of the biggest political misfires in Detroit history.” Much of the defeat rested with those who welcome Howes’s racist narratives and who will do anything to keep Detroiters from moving freely around suburban areas.

The QLine does symbolize the “long game” of the corporate elite. That “game” is nothing less than the remaking of the city as a playground for the white and wealthy. It is another effort to substitute public relations for serious debate. It evades the real questions of how to create a just city reflecting our best future.




Immanuel Wallerstein

Global Left vs. Global Right: From 1945 to Today

The period 1945 to the 1970s was one both of extremely high capital accumulation worldwide and the geopolitical hegemony of the United States. The geoculture was one in which centrist liberalism was at its acme as the governing ideology. Never did capitalism seem to be functioning as well. This was not to last.

The high level of capital accumulation, which particularly favored the institutions and people of the United States, reached the limits of its ability to guarantee the necessary quasi-monopoly of productive enterprises. The absence of a quasi-monopoly meant that capital accumulation everywhere began to stagnate and capitalists had to seek alternative modes of sustaining their income. The principal modes were to relocate productive enterprises to lower-cost zones and to engage in speculative transfer of existing capital, which we call financialization.




The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214

Jimmy and Grace
Living for Change News      May 2nd, 2017
Thinking for Ourselves
Development Possibilities
Shea Howell

Big developers across Michigan are celebrating. The State legislature is on a fast track to approve tax incentives to provide a collective $1 billion windfall to folks like Dan Gilbert and shift the cost of future private developments onto citizens. The plan would let developers withhold tax money from new revenue raised by projects on “blighted or long vacant land.” Governor Snyder is sure to sign the final version of the plan.

This is an astonishing abuse of legislative power. Even some Republicans have found this set of bills disturbing. Rep. Martin Howrylak of Troy, said this is “nothing more than a transfer of wealth” from the working class to “selected special interests” and is an example of “crony capitalism.

Michigan has not seen such a blatant abuse of legislative authority in support of private gain since the Quick Take law enacted to allow General Motors to flatten Poletown for a Cadillac plant. In 1981 the Michigan Supreme Court approved the power of the State to seize private property for a “public purpose.” They justified the forced relocation of 3,500 people and the destruction of 1500 homes, 144 businesses, 16 churches, a school and hospital. In 2004 that same Court decided they had made a mistake and overturned their earlier decision.

In the case of Poletown, there was at least a robust public debate over the appropriate role of government in fostering economic development.  The current plan is supported as little more than a moneymaking scheme for big developers. Detroit News columnist Daniel Howes asked simply, “Why not?”

Howes spends most of his column accurately outlining that most people object to this scheme because it is all about using public money to support private wealth. He then says there is nothing wrong with that. “Rich developers whose overriding purpose is to generate meaningful returns on their investment” cannot ignore what he calls “market realities created by a half-century of urban decline.”

Howes exclaims, “I got news for the skeptics: You can’t build your way out of 50 years of urban disinvestment on the cheap.” This declaration is apparently supposed to make “skeptics” and “recriminators” back off.

However, the same people and thinking that brought us the last 50 years of disinvestment are the ones backing this new scheme.

Every credible academic and economic study of the last 50 years demonstrates the failure of this kind of thinking. The Upjohn Institute senior economist Timothy Bartik said, “Incentives do not have a large correlation with a state’s current or past unemployment or income levels, or with future economic growth.”

Currently Michigan’s array of tax breaks and business incentives are well above average in the country. In a recent article offering a different view of development by the Brookings Institution, scholars argue for “holistic approaches to revitalizing legacy cities.”  They argue for “policies to increase human capital throughout the city, including improving public education and expanding employment and entrepreneur training.”

“The most important short-term strategy,” they say, “ is increasing employment levels among Detroit neighborhood residents.”

If we develop a “ healthy, sustainable local economy” they explain, “ increasing the number  of jobs by 100,000,  we would add more than $2 billion annually to the local economy, even if those jobs paid $10 an hour.”

Just, sustainable development is possible.  It requires the will to make it a reality and the willingness to refuse to fall for the schemes by those who claim a concern for the public interest while lining their own pockets.


22nd Annual PTO Conferance Comes to Detroit
Tawana “Honeycomb” Petty
The 22nd Annual Pedagogy & Theatre of the Oppressed Conference (PTO) will be held in Detroit, Michigan from June 1st – 4th and Detroiters can attend the entire conference for just $30!

The PTO conference will be in Detroit commemorating the 50th Anniversary of 1967 Detroit Rebellion and Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech, Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence – in which he called for a radical revolution in values in the struggle against the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism.

This is a conference for students, educators, scholars, artists, activists, organizers, neighbors and people of all ages, places, identities, and experiences. If you want to create dialogue and come together to envision a more just society, you are invited, you are welcomed, and you are needed.
In July of 1967, responding to racist employment discrimination, segregated and substandard housing and public schools, lack of opportunity and police brutality, Black neighborhoods in Detroit exploded in what has been characterized as the most deadly urban rebellion in the United States to date.

Nearly 50 years later in Detroit and elsewhere, people are thinking about the meaning of rebellion and the role of radical love in transformation. Rebellions are often expressions of justifiable anger and pain, but are not typically thought of as acts of love. What is the relationship between these strategies? What’s love got to do with either of them? As a city and as a world, what are our critical, visionary responses to a system that constantly challenges our humanity?

Pedagogy of the Oppressed (PO) was born out of the needs of Brazilian peasants in a particular time and place, but Paolo Freire’s theory of liberatory education remains for all of us to use his own words from Pedagogy of Hope, “an adventure in unveiling…an experiment in bringing out the truth.” Theatre of the Oppressed (TO), born out of similar needs, was ironically triggered by what Augusto Boal himself noted was an error in judgement, when his theatre company presented a play that called for “shedding our blood to free our lands” without being willing to take up arms itself. Practitioners of PO and TO continue to support, challenge, and serve communities by developing techniques that promote transformative action and amplify the voices of oppressed people speaking their own truths.
Together we will learn learn, share and connect through interactive techniques developed by Paulo Freire, Augusto Boal, and others who have struggled against, or are struggling against oppression in order to create justice.

Now more than ever we must come together to share strategies to combat the many oppressions that continue to rob us of our humanity. PTO invites you to be part of its conference, commemorating a moment of rebellion in the past, but also engaging in a powerful effort to reimagine current and future struggles as acts of waging love.

Read more about Freire and Boal and their work, and register for the PTO conference at ptoweb.org.

The time has come to grow our souls. – Grace Lee Boggs
Rich Feldman
Emergent Savannah Heads North

     14 folks drove 16 hours to Detroit and immersed themselves in conversations, tours and food asking, what does Detroit mean to their work in Savannah? Some of our Savannah friends were artists, ministers, disability justice inclusion activists, social work students and professors, and traveled under the banner “Emergent Savannah.” They stayed at the Hush House and were nourished by the wise and healthy food preparers, Rozia and Myrtle Thompson Curtis and the Healing Support Network.

They arrived late on Saturday and we spent Sunday together on the Boggs Center east side tour:  From Growing our Economy to Growing Souls. From the Elmwood cemetary where we can feel and experience the water flowing from Bloody Run Creek to the Packard Plant where we discussed the birth of the American Dream and its death as well as the spirited discussion about an emerging new epoch in human history.

From there to the Poletown Plant introducing the Georgians to the last 50 years of Detroit History from the Rebellion through automation, deindustrialization, the crack destruction, the rise of global automotive competition the end of the J-O-B.  We then visited Feedom Freedom Growers, Heidelberg, drove by the James and Grace Lee Boggs School and ended at Can Arts and the windmills, where we see the end of the Bloody Run Creek.  We were reminded of the resilience of the land and the resistance of Chief Pontiac and the Anishinaabe people which includes the Odawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Oji-Cree, Mississaugas, and Algonquin peoples and their resistance to the Western Europeans in 1760s.


We ended day one with a hunger to unleash our commitment to the importance of history, time and imagination and the commitment by James and Grace to assume responsibility for our cities and country.

Matt Birkhold a comrade and friend from New York and founder of the Visionary Organizing Lab facilitated a workshop on understanding systems and the relationship between systems and our power to become voices, actors and visionaries as we initiate our local work and moving beyond protest to resistance and alternatives. From Matt’s work with Immanuel Wallerstein to his forthcoming book on Detroit (1963 to 1975) he created a space for us to see the interconnectedness and emergence of the systems of wage labor, the enclosure acts, the emergence of cities, the destruction of the land (earth moving from source to resource), scientific thinking, the changing role of the the military, capitalist patriarchy, Protestantism, the destruction of Women’s ways of knowing and the loss of control over reproduction to the burning of women as witches and women used to as creators of black labor for slavery. All of this came from the question, What was necessary to create the Slave Trade and bring people in chains to the western world in 1619?  He ended with the questions:
How do we connect with values and initiatives that stop segmenting our thinking into silos and recognize that our crisis is a systemic crisis? What does it mean to be human? How do we engage in the journey to become creative, compassionate, caring human beings as we commit ourselves to walking the journey to the Next American Revolution?
By this time, all our minds and hearts were spinning. Folks then traveled to the west side and saw the African Bead Museum and then settled in for a discussion at the Birwood House with Kim Sherobbi, Michael Doan (Detroit Independent Freedom Schools), Janice Fialka (author of What Matters: Reflections on Disability, Community and Love) and we explored the question:  What is the difference between schooling and education?  We ended the day back at the Boggs Center where Tawana “Honeycomb” Petty (poet and activist) and Wayne Curtis (Emory Douglas Art Project and Feedom Freedom Growers) discussed art as resistance and art and revolution.

Our final day began at Earthworks with Shane Bernardo and Myrtle Thompson Curtis sharing their personal stories from their early days, raised on Detroit’s east side to their work in the food security and urban farming movement.  The theme, learning from the land and from our ancestors was joined together with the need and commitment to create liberated territories, and feeding ourselves so we can free ourselves.

A wonderful lunch at Avalon on Bellevue and then back to the Boggs Center for a discussion with Baxter Jones (Homrich 9 water activist), Lisa Franklin (Warrior on Wheels) and Yusef Shakur (Putting the neighbor Back In the Hood and author of Window to My Soul).  We discussed the importance of values, relationship building and the fundamental commitment that we need to heal ourselves to sustain ourselves through commitment to transformation and love. Each shared stories of their ability to move from pain to vision and evolve as leaders in their work.

(When you visit Detroit, there is also a west side tour: From Rebellion to Creating Caring Communities. To learn more about Matt Birkhold’s workshop: matt@visionaryorganizinglab.org)

Truthdig columnist and Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges addresses fascism and the rise of the Trump war machine in the keynote speech at the “After Trump and Pussy Hats” event in Vancouver, British Columbia, on March 3, 2017.


The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214

  Jimmy and Grace  
Our mission is to nurture the transformational leadership capacities of individuals and organizations committed to creating productive, sustainable, ecologically responsible, and just communities. Through local, national and international networks of activists, artists and intellectuals we foster new ways of living, being and thinking to face the challenges of the 21st century.
Living for Change News
May 2nd, 2017


Greetings Family,
Incite Focus is excited to announce the return of Community Hours! We’ve missed you!
Beginning the week of April 24, 2017, Community Hours will be held from 1pm-6pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the fab lab at 5555 Conner.
Have an idea for a project that you’d like to make? Have something that you’d like to fix?Want to practice using digital fabrication and be inspired by other community members and help on their projects? Then please visit us during community hours for hands-on guidance and shared learning.
We will also be hosting tours and community conversations coming soon, stay tuned.
And on Saturday May 20th Incite Focus will have a station at the Open Data Discotech. Its a community science fair that is free and open to the public. Please see attached flier for more information.
We look forward to connecting with you soon!


Thinking for Ourselves
#WECHOOSE Freedom Schools
Shea HowellStudents, parents, teachers and supporters gathered to celebrate the end of the second full semester of the Detroit Independent Freedom School initiative (DIFS). Students took center stage at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History to talk about what they had learned, what mattered most to them about their education, and their aspirations for the future. There was music, laughter and playfulness in presentations, especially the songs and raps created by youth as a way to share their experiences with the audience.

There was also talk of freedom, freedom to learn, to grow, to know where we come from and where we are going, and freedom to determine our own futures. Inspired by liberation struggles of the 1960’s and tempered by the flourishing African centered educational efforts that evolved in Detroit over the last three decades, freedom and struggle were woven throughout the celebration. Freedom schools are about more than reading, writing and arithmetic. They “cultivate community strength, self determination, and build movement-based futures.”

This semester of Freedom Schools began in January “Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  It provided sessions engaging students with ideas of self- sufficiency, art, technology and manufacturing, culture and history. Students learned about healthy eating and spoken word poetry. They learned about life in the water and in the soil needed to grow food.

The celebration came the day after DIFS held a youth Roll Call where young people from across the city gathered to talk about what is going on in their schools and to strategize about ways to stop school closings in Detroit.  This youth forum was generated by people who attended a community speak out against school closings earlier in the year.

DIFS is part of a larger movement sweeping across the country as parents, teachers, students and their supporters are organizing to reclaim education as a community priority.

In February Journey for Justice Alliance announced a #WECHOOSE Campaign emphasizing education equity.  Given new urgency with an accelerated attack on public education in the federal administration, #WECHOOSE is organizing to resist privatization, school closures, and the senseless, relentless testing of our children.

Core goals of the #WECHOOSE campaign include a moratorium on privatization of public schools, the end of zero tolerance policies and the end of efforts to seize control of local education by Mayors, Emergency Managers and unelected boards. Nationally they are supporting the end of standardized testing as a pretext to close schools and an honest assessment of school functioning, especially in terms of racial and economic justice. #WECHOOSE also aims to create 10,000 community schools. They say, “We want strong neighborhood schools with a curriculum that is engaging, relevant and rigorous; supports for high-quality teaching and not high stakes testing; wraparound supports for every child; student-centered school climates; and the end to zero tolerance policies in schools and transformative parent and community engagement.”

The city- wide resistance to school closings is already having an effect. Last week, in an effort to avoid widespread resistance, the State and the Detroit Public Schools Community District announced a new “partnership” designed to prevent another round of school closures. Labeling it a “journey to excellence” the agreement will enable the schools to remain open for a minimum three-year period.  The agreement “aims to increase performance through partnerships with local universities, unions, businesses and community leaders.”

Over the course of the next year, school and state officials will be conducting “ a deep review and discussion that will include staff, students and families to determine the causes of low student performance and how to improve.”

Adopting the #WECHOOSE platform would be a good beginning.






“Community Food Security can be defined as the condition which exists when all of the members of a community have access, in close proximity, to adequate amounts of nutritious, culturally appropriate food at all times, from sources that are environmentally sound and just. This policy also affirms the City of Detroit’s commitment to supporting sustainable food systems that provide people with high quality food, productive employment, and contribute to the long-term well-being of the environment.”

The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214

An open invite to friends & family of Macomb County:

“We have a great opportunity to create beloved, caring communities… But
first, we must break our silence and have safe, serious conversations

about our history and how we reached this point.”

APRIL 22 from 2-4PM at GRACE EPISCOPAL CHURCH (115 S. Main Street, Mt. Clemens) ~ Sponsored by the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership ~ CONTACT US AT: Lejla@umich.edu // (586) 596-5059

Sent from my phone.


Break Silence Ferndale April 29, 2017

Living for Change News
April 17th, 2017



Thinking for Ourselves
Educating Values
Shea Howell

Teacher and alums from the Bank Street School in New York visited Detroit this week on a learning journey. Since 1916, Bank Street has been a force for progressive education.  Bank Street is both a school for children and a Graduate College dedicated to teaching and learning. It emphasizes experience based and collaborative learning.  It has been a strong advocate for educating the whole child—heart, head and hand. In conversations at the Boggs Center the educators talked about how much they had learned from our city, how moved they were by its imagination and resilience.

They were a reminder that educating children in today’s world requires a lot more than what happens in many schools. Much of the thinking about education is dominated by two outmoded ideas: the factory model of mass schooling and the Enlightenment idea that children are empty minds, waiting to be filled up. In urban areas these ideas find their way into increasing efforts to control our children, to make them sit down, sit still, take tests, not talk, and respond to commands. This control is enforced by a military presence with methods of physical control, surveillance and psychological intimidation.

At a time when curiosity, creativity and imaginative solutions are needed for our very survival, our young people are denied the opportunity to develop and explore these qualities in much of their official schooling. Instead they are told if they are quiet, study hard, graduate and go to college, they can find a job and move out of their community. Most young people learn quickly that this story isn’t for them. It is no wonder that nearly half our children stop participating in a system whose rewards are to leave all that has nurtured them.

Recently, the assault on public education has taken a particularly insidious turn with the emphasis of STEM, pushing science, technology, engineering and math. These are all good things to explore, but the notion that they are the only things is destructive and dangerous. In thinking about this question it is helpful to read the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1954 Dr. King delivered a guest sermon at the Second Baptist Church in Detroit on the theme of Rediscovering Lost Values. He said:

“The trouble isn’t so much that our scientific genius lags behind, but our moral genius lags behind. The great problem facing modern man is that the means by which we live have outdistanced the spiritual ends for which we live. So we find ourselves caught in a messed-up world. The problem is with man himself and man’s soul. We haven’t learned how to be just and honest and kind and true and loving. And that is the basis of our problem. The real problem is that through our scientific genius we’ve made of the world a neighborhood, but through our moral and spiritual genius we’ve failed to make of it a brotherhood.”

Dr. King went on to say that, “if we are to go forward today, we’ve got to go back and rediscover some mighty precious values that we’ve left behind.” Among those values is the principle that “all reality hinges on moral foundations.”

King explains, “It is not enough to know that two and two makes four, but we’ve got to know somehow that it’s right to be honest and just with our brothers. It’s not enough to know all about our philosophical and mathematical disciplines, but we’ve got to know the simple disciplines of being honest and loving and just with all humanity. If we don’t learn it, we will destroy ourselves by the misuse of our own powers.”

It is learning these values of our shared humanity that make democracy possible.



The Prision Factory
Al Jazeera

The US state of Alabama has the fifth highest incarceration rate in the world. Its prison system has become so dangerously overcrowded that in 2016, for the first time, the US Justice Department launched a federal civil rights investigation into the entire state’s prison conditions.


The future of race in America
Michelle Alexander



The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214

Our mission is to nurture the transformational leadership capacities of individuals and organizations committed to creating productive, sustainable, ecologically responsible, and just communities. Through local, national and international networks of activists, artists and intellectuals we foster new ways of living, being and thinking to face the challenges of the 21st century.
Living for Change News
April 11th, 2017
Michelle Alexander and Ruby Sales 
in conversation about Beyond Vietnam
a Sermon
by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.WATCH IT HERE

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DEQ Public Information and Hearing
Nestlé Permit for Increase Water Taking
Wednesday, April 12th

Public Information: 4-6 PM
Public Hearing: 7-9 PM
Location: University Center at Ferris State University
More info: hildeheron@aol.com

TRANSPORT TO  THE HEARING:​ A FREE bus will meet riders at noon at Central Methodist on the corner of Adams and Woodard and return there after the hearing, which ends at 9:00 PM. It’s a long day, but MCWC is providing food at Ferris State for bus riders upon arrival. To reserve a spot on the bus, email Peggy Case at michiganCwaterC@gmail.com

Thinking for Ourselves
Resisting Closures
Shea Howell

We are rapidly approaching the moment of decision on Detroit public school closings. The announcement in January by the State School Reform Office that another 24 schools would be closed in Detroit has been met with angry, vocal resistance. Parents, students, teachers and community activists are holding meetings. They have stages rallies, protests and speak-outs. Everyone agrees that more school closings will harm our children and our communities. The Mayor is on record as opposing closings and the newly elected school board has found the courage to file a lawsuit, claiming the closures violate state law.

In response, Governor Snyder commanded State Superintendent Brian Whiston to develop agreements that he hopes will defuse resistance. These agreements are a shameless scam. They will subject schools to stringent requirements and provide a pretext for continued state intervention, including the possibility of more closures and district takeovers. Unable to make the distinction between coercion and a partnership, the spokesman for the state education department, William Disessa said that if the schools “don’t develop a partnership agreement with the Michigan Department of Education by April 30, then they will be subject to the next level of accountability.”

These forced partnerships are not in the interest of our children or our communities. They are another pretext for relentless privatizing actions. The same forces that have been destroying our schools for nearly two decades designed these “agreements.”

Meanwhile the search for a superintendent has sparked additional controversy, especially given the State imposed restrictions on the process, including a short time line and unrealistic requirements for the job. Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press wrote last week that the selection process was “ill advised,” and now “we have a bit of a mess on our hands.”

In this atmosphere parents are organizing to take a stand against the testing used to justify closing schools. These test scores have become a potent weapon in the drive to privatization. They reflect the effects of chaos created by State imposed instability and economic disparity, not the development of our children or the full context of the school. Some parents are refusing to participate. About 450 parents have already turned in letters opting their children out of the Michigan Student Test of Educational Performance. This effort is likely to accelerate as we move through a testing period that lasts to the end of May.

Parents, students, teachers and community activists are coming together to challenge what is happening to our children and to our communities. Schools are essential to the life of our neighborhoods and the development of our children. We are not only demanding that all schools remain open, but that education be provided in ways that reflect the deepest needs and aspirations of our children to become socially responsible, creative and fully engaged adults.

In the course of struggling to keep these schools open and to ensure critical, creative education, young people are learning how to become active citizens. They are learning that justice requires collective, organized actions to become real. The Detroit Independent Freedom Schools Initiative is part of this effort. They are hosting a youth forum at Bob’s Classic Kicks on Friday evening, April 29 at 6 pm.  Join us to hear what our young people are saying about the kind of education we need.



Reflection on Love and Struggle
Robin D.G. Kelley in conversation with Fred Moten
Transcription and commentary by Mike Doan

How do we build a new future? How central to this work are love and power?

“Love is the answer.” “All you need is love.” “Love trumps hate.” Hopelessly naïve?

Love (noun): A sentimental feeling. An intimate, personal, private state of mind. The dullest of the weapons of the weak.

Or, can love become “a material force for change,” as Jimmy used to say?

“Power is the enemy.” “Change the world without taking power.” “Power corrupts, absolutely.” Hopelessly naïve?

Power (noun): A repressive, abusive force. The essence of domination and oppression. What they’ve got over us, or we’ve got over them—and we’d rather do without.

Or, is there also power with, the power we build and share together, as Grace used to say?

What, after all, is power? And what’s love got to do with it?

Transcribed below is part of a conversation featuring Robin D.G. Kelley and Fred Moten. The discussion took place in Toronto on April 3rd, 2017—one day before the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s speech, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence,” delivered at New York’s Riverside Church in 1967; also a day before the 49th anniversary of King’s assassination.

Earlier that week, Kelley joined Stephen Ward in Detroit to reflect on the lives and activism of James and Grace Lee Boggs, and on the complicated legacies of Martin and Malcolm. The discussion excerpted below, from April 3rd, takes up many of the same themes and questions…

Robin D.G. Kelley (1:31:07-1:35:44): “To live together, and renewing the habits of assembly, are really critical…. We assume that somehow mass movements are sources of power, and I think we misunderstand power. And I was trying to talk about this Saturday night, you know, and there was a quote from Dr. King that I was paraphrasing but that I wanted to pull up here, that I think is really important, where he talks about why we shouldn’t be afraid of power.

And he says, you know: ‘You see, what happened is that some of our philosophers got off base. And one of the great problems of history is that the concepts of love and power have usually been contrasted as opposites, polar opposites, so that love is identified with a resignation of power; and power, with a denial of love…. Now, we got to get this thing right. What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive; and that love without power is sentimental and anemic. (Yes.) Power at its best, power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.’

Right? So, think about the importance of love as a center for renewing our habits of assembly…. And recognizing that taking power, building power, is not something that we should resist, but we should claim.

We often are on the other side of power: we see power as something we resist, rather than something we take. And I wanna say that because, the other person who is, sort of, a huge influence on many of us is Grace Lee Boggs. And one of the things that she and Jimmy Boggs were working on, was they argued that dialectical materialism, as we knew it, was an epoch that was over. And to replace dialectical materialism they argued for dialectical humanism: that the fundamental struggle is not the class struggle between proletariat and capitalist—especially in an age when automation and other forms were, sort of, transforming the proletariat—but rather, our struggle to become more human, whatever that—and you know, we could debate about that—but the struggle to become more human.

And to become more human, is to basically recognize, you know, what it means, to live with… to live for, about, with… love. To build community, where there’s no outside.

You know, what does that mean? What does that require of us?

And you cannot build, or embrace, a new humanity for the future without actually acknowledging what Fred [Moten] began with, and that is: our planet is in peril, you know?

That to love the planet, and to love each other, and to love life, is not a sentimental love, but agape—that is, love where there is no outside, where you are constantly building community. And it’s filled with tension to do that, it’s a struggle to do that.

But that, to me, is the only way we could build the kind of futurity that you’re talking about. We can’t have a future that’s based on a false utopia—that is, you know, a land of milk and honey. That our future is actually here. We’re already in the future.

The question is, how do we hold on to that vision, that through power and love we could produce a world in which we’re not shaming each other, we’re not beating each other down, we’re not afraid of each other; where we’re not invested in economies that are based on both scale and profit; where we’re not trying to make, sort of, new entrepreneurs as the future, you know, as the only future available—that we’re not reduced to human capital, but human beings, whatever that means?

And that, to me, is really the essence of how to build a new future.”


10 Rousing Struggles for Public Water

Transnational Institute

The James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership


3061 Field Street
Detroit, Michigan 48214

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