RIVERFRONT EAST CONGREGATIONAL INITIATIVE
2nd ANNUAL PEOPLE’S FESTIVAL
Saturday, June 16, 2012 10 am – 3 pm
7200 MACK AVENUE AT E. GRAND (Comer of Mack and E. Grand BLVD)
We are the transforming voices of our community, dedicated and committed to the work of changing ourselves and creating a NEW vision and practice for Detroit that is truly based upon the voices and experiences of the people from OUR communities.
The energy that spirits this work comes from YOU the people, with dignity, love and hope to move forward and “MAKE A WAY OUT No WAY”
We gather this day to CELEBRATE, HEAL AND TALK.
We gather to show our love unity, care and vision for our future. the new 21St Century Detroit, one Community at a time.
We want to share ideas on how to re-create our communities, to develop “new work” not jobs, build sustainable houses and Put the “NEIGHBOR BACK IN THE HOOD”.
Last year over 400 people came and celebrated with us as we declared our love and hope for the future of Detroit.
We want YOU to join us this year!
FOOD, GAMES, GIVEAWAYS, PERFORMANCES, INFORMATION, VOTER REGISTRATION, FUN!
BRING YOUR FRIENDS, INVITE YOUR COMMUNITY!
LETS SHARE OUR IDEAS!
VENDOR CONTRACTS DUE JUNE 2, 2012
VENDOR SPACE FREE UNLESS SELLING ITEMS – $15 PER TABLE
SPACE IS LIMITED APPLY EARLY!!l!!
FOR MORE INFORMATION: JEANETTE MARBLE (313) 921-2667
By Grace Lee Boggs
December 16th, 2012
The ongoing struggle in Egypt between President Morsi and protesters is about power. But it also challenges us to think about the principles that 21st Century revolutions and constitutions need to include.
Fifty years ago when the African nations won their independence, there was little consciousness of the fundamental contradictions inseparable from rapid economic development.
The main goal of the new African rulers, mostly men who had studied in Europe and the U.S., was to emulate the rapid economic development of the global North. The result has been continuing dependence, subordination, disintegration.
21st Century revolutions and constitutions need to include new principles setting forth not only our rights but our responsibilities to Nature and to one another.
Arab Spring leaders could benefit by studying the Principles of Environmental Justice adopted at the First People of Color Environmental Justice Summit in October 1991. It came out of the experiences of people of color whose pain and suffering had made possible rapid economic development AND the visionary organizing of Bunyan Bryant. For example, the Preamble:
WE, THE PEOPLE OF COLOR, gathered together at this multinational People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit, to begin to build a national and international movement of all peoples of color to fight the destruction and taking of our lands and communities, do hereby re-establish our spiritual interdependence to the sacredness of our Mother Earth; to respect and celebrate each of our cultures, languages and beliefs about the natural world and our roles in healing ourselves; to ensure environmental justice; to promote economic alternatives which would contribute to the development of environmentally safe livelihoods; and, to secure our political, economic and cultural liberation that has been denied for over 500 years of colonization and oppression, resulting in the poisoning of our communities and land and the genocide of our peoples, do affirm and adopt these Principles of Environmental Justice:
#7 Environmental Justice demands the right to participate as equal partners at every level of decision-making, including needs assessment, planning, implementation, enforcement and evaluation.
#12 Environmental Justice affirms the need for urban and rural ecological policies to clean up and rebuild our cities and rural areas in balance with nature, honoring the cultural integrity of all our communities, and provided fair access for all to the full range of resources.
#17 Environmental Justice requires that we, as individuals, make personal and consumer choices to consume as little of Mother Earth’s resources and to produce as little waste as possible; and make the conscious decision to challenge and reprioritize our lifestyles to ensure the health of the natural world for present and future generations.
A Learning Journey in Detroit: A Brave New World Recreating Itself As Beloved Community
October 25-28, 2012
led by Margaret Wheatley in partnership with The Boggs Center of Detroit
and timed with the publication of Margaret’s new book
So Far From Home: Lost and Found in Our Brave New World
To register or for questions concerning this journey please contact in Detroit: Diane Reeder at firstname.lastname@example.org
For further information about the co-hosts, we encourage you to visit:
www.margaretwheatley.com or www.boggscenter.org
By Shea Howell
Something very new is happening in Detroit. Forces long dispersed are coming together, recognizing the possibilities of creating a future based on values of care, compassion, local production, and sustainable ways of living. Thanks to the Hantz Farms/Woodlands proposal, the question of what kind of city we will become is being discussed in barbershops, community centers, and around kitchen tables with a new sense of urgency.
On December 10 close to 1000 people gathered on the Lower East Side to talk about another path for development. The crowd flowed out into the street, with some people waiting in the cold almost two hours to be admitted through a cumbersome and invasive security check. Long time residents, architects, army veterans, retired teachers, home owners, young people, gardeners, artists, activists, preachers, politicians, real estate developers and concerned citizens voiced objections to the Hantz deal.
Hantz Farms/Woodlands, and much of the corporate elite who support him, envision a city that fosters land speculation, spectator sports, and a service economy dedicated to providing for the comforts and pleasures of a wealthy few.
Hantz, whose corporate history emphasizes banking and finance capital, has repeatedly said his motivation for the project is to “create land scarcity,” thus increasing property values. This approach to development echoes the land grabs happening around the world where corporate forces consolidate their hold on lands that once supported and sustained community life.
What emerged on Monday night was a very different vision. Speaker after speaker talked about creating a city that grows from the strengths of local initiatives to improve neighborhoods. They talked of fostering urban gardening that builds communities, home ownership, and locally owned businesses supplying neighborhood needs. People suggested policies and programs that would rebuild neighborhoods in ways that honored the work that many in the room had been doing for years.
Council President Charles Pugh opened the meeting asking how many people lived in the area and how many people opposed the deal. It was clear both through show of hands and subsequent speeches that east side residents overwhelmingly opposed the deal.
Mike Score, president of Hantz Farms/Woodlands, made a brief opening presentation. He said that if the sale was approved, “isolated, dangerous structures would be removed, brush cleared, and there will be a well managed landscape.” He said people living in the area would have an opportunity to purchase adjacent lands from Hantz Farms/Woodlands and that no one would be forced to move. He also said that within two years they would tear down 50 structures and plant 15,000 trees. Grass would be mowed every three weeks.
Mr. Score also said he had worked with a community group, Lower East Side Action Plan (LEAP) and made a commitment to “nurture entrepreneurship, recruit people in the area for job openings, provide excellent property management, and to work intentionally with others to foster greenbelts and other development.”
People raised very specific questions about the proposal. Professional architects and city planners scoffed at the development agreement, calling it “a public relations piece, not a serious plan.” People pointed out there were no environmental or community impact study.
Others raised questions of fairness. People told of their how they had been thwarted by city bureaucracy. Others pointed out they had paid much more than Mr. Hantz was offering for land. Council member Jo Ann Watson called up a member of the administration to affirm that no assessment of the land had even been done.
Thanks to John Hantz, Detroit has the opportunity to point toward another path of development. It is the path that has already begun, fostering local self-sufficient neighborhoods that restore community while rebuilding our city. This vision, rooted in the steady, often unseen work of neighborhood people, is the best hope for our future and that of the planet.
By Rich Feldman
From October 25 – 29 I had the honor and pleasure of conducting “A Learning Journey” with visitors from around the country and the world. The journey was initiated and joined by Meg Wheatley, author of the best selling Leadership and Modern Science (1999) and recently of So Far From Home, a book dedicated to “warriors for the human spirit in today’s life-destroying world. “
Our journey included meetings with (among others) Church of the Messiah pastor Barry Randolph; New Work & Culture inventor Frithjof Bergmann, Boggs Educational Collective’s Julia Putman, Catherine Ferguson Academy’s Asenath Andrews, Allied Media Conference’s Jenny Lee, Peace Zones’ Ron Scott, Feedom Freedom Growers’ Wayne and Myrtle Curtis. We spent time at the 5 E Gallery and visited Youth Nation and the TAP project in Southwest Detroit.
On our final morning, we planted a tree in front of the Boggs Center and read the poem: “We are the Children of Martin and Malcolm / Our right, our duty to shake the world with a new dream.” Mama Sandra Simmons from Hush House shared some words and prayers as we ended this historic learning journey
Since then I have received many emails, poems, videos, slides shows and expressions from the visitors who now see Detroit differently and are in the process of re-examining their ideas about Change and Revolution.
For example, two New Yorkers emailed, “We would like to continue conversations and would value a shared electronic discussion rather than individual emails that we have to manage. What does it mean to re-imagine work, education, community safety, democracy and revolution?”
From another visitor: “I wanted to meet Mrs. Boggs and tell her how much her work and Mr.Boggs’ work has meant to me since I began reading their writings in the 1980s. “
And another: “The Journey was an amazing experience and inspirational!! I was very excited to see the solidarity culture and economy being built by ordinary people. To see this regenerated my own sense of commitment and hope. One thing I struggled with though, given the multiracial nature of the participants, was wondering the extent to which people (participants) see the beauty of black people, which motivated me to ask the question I posed to Mrs. Boggs: ”How is the humanism of sustainable activism different than color-blind humanism?” I asked this question because some time I thought that some of the participants reduced humanism to abstract individuals. What makes us human is that we are historical, cultural and political beings. Part of anti-black racism was to deny this–that European and European Americans are the only ones that are historical, cultural and political beings. Sometime I felt (and having personal conversations with participants who sometime felt uncomfortable) that some participants approached black people as a problem and not a people with problems. The former (black people as a problem) assumes that others need to “fix” black people.
“I was very impressed with the urban agriculture projects and the efforts to create a local food system–one question I asked during one of the sessions: “Are there efforts to foster different ‘food cultures?” My thinking is that food is important to the development of healthy human social relations (within and between different groups of people)–in other words, the eating of food is essential for creating solidarity cultures, for creating and maintaining human relationships of solidarity. So it is both in the producing and consuming of food that relationships are made and continued. “
A young Turkish filmmaker and poet, Filiz, wrote a poem on the train. It begins
My heart is broken-open
because there’s nowhere to hide.
The city surrounds me,
I look in the face of brutality
and broken wings of human spirit.
I have no questions left,
why and how fled my vocabulary.
I hear children singing:
justice, they say,
“we want justice, it is time.”
I listen, I look
at windows and doors
that once were there.
In this house,
Aiyana Mo’nay Stanley-Jones
was shot in her sleep.
She was eight.”
“no, she was s e v e n“
when the police shattered
She was seven,
sleeping next to her grandmother.”
I surrender my eyes, my ears
I want to cry –
I want to cry a million tears…
“My children are singing
we are harvesting peace
from our pain”
I look, I listen.
My heart cracks wide open.”
By Grace Lee Boggs
January 20th, 2013
At this time on the clock of the planet, of the world, our country and our city, I cannot get out of my mind The Second Coming, the famous “Things fall apart” poem written by William Butler Yeats nearly one hundred years ago –1919 in the wake of the First World War and the 1917 Russian Revolution.
The Second Coming
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction,
While the worst
Are full of passionate intensity
By contrast, in the U.S.A. today, and especially in Detroit, we are shaking the world with a new dream. This is because
- Detroit’s devastation by deindustrialization has provided us with the Space and Place to begin anew.
- We are bringing the Country back into the City, growing our own food instead of worsening global warming by trucking it in from distant factory farms.
- We are making a radical revolution of values, a cultural revolution as profound as the transition from Agriculture to Industry 500 years ago.
- With passionate conviction we are Re-Imagining Work and Education.
- Our goal is to create MLK’s Beloved Communities!
By Grace Lee Boggs
March 3rd, 2013
In his February 12 State of the Union address, President Obama referred, almost in passing, to the potential in 3D printing to revolutionize the way we make almost everything.
The following week, on February 21, the Home section of the New York Times featured a fascinating article about “A Factory on your Kitchen Counter.”
In this period of double digit joblessness, I hope that these two references to a new mode of digital production will encourage every concerned citizen to begin exploring how to implement it in our workplaces and communities.
Implementing digital production in our communities at this time on the clock of the world can be as profound and far-reaching as the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture 11,000 years ago and from agriculture industry four hundred years ago.
In his best-selling book, The Third Wave Alvin Toffler views a digital mode of production as the basis of a “prosumer economy” because it makes possible local production in small, medium and large quantities as needed.
A prosumer economy provides a local, consumer/community-initiated and consumer/community-controlled alternative to the globalized production which in the last few decades has been impoverishing and devastating our communities and cities while expanding and enriching corporations like Walmart.
To begin our understanding and exploration of digital production we need to distinguish between “additive“ and “subtractive” manufacturing. Wikipedia explains the distinction:
“Additive manufacturing or 3D printing is a process of making a 3 dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model.” It differs from today’s manufacturing process which is mostly subtractive, i.e. relies on the removal of material by methods such as cutting or drilling.
Additive production is known as Digital Fabrication because it turns data into things.
In his article “How to make almost everything” in the Nov.-Dec. 2012 issue of Foreign Affairs, Neil Gershenfeld defines Digital Fabrication as “the ability to turn data into things and things into data.” He writes:
“A new digital revolution is coming, this time in fabrication. It draws on the same insights that led to the earlier digitizations of communication and computation, but now what is being programmed is the physical world rather than the virtual one. Digital fabrication will allow individuals to design and produce tangible objects on demand, wherever and whenever they need them. Widespread access to these technologies will challenge traditional models of business, aid, and education….. Many years of research remain to complete this vision, but the revolution is already well under way.”
Frithjof Bergmann, University of Michigan Emeritus Professor, New Work theorist and community catalyst, has been helping rural African women to manufacture dry compost toilets and to build homes in one day by using digital fabrication.
In Detroit Blair Evans is engaging young people in digital fabrication with Incite Focus. One of Evans’ uncles was the late Rev. Albert Cleage aka Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman, founder of the Shrine of the Black Madonna and of the Black Christian Nationalist Movement/BCN.
“All of us gathered here today are confronted with a very awesome challenge. We face the
life and death question of creating a new kind of black leadership for our period, a leadership
different from that which’ we had in the past. ” – James Boggs, 1983
By Aljosie Aldrich Knight, National Council of Elders
March 10th, 2013
Fay Bellamy Powell, one of the South’s most amazing lifelong organizers for human rights, justice and social change, won’t be around to celebrate International Women’s Day this year. On January 4, 2013, she succumbed to cancer in Atlanta, Georgia.
On February 22 hundreds of people gathered in the auditorium of the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History in Atlanta to celebrate her life and legacy.
Fay’s life is a road map for young and old, searching for inspiration, clarity, and direction.
Growing up in the small town of Clairton, PA. not far from Pittsburgh, Fay suffered the discrimination and racism experienced by all African Americans, but in 1955, when she was 17, the brutal murder of 14 year-old Emmett Till in Money, Mississippi, transformed her consciousness. Just being concerned with her own life lost its flavor. Then, in 1963, when Fay heard of the four little girls killed in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, she knew, she said, that “play time was over.”
Searching for the “baddest” Civil Rights organization, Fay joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and was assigned to Selma, Alabama, to run the field office. With top notch skills acquired in business school, she became “the glue of the field operation.” Between the demonstrations held every other day and under dangerous, hostile conditions, she wrote press releases, worked with national and international press, coordinated logistics, documented operations and participated in the second Selma to Montgomery March.
In 1965, with co-worker Silas Norman she went to Tuskegee, Alabama, to talk to Malcolm X and ask him to come to Selma to speak. There is a photo of her sitting next to Malcolm in the pulpit of Brown Chapel in Selma.
In her essay in Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women of SNCC, she writes how proud she was that Malcolm complimented the work SNCC was doing and said that he wanted to work with SNCC. Three weeks later he was assassinated in New York City.
After joining the national staff of SNCC in Atlanta, Fay started a newsletter, The African American, to enhance communication and unity between office staff and field staff. She pressed SNCC to open travel opportunities to rank and file staff. Her own travel opportunities included the USSR, Europe, and Central Asia. During these trips, meeting with local people and learning more about liberation struggles, she grew in international consciousness.
Elected to SNCC’s Coordinating Committee and Executive Committee, Fay strongly supported black power, African liberation struggles, Palestinian Independence, and protested against the War in Vietnam. Her co-workers, James Forman and Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) are publicly recognized but nobody worked harder than Fay Bellamy Powell. After long work days, she volunteered nights in the law office of SNCC attorney, Howard Moore, Jr. In a letter read at the celebration of her life, Moore said that he would not have been able to handle the high volume of legal cases without Fay’s skilled typing and transcribing work.
Like most women, Fay Bellamy Powell, did not operate on just one front. She co-founded WRFG Radio Free Georgia (www.wrfg.org), a station dedicated to progressive information. Her show, “Inside Out”, remained on the air for 26 years. The program combined jazz, news, social commentary, and interviews. An initial focus on prison issues gained her a following with inmates at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. Her strong, loving, intelligent, socially conscious, no nonsense qualities made her a mentor to many young women who are now community organizers and activists. She also developed her artistic and entrepreneurial capacities by converting some of her landscape photographs into greeting cards which she printed or mounted as wall art and sold to an appreciative audience.
Fay was my cherished friend, talented co-worker at the Institute of the Black World, a fierce worker for social justice and exemplar of female leadership.
International Women’s Day is an opportunity to recall the life and legacy of leaders for these times. It is a day to gather our daughters and granddaughters as well as our sons and grandsons to read about the lives and legacies of women leaders. It is a day to talk with them about the children of Selma, Alabama who were the backbone of the Selma Movement, to read about Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Wangari Maathai (Unbowed: a Memoir, 2007), Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor (My Beloved World, 2013) and 97 year-old philosophic activist Grace Lee Boggs (Living for Change: An Autobiography, 1998). Turn off the televisions and other electronic devices. Spend time together talking about women leaders in your community or your family.
I plan to share stories about “Ma B”, my mother, Mamie Aldrich Baker, a self-appointed community leader during my childhood in Salisbury, NC.
I will remind my children and grandchildren that we are the leaders we have been waiting for.
Pressing on my mind is the knowledge that tomorrow I will be sitting at the feet of Grace Lee Boggs. I know this won’t be literal “at her feet” but it shows a little bit of my hope. As I sit at these panels and group discussions I’m seeing seeds, sprouts and gardens, all that have been touched by her life. I want to be the good soil that becomes a receptacle for what Grandma Grace has to offer me, so that I can ensure that the people may live in harmony with all. And I know that what is happening here can be a beacon of hope. I also believe that we can all entertwine, we can all lift each other up, and that Detroit and Oakland can walk together in solidarity for this movement towards the Next American Revolution. Everyday I get clearer on ways that this can be achieved. This day has been no exception.
Tonight I heard the story from a woman that we are staying with that is not much younger than I am. She was told the story of how she grew up on the East Side of Detroit back when it wasn’t such a bad place to live, and how her mother was held up at gunpoint twice for her car and how her father was stabbed 87 times when she was still in high school. She talked about how she found some way of resisting the racism that erupted in her family afterwards and how she found her solace in growing her soul through meditation and chanting which brought her to the point of being able to forgive and her father’s killer. She also spoke about how his murder had caused her to fear and hate Detroit, but when I asked her what brought her back to this city after her many years of traveling the world, she said it was urban gardening. Not only has it inspired her to come back to the city, it’s inspired her to love and be proud of it. I know that the same can be true of Oakland, and every other city in America. And as I write these words I think about my 4th grader who when I read him my, “I Dream” poem of Oakland, and I said, “I dream that someday the butterflies will come back to Oakland,” he laughed and said, “Butterflies hate Oakland.” Those are the kind of words that inspire the revolution in me.
My heart also broke open today, in all it’s beauty and pain in our small group discussions on “Manhood, humanity, feelings & activism.” I sat in a group of three attempting to answer the questions of how our micro and macro communities have broken down and how this is related to capitalism and I saw the damage that has been wrought by our isolationists values on womyn, men and trans folk and it made me sick to my stomach, and it showed me how numb I’ve become and it made me realize how much I loved every person who was willing to share their pain with me, all at the same time.
Aside from all of these revelations, healings, and run-on sentences, the day began with a panel and breakout session on alternative economies. You see, all of this capitalism this and capitalism that talk isn’t about a political stance, it’s about true liberation. It’s all a question of what is feeding you and what isn’t, on every single level. It’s about understanding that we need to redefine the ways that we talk about our economy and about our work and our jobs, and making distinctions between them. Frank Joyce went so far as to say that we need to resignify the word job but terming it, J.O.B. because until we do that we will continue to blindly follow the pattern of searching for this thing that keeps us too busy, doing things we don’t want to do, to purchase things we don’t really need, where as work can actually be the thing that gives us meaning, the thing that feeds our souls as well as that of our communities. So while we may be speaking about the title of the event, “Re-Imagining Work: New Culture, New Economy” what we are doing is not just looking for something new, we are looking back at the things that sustained all of our ancestors for thousands of years, which up until relatively recently became devalued and ignored, and making them new and exciting once again. We’re talking about reclaiming our lives and our livelihoods and not waiting for “the man” to give us a J.O.B. but creating them once again with our multiple communities. This is why healing is an absolute necessity, and if ever I begin to forget this fact, all I have to do is look into the eyes of the precious little girl who runs back and forth, hiding in every corner of the room, and drawing on everything she can get her hands on, to remind me that I can’t stop now. They don’t call me Baby Pastor for nothin’.
The first weekend of October 2009 was a weekend of cultivation and celebration – of the emotional, spiritual and physical work that has occurred over the last 7-8 months, as well as nourishment to rejuvinate our energies and continue the work that lies ahead.
On Saturday, Malik Yakini and the all of the wonderful folks with the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network hosted their annual harvest festival at the D-Town Farm, featuring tours, fresh food, and guest speakers. It was an incredible expression of rebuilding community!
The following day, Wayne Curtis and Myrtle Thompson hosted their first annual Manistique Street Community Garden Harvest Festival. The “Feedom Freedom Growers” have transformed their community through their incredible garden, beginning last early spring with only a small raised bed. As a result, book clubs are being developed, a vast amount of fresh local food is being made widely available, and a paradigm shift in considering community is taking place. You can view pictures from the event here.
By Grace Lee Boggs
October 28th, 2012
The Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership recently hosted a ceremony to award certificates to seven young people, ages 11 to 18, who successfully completed the Feedom Freedom Growers (FFG) 2012 youth farm mentorship program.
Over the summer the students worked with FFG Myrtle and Wayne Curtis and other mentors on a variety of projects which developed their skills and also nurtured friendships and a strong sense of community.
They planted, watched over and harvested fruits and vegetables. Then they used these crops to prepare healthy meals. They thought about what they were cooking and eating, and encouraged other young people to become involved in and understand the process of bringing healthy food to our community.
They also worked with Yusef Shakur to prepare and serve the meal at the Urban Network’s schoolbag giveaway at the beginning of the school year.
Over the summer the students were challenged to explore the many aspects of becoming informed activists and effective change agents. They learned how to share their knowledge in interviews. Under the direction of Linda Campbell, they called members of Congress to speak against proposed Farm Bill cuts to SNAP, reminding the politicians that in a democracy the most important voice is the voice of the people. One young woman traveled to Arizona to participate in an anti-bullying conference and emphasize the importance of nonviolent conflict resolution. Another became involved with Detroit Summer.
During the ceremony, a 11 year-old girl shared her poem, passionately expressing how SHE was going to be the change in the world. Her poem captured the rich history of Detroit and spoke confidently of the place she has claimed for herself as a visionary for Detroit’s future.
Everyone at the ceremony, which included the families and friends of graduates, was amazed and impressed by the level of leadership the youth projected. From planting the seeds to serving the harvested food in delicious, wholesome dishes, the youth demonstrated that they had learned the cycle of growing food to sustain healthy communities.
Myrtle called our attention to the critical thinking skills and relationships of trust and respect they had acquired by a slow and often tedious process which included using visuals and books. Elder brother Aziz expressed his appreciation to the FFG community for carrying out the dream of the late Gerald Hairston, who founded the Gardening Angels, an urban gardening project for Detroit elders.
Looking at the faces of these amazing young people, it was clear to me that they understood that this ceremony was not an end but the prelude to something new and exciting. It was easy to see that they are determined to live their lives creatively and responsibly. Their journey as youth farmers stands as a model to Detroit and the world. We can be assured that a new Detroit is being cultivated and is safe in the capable hands of these young people.
It was a great honor and pleasure to be part of this ceremony. Educators could learn a lot from the FFG curriculum, which prepares young people to become the kind of citizens that every community needs.
by R. L’Heureux Lewis
Detroit: The city that represents the prospects and failures of American industry.The city that is the punch line of a million jokes. The city that is Blacker than nearly any other in this country. Detroit is under intense scrutiny as of late and the flashing lights of attention may have served to take the life of seven year old Aiyana Jones as a TV crew filmed a home-raid by the Detroit SWAT.
African American Faimly Magazine, now B.L.A.C., featured in its August issue many local and regional urban agricultural revolutionaries such as Georgia Street Community Collective’s Mark Covington (on cover), DBCFSN’s Malik Yakini, and Growing Power’s Will Allen.
The full issue – in PDF format – can be found here.
By Grace Lee Boggs
April 14th, 2013
Since the 1990s Dr. Martin Luther King‘s birthday in mid-January has been a national holiday.
But for me April will always be MLK’s month because it is not only “the cruelest month,” (as T.S.Eliot put it in his 1922 poem The Wasteland). It is also one of the most challenging.
April is the month of the Crucifixion. But it is also the month of the Resurrection.
MLK was killed in April 1968. A year earlier, in his April 1967 “Time to Break the Silence” speech, he called his own country, the United States, “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world,” and shook the world with a new dream.
In his August 1963 March on Washington speech, MLK had only dreamed of black and white children holding hands. But in April 1967 he dreamed of a “Radical Revolution of Values, “not only against racism but against materialism and militarism, and of Beloved Communities based on persons and relationships instead of things.
In Detroit over the last few decades, MLK’s dream of beloved communities has been becoming more than a dream. As our city has been devastated by deindustrialization, neighbors have begun to look out for one another, to care for abandoned houses, to exchange services (time-banking).
The imposition of Emergency Financial Manager Kevyn Orr by Michigan Governor Snyder has provided the opportunity and incentive for these neighborhood groups to begin viewing themselves as units of grassroots self-government.
In his recent book Revolution Detroit: Strategies for Urban Reinvention, Detroit Free Press columnist John Gallagher calls this new assuming of responsibility Hyperlocalism, A new model for services:
“One way we can improve municipal governance is to break off pieces of municipal government and send those tasks either ‘upstream’ (as in the regional transportation authorities that operate city-and-suburban transit systems in many metro areas) or ‘downstream’ to neighborhood-level groups that can handle them better. And perhaps no downstream group shows the way better than University Circle Inc.
“The district takes its name not only from the universities that call it home but also from a traffic circle in the heart of it all. Located four miles east of downtown Cleveland, University Circle grew from the late 19th-century onward from a small settlement into a world-class assemblage of education, health care and arts institutions.
“A dense concentration of Eds and Meds and Arts like this proves a boon to almost any city that enjoys it; look no farther than Detroit’s Midtown district to see how anchors employ thousands of smart, well-paid professionals who like to eat, shop, live and play in a walkable urban environment. University Circle Inc. itself grew from a philanthropic effort in 1950 into a quest to knit together the 34 different institutions in the district through better urban planning. That led to adoption in the late ’50s of the University Circle Master Plan, which, in broad terms, envisioned enhancing the parks and other public spaces while developing available land with a prudent eye toward the overall good of the district.
“This master plan set a goal to ‘establish a central organization to administer the plan and give it some real authority.’ That recommendation gave birth to the University Circle Development Foundation, which quickly formed a land bank to buy and hold available land until one or another institution needed it for expansion.
“Other services soon followed: police, parking, shuttle buses, architectural design review, landscaping of common areas. In 1970, the UCDF was reorganized as University Circle Inc. and charged by its directors to explore stronger relationships with surrounding neighborhoods, some of which were among the poorest in Ohio. By the 1970s, UCI was helping to found schools for Cleveland schoolchildren; by the ’90s, it was morphing from a passive holder for the district’s excess land to a promoter, developer and catalyst for historic renovation and construction of commercial and residential properties.
“To me, the most striking illustration of how groups like UCI operate as what I might call ‘quasi-municipal entities’ came the day Chris Ronayne drove me around the district during a late 2011 visit. As Ronayne pointed out, the streets we drove on — the responsibility for which still rests with Cleveland’s city government — showed the most wear and tear, the pavement pitted, chipped or potholed in places, while everything else — maintained by UCI and its crews — presented a neat, trim, even immaculate appearance.
“Curb to curb on the streets, the realm of the underfunded municipal government, the urban environment might look rutted or uneven; but UCI, under contract with the city, kept everything else looking like a postcard image. ‘Why? Because if we didn’t do it, nobody would do it. That’s the truth in this town,’ Ronayne said.
“That’s the truth in so many towns. Perhaps the time has come to stop looking at groups like UCI as a backstop for weak or nonexistent city services and more as a model for a new way of governing urban places. These hyper-local, government-like bodies might be combined with regional entities — some of which may not even exist yet — to provide flexible, efficient delivery of services.
“The new construct is less federal-state-local and more neighborhood-regional-global. infrastructure…”
By Professor Marilyn Zimmerman and Barbara L. Jones
During the week after President Obama’s historic re-election, Wayne State University’s Urbanology: Art as Activism class visited Grace Lee Boggs at the Boggs Center.
Our class, taught by Zimmerman and offered in the Department of Art and Art History, has been using Grace’s book, The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the 21st Century in lieu of a standard textbook. We have conscientiously gone through the Study Circle Guide for TNAR to explore how art can become an organizing force to create the beloved community in Detroit.
After we introduced ourselves, Grace asked “Are you excited about the election results?” When we all raised our hands, she asked us what we were going to say to our families regarding the election at Thanksgiving gatherings.
At this point several people described the discomfort and silence that political discussion usually creates in holiday gatherings when family members and friends are so anxious to get along that they avoid discussing politics.
Our dialogue with Grace included discussing the de-industrialization of Detroit and how many people viewed the loss of factories and manufacturing as the demise of the city.
Grace gave the group critical nuggets to ponder, process and put into action regarding our responsibilities as artists/activists in the community when she said. “De-industrialization is not the end of everything but the opportunity to begin something new. Detroit’s vacant lots have provided the place and the space to bring the country back into the city and to create a whole new way of living and working together as a self-reliant community.”
From Grace’s book and our visit with her, our class learned that the role of the artist is not to bring light to light but to bring it to darkness. It is to seize opportunities to go outside one’s comfort zones and boundaries and move into uncomfortable spaces not to confront but to stretch people.
As Grace put it: “A revolution begins not with critical mass but with critical connections. What is important is shifting the conversation from the election to what we can do for our communities as agents of change. We are revolutionary solutionaries. We are actually a privileged generation with the ability to create a completely new society and to solve the problems of our planet.”
Myrtle Thompson from Feedom Freedom Growers joined the discussion and shared her experiences as a “revolutionary solutionary” who is creating an urban community garden. She is a spiritual warrior; one who sees herself breaking down the stereotypes and myths behind Detroit’s present urban reality.
WSU student Todd Davis, said, “The Art as Activism class at Wayne State and reading Grace’s book have changed my life. I’m inspired to push hard to find the next paradigm in how we look at urban art as a catalyst for change. What I see are groups of like-minded people talking amongst themselves. What I feel needs to be done is breaking down the stereotypes and myths behind Detroit’s present urban reality. I think there is beauty in Grace and the urban farmers. I think there also is empathy, humanity and common ground to be found in stories that transcend the dividing lines of race and space and change the paradigm.”
Towards the end of the conversation we agreed that there are benefits from an increased dialogue with the neighborhoods that artists wish to serve and with long term activists like Myrtle Thompson. It is important to clarify and support their work and to have continuing feedback, to make critical challenges and calls to action to artists, especially as they increasingly move into social practices.
The class concluded, “To be an agent of change is to be the trailblazer in the transition of change and to constantly confront the upheaval of opposition one may receive pertaining to the process. We are inspired by Grace’s story. We have garnered that being passionate regarding the changes that you want to see and/or be, you must stay focused, be open to listening to those with not only similar but differing views and opinions, Grace was extremely inspiring to our class as we learned that persistence, passion and patience are key to becoming a revolutionary.”
By Shea Howell
January 27th, 2013
In the last days of his first term, President Barack Obama held a press conference. He spoke about the violence that has become a normal part of children’s lives. He said protecting our children should be our highest priority, the way we will be judged as a people. “It is our responsibility to care for them,” he said. “To shield them from harm. To give them the tools they need to grow up and do everything that they are capable of doing, not just to pursue their own dreams, but to help build this country.”
This kind of thinking is critical as we face the future. It is sadly lacking in much of our public life, especially here in Detroit. Nowhere is the absence clearer than when you attempt to figure out what the newly unveiled Detroit Works plan actually means.
While providing a wealth of good ideas, important facts, and innovative strategies, it gives us no direction for making choices between competing interests. Some of this is because the effort to engage citizens and organizations in developing the plan produced multiple strategies, sometimes at odds with one another.
But there is a deeper problem that rests both on how this project was conceived and how it was paid for. The primary understanding of the city that undergirds the plan was that the city is shrinking. It has too few people to maintain itself. Although there are many references to our assets, ingenuity, and creativity, the dominant thread is that Detroit was once 2-million. Now we have to figure out how the few of us left will deal with a place larger than its people.
There is no real sense in the plan that Detroit is poised on the cusp of a dramatic shifting of global trends, moving from the old industrial epoch to something very new. In this transformational moment, we have the opportunity to conceive anew the role of cities, of urban life, and modes of production. For the first time in perhaps eons, we do not have to shape our cities for mass, industrial production. Rather we can ask, “What kind of city best protects and develops our children?” What kind of city will help them “grow up and do everything that they are capable of doing, not just to pursue their own dreams but to help build this country?”
If we take this question seriously, it leads us down a very different path when we face choices of what to create, what to repair, what to reinvent, what to carry to the future, and what to leave behind.
It is precisely the question that the young women of the Catherine Ferguson Academy have been asking themselves. Under the leadership of their visionary principal, Asenath Andrews, and the imagination of Blair Evans, who rescued the school from closing, these young women are beginning an intentional village on the west side. Over the next year, they will build a village to raise themselves and their children, creating new forms of work, new methods of providing food and culture, new ways of making energy and decisions. It will be joined on the east side by a Creative Community, also created by young people from the ground up, providing a space for the development of their imaginations as they tackle the multitude of questions in the building of a community.
These two projects stand in contrast to corporate driven development. They begin with a recognition that the questions we ask are more important than the technical knowledge we bring to bear.
The words of President Obama remind us that our responsibility is to not just to rebuild our city, but to reimagine it as a place where all of our children will learn, grow, and be able to contribute to the creation of new ways of living with one another and our earth.
August 26th Minutes
1. Cora M. (Robert’s family)
2. Antonia M. (Robert’s family)
3. Ron S. (DCAPB)
4. Sandra H. (DCAPB)
5. Tijuana M. (DCAPB)
6. Wayne C. (Manistee Community Garden)
7. Myrtle T. (Manistee Community Garden)
8. Bill K. (pastor)
9. Yusef Shakur (Urban Network; The Window 2 My Soul)
10. Wardell M. (local poet)
11. C.J. /Cartel B. & Kelsey (Better Detroit Youth Movement)
12. Richard L. (DCOH)
13. Barbara S. (DCOH)
14. Larry S. (DCOH)
15. Ron W. (DCOH)
16. Kim S. (educator, DCOH)
17. Howard K.
18. Andrew P. (DCOH)
19. Zak R. (DCOH; radio producer)
20. Rick F. (DCOH)
Business Meeting: 30 minutes
• Introductions and Welcome
- The mission of DCOH is to create a network and web of individuals and organizations that will work to deepen the conversation, the thinking and the vision while we engage in the day to day practice of rebuilding our communities and transforming ourselves. During the past few months we have had monthly meetings that focused on urban gardens, food security and education.
- Andrew will continue to put together, distribute on web and make copies for DCOH meetings so we can continue to evaluate its purpose and value. We will encourage others to share updates, stories and information. Andrew will contact organization.
- We proposed developing a broadsheet for distribution in the community and at meetings to share the work and ideas involved in education, work, community, urban gardens, peace zones, with artists, poets and activists.
• Website, Yellow Pages and Mapping
- needs more complete discussion
• Green Houses- USSF- Caravan (Hush House, Hope and King Solomon, Beloved Communities Network
**Next Business Meeting Proposal: Sept. 16th (Website, Broadsheet, Mapping)
PEACE ZONES FOR LIFE – END THE VIOLENCE & RECLAIM OUR COMMUNITIES
Sandra and Ron presented Peace Zone of Life Concept Paper and a valuable discussion followed. Below is a brief summary and does not do justice to the passion and healing that is so integral to our conversation.
The presentation included the history of the Coalition against Police Brutality and the continued work required to no rely on agencies or the police for solutions. Through the tragedies and murders within the community as well as the murders by the police, it became clear that a new kind of community building process of Peace Zones were necessary. The people of Detroit need to rely on themselves. The level of senseless violence, which includes violence against each other, violence against the earth, against children must stop. The need for a two-sided transformation was emphasized as was the importance of providing the training and the tools for parents and young people. The courage and the strength of Robert Mitchell’s family to want both justice for Robert and their recognition that the community must be involved in caring, defining peace, reaching out, being consistent, providing examples, LISTENING to our children, was emphasized. We will have copies for everyone at the next meeting. Sandra emphasized the need to create demilitarization so zones, removing weapons, creating education to resolve conflict. Creating local work, creating inclusion and inclusive communities. Ron shared the recent story of a neighborhood on the west side that has create a public safe space, cutting the lawn cleaning up and is another symbol for a Peace Zone.
While the families and communities feel the pain and the violence, we need to create Peace Zones and Hope. It is the courage to speak out for our children and ourselves and our future.
We need to listen to our children.
We need to talk about Peace and intervene in the conversation and actions on the streets.
We need to heal ourselves.
We need to define love and caring.
We need to start with the very young children.
We need to create concrete expression of Peace Zones.
What does it mean to be human?
Why is it so Difficult? What is Peace?
People Care, they are not apathetic.
Create Peace Schools (Freedom Schools in abandoned school buildings in our neighborhood.
Wayne and Mrytle share the significance of the garden on Manistee and the number of people coming to talk about the community. It has become a gathering space. On October 4th there will be a harvest celebration and include the Creation of a Peace Zone for Life. Possibly take sign that can be placed in the windows of homes on the street. Creating Peace Zone Gardens.
We will invite the labor committee from the USSF. Bill emphasized the importance of seeing community churches as the parish, which is responsible for the community. Just as Labor can no longer ignore the community.
Cora and Renee emphasized the importance of intervening, caring, going door to door, listening to our children, telling them that we love them and therefore we care and we all need to stop the violence. We need to break the silence! We need to take responsibility. This is why the Robert Mitchell’s life means so much to us all.
Yusef talked about being able to share his book with individuals on the street. The book is a concrete example of consistency, change and involvement.
Warren-Detroit Peace zone for Life: Everyone agreed that we should have a major event (October 21 or 22) and place a plaque to commemorate Robert Mitchell, Go door to door in Detroit and Warren. We need to turn the talk of violence, anger, frustration and self-hatred into conversations about hope and love and community building but we need concrete actions, strategies and ways for people to be involved. We need to work to reclaim our communities.
At the end of the meeting ______shared that she would take the Peace Zones for Life Window signs and distribute on 9-11 when they are hosting an event in an east side community. They are giving out swirly light bulbs. Antonia suggested that we need to make Angels Night 365 days a year.
Rick shared a brief history from the Community Control of Police (United Front Against Fascism Conference in California in 1969 with the Black Panther Party) to “Going Door to Door and Pledging Not to buy Hot Goods in the early 1970s, to Marching Against Crack Houses and the important work of Save our Sons and Daughters to today. Barbar (from McComb County) emphasized that people in warren are scared and it is critical we use this moment to engage them in this conversation.
This meeting was an historic meeting because Peace Zones, Hope, Urban Gardens, the importance of changing ourselves and our society were coming together. The ideas, the vision and the practice for today were coming together because so many people have experienced the pain, the anger and the frustration as well as the hope and vision and work that is necessary for changing ourselves and our communities.
The individuals in this room are precious to the future of our cities and key to the kind of compassion, thinking and support that will be necessary to create a new movement in our city.
We ended with the commitment to get together and plan:
1. To support the Manistee Harvest Gathering on October 4
2. To create a commemoration with a plaque for Robert Mitchell (October 21 International Day of Peace- Bobby Seale event as well.
3. Create Signs, possibly buttons, T-shirts, broadsheet
4. The importance of creating models and going door to door.
5. The need to involve the churches and labor unions
The possibility to truly impact the USSF in June 2010 (the opening parade, the plenary remarks, workshops…)
By Shea Howell
February 17th, 2013
The effort by the State to take over Belle Isle is not likely to fade away. Instead, the mainstream media (msm) is using this situation to redouble its efforts to denigrate and distort the opposition to state-foundation-corporate driven development.
After the City Council refused to consider the offer by the state to lease the island, Governor Snyder said he was pulling the deal off the table. The central question pushed in the media was, “How could a cash strapped city justify turning down the generous state offer of $6 million to run the park? “
This question was followed with a flurry of outrage by the msm directed at the Council and at the citizens who spoke out against the proposal. Among the least substantive and most insulting were the tweets turned into an article by Detroit Free Press writers Stephen Henderson and Nancy Kaffer. Under the title “The most outrageous things said about the Belle Isle deal during public comments,” Henderson could not contain his disdain for people. He clearly has no sense of the deep oppositional currents in the city. Kaffer posted, “THIS is why rational people need to come to council meetings.” The implication is that opposition must be “irrational.”
Later the duo described the opposition as “paranoid outbursts” and “wild theories about the state wanting to snatch the island from Detroiters.” John Carlisle provided a fashion commentary titled, “City Council’s regular speakers put on a good show.” Rather than listing arguments, he chose to comment on speakers’ dress. He labeled folks “notorious regulars, activists and eccentrics” seeking to “draw attention,” and “air their pet complaints” so that “many discussions are driven off the rails by wild statements.”
Chief among the “wild statements” is the conviction “that the city of Detroit is under assault by outsiders who want to seize its jewels and disenfranchise its residents.” To many of us, this is not wild, but an accurate summation of where we are.
However, the attack on citizens becomes repeated in national news coverage. Mark Binnelli wrote in New York Times that, “the council, under pressure from a vocal minority suspicious of “outsiders” looting Detroit’s few remaining assets, postponed a long-planned vote on the Belle Isle proposal.”
At least Binnelli had the sense to follow this with the recognition that there is good reason to fear schemes for development. He notes, ”Belle Isle was recently at the center of a different moneymaking scheme. A group of wealthy libertarians suggested that private investors buy the island from the city for the nice, round, Dr. Evil-ish sum of $1 billion and transform it into an independent, self-governing territory.” This plan, reported seriously in the msm, sounds suspiciously like a scheme from a group of wealthy outsiders.
But Detroiters don’t need to look at billionaire fantasies to understand that public assets find their way into state control, without any guarantee for continued public benefit. The experiences of Cobo Hall, the Detroit Zoo, and our public schools, support the notion that outsiders want to run the city for their own benefit.
It is not unfounded paranoia to say we are disenfranchised. We are. We are living with a consent agreement no one wanted; the threat of an emergency manager, whose idea was rejected by the voters; with the firing of Krystal Crittendon, whose stand was supported during the last election; and with a school board attacked by the Attorney General for having the audacity to take up its elected role.
And if that dose of reality isn’t enough, we have the example of Benton Harbor. There, one of the first acts of Emergency Manager Joe Harris was to give part of the city park to developers, for a private golf course.
Our mainstream media should try reporting what people say and why they say it. Perhaps then they would understand the difference between fantasy and reality.
By Shea Howell
March 3rd, 2013
In the controversy over the financial future of Detroit, uncertainty seems to be the most oft repeated term. This uncertainty is attributed to the fact that no other major American city has faced the same kinds of structural problems confronting Detroit. From loss of population, abandonment of capital, to nearly half the property owners’ delinquency on taxes, we have little money to support essential services. Additionally, we are burdened with long standing debt and an array of tax breaks that were long ago granted in hopes of spurring never to happen developments.
Almost everyone agrees we need to do some things very differently. But hardly anyone agrees on what those things should be. However, it should be clear that almost no one in the city of Detroit thinks an Emergency Manager or the State legislature have answers to our problems. More than 80% of the city voted against emergency manager legislation. The majority voted to uphold the right and responsibility of the Corporate Counsel to challenge the legality of the Consent Agreement.
Many of us have been calling for the development of a Participatory Budgeting process that would broaden and strengthen the democratic practices of the city. These practices are widely used throughout central and south America and, increasingly in US cities from Los Angeles to Brooklyn.
Further, it should be obvious that emergency managers have not achieved any of the results promised. They are profoundly undemocratic as well as ineffectual. We, in Detroit have the experience of the state take over of our school system for all but 3 of the last 14 years. No one thinks that is going well.
But perhaps the most important parallel for us to consider is our sister city of Benton Harbor. It is our bellwether. On the western shore of the state, Benton Harbor mirrors Detroit. It is a predominantly African American city surrounded by wealthier, whiter neighbors in St. Joseph. The major industrial employer, Whirlpool, pulled out long ago.
This January, Joe Harris resigned as EM in Benton Harbor. Harris, originally appointed in 2010 by Gov. Jennifer Granholm, was continued under Governor Snyder. His arrogant, dictatorial, and high-handed approach to the city earned it the title of “Ground Zero in American Politics.” Jesse Jackson called it the new Selma. Harris, put on graphic display the failures of a manager freed from civic restraints of any kind. His first act under expanded powers was to eliminate the power of elected officials. The New York Times offered this assessment:
“Having neutered the city’s elected officials (“I am the mayor and the commission, and I don’t need them”), fired the city’s finance director (“I’d been told she was incompetent, but she really didn’t have a clue”) and city manager (“He was smart and articulate, but he just wasn’t doing anything that I couldn’t do”), Harris, a former accounting professor, is pretty much single-handedly running Benton Harbor.”
This disdain for democracy was coupled with an assault on public resources. He fired most of the people on the Planning Commission, replacing them with hand picked associates. Shortly thereafter, Jean Klock Park was turned over to private developers to provide more holes for a golf course.
Harris consolidated city services, including introducing new “quick response vehicles.” These are little pickup trucks that the NYT explained were “outfitted with fire-retardant-foam-releasing contraptions that require a lot less money and manpower to operate than traditional fire trucks.”
He imposed a special tax assessment on the city after voters rejected a mileage.
Evidence is mounting that Emergency Managers do not work. They are profoundly anti-democratic and diminish a city with their efforts. For all the talk of realism in Lansing, they are the ones refusing to think critically about what we need to do.
By Shea Howell
October 28th, 2012
Within a few days, many of us will cast our ballots for the next President of the United States. We will also face a host of state and local candidates. In most places in Michigan six main statewide initiatives will be accompanied by local ballot questions.
This should signal a vigorous public life. But many of us recognize there is something very wrong going on in our country.
How is it possible that a man as gifted, thoughtful, and insightful as President Obama can be leaving the electorate uninspired? How is it possible that in spite of three presidential debates, one vice presidential debate, and hours of talk shows and commentary this campaign rings hollow, failing to ignite passions or confidence in our future?
Most astonishingly, in one 90-minute debate, President Obama went from a comfortable lead to an ever-tightening race.
Certainly the media does come in for its fair share of the blame. The mainstream media coverage is portraying the election like a reality TV show giving the impression we are voting someone on or off the island. The most probing questions have been posed by comedian Jon Stewart asking President Obama if he still thought foreign policy could be conducted in accord with American values.
At a time when we the people face serious issues neither the candidates nor the media seem able to provide in depth considerations of the state of our world, our country, and our futures.
Neither candidate has addressed the depth of the economic challenges we face. Both argue that they will protect the middle class. In the first debate, President Obama actually allowed Mitt Romney to position himself as the champion of the middle class, promising 12 million jobs, lower taxes, a green economy, and unparalleled growth.
Obama talked about taxing the rich (a little), restoring green manufacturing, and a modest role for government spending on infrastructure and education.
Neither candidate talked about the stark truth. The middle class life styles they want to protect are made possible by tremendous exploitation of other people and other places. We have gone to war for oil and have refused to look critically at our oil dependent, throw away culture. We will not even discuss the atrocities we are committing to protect this way of life. Every day drones and teams of trained assassins create further instability and hatred in a world we continue to abuse.
Additionally both candidates promise jobs without helping people understand the nature of work itself has changed dramatically. Increasing manufacturing jobs, green or otherwise, will never again lead to large scale, mass employment.
The processes of production of coal, steel, cars, and basic industries no longer require masses of people. One machine now does the work of 100 miners. Robots forge steel and assemble, paint, and aid in the design of automobiles.
Debating on superficial differences, neither candidate has helped us think about what many of us feel in our bones. The world is in the midst of a great transformation, a great turning. This transformation is as far-reaching as the shift from hunting and gathering to agriculture or from agriculture to industry. It is the kind of change that human beings have only experienced a few times in our long evolution to this moment.
President Obama could again ignite the passions and hope of many of us if he would use this campaign to help us think about what this moment in history really means.
In the 2008 campaign, President Obama captured many of us by acknowledging that he represented more than himself. He stood as the inheritor of the sweep of history toward greater equality. He has the opportunity still to help us understand we are in the midst of an extraordinary historical moment, one that will not lend itself to simple solutions or glib rehearsed lines in a debate.
By Shea Howell
January 20th, 2013
This week Detroit Works released its framework for the redevelopment of the city. The project began two years ago amidst a contentious series of town meetings following Mayor Bing’s pronouncement that he intended to “shrink the city” and relocate people. The mounting public criticism of the effort forced a major rethinking of the approach. Highly paid consultants were quietly shifted into the background and Dan Pitera of the University of Detroit-Mercy School of Architecture was given a larger role in guiding the process.
He and his team have produced a remarkable document that reflects Pitera’s long standing commitment to the city, his experience in imaginative, asset based development, and willingness to listen to the community.
In 2001 Pitera was part of the team that created the Adamah Project. Adamah projected a 3000 acre urban agricultural community on the East Side. It grew out of organic relationships with University of Detroit architects, community activists and organizations that had been turning vacant lots into gardens, creating public art, exploring new ideas of education, health, and public safety. Adamah garnered international attention and played a central role in the formation of Kyoung Park’s International Institute for Urban Ecology (ICUE), bringing people from around the world to learn from the grassroots redevelopment of Detroit. Adamah helped move urban agriculture from a utopian idea to a viable strategy for urban redevelopment.
Pitera was also a central figure in the Community Development Advocates of Detroit (CDAD). Just prior to the launch of Detroit Works, CDAD produced a strategic framework for redevelopment, emphasizing community based planning. The framework was especially important because of its typology of neighborhoods, ranging from the restoration of wilderness areas to densely populated urban hubs.
The strengths of Adamah and CDAD echo throughout the newly released Detroit Future City framework. This is the first plan to acknowledge that a declining population can be an asset, opening up new possibilities for greener, more ecologically sound ways of urban living. It provides a framework for thinking about our communities beginning with their strengths rather than emphasizing our problems. It gives a varied texture to the kinds of neighborhood life we can and are creating. It is filled with hard data to pinpoint areas that require new, careful rethinking.
The plan provides much for all of us to build upon. It reflects a tremendous amount of work, talent, and vision for which we should be grateful.
At the same time, there are critical questions raised by this plan that we as a city must address.
All of the charts, maps, data, drawings, and images do not address the central question of for whom will the city be transformed? Whose interests will be given priority in the inevitable conflicts inherent in this or any plan for redevelopment?
The recent betrayal of the people by the Mayor and 5 members of the City Council over the Hantz Farms/Woodlands controversy does not bode well for the implementation of this plan. There, as in so many other cases, individual gain was given precedent over public good.
The failure to create a public, open process of community deliberation will haunt us. While the Future City Framework had thousands of individual contacts and small group meetings, it was not a process that engaged citizens with one another. As a result, the debate over whose interests are to be protected and fostered will work itself out in a piecemeal fashion, diminishing the possibility of creating a strong consensus for the overall plan.
The framework builds on the concrete dimensions of the moment, but lacks the historical sense that Detroit is in the forefront of a movement from the old, industrial paradigm to new, ways of sustainable living. This new paradigm is emerging every day as those first cast off by industrial society are reimaging how to live. This transformation requires a vibrant civic conversation about principles and values that the corporate-government-foundation complex continues to evade.
O NE night a little over a year ago, crossing Woodward Avenue, I crashed my bicycle. As I flew head over heels across Detroit’s main boulevard, I thought, well, in any other town, I’d be hitting a car right about now. But this being the Motor City, the street was deserted, completely motor-free.
While bike enthusiasts in most urban areas continue to have to fight for their place on the streets, Detroit has the potential to become a new bicycle utopia. It’s a town just waiting to be taken. With well less than half its peak population, and free of anything resembling a hill, the city and its miles and miles of streets lie open and empty, beckoning. And lately, whether it’s because of the economy or the price of gas or just because it’s a nice thing to do, there are a lot more bikers out riding.
This budding culture brings some commerce with it. Down on the waterfront, and just three hundred yards or so from the headquarters of General Motors, my friends Kelli and Karen are in their second year running the Wheelhouse bike shop. One might think, given the economy, that starting a business in the D makes as much sense as stepping on a nail, but Kelli and Karen’s shop is thriving; their profits in May were double what they were a year ago.
Granted, right now neither Kelli nor Karen take a salary from the business. They’ve each kept working their other jobs, Kelli as a bartender and Karen at a local community organization. Neither of them intends for the Wheelhouse to be a volunteer effort forever, but like many entrepreneurs, they believe investing in the business’s growth right now is the prudent thing to do.
Meanwhile, up in the Cass Corridor neighborhood, another bike shop has opened up. Manned by some of the most die-hard, gear-headed gentlemen you’ll ever meet, the Hub comes with a storeroom of piled-up old bikes that they’ll refurbish for you — and a greater social mission. Their Back Alley Bikes training program, which predates the shop, teaches youths about mechanical repairs and customer service. The Hub is technically a nonprofit, but their business is also doing pretty well.
Biking in the D is the transportation equivalent of the Slow Food movement, offering a perspective that’s completely lost to those zooming in on the Lodge Freeway and I-75, those great superhighways that, once upon a time in the name of progress, were sliced deep into the heart of the city only to bleed it dry.
A bike gives you the chance to soak up what’s left, hidden neighborhoods like Indian Village with its dappled lanes and old eclectic mansions. Out near the fabled Eight Mile Road you can cruise past an almost forgotten but now happily restored Frank Lloyd Wright house. Downtown, you can circle the ruins of the old Michigan Central Depot.
Our abandoned landscape suggests an opportunity that alternative-transportation proponents should consider: instead of raging against their cities’ internal combustion machines, they might consider a tactical retreat to the city that cars have pretty much abandoned.
Despite the press, survival here isn’t so hard. Businesses like the Wheelhouse and the Hub have already shown how well Detroit can work as a new business hothouse. With the legendarily affordable real estate and without needing to pay for car payments, gas or insurance, bicyclists could rebuild Detroit into a model of a two-wheeled economy. They could pass laws promoting bikes over cars and designate entire avenues motor-free zones, which, given the state of many of them now, wouldn’t be so much of a stretch.
Maybe it sounds far-fetched, but then again maybe it’s just destiny. Look at a map and you’ll see that Detroit is designed in the shape of a wheel, with streets emanating like spokes from the downtown hub. It looks like a premonition, a city uniquely designed to alter transportation forever.
So, who knows, maybe the bike will follow the car. After all, it’s happened before. In 1896, when Charles B. King steered Detroit’s first automobile across its cobbled streets, following King’s progress with a keen and intelligent interest was Henry Ford, riding on a bicycle.
Toby Barlow is the author of “Sharp Teeth.”
by Yusef Shakur
Dave Bing’s decision to “downsize” the City of Detroit is a direct result of him being out of touch with the city he was elected to be the Mayor of. The sad reality is that he was elected as Mayor of Detroit based on the mere notion that he was going to brings jobs to Detroit—a city that is in desperate needs of jobs. Since being elected Mayor, the only things he has brought to the City of Detroit have been hiring more police, bullying the unions, cutting jobs and cutting the city’s bus routes. His decision to cut the bus routes demonstrates his lack of interconnection with the majority of people of Detroit, and the act of desperation of a Mayor that is desperately trying to prove himself at the expense of the people of Detroit. Everybody and their mama knows that over 50% of Detroiters depend heavily on the bus system to get back and forth through the City of Detroit and other neighboring cities. Instead of donating a portion of his salary to hire more police, which hasn’t had an impact on reducing crime in Detroit, that money could be used to keeping those bus routes running that served the needs of Detroiters going to work, school and other places. If he actually stayed in the City of Detroit before he decided to run for Mayor, and actually interacted with the people in a meaningful way, he would have known that. Before he was even elected as Mayor of Detroit, his wife announced that she had no intention of moving to Detroit unless he won the Mayoral race. That speaks volumes about what the Bing family thought about Detroit.
In this whole conversation about “downsizing” Detroit, I realized that Dave Bing is not intelligent enough to make this decision by himself. This has been clearly evident in the un-conditional support he is receiving from corporate/ private institutions. Reported in the Detroit News, March 18 paper front page: “The Kresge Foundation confirmed Wednesday it is paying the undisclosed salary for Toni Griffin… she is expected to begin this month under an unusual arrangement.” Dave Bing is in bed with these private/corporate institutions to serve their interests and not the interests of the people who elected him. When he announced the whole “downsizing” agenda, he never clearly articulated what that means to Detroiters because it is obvious he doesn’t know himself. Even in his “State of the City Address” he still failed to clarify what “downsizing” Detroit actually means. Is destroying abandoned buildings and houses “downsizing” Detroit? That is the new language he used in his “State of the City Address.” Any intelligent person knows that “downsizing” means just that; “DOWNSIZING!” Words are powerful because each word has a meaning to it that can impact our lives, negatively or positively. When the decision to “downsize” Detroit was announced by Mayor Bing, it developed fear and panic among Detroiters. As Detroiters, we are already surviving in chaotic conditions, and what sense does it make for the supposed leader of Detroit to present an idea that would create more chaos? I strongly believe Detroiters have no problem with “TOUGH DECISIONS,” but we do have problems with “LYING AND DUMB DECISIONS.” The decision to “downsize” Detroit didn’t include a conversation with native Detroiters but, again, only with private/corporate institutions, and those who are of the privileged, and they have a vision of Detroit that they feel has to be imposed upon Detroiters. That right there tells any intelligent human being that they don’t have our best interests at heart.
There are neighborhoods in Detroit that resemble war torn countries, and people in those neighborhoods that are surviving in Third World conditions – or as Professor Carl S. Taylor at Michigan State University educates; urban cities have been reduced to Third World Cities. At the height of the “Big 3” (Ford, GM and Chrysler) the industry helped to develop a thriving middle class in the City of Detroit, but with the fall of the “Big 3” and the introduction of heroin in the 70s and crack in the 80s, that thriving middle class of Detroit began to slowly evaporate. The “Big 3” was eventually replaced with drug enterprises such as “Y.B.I.,” “Pony Down,” “Chamber Brothers,” “Best Friend,” “Curry Boys” and many others. That once proud middle classed in Detroit has been reduced to the poor class and the poor class has been reduced to scavengers. The capitalist economic system killed the “Big 3” a long time ago because it is a system that thrives on sucking the blood out of its prey, and then it turns on itself. Any system that is pro-individual can not be good for the whole, because it makes its living off of exploiting the whole (the ruling class thrives on exploiting the middle class and the middle class thrives on exploiting the poor class and poor class thrive off exploiting each other). Then you have the bastard version of capitalism, which is the street life (selling drugs, gangs, robbing, prostitution and etc) that has sucked the life out of the neighborhoods, which has ultimately reduced thriving neighborhoods into deplorable ‘hoods.
Dave Bing and his (crime) partner Robert Bobb are nothing but knee-grow puppets that are being manipulated by private and corporate foundations/institutions, such as the Skillman Foundation and Kresge Foundation. Recent decisions by Dave Bing to “downsize” Detroit and Robert Bobb to close over 40 more schools in Detroit are both heavily influenced by the Kresge and Skillman Foundation, with the latter playing on both sides of the fence through their Good Schools & Good Neighborhood initiatives, by openly selecting certain schools and neighborhoods in Detroit that they are hand picking to invest money in. Through their nickel-slick initiatives they have truly fooled the people by supposedly investing money in certain schools and neighborhoods, while openly denying support to other schools and neighborhoods that are deteriorating. The truth of the matter, Detroit Public Schools, and Detroit as a whole, have suffered from the games Skillman, Kresge and many other Foundations, as well as private corporations, that have played with the lives of Detroiters and particularly the lives of our children.
Dave Bing and Robert Bobb’s decisions to “downsize” Detroit and close 40 more schools reflects the corrupt mountain-leadership that has crippled Detroit. Neither one of these gentlemen have ever taken the time to engage Detroiters, besides talking down to Detroiters, because again their strings are being pulled by private/corporate foundations/institutions. The majority of Detroiters voted to approve a $500.5 million proposal, where that money was supposed to be used to re-build or renovate many of the schools that have since been selected to be closed. Right after the approval of this proposal, many people and different groups began jockeying around Robert Bobb, trying to get their hands on some of that money. Just recently Robert Bobb awarded close to a million dollar contract to Detroit Parent Network, which is also fund by Skillman Foundation. During this whole process Dave Bing has openly shared his desire to take control of DPS and have it run by his (crime) partner Robert Bobb. The actions of these two gentlemen clearly demonstrate that they don’t have the best interest of Detroit in mind. They both have been talking out the side of their necks. Mr. Bing has not brought one job to the City of Detroit for Detroiters, which was his claim to fame in his rise to the Mayor office. Mr. Bobb has brought nothing but more confusion to DPS, and has looked out for nobody but himself and his homies. The crazy thing is, after Detroiters voted yes on the approval of the 500.5 million proposal, Robert Bobb is now asking for an additional 700 million!
The actions of these knee-grow puppets are not what is disturbing to me, but the lack of out cry by so-call religious, political and community leaders of the actions of these knee-grow puppets. Many of the so-called religious, political and community leaders are in bed with Bing and Bobb. Just recently here in Detroit, many of the well known religious leaders spoke out loudly and proudly against strip clubs in Detroit, but these same religious leaders have remained silent on the issues of “downsizing” Detroit and closing “40 more schools” in Detroit. If these decisions are implemented by Bing and Bobb, they will have a far greater negative impact on Detroit’s children and families than the strip clubs. The majority of the new City Council members are in bed with Bing and Bobb as well.
The imported and oppressive decisions by Bing and Bobb have left the people of Detroit dazed and confused. We have to pick ourselves up, and begin to organize ourselves—each and every one of us. We can’t embody the every man for himself attitude, because if Bing relocates one neighborhood, it impacts all of us and if Bobb close one more school, it impacts all of us.
We have to stand together, organize around one heart beat
and speak with one voice.
That is our strength, anything less than that is playing into our weaknesses. We can’t keep approaching Bing and Bobb from a position of weakness because all they are going to do is keep disrespecting us. Power only respects power, and a powerless people become powerful once they realize that they have nothing to loose. We must take our destiny into our hands by boycotting Bing and Bobb. The question is how can we boycott Bing and Bobb? Our oppressive circumstances bind us all together as it did the citizens of Montgomery, Alabama during the bus boycott in 1955. Just think of what could happen if all city workers stop working for the city and if all DSP students stopped going to school? That would demand Bing and Bobb’s attention with a national audience watching. As long as Bing and Bobb feel that they don’t need input from Detroiters, they will continue to make decisions about Detroiters without the input of Detroiters. I know choices like this call for a lot of sacrifices, but just know that sacrifices are necessary. If we are not willing to sacrifice for ourselves, trust and believe Bing and Bobb will sacrifice us.
With a clear overstanding of the shit-uaiton we are up against, it has become clearer that EMIENT DOMAIN in Detroit is nothing but GENTRIFICATION to Detroiters, and urban renewal is nothing but BLACK PEOPLE REMOVAL – in a city that is 85% Black! War has been declared on us by our enemies, and with our backs against the walls we have to fight back as a unified body of Detroiters fighting for Dignity and Democracy.
How Gardening Could Save Detroit: Amanda Rosman, Urban Education Pioneer
Amanda Rosman, 33, is a single mom living in Detroit with her 5-year-old son Ajani. She’s taught in the Detroit Public Schools, a Catholic school and a charter school, but her main project now is starting a revolutionary elementary school.
By Grace Lee Boggs
February 17th, 2013
As we approach March 8 and Women’s International Day, I’ve been thinking about how my understanding of Feminism has evolved over the years.
I was born female to Chinese immigrant parents above my father’s Chinese American restaurant in Providence, R.I. My mother did not know how to read or write because there were no schools for females in her little Chinese village. When I cried, the Chinese waiters used to say, “Leave her on the hillside to die. She’s only a girl baby.”
So I realized at an early that huge changes in women’s rights and lives are necessary in our world.
That is why as a teenager, after reading Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s, Women and Economics, I decided I was a feminist. What I meant mainly was that I would never become dependent on a man for my livelihood.
I didn’t begin to think more deeply about the role of women until ten years later when I became a movement activist in the black community. That was how and when I learned that the 13-month Montgomery Bus Boycott which launched the civil rights movement had been organized by women.
Within a couple of hours after Rosa Parks’ arrest on Friday afternoon, December 1, 1955 for refusing to give up her seat to a white man, the Women’s political Council had blanketed the city with 50,000 “Don’t ride the bus” leaflets and was busy organizing the boycott.
To keep people off buses, they created an alternative means of transportation, contacting and pooling hundreds of volunteer drivers, mapping out routes to get workers to all parts of the city, following regular bus routes so that workers who “walked along” the streets could be picked up.
It was a model of Visionary/Solutionary Organizing. On Monday, December 5, the buses were empty.
In recent years, as Detroit has been devastated by deindustrialization and the struggle for a new non-capitalist society has been developing in Detroit, I have discovered that when one society is coming to an end and a new one is emerging, women play a solutionary/revolutionary role because women’s work, of raising and caring for the home and family is ongoing.
Thus in Detroit today Asenath Andrews has created the Catherine Ferguson Academy, a public high school for pregnant teens. The Boggs Educational Collective is starting a place-based school. Time Banking is being organized by Kim Hodge et al. Ann Heler is pioneering a Free Health Clinic.
On Saturday, March 9. the UAW Women’s Department & the Boggs Center, with other Labor and Community Organizations & Friends are celebrating International Women’s Day at the UAW-GM Center for Human Resources, 200 Walker St. Save the date. All are invited.
By Shea Howell
April 14th, 2013
This week the Emergency Financial Manager (EFM) firmed up the foundation of his operation. After reinstating the pay of elected city council members, the EFM announced they were welcome to meet, but he has the final say. All decisions are his alone. A few days later, a consulting firm recommended that the City Council be reduced to part time and cut its staff.
The consulting firm of Conway Mackenzie of Birmingham was paid $4.2 million dollars for its recommendation that would reduce the counsel staff from 115 to 37 and “save” the city $7.4 million in expenses. We the citizens are no doubt to assume that a part time council with virtually no staff will be effective in answering our concerns about lighting, public safety and general civic business. After all, citizens have been assured that the EFM will make sure city services improve.
This is absurd. The point of all of this was for the EFM to provide some political cover for difficult decisions and some protection from the federal lawsuit pointing out the unconstitutionality of this whole scheme. But the EFM also wanted to make clear he is the one paying the bills, so he is in charge. The real bottom line is that the Governor and his cronies control the assets and revenues of the City of Detroit.
In this moment, the decision by the Sierra Club of Michigan, Detroit Chapter, to release its State of the Environment Report is welcome. It is a well-researched, thoughtful document, raising important questions about ecological justice and environmental policies. At a press conference in front of the Detroit Works Project (Detroit Future City)
Executive Director Rhonda Anderson said simply, “We have in the City of Detroit, in the area of 48217 (ZIP Code), River Rouge and Ecorse, the most polluted areas in the state of Michigan.”
As significant as the data in the report is, the context given by the Sierra Club for conducting it is crucial. The Sierra Club raises the question of public integrity. It is offering a clear standard of accountability on the part of non-profit organizations in our city.
In the opening paragraph of the report they acknowledge that Detroit Works (DWP) asked the Sierra Club to collaborate on an Environmental Report. After becoming engaged in the process, the Sierra Club determined three important things. First, they believed that the DWP lacked “genuine community direction and protections.” Second that their “membership includes individuals and organizations that perpetuate environmental injustices,” and, third, the DWP was faced with a significant “conflict of interest.”
While applauding the blue and green emphasis within the Strategic Framework, the Sierra Club pinpoints the core decision of the DWP, to channel resources to some “target areas of the city while neglecting others remains intact and fundamentally contradicts the principles of environmental justice.”
They also conclude that DWP plan “offers nothing toward alleviating existing environmental justice hazards” and that the “continued push of privatization of public lands and resources with respect to land use, air and water quality is also not addressed and remains a concern.”
The clear, forceful introduction of these principles into public debate is essential. The report calls for “Complete and transparent independence from any entities significantly contributing to environmental hazards in the city” and argues that this “is critical if local environmental groups intend to advocate on behalf of the general public.”
The Sierra Club’s bold, clear action is part of the growing effort by Detroiters to not only carve out a new political space, but to clarify the values and responsibilities of all those who claim to speak on behalf of the people.
By Shea Howell
January 13th, 2013
As the Mayor and the City Council begin their new legislative session they have the opportunity to reflect on an unusually active and engaged series of recent public sessions. It should be abundantly clear that more and more citizens are concerned about the direction the Mayor and Council majority are trying to take the city. Slowly but surely people are organizing to pose a very different alternative set of values for the kind of city we want to become.
These values are rooted in the African American character and movement history of our city. They were fully and often eloquently spoken of in the battle over the Hantz Farms/Woodlands, the efforts to privatize the water department, and to turn over Belle Isle to the State.
The City Council should explore the kinds of values and ideas that would represent a much broader view of development than the one they seem to uphold at the moment. The current view is that the city can no longer impose any publicly responsible policies for development. It will sell land below market value, just so someone else can cut the grass. It will give away tax breaks, just to entice businesses to set up shop, and it will turn over long supported public resources in exchange for basic maintenance. Following this path, pushed by forces that have never had the interests of Detroit at heart, will diminish all of us.
Instead of going blindly down the road being drummed into them as they only alternative, the Council should look at some of the values and policy suggestions that emerged in the course of these recent struggles.
The single most important concern in the community is that development within neighborhoods should protect the people who are living there now. Most people believe that those who have stayed in neighborhoods as others left should be honored and respected. On street after street in Detroit, these are the people who have mowed the lawns of abandoned houses, taken over empty land for gardens and play areas, shoveled snow, and planted flowers. They have organized block clubs, established churches, opened small businesses, and built a home and life that they would like to pass on to their children.
Everyone knows that Detroit, like all major cities, has a history of plowing these neighborhoods under in the name of development. In a recent article in the Detroit Free Press that misrepresents the opposition to Hantz Farms/Woodlands, even the author John Mogk acknowledges this:
“Lower-income African Americans in particular have suffered from these actions taken by leaders seemingly to further the public good. Lofty public goals were behind actions taken by the city’s leaders to build the I-75 corridor and Lafayette Park, which wiped out the center of African-American community life in Detroit.”
Curiously Mogk labels this assessment of an historical reality as “mistrust.” Such a label is only possible if you are writing from the perspective of the developers.
Another framing would be wisdom, based on experience and observation. From Black Bottom to the transformation of the Cass Corridor to Midtown, it is obvious that the current models of development drive people out of neighborhoods they have long lived in and cared for.
So instead of mischaracterizing opposition as” mistrust,” the City Council should enact policies building on the wisdom of the people to protect folks where they are.
For example, as the Council reflects on a differential tax structure for the city, they need to freeze the property taxes of those home-owners effected by development. Second, they need to enact some form of rent control throughout the city.
These are not new or radical ideas. But they are essential if we are to build a city with and for all of our people.
Join other Restorative Justice practitioners and enthusiasts throughout the state to discover what others are doing, forge connections, share ideas, cross-pollinate, and ultimately to explore how we might further promote and expand the use of Restorative Justice across our great state.
Come join us! There is no cost to attend – simply bring yourself, a bag lunch, and preferably a snack to share. Please forward this invitation to any and all who do Restorative Justice work in Michigan.
To register to attend, please complete the registration form at: http://snipurl.com/michiganrestorativejusticegathering
“A traditional curriculum predicated on contemporary ways of thinking about people and the planet offers little guidance for the kinds of challenges and uncertainties that are coming to characterize our everyday lives.”
By Grace Lee Boggs
January 13th, 2013
All over the country schools, churches, universities and other community groups will be celebrating Martin Luther King’s birthday this week in many different ways.
Many, perhaps most, will recall King’s “I have a dream” speech at the 1965 March on Washington. Some groups will organize community service activities.
Participants will sing “We Shall Overcome” which has become the anthem of the civil rights movement because it proclaims to the world “I am down but not out; I will bend but not break” (as Detroit activist Doc Holbrook put it recently in response to my column on Disasters).
During Ronald Reagon’s administration, Michigan Congressman John Conyers and Motown musician Stevie Wonder led the campaign that won the King holiday. I did not participate because I thought the holiday would draw so much attention to King as a charismatic leader that the role of rank and file activists would be overshadowed.
I was wrong. Over the years the holiday has focused on King but it has also become a wonderful opportunity for reflection on his ideas and his leadership. As a result, it is the one holiday on our national calendar that is unlikely to become an excuse for barbequing, fireworks or bargain shopping.
Over the years I have grown a lot and I believe I have helped others grow by my participation in a number of MLK celebrations , e.g. at the University of Illinois Urbana; University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University.
That is why, despite my limited mobility, I am going this year to Iowa to speak at
Grinnell College where my old friend, Detroiter Kesho Scott, has taught for years .
I have chosen “What time is it?” for the title of my speech because I believe that we are living at a time when, more than ever, we need to commit ourselves to the radical revolution of values that MLK advocated in his l967 “Break the Silence” speech. We need a revolution not only against racism, King said, but against materialism and militarism. We must replace our thing-oriented society with a person-oriented society.
Truer words have rarely been spoken. Our materialism, or our decision as a new nation to pursue rapid economic growth, was understandable two centuries ago. But it led us to commit the world’s most grievous sin, enslaving black people, and it has now ended up with global warming and the planetary emergency of hurricanes, wildfires, droughts and the possible extinction of all life on Earth.
Our militarism has not only trapped us in two unwinnable Mideast wars and the probability of another 911 because of our drone murders of countless innocent men, women and children. It has also encouraged mass violence in our cities and small communities like Newtown, Connecticut.
In the 1960s I was more a supporter of Malcolm than of MLK because I thought that what was involved was only the tactical question of violence or non-violence. While I am still a supporter and admirer of Malcolm, I now have a much deeper appreciation of the leadership of King because his holiday has given us so many opportunities to think about the importance of spiritual leadership in revolutionary times.
It is because the King holiday has given me these opportunities to revisit King that I am able to view the American Revolution as a time to grow our souls.
So thank you, John Conyers and Stevie Wonder!!!
By Grace Lee Boggs
January 6th, 2013
I’d like to begin the New Year by thanking Noam Chomsky for his interview by Michael Kasenbacher published by RSN on December 27.
In the interview the 84 year-old Chomsky makes an important philosophic contribution to the building of a new 21st century society by viewing Work and Learning in the context of of Freedom. In the process he defines what it means to be a human being and what it means to be revolutionary at this time on the clock of the world.
I have never met Chomsky. Nor have I up to now wanted to write about him.
But I was moved by the personal story Chomsky tells in this interview (of how he lost his freedom as he became part and parcel of the U.S. educational system) and I believe it can play an in important role in the reimagining of Work and Education that is now urgently needed and already going on, especially in Detroit where devastation by industrialization has created the place and space for us to begin The Next American Revolution.
Here are some excerpts from the interview:
“The social system is taking on a form in which finding out what you want to do is less and less of an option because your life is too structured, organized, controlled and disciplined. The US had the first real mass education; it was largely designed to turn independent farmers into disciplined factory workers, and a good deal of education maintains that form.
“A book called The Crisis of Democracy – expresses the concern of liberal intellectuals over what happened in the 60s. it was too democratic, there was a lot of popular activism, young people trying things out, experimentation – it’s called ‘the time of troubles’. The ‘troubles’ are that it civilized the country: that’s where you get civil rights, the women’s movement, environmental concerns, opposition to aggression. And it’s a much more civilized country as a result but that caused a lot of concern because people were getting out of control.
“People are supposed to be passive and apathetic and doing what they’re told by the responsible people who are in control. That’s elite ideology across the political spectrum – from liberals to Leninists, it’s essentially the same ideology: people are too stupid and ignorant to do things by themselves so for their own benefit we have to control them. And that very dominant ideology was breaking down in the 60s. And this commission that put together this book was concerned with trying to induce what they called ‘more moderation in democracy’ – turn people back to passivity and obedience so they don’t put so many constraints on state power and so on.
“In particular they were worried about young people. They were concerned about the institutions responsible for the indoctrination of the young (that’s their phrase), meaning schools, universities, church and so on – they’re not doing their job, [the young are] not being sufficiently indoctrinated. They’re too free to pursue their own initiatives and concerns and you’ve got to control them better…. The idea of freedom is very frightening for those who have some degree of privilege and power and I think that shows up in the education system. And in the workplace…
“Children are naturally curious – they want to know about everything, they want to explore everything but that generally gets knocked out of their heads. They’re put into disciplined structures, things are organized for them to act in certain ways so it tends to get beaten out of you. That’s why school’s boring. School can be exciting. It happens that I went to a Deweyite school until I was about 12. It was an exciting experience, you wanted to be there, you wanted to go. There was no ranking, there were no grades. Things were guided so it wasn’t just do anything you feel like. There was a structure but you were basically encouraged to pursue your own interests and concerns and to work together with others. I basically didn’t know I was a good student until I got to high school. I went to an academic high school in which everybody was ranked and you had to get to college so you had to pass tests. In elementary school I had actually skipped a year but nobody paid much attention to it. The only thing I saw was that I was the smallest kid in the class. But it wasn’t a big thing that anybody paid attention to. High school was totally different – you’ve gotta be first in the class, not second. And that’s a very destructive environment – it drives people into the situation where you really don’t know what you want to do. It happened to me in fact – in high school I kinda lost all interest. When I looked at the college catalogue it was really exciting – lots of courses, great things. But it turned out that the college was like an overgrown high school. After about a year I was going to just drop out …”
Coalition Against Police Brutality and Peace Zones for Life present:
JAZZ and JUSTICE pre-election fundraiser!
OCTOBER 21, 2012 from 5pm – 9pm
Detroit Yacht Club 1 Riverbank Drive, Det, MI 48207
Guest Speakers Danny Glover, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. & Honorable Judge Claudia Morcom
Musical performance by Pianist Bill Meyer, Det’wah and more . . .
$100 – reception and event
$75 – event only
Table for 10 – $750 or $1000
Click here to download the flyer: Community Concert
Saturday, October 20, 2012
7:30pm – 9:30pmMarygrove Theater (Liberal Arts Building) 8425 McNichols Rd., Detroit, MI 48221
By Shea Howell
January 6th, 2013
The anti-democratic efforts by the right wing republican legislature in Lansing are putting Michigan in the national spotlight. One national commentator, Jim Hightower, is now referring to our state as “Michiganistan” because of what he called the rule of “iron fist-democracy, rule-of-law, fairness, and the people be damned.” He described the lame duck session as “dumbfounding, anti-democratic zealotry.” Others talked about the Governor and legislature pulling a “fast-one” by “introducing and then ramming through legislation…designed so it cannot be repealed by popular referendum.”
In the last days of 2012 Governor Snyder signed the new Emergency Manager law, flaunting the clear rejection by voters state -wide of such legislation.
In a remarkable effort at reshaping reality, the Governor issued a statement saying that the new law “demonstrates that we clearly heard, recognized and respected the will of the voters.” He claimed the new law “builds in local control and options while also ensuring the tools to protect … residents, students and taxpayers.”
The new law includes a $770,000 state appropriation to cover managers’ salaries, a provision that shields it from another statewide vote because spending bills are immune to referendums. Rep. Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills, accused Republicans of going to “extreme lengths” with that provision.
Snyder further insults voters by claiming this law is substantially different from that just repealed by referendum because if a review team finds that a financial emergency exists, communities can choose their remedy. The choices are to request an emergency manager, ask for a mediator, apply for bankruptcy, or introduce a reform plan.
The Detroit City Council also rejected the will of the people by a slim 5-4 majority. They supported a massive sale of public land to Hantz Farms/Woodlands after an outpouring of public objections and approved the Miller Canfield agreement demanded by the Governor.
These actions have made it clear that fundamental change is needed in Michigan. At a time when the authority of nation states over the lives of citizens is decreasing around the world, a small group of well-financed right wing ideologues are stripping away all pretense of democratic responsibility. Representative democracy now means representing the interests of a corporate power structure over the will of the majority of citizens. It is providing a legal mechanism for immoral actions, allowing the looting of the public realm and the wholesale transfer of public wealth into private hands.
It is no longer enough to petition against these actions or to protest their implementation. We need to create new political forms that enable us to create new centers of public responsibility.
We are fortunate to be living in a time when many before us have faced similar conditions and found new and imaginative ways to organize for better lives. We should be especially grateful to our brothers and sisters throughout Central and South America who have been expanding ideas of direct democracy. They have much to offer us.
For example, for more than three decades communities have been using Participatory Budgeting to determine local needs and to strengthen democratic processes. Recently New York joined Chicago and Vallejo California in using this process.
Advocates argue that such a process enables communities to improve their quality of life while having a “direct and meaningful say in what government does.” Such a process creates “new spaces for groups to engage with the public in positive and constructive ways.”
This coming year the challenge for us in Michigan and Detroit is to move toward meaningful democracy. Over the last few months we have been developing a new language of policies that can move us closer to more equitable ways of living. Community Benefit Agreements, Land Trusts and Participatory Budgeting are not new ideas, but they are ideas sorely needed in our city and state as we construct a new democracy.
By Shea Howell
November 11th, 2012
Once the dust of this election season settles, we in Detroit should prepare ourselves for another onslaught by those determined to reshape our city. The corporate-foundation-government elite have made it clear they have no respect for democratic processes. They will push their agenda to privatize public services and turn public goods into private gain.
There are three key areas we should consider.
Land Use. We should expect Detroit Works to unveil its long term planning strategy for the city before the first of the year. Over this last year, as short term morphed into long term planning, Detroit Works has been vigorously reshaping itself into stories, strategies, and tools. Much of this offers important information for us, but there are larger questions to consider.
Throughout this process, the idea of citizen engagement has been problematic. In this last iteration of the foundation led effort, citizen engagement has emphasized community conversations, telephone town meetings, web connections, and individual interviews. These processes have produced an amazing number of contacts that are carefully tallied.
While these contacts have some value, they raise profoundly difficult questions. What is “citizen engagement?” How does it relate to the public sphere? Who decides? Based on what values?
As it has evolved in Detroit, citizen engagement has diminished public decision-making. This is because these managed engagement processes avoid bringing citizens into direct dialogue and disagreement with one another. The absence of public processes of debate and discussion rob us of the capacity to publicly define and articulate our collective vision for the city. The sum of individual ideas is not the same thing as a collective commitment to a well argued, debated, and discussed vision. Managed engagement has suppressed conversations about values and visions, thus failing to forge a collective sense of where our city is heading.
Further, it has created antagonisms. By establishing a framework of discussion that emphasizes high, low, and medium vacancy rates as the criteria for planning, the project itself sets up false dichotomies. It has set the terms of development in ways that will predict an outcome that will justified some of the worst ideas already advanced by corporate interests: cutting off vital services to some areas, encouraging relocation, emphasizing large scale farming and forests while deemphasizing urban gardens.
Education. The assault on our children will accelerate. We should expect that the state legislature will continue to find ways to gain control of our assets, to diminish the power of teachers, and to encourage money making schemes in the name of better education. At a time when we need to be developing the creative, imaginative powers of our young people, state authorities are increasing their efforts to control and condition our children.
Public safety. In spite of the fact that violent crime is actually decreasing, we should expect demands for a greater police-paramilitary presence in our neighborhoods. On November 6, buried in a long article about the decline of crime in our region the Detroit News reported, “The drop in violent crime is mostly reflected in a decline in aggravated assaults, which fell 23 percent in Detroit from 2007 to 2011 and by 18 percent in the region.” Targets for increased police presence will be neighborhoods where young people gather.
In all of these areas Detroiters are developing new ways of thinking about the future. We are reimaging neighborhood life based on lived connections rooted in history and values of sustainable production and consumption, we are reimagining education as a creative process engaging children in redeveloping and respiriting their communities, and we are finding ways to create peaceful relationships based on respect and community wisdom.
These efforts to reimagine our city have grown out of the engagement of people deciding how to control our own lives and resources. These efforts will not be managed away. Rather we need to support and encourage these critical efforts.
On Saturday, October 30 and Sunday, October 31, 2010, Will Allen, a McArthur Fellow and founder of Growing Power, Inc of Milwaukee, will return to Detroit to share his knowledge and expertise on hoop house technology.
A two-day workshop experience, this event will include construction of a 30′ x 96′ hoophouse at D-Town Farm and a lecture by Mr. Allen on hoophouse technology. Participants will be able to learn alongside Will Allen, a noted teacher and trainer in urban agricultural methods, and walk away prepared to build their own hoophouse for year-round food production. D-Town Farm is one of Growing Power’s eight Regional Outreach Training Centers in the U.S., and provides periodic lectures, workshops and hands-on training experiences in urban agriculture and food security.
Activities on Saturday, October 30 will begin at 9:00am and conclude at 6:00pm, with a lecture and powerpoint presentation by Mr. Allen at 12:00pm. Activities on Sunday, October 31 will begin at 9:00am and conclude at 2:00pm. Lunch on both days is included with the cost of registration. Participants are encouraged to wear work clothes (and bring a battery operated drill if they have one). The 30′ x 96′ hoophouse that will be constructed as part of this workshop will be built from a hoophouse kit, which will simplify the construction process for do-it-yourself’ers who plan to use what they learn during the workshop to build their own hoophouse.
Registration is now OPEN! The deadline for advanced registration is Wednesday, October 27, 2010. Advance registration is only $60.00 per person for this two-day workshop and learning experience and includes lunch for both days. Registrations received after October 27 are $75.00 per person. Payments can be made in person or by mail at 3800 Puritan, Detroit, MI 48238. Registration via Paypal will be available shortly.
If you’d like to register in person, the DBCFSN offices are open Mondays 9am-4pm and Tuesdays-Fridays 9am-6pm. Please make checks and money orders payable to Detroit Black Community Food Security Network or DBCFSN.
Please call Ebony Roberts at (313) 345-3663 for questions or to register in person.
GROWING POWER is a national non-profit organization and land trust supporting people from diverse backgrounds, and the environments in which they live, by helping to provide equal access to healthy, high-quality, safe and affordable food for people in all communities.
DETROIT BLACK COMMUNITY FOOD SECURITY NETWORK is a non-profit, grassroots organization whose aim is to build self-reliance, food security and justice in Detroit’s Black community by influencing public policy, engaging in urban agriculture, promoting healthy eating, encouraging co-operative buying, and directing youth towards careers in food-related fields.
Description: The growing response by Detroit’s communities and the growing energy, and activism by citizens across our city and region is blossoming with the coming of spring. The recent visit by the National Planning Committee of the US Social Forum provided tremendous opportunity for discussion as plans develop to bring 10,000 to 20,000 people to Detroit in 2010. From the Cobo Hall debate, to the mayoral election, to the foreclosures and the continued crisis facing students, parents and teachers in our schools, we see a tremendous increase in the creativity as we work to create a new Detroit and region based upon the need to re-imagine, re-define and rebuild our city and communities form the ground up. On a daily basis we read about the work and dedication of individuals and organizations to protest, resist and create alternatives and networks capture the attention of the media and the imagination of people across our country. While most talk of restructuring the industry and restructuring wall street, we are working to re-imagine and transform ourselves and our institutions. Detroit City of Hope is a network committed to alternatives.
Join with us on our journey. Join with us as we create the ways to celebrate the work in Detroit and engage in creating the forms of conversation, networking and dialogue that encourages us all to listen to each other and the voices of our neighbors, friends & coworkers.
This April DCOH meeting will be an opportunity to discuss:
Education: What is the alternative to continued closing of schools? What is the difference between reforming our schools and creating a new concept and practice of education in our city? Please read the article:
Beyond Pipelines-To-Prison Schools by Grace Lee Boggs (Michigan Citizen)
www.boggsblog.com (scroll down)
Celebrating and Engaging with Detroit City of Hope Activists: What are people and organizations doing in our city to respond to the economic, political, spiritual and cultural collapse? What is our contribution to this growing movement that continues to capture the imagination of the national media and the world?can
Please check out these articles:
Detroit Free Press: http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=200990328050 Neighbors talk trash at rally to end dumping in Detroit.
Time Magazine: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1887864,00.html
Along with the above discussions, we explore the ways to expand and advance the website, www.dcoh.org , discuss a possible broadsheet for distribution, possible community forums, and we welcome your ideas as we take steps moving from despair to hope.
We hope you can join us on Wednesday, April 15th at 6;30 pm.
3061 Field Street.
Detroit, Mi 48214
Start Time: 15:00
February, 10th, 2013
At a time when the mainstream media is trying to justify the destruction of democratic processes by ridiculing citizens, it is important for us to lift up the many ways people are advancing democratic dialogue. Such an opportunity happened Monday night as the Riverfront East Congregational Initiative (RECI) gathered to talk about land use and economic development. In spite of the cold and snow, more than 60 people met at the Sunday Dinner Company for a lively discussion about the future of our city. It is the kind of gathering that is carving out a new, vibrant democratic space in Detroit where citizens discuss ideas, values, and the possibilities to create new ways of living together.
At tables set for small group conversation, people talked about how the RECI values for development “affect how we talk with our fellow congregants and neighbors about recent issues in our community?”
The values included asking developers:
Gail Parks asked for ideas to frame the presentations. The main concern was that of accountability by developers to the community. Carol Jordan introduced the panelists who offered insights about development that reflects respect for the community.
The Reverend Ron Spann, a member of the Advisory Board of the Christian Community Development Association, said that three concepts framed the Evangelical Christian approach to development: Relocation, Reconciliation and Redistribution. He said that Relocation is not about moving people, but about shifting ideas.
Redistribution challenges us to rethink ownership and land value. We all know the statements, “Give a man a fish, he will eat for a day, teach a woman to fish, she will eat for a lifetime.” Missing from this is the critical question, “Who owns the pond?” He argued that faith -based development demanded moving from ownership to stewardship, from seeing land as a private commodity to a shared community trust.
Faith based development means ‘learning to listen, live and love, beginning with what people know.” He said this is the basis for “the moral imagination necessary for religious groups to engage in social action.”
This set the stage for Charity Hicks of the Eastern Michigan Environmental Action Coalition. Ms. Hicks talked about Community Land Trusts as a way to hold land for the benefit of the community, taking speculation out of development. She described 4 trusts operating in Michigan. Traverse City, Boyne City, Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor provide successful models of citizens establishing Community Trusts to provide for affordable housing and to protect existing residents from accelerating taxes. She explained how this idea, rooted in ancient texts and indigenous practices, fosters community governance and grassroots democracy. “It provides a tool to reimagine the city on principles of stewardship and inclusion,” she said.
Ernie Zackary gave concrete examples of projects that preserve heritage while adapting new methods of energy production, especially geothermal and solar. He contrasted the practice of demolition with the ideas of deconstruction. Mr. Zachary said that the experience of the Cass Corridor should help us understand that “the key to revitalizing an area is preserving what is there and reusing everything we can” as we build anew.
Kris Miranne of Doing Development Differently in Detroit talked about Community Benefit Agreements. Her group is working toward agreements with the international bridge and Henry Ford Health Systems. Such agreements, she says, make clear how everyone is able to benefit from development.
The meeting ended, as it began, with a question. “How can our spiritual community and values influence business and development?”
The mainstream media are desperate to diminish the quality of thinking by ordinary citizens about our city. But the emerging democracy runs far deeper than they know.
RECI is an initiative of the Michigan Roundtable for Diversity and Inclusion. Information about the Community Learning Series can be found at www.miroundtable.org.
By Shea Howell
May 5th, 2013
The questions being raised in Detroit are important for the whole country. Over the last few years we have seen an assault on our shared values, conventions, and civic assumptions unlike anything previously experienced in this country. Except for brief, extreme periods of Marshall Law, declared in emergency situations, no citizens of a city have had their basic rights and responsibilities so perversely violated.
These violations have been done in the name of providing financial security for the city. With each new announcement, it is clear the financial security being created is for corporate, powerful elites to profit from the pain of the people.
The assault on democratic values is so clear that even students in a law school far away notice that “democracy is dead” in Detroit. In a recent article in the Free Press, Adrienne N. Young, follows this pronouncement by arguing that democracy died long before the emergency manager was appointed. Her evidence is the low voter turn out rate in the last mayoral election. She further argues that we should turn the “civic engagement” of protest against the EM and company into efforts at voter registration “to make it less likely any of the “undesired” leaders are re-elected at the state and local level.”
She laments the lack of ideas for civic engagement, saying, “Beneath the cries of “shame” and fury, there must be ideas, there must be innovation if Detroit is to recover. Why not get that same group of people together and write a request to be a neighborhood advisory committee for Orr? Why not look to the school system that only just established universal early childhood education and ask how citizen engagement can enable tutoring, fund-raising, coaching and mentoring programs?
These are good ideas. That is why thousands of Detroiters have been doing them for years. Citizen Advisory Councils are operating in communities across the city, as are neighborhood associations, block clubs and a host of civic groups. We have just completed a vibrant, open and often visionary process of publically writing and approving a new City Charter. More than 7000 people participated directly in public meetings with the Detroit Works Project, and thousands upon thousands more have been engaged in school board in exile meetings, rallies, information gathering sessions, and public conversations about serious issues. Something as mundane as the Library Commission attracts overflow crowds. Tutoring, fundraising, coaching and mentoring happen from the most formal levels involving the previous governor, to the most humble games of basketball fashioned out of makeshift hoops.
The point is not that “democracy is dead in Detroit.” Rather, what is happening in Detroit reveals the inability of representative democracy to preserve and protect the safety, life, liberty and happiness of the majority of the people. The challenge now is to create new forms of public, political relationships.
Ms. Young hints at a core element of this new democracy when she notes that while state intervention in local affairs “feels wrong,” “city-level democracy is not constitutionally guaranteed or protected at the national or state level.” It should be. It is in cities, at the community level, where we make decisions that directly affect our common life.
For nearly 50 years, with the abandonment of Detroit by corporate interests, Detroiters have been experimenting with direct democracy. We have established schools and churches, block clubs, businesses, entertainment centers, museums, innovative educational practices and new institutional relationships.
Now we have the challenge to draw upon this experience to not only resist the assault of the EM and corporate interests, but to establish local self governing councils to create the core of civic life in our neighborhoods. We have much experience to draw upon, not only to restore our own communities, but also to point the way toward new forms of democratic life for everyone.
In our quest for humane responses to gentrification, foreclosures, school closures, joblessness, emergency managers, transportation cuts, and police brutality, people are working diligently every day to re-imagine everything from democracy to public safety, education and work. This year, as we commemorate the 50th Anniversaries of Malcolm X’s Message to the Grassroots at the historic King Solomon Church, Dr. King’s march on Woodward in Detroit before over 100,000 people and James Boggs’ epic release of The American Revolution: Pages from a Negro Worker’s Notebook, we invite the world to join us as we come together again this summer to build on the abundant soul growth that we experienced in Detroit last July.
Houses with dreary urban facades covered in polka dots. A traveling dollhouse made from the remnants of abandoned homes. A dilapidated residence covered in ice.
Artists across the Detroit area are using the city’s blight as their canvas, transforming abandoned homes into high-concept projects to draw attention to the homelessness, poverty and urban decay plaguing Detroit. They hope the ongoing experiment will shed some creatively inspired light on what Detroit was, is and could be again.
The work harks back to two decades ago when Tyree Guyton transformed a deteriorating Detroit neighborhood into a colorful, outdoor polka-dot art gallery.
Guyton rescued stuffed animals, sneakers and shopping carts from alleys and street corners and gave them a permanent home on the trees, houses and vacant lots of Heidelberg Street. But unlike Guyton’s project, this latest wave of social art isn’t centered on a single section of the city, and it comes at a time when the problems are just as dire, if not more so: Detroit has tens of thousands of abandoned structures, a budget deficit of at least $300 million and an unemployment rate two to three times that of the national average.
“It’s amazing to see now the work that (Guyton) started 23 years ago kind of taking on shape and form in many different ways with many different people in this city,” said Jenenne Whitfield, executive director of the Heidelberg Project.
Famous examples of social art include Spencer Tunick’s photos depicting thousands of nude subjects at locations around the world, and Nek Chand’s “Rock Garden,” a vast sculpture garden in India. But the trend is magnified in Detroit because so many artists are zeroing in on the same subject matter and displaying their creations in high-profile ways.
Clinton Snider is one of those who saw artistic possibilities in Detroit’s misfortune. The suburban Bloomfield Township resident typically expresses himself through painting. But these days, he’s becoming known as the guy who built a miniature house from the remnants of abandoned homes.
Friday, September 11th, 6:30pm @ the Boggs Center*
*3061 Field St. Detroit
The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality will be hosting a follow-up discussion to many Peace Zones For Life meetings, precipitated by Robert Mitchell’s fatal tasing last spring and the ensuing Peace Zones For Life March on May 21st.
At last Wednesday’s (08/26) Detroit City of Hope meeting, Peace Zones For Life were seriously considered in a transformative manner, assessing both community individual responses as well as communal. One of the conclusions drawn was that Peace Zones must not only be internalized, but made concrete, manifest through schools, gardens, arts, and so on.
DCAPB is looking to make this step by memorializing Mitchell’s death and further conceptualizing Peace Zones through the placement of a Robert Mitchell/Peace Zone plaque on the Detroit/Warren border. Please come share your thoughts, reflections, etc. at this continuation of many historic events, as well as discuss city-wide events that will be taking place in October, on Friday, September 11th at the Boggs Center.
By Shea Howell
October 30th, 2012
Something very new is happening in Detroit. Largely unseen by the powerful elites who are locked in old ways of thinking, artists, visionaries, social philosophers, entrepreneurs, and new thinkers and doers recognize these new possibilities. The signs of this new emergence are everywhere for those who are willing to look beyond the headlines that blind us. This past weekend was a vivid example of the new ways of living being created in Detroit.
People came from Turkey, Brazil, Canada, the UK, Texas, Ohio, Wisconsin, New York and around the country to immerse themselves in a Learning Journey of Detroit. Under the guidance of Margaret Wheatley and the Boggs Center people spent four days observing with “open hearts and strong backs” the new ways of living evolving in our city. They visited urban gardens growing community along with vegetables, explored the difference between a job and new work in a church basement designed to challenge and develop the creative imagination of children, walked with people creating community relationships of peace and forgiveness and witnessed the creativity of our young people, guided by adults willing to hear, help and heal them toward their future.
Margaret Wheatley framed the Learning Journey. Wheatley is a widely respected author and thinker. Her most recent work, So Far From Home: Lost and Found in Our Brave New World, was published this October.
She writes, “For me personally, this is the most important book I’ve yet written. It describes how we ended up in this world that no one wants, a harsh, destructive world that’s emerged in spite of our best efforts to change it. I explore this brave new world using several perspectives, including my experiences in many countries with organizations of all varieties, and the newest of the new sciences, epigenetics and neuroscience. After probing deeply into this darkening world, I invite us to consciously choose a new role for ourselves, that of warriors for the human spirit. (The term ” warrior” is used from the Tibetan tradition of “one who is brave,” brave enough to never use aggression, whose only “weapons” are compassion and insight.) As warriors for the human spirit, we discover our right work, work that is ours to do no matter what. We engage wholeheartedly, embody values we cherish, let go of outcomes, and be vigilant with our relationships. We learn how to persevere, to remain focused and confident in service to the issues and people we care about, focused not so much on making a difference as on being a difference.”
Wheatley’s decision to host a Learning Journey in Detroit reflects a lifelong understanding of how real change occurs in our world. In another recent book, Walk Out Walk On: A Learning Journey Into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now. (2011) coauthored with Deborah Frieze, she describes communities in India, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Greece, Mexico, Brazil, and Ohio.
She says “In each of these places, people walked out of limiting beliefs and assumptions and walked on to create healthy and resilient communities. These Walk Outs who Walk On use their ingenuity and caring to figure out how to work with what they have to create what they need. In every case, they challenge our assumptions about what’s possible and provide us with truly hopeful examples of how a shift in beliefs makes it possible to solve seemingly intractable problems.”
Wheatley shares with the Boggs Center the belief that change happens as people work toward a vision of what is possible.
Today, people from all over the globe recognize that Detroit represents something new. They see that in the midst of the dying industrial society, people are drawing upon the deepest resources of memory and imagination to make a way out of no way and create the world anew.
By Grace Lee Boggs
December 9th, 2012
As a philosopher and political activist who has lived on the east side of Detroit for more than 60 years, I believe the citywide discussion of the possible sale of over 1500 publicly-held parcels of land in my neighborhood offers us a rare opportunity to think anew about what kind of city we need to create for the 21st Century.
One of the most important things to bear in mind is that global warming from industrial production has become increasingly threatening to all life on this planet. So we cannot afford attempts to restore Henry Ford’s Detroit. Instead we must recognize that we are living in the midst of a profound shift in how people live, a shift as great as that from a hunting and gathering society to an agricultural one 11,000 years ago and from an agricultural to an industrial one 3-400 years ago.
We in Detroit have the potential to create a new model for urban life, rooted in strong local communities that are self-sufficient, producing food, energy, art and culture in ways that create joy and also develop our human capacities for care and responsibility for the Earth and for each other.
At the beginning of this century more than half the world’s people live in urban environments for the first time in human history. By 2025 China alone is projected to have 200 cities with more than one million people each. The United States has just nine. No one believes the earth can sustain the consumption paths we are on. In fact, if everyone today consumed at the rate of the U.S., we would need 3-5 new planets just to provide the natural resources for such consumption.
As one of the first major industrial cities on the globe, Detroit can now point the way to a new and better future. People from around the world are already looking to our urban agricultural movement as a model.
The key to the success of our urban agriculture is not only local food production. It is a recognition that in the process of growing food to sustain ourselves, we are also growing our communities, rekindling ties among generations, giving our children a sense of process, and creating possibilities for new forms of democracy and local sovereignty to develop.
The effort to sell a large section of public land to a single individual for his own benefit is exactly the wrong direction for our city and its potential. Such a move will begin the process of making land itself more scarce and costly. It reminds me of the efforts of early industrials to enclose the commons in England because they realized that as long as people had access to land, they would not go quietly into the evolving cities to work in the dehumanizing factories of the day.
Detroit has been home to extraordinarily creative solutions to the problems left behind by dying industry. Drawing on the deepest memories of community life in the rural south, African American women and men have been making a way out of no way, turning abandoned lots into productive gardens. We are learning that a city that feeds itself frees itself.
The Hantz proposal for a vast industrially-based monocrop understands none of this. The City Council should reject this proposal and begin to envision how it can support the real work of transforming our city into a global example of ways of living that hold the best promise for our and humanity’s future.
The people of Detroit are beginning to imagine a new life for their near-dead city.
By James R. Gaines (text) and Chris Bravo (video) (www.flypmedia.com)
No American city ever rose so fast-from a trading post to the hub of
global industry within a few decades-or fell so far. The last
comparable collapse in the Americas came with the end of Mayan
civilization, a thousand years ago.
Large swaths of Detroit seem to have been hit by a neutron bomb.
Sometimes a building will look entirely normal, even beautiful, until
you come close enough to see that weeds and treelets-a species of
Chinese plant that somehow got loose there-are growing out of its
glassless windows. Some people call it “the ghetto palm,” others “the
tree of heaven.”
The old Packard plant, built in 1906, stands as the ultimate ruins of a
city and the idea that built it. On a cold sunny Sunday morning, a
longtime UAW member named Rich Feldman stood in front of it and said,
“I bring people here to see the pain and the hurt that are present in
our city. It’s a breaking point, a way of saying we can never go back
again. These 40 long-abandoned buildings represent a standard of living
for working-class Americans beyond anything that anyone could have ever
imagined, and it is gone.”
Feldman has been watching the collapse of his city for the last 20
years, during which officials have issued ten times more demolition
permits than building permits. He has also seen something else.
Rising up from the ashes! Rising up from the ashes!
It’s the title and refrain of a hip-hop CD documenting Detroit’s
dropout population. That includes almost three quarters of all black
students in the city.
Detroit is a gold mine for leaden statistics like that one: it’s the
poorest big city in the U.S., with about a third of its residents
living below the poverty line. There were 394 murders, 341 rapes and
6,575 robberies in the city last year, and almost 20,000 cars were
That is the Detroit story everybody knows. Feldman will tell you that
another one is being written.
That CD, for example: it was made by Detroit kids, in a program called
the Live Arts Media Project. Many of those kids were dropouts.
Refusing to surrender to poverty and crime, Detroit is witnessing new
community development programs that take aim at root causes and try to
grow a new economy from the ground up. Many of these are independent of
the government. All over town, people are opening stores and markets,
starting businesses and small factories in their basements.
Urban gardens are springing up on the vacant lots. When people are hungry,
the new gardens and their gardeners feed them.
Artists have remade whole blocks of ruined houses into a lively,
tale-telling urban landscape, while hundreds of independent record
labels incubate in bedrooms and garages that have been wired for
There is a live poetry reading somewhere in town virtually every night of
*ONE SMALL STEP FOR A MAN…*
The collapse of Detroit parallels what is happening elsewhere in
America. What happens next will depends on who comes by-or comes back,
or stays around-to fix it.
“My American dream,” Feldman says, “is one that makes a strong
distinction between the standard of living, which folks once thought
was the answer to all concerns, and quality of life-the dignity of the
lives of people.”
On the following pages are some of the people who are trying to make a new
Detroit-and they believe, a new America.
*Food: From urban rust to verdant green*
*With its 139 square miles, Detroit has one of America’s largest
urban footprints. In 1950, that land held 2 million citizens, today
there are less than half that. This fact, combined with homelessness,
joblessness and falling incomes among working people, makes a
compelling argument for urban agriculture and local businesses built
around local food. Detroit has a lot of that already, and more is on
*Detroit Black Community Food Security Network:* The Detroit Black
Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN) was formed to create new jobs
and support a new economy with the production of local food-and to keep
the profits in Detroit’s black community.
*EarthWorks Urban Farm:* EarthWorks Urban Farm, an outgrowth of
the Capuchin monks’ soup kitchen, now includes an apiary, kids’ classes
and a mobile market.
*The Arts: Imagining a new conversation*
*Above ground, Detroit’s symphony, museum, opera and theater are
still thriving. Just a little deeper, down in the grassroots, there is
a profusion of new growth-from hundreds of independent music labels and
a vibrant new generation of performance poets to a new theatrical and
visual vocabulary of the urban landscape. Detroit’s artists are
inventing ways to make the city itself a work of art. *
The Heidelberg Project:* Named for its street, the work of
artist Tyree Guyton has brought to light to what was among Detroit’s
most benighted neighborhoods.
*A Theater of Experience: *Director Aku Kadogo, a Detroit native
who returned after a long career abroad, teaches her drama students at
Wayne State University how to draw from the legacy of African-American
The Poem is the City: *Like others in Detroit’s vibrant new poetry scene,
Will Copeland finds
his inspiration in the movement toward a new Detroit and a new urban
*Beyond school: The textbook is life*
*In a city where the black dropout rate is almost 75 percent, the
need for new approaches is obvious. Several organizations, including
Detroit Summer and the Eastern Michigan Environmental Action Council,
have stepped into the breach with programs that teach kids about media,
entrepreneurship, personal responsibility and the power of community.
Their goal is a new economy and a newly empowered citizenry.*
*Detroit Summer:* Started in the early 1990s, Detroit Summer has
spawned a dozen projects for the city’s youth, including the Live Arts
Media Project (LAMP).
East Michigan Environmental Action Council:* EMEAC teaches kids how to use
media to support environmental responsibility. The kids use what they’ve
learned as they see fit.
*Community: Hospitals for the soul*
*They are all in the work of community development, but that’s a
fancy phrase for a lot of what they do. A young woman gets out of jail
at 25, after ten years. What is she to make of the rest of her life? A
family is evicted. Where do they go? A mother is addicted to crack with
no husband and 11 children at home. As often as not, the work of
community development is done one life at a time.*
*Hush House:* Part safe house, part think tank, part publisher and
part community center, Hush House is also a museum, a newspaper and an
Friends of Detroit & Tri-County: *In
a 23,000-foot former meat packing plant, Mike Wimberley houses a
computer school, classes for sewing, a music studio and a licensed
*”The world I grew up in as a radical was a world that thought of
leadership in a very vertical way-leadership and followership. And I
think that the world has changed so much that it’s possible to say, ‘we
are the leaders we’ve been waiting for.’” *
Grace Lee Boggs, the widow of autoworker-revolutionary Jimmy Boggs,
runs the Boggs Center, which cultivates community leaders and is ground
zero for much of the new thinking about Detroit’s future. Now 93, Boggs
is a kind of hero to the reformers of Detroit, and to meet her is to
Her perspective is far-sighted, backward and forward. “Detroit is the
most striking example of the transition that cities all over the
country are undergoing-from industrial society, which has collapsed or
is sinking very fast, to post-industrial society.”
She sees the same thing happening in Akron and Oakland and Milwaukee
and Buffalo-a transition she calls “as far-reaching as the one from
hunting and gathering 11,000 years ago to agriculture. And from
agriculture to industry 300 years ago.”
A political activist since the 1930s, she has no illusions that this
transition will be easy. But, like her husband, she does not think
progress can depend on help from on high or outside, whether from
President Barack Obama or anybody else.
“We are the leaders we’ve been waiting for,” she says.
Neither Boggs, nor the many other young and old activists who are
trying to remake Detroit, pretend that utopia is at hand. But in the
depths of post-industrial blight, they’re finding reasons for hope.
Who knows what may come of a thing like that?
Check out the new website for Detroit Summer Website: with Democracy Now interviews with Jon and Invincible.
For a media treat about “Another Detroit is Happening” call: 888-317-8418, Multi- Media Mural Project. The story is told. Don’t miss the next tour.
Detroit Works, the Mayor Dave Bing-initiated plan to reshape Detroit, is like a ship stuck in the ice in the wintertime in Lake Superior. This project has been “working” for approximately two years now, and what do we have as a product? More items disassembled, more pieces lying around, but still no vehicle that rolls, flies or floats — no vehicle to reflect a new Detroit.
It seems that all the researchers, demographers and futurists who have decided that Detroit needs an infusion of something new have left many of those who have committed their lives and sacred fortunes to this city out of the equation.
Those were the voices who assembled last year and gave Mayor Bing and his department heads their plan for their neighborhoods and their city. This was the substance of the public hearings held last year — only after the community told Bing et al. that they had not been consulted regarding their future.
So after such a great litany of individuals speaking, why did it take another roughly 40 discussions to find out what had already been said? It makes one wonder: Was there ever a real desire to listen? Was this really going to be a people-driven plan, or one that was foundation-funded and corporate-driven?
Detroit is not like a dead battery. It does not need a jump-start from individuals who act like roadside attendants who come and tell us, for big money, why our car won’t start. Detroiters are more than capable. That was evidenced by the 300-plus people who participated in the “Detroiters for Democracy” discussions at the Boggs Center, named after the iconic Detroit organizers and theoreticians James and Grace Lee Boggs, for planning and executing Detroit’s future.
Out of those discussions came the following:
Any plan for Detroit must be developed from the bottom up. It must be driven by local, community-based businesses who serve the basic needs of our citizens.
There is clearly a dichotomy between a corporate-driven scenario and a community-driven scenario. The community seeks to build people, neighborhoods and relationships, while much of what we have seen in Detroit Works seeks to develop data and fill empty spaces and buildings with new tenants — tenants who have little or no understanding of the rich cultural history of this area.
A great example of this was seen when I addressed one of Mayor Bing’s town hall meetings last year. One of the highly paid consultants mentioned that Detroit needed to do things that would encourage a return to its middle-class roots. I felt as if the ghost of every worker who fought the “Battle of the Overpass” at the Ford Rouge Plant had literally jumped into my soul.
“Detroit does not need to return to its middle-class roots.” I was compelled to say, “Instead, it will be enriched and transformed by its working-class history, toughness and ingenuity.”
The people cheered.
The Fiat Group, which now owns Chrysler, in that commercial run during the Super Bowl, reminded us of who we are here in Detroit. It showed the fist of Joe Louis, the sweat of the workers, the grit of the city, the multiculturalism of our masses, and the spiritual connectivity with our rhythm-and-blues, jazz and hip-hop roots.
We, the people of Detroit, will make the future. That does not have to be imported.
Detroiters are redefining “economy.” Throughout the 20th century, companies comprising Detroit’s industrial economy provided jobs to people who bought things and paid taxes to government, which provided services. In Detroit’s grassroots economy, which has evolved over many decades, people are creating their own jobs and exchanging local resources directly. Communities are solving basic economic and human problems collectively. At the same time, they are producing new knowledge and resources, restoring relationships across generations, and healing neighborhoods.
By Grace Lee Boggs
October 21st, 2012
Last Saturday I spoke at the 2012 biennial gathering of Kellogg Fellows meeting at the Detroit Westin. This year’s theme was “Resilience, Transformation, Transcendence.” Also on the program was Dr. Regina Benjamin, the U.S. Surgeon General who is a Kellogg Fellow. In my remarks I described how drastically Detroit has changed since I moved to the city 60 years ago.
In 1953 it was a city of two million. The Chrysler plant where Jimmy worked employed 17,000 workers. If you threw a stone up in the air in our neighborhood the chances were that it would hit a Chrysler worker on the way down.
Two years later, because of Hi-Tech and decentralization, that same plant employed only 2000 workers. If you threw a stone up in the air, the chances were that it would land on a vacant lot.
Most people view vacant lots only as blight, full of dead cats, used tires, discarded mattresses. But during the war Detroit had become a city of African Americans who, like Jimmy, had been born and raised in the Jim Crow South and had survived by “making a way out of no way.”
These “country” folk re-imagined the vacant lots as abundance rather than abandonment; as an opportunity to grow food for the community and in the process give “quick fix city kids” a different sense of time.
This Re-Imagining of Detroit’s vacant lots by Detroit’s African-Americans was the turning point. It gave birth to the urban agricultural movement.
As a result, in Detroit today we are in the process of Re-Imagining everything: Work, Education, Food, Community Safety, what it means to be self-determining, what it means to be human.
We are taking advantage of the deindustrialization and devastation of our city to begin anew. We are in the process of making the next American Revolution.
By Grace Lee Boggs
December 23rd, 2012
As the climate crisis worsens, and more people and places in the world are devastated by hurricanes, droughts and other weather catastrophes, we need more discussion on the role that disaster can play in bringing about social transformation.
Many progressives have accepted Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine narrative that disasters provide opportunities for right wing forces to take over (“disaster capitalism”). But it has been rejected as “disempowering” by anti-nuke activist and writer Rebecca Solnit in her fascinating book A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities that Arise in Disaster.
Solnit believes that disasters provide the opportunity for people to grow spiritually.
“Although disasters are terrible, tragic, grievous and not to be desired, they provide an extraordinary window into social desire and possibility and what manifests there matters elsewhere in ordinary times and in other extraordinary times.”
In other words, disasters provide opportunities for Visionary Organizing.
Thus, touring Detroit in 2007, Solnit not only noted our devastation by deindustrialization but was so impressed by our community gardens that she ended her Harper’s Magazine article ‘Detroit Arcadia” with this observation: “Detroit is where change is most urgent and therefore most viable. The rest of us will get there later, when necessity drives us too, and by that time Detroit may be the shining example we can look to, the post- industrial green city that was once the steel-gray capital of Fordist manufacturing.”(Boggs Center website).
This week, as we say goodbye to 2012 and welcome 2013, I am happy to report that New York City‘s devastation by Hurricane Sandy birthed URBAN UPRISING! “a two day gathering of architects, activists, urban designers and planners from around the country to re-imagine the city for the next hundred years, a call for engaged citizens to confront key challenges of the 21st century: environmental, economic, social and political. Participants from more than 80 civic organizations across the city were invited to collaborate in working groups to develop strategic action plans to radically alter the way a city works, and who it serves.
“Day two sessions were at The New School where we were welcomed by Miguel Robles-Duràn, Director of the Design and Urban Ecologies program at Parsons. First panelist, Rachel LaForest of The Right to the City Alliance, asked the audience to break out of the mindset of choosing goals based on what was winnable and introduced the notion of transformative demands like Housing for People, Not Profit.
“Professor Emeritus of Urban Planning Peter Marcuse challenged attendees to imagine a real occupation of Wall Street where the stock exchange hosted general assemblies and the high rises that now house banking enterprises instead housed the homeless. He offered as inspiration a vision of a society where people work without pay and life’s necessities were accepted as inalienable rights and guaranteed to every citizen.
“Matt Birkhold, who co-founded Growing Roots with Amaka Okechukwu, took jabs at the crowd and poked fun at himself for insistently fighting to prevent cuts to the budgets of institutions that we all know are failing, giving little thought to how we might instead begin reinventing them. Nancy Romer offered a slide presentation that played like a science fiction thriller, evidencing, through graphic representation of the rise in obesity, the attack on the American public through the corporate food system. Ruth Wilson Gilmore closed the session with a matter-of-fact, yet shockingly accurate geography lesson that expanded New York City beyond the five boroughs to include our incarcerated population in correctional facilities across the state, immigrant detainees and migrant workers.
“Urban Uprising attendees were offered a menu of discussion groups. We had just two hours to come to agreement about how to work together, come up with clear definitions and then ‘design’ our public space. During our orientation, someone burst into the room to announce that, although they wouldn’t be participating in our particular break, it was imperative we include ‘sacred space’ as part of our vision….There were occasional interruptions and a few late walk-ins, but we managed to get to work pretty quickly and the tone remained light and very respectful.
“After lunch the individual working groups were merged into pairs. This was done to remind all of the participants that these issues are interconnected and to encourage thinking across area of interest. Arts & Culture was matched with Criminal Justice; the Public Space working group was merged with Just Communities which created space to continue investigating the question of who has access to public space and how it equates to social justice.”
Detroit ‘s devastation by deindustrialization created the space for urban agriculture.
NYC’s devastation by Hurricane Sandy birthed URBAN UPRISING! Read the story here.
This is a must see.
This video series features a conversation between four women activists in Detroit, Michigan. As organizers rooted in work in Detroit, they also see the connections between the local and the global. Though they represent different backgrounds, generations, and organizing experiences, each is committed to building collaborative movements and alternative systems.
In the open, light-filled space of a repurposed factory, Will Allen, a towering urban farmer and CEO in a sleeveless hoodie, declared, “Urban farming has gone from a movement to a revolution.” Allen made this observation July 8, when he was present to watch the newest members of the revolution-1,200 small yellow perch-arrive at Sweet Water Organics.
We would like to invite you and fellow artists you know across the city of Detroit to participate in the Eastside Peoples Festival Saturday, June 11, 2011 from 10am – 3pm.
This invitation is especially to artists who have or make available audio CD’s or DVD’s of their performance work that can be sold (all performing and spoken word artists, as well as digital media artists), and to artists with work to sell in the textile arts, mechanical arts, and graphic arts (painters, printscreeners, and apparel/printmakers).
We are a group of community focused organizations and interfaith congregations who have planned this festival to celebrate all that is good and positive about the Eastside community, and build our relationships with one another.
If you choose to participate, you will have the following for FREE:
**One-half of an 8′ table to display and offer your art for sale for FREE.
**An opportunity to perform at the festival for FREE
FREE food and drink.
**If you would like to be added to the performance schedule, we can talk with you about that also. We need to confirm your attendance/participation, as well as the time you will arrive and leave the festival.
Please contact Carmen Rembert, Iroquois Christ Lutheran Church, at either email@example.com, or (313) 921-2667. You may leave a message at the church and someone will contact you.
Thank you, and we look forward to your helping us make this event a success to unify and rebuild our community.
Were I an aspiring farmer in search of fertile land to buy and plow, I would seriously consider moving to Detroit. There is open land, fertile soil, ample water, willing labor, and a desperate demand for decent food. And there is plenty of community will behind the idea of turning the capital of American industry into an agrarian paradise. In fact, of all the cities in the world, Detroit may be best positioned to become the world’s first one hundred percent food self-sufficient city.
If you want to see what love of community looks like, take a stroll down the 400 block of West Willis between Cass and Second.
There, you’ll find a piece of pride that community warriors staked out years ago. These small businesses, which include Avalon Breads, Revolution Books and the gift and bookstores in the Spiral Collective, are evidence that Detroit is a roller coaster, not a race. There are ups and downs, but the village keeps going, sometimes stopping to get new riders, sometimes stopping for repairs, but always going.
The neighborhood calls itself West Willis Village, a collection of green-collar workers, 21st-Century hippies and cultural champions on a block that’s the closest thing to a funky New York Greenwich Village street that you’ll find within 10 miles of City Hall. And they’re having a party.
The block will host a celebration from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday honoring the 12th anniversary of Avalon Breads, which offers customers organic and healthy goodies and great coffee; the resilience of Revolution Books, first resident on the block; and other businesses that include Flo Boutique, Goodwells Natural Food, the Re:View Contemporary Art Gallery, Dell Pryor Gallery, Source Booksellers, Curl Up and Dye, and Tulani Rose, the accessories and well-being gift store. They also are celebrating that Textures by Nefertiti, one of the city’s only styling salons exclusively for locks, has opened its new body, mind and spirit hair spa one block away.
Jackie Victor, co-owner of Avalon with Ann Perrault, remembers the early days.
A Detroit native, she graduated from the University of Michigan in 1988 and moved to the city to support James and Grace Boggs’ campaign to rejuvenate Detroit.
“I said it would be cool to have a bakery in the neighborhood,” said Victor. So she and Perrault moved to northern Michigan and worked for $7 an hour at an artisan bakery owned by a former Coleman Young appointee.
“We did that a whole summer … 1:30a.m. until 9:30 a.m.,” she said.
They met breadheads, local dough aficionados who taught them a thing or two about flavor. They wrote a business plan, got funded by a Buddhist priest and came back to Detroit. Two years later, a guy named Z opened a clothing store called Jambalaya and a village was born. Jambalaya became Flo, the Spiral opened and the block developed a following. A decade later, the block is thriving, and the bakery is committed to permanence.
“We really had hoped it would be an oasis of healing and compassion in a world that is sorely in need,” Victor said. “That’s our customer service mission statement. It’s not perfect. People are very forgiving of our imperfection and yet people seem to draw a disproportionate amount of inspiration and energy and joy from it.”
It hasn’t always been easy. Victor recalled a time when she and Perrault almost gave up. They were having drinks to discuss closing when a woman walked up and said, ‘Can I just tell you guys something? Do you know that sometimes you guys are the reason I stay in Detroit?’ We said, ‘OK, that’s just crazy … and we scrapped the conversation.
“To see seven new businesses emerge on the block over 12 years, to see hundreds of new residential apartments and townhouses emerge, to see the neighborhood really take on a renewed life, it’s gratifying.”
Avalon — and the other businesses on the block — plan to keep it that way.
“We always pay our employees. We always pay our taxes. That’s our definition of success. It’s a keeper.”
Eat, shop, celebrate and get involved in dialogue to help improve our community.
The National Lawyers Guild and the National Conference of Black Lawyers will present a free to the public political awareness event to be held on Saturday, February 6, 2010 from noon to 5pm.
The event, “From Chaos to Community,” will commemorate Black History Month and serve as a venue for which community members can speak out on oppression issues. It will be held at the International Institute Hall of Nations and will include food & art vendors, music, poetry, and political action tabling.
The focus of the event will be on three topics that people of color in the Detroit area continue to face; police brutality, political incarceration, youth and community violence. Dialog facilitators will include;
Poets performing at the event include,
Music will be provided by Khary Frazier and there will also be a showing of the short film, “The Black Panther.”
By Shea Howell
April 21st, 2013
These are unprecedented times in Detroit. One man has the absolute power to make every decision about the public life of our city. The Emergency Manager has complete authority over every single aspect of civic responsibility. The Mayor and City Council serve at his pleasure. They have no independent decision making authority. Contracts with unions, pension funds, health care, the delivery of basic services, the priorities of the budget, the use of public money, and the disposal of public assets all rest on his authority alone. Long standing covenants designed to increase public awareness and foster accountability in elected officials are all set aside. There are no requirements for public hearings, no application of the Open Meetings Act, and no need to notify or justify decisions about the sale of public properties.
This elimination of local control over civic life has been justified by the financial crisis facing the city. Although many cities and towns across the nation face financial difficulties, only in Michigan are these difficulties tied to the removal of elected officials. There are currently 23 states that have the power to intervene in municipal finances. Only Michigan ties this intervention to the elimination of the power of elected officials.
Moreover, the scope of the current enabling legislation, Public Act 436, grants broad power to a single individual. This is intentional. The current legislation changed the title of the individual from Emergency Financial Manager to Emergency Manager.
This change is more than semantics. It was in direct response to the efforts by the Elected Detroit School board to challenge the decisions of then Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb over curriculum, methods of instruction, and texts in the schools. The court upheld the responsibility of the elected School Board, stressing the emphasis on financial management, and limiting the scope of Robert Bobb’s actions. Not for long of course. The right wing state legislature rushed to enact Public Act 4, which expanded the powers of individual overseers of school boards and municipalities, converting all Emergency Financial Managers to Emergency Managers.
This act, successfully overturned by a hard fought public referendum, was met with yet another effort by the legislature to strip local governments. Thus we are now functioning under Public Act 436, which grants to the single governor appointed Emergency Manager the power to act “for and in the place of” all municipal authority.
This is a completely new situation. As the most recent court challenge to this law says, “Public Act 436 establishes a new form of local government, previously unknown within the united States or the State of Michigan, where the people within local municipalities may be governed by an unelected official who establishes local law by decree.”
Over the last few years, these emergency manager efforts have been met with unprecedented resistance. Elected officials in managed communities have mounted legal challenges, organized public meetings, and attempted to meet their responsibilities outside of authorized channels. Petitions were circulated and defended. At every opportunity, the people have voted down this legislation. Now we are witnessing protests, public meetings, and renewed court challenges.
But there is a deeper calling for all of us at this moment. It is the calling toward creating beloved communities that Dr. King evoked nearly a half century ago. Today around the city, in quiet and often unknown places, people are questioning, sharing, praying, probing, acting, and struggling to create new ways to secure our safety and to heal one another, our communities and the earth. Many people recognize that simply restoring representative governments will not solve the many challenges we face.
Instead, people throughout the city are invoking the idea of beloved community. This has inspired generations of people around the world to struggle for justice, peace and healing. It is a vision we can all call upon as we seek to transform war zones to peace zones, hatred to love, domination to shared community
The Detroit Digital Justice Coalition presents:
Future City Media Workshops
Offering FREE 22 week workshops in:
Audio / Graphics / Video / Web
…Education / Grassroots organizing / Entrepreneurship
OPEN HOUSE INFORMATION SESSION: WEDNESDAY, FEB 16TH, 7-9PM
@ ALLIED MEDIA PROJECTS 4126 THIRD AVE
The Future City Media Workshops are 22 week trainings for Detroiters interested in building a community media economy and an awesome future for Detroit. The workshops will offer advanced training in audio, video, graphics, and web design skills. They will also offer training in digital media education and entrepreneurship. Participants will graduate with the unique skill sets necessary to train other Detroiters in digital media, create their own jobs, foster cooperative forms of community wealth creation, and support media-based community organizing for a better Detroit!
The Detroit Digital Justice Coalition is comprised of people and organizations in Detroit who believe that communication is a fundamental human right. We are securing that right through activities that are grounded in the digital justice principles of: access, participation, common ownership, and healthy communities.
YOU SHOULD APPLY IF YOU:
▲*have some experience in creating digital media.
▲*have some experience in teaching -or- have some small business experience.
▲*are between the ages of 18-80.
▲*are dedicated to creating a community media economy and an awesome future for Detroit.
This latest video is from the hogpath blog and wraps up an interview series from November of 2008.
Ignore the mainstream media. Detroit is not about architectural ruins. The people are re-imagining their city in fresh and courageous ways and there is a lot to learn from them.
Come to Milwaukee and help grow the good food revolution. Hosted by Growing Power—a national organization headed by the sustainable urban farmer and MacArthur Fellow Will Allen—this international conference will teach the participant how to plan, develop and grow small farms in urban and rural areas. Learn how you can grow food year-round, no matter what the climate, and how you can build markets for small farms. See how you can play a part in creating a new food system that fosters better health and more closely-knit communities.
The home town of mass production is turning green again. The decline of the American auto industry has turned one of the nations wealthiest cities into one of the poorest. Nature has taken over abandoned lots, and the city is ‘greening’ from within. This new landscape is creating opportunities and hope for the city and its residents. Land that was used for farming a century ago has again been cultivated, this time by the urban farmer. This inspiring and well made documentary tells the story of a group of young women who are changing their individual futures and the future of the city.
Visit the website here to watch the film online. In order to do so, however, you must contact the producers at firstname.lastname@example.org to receive log-in information.
Find out more at hans2010.com
December 9th, 2012
Hantz Farms drive to take over nearly 2000 publically owned lots on the East Side is an opportunity to think very differently about how we approach land use. We urge the City Council to put in place productive, visionary principles, policies, and practices to guide this and all future efforts at development.
There are some things everyone agrees upon. First, Detroit neighborhoods suffer from neglect. Public policies and private developers have focused their efforts downtown. On those rare occasions when developments moved into smaller communities, long-term residents were evicted, driven out, or displaced. This history fuels much of the opposition to Hantz. It is not a distant history. It is a pattern repeating itself today in the Cass Corridor as it transforms to Midtown, in Corktown, parts of southwest Detroit, and the east side.
Second, this is the largest single land deal the city has ever considered. It will be a massive property transfer of public land to a private developer.
Third, citizens of Detroit have a fierce determination to have a say in the policies that shape our collective future. From the first ill-fated Detroit Works public meeting where over 1000 citizens unexpectedly turned out, through the 82% vote rejecting Emergency Managers, to the more than 300 people outside City Council chambers at the end of November demanding a public hearing on Hantz plans, Detroiters want a collective, engaged, broadly based, participatory process for determining the direction of our city. They are becoming increasing less tolerant of representative bodies that bow to corporate interests. Many recognize that corporate-foundation managed engagement processes are no substitute for serious democratic decision making.
Against this background, the Detroit City Council has been struggling to fulfill its responsibilities. In spite of the relentless criticism by the mainstream media and corporate elite, Council has been consistently sensitive to public processes. Their refusal to turn Belle Isle over to state management was recognition of their role as guardians of public trust.
Council should bring a similar skepticism to bear on the Hantz Farms deal. Instead of jumping into a massive land sale, we encourage the Council to put in place policies and practices that will move neighborhood developments onto positive, principled and productive frameworks.
The council should develop Community Benefit Polices requiring that all developers commit to Community Benefit Agreements (CBA) and to produce Community Impact Reports. These processes have been widely adopted by other cities and could go a long way in answering concerns about the most vulnerable among us. These processes would build on the authentic democratic process emerging in our city.
A CBA is more than an agreement between Hantz Farm and the Lower Eastside Action Plan (LEAP) group. While I have respect for LEAP’s work, they have been little more than a cheerleading organization for Hantz. They have not questioned the purpose or process of the scheme. Their letter of support to the Council says they believe Hantz’s mission “is to help people achieve their life dreams, and to build more sustainable communities.” How do they reconcile this with the comment that Hantz’s main objective is to create scarcity? How to they account for Hantz’s refusal to meet with opposition community groups to find common ground?
A true CBA would explore question like how Hantz intends to handle the demolition of 115 structures. At a conservative estimate of $8000 per structure, this will cost $920,000. Where will this money come from? Where will it go? What is the cost-benefit analysis of the tax credits Hantz is counting on for doing this demolition?
A CBA could mandate that 75% of the demolition be handled by Detroit firms. It could demand 50% of those be non-profit and faith based groups.
The City Council should seize this opportunity to create new processes that could benefit the whole community, not just the dreams of a single individual.
By Shea Howell
November 26th, 2012
John Hantz is pressuring the City Council to sell nearly 2000 vacant lots on the East side to him. Last week, in spite of an informal agreement that this deal would be put on hold until the Detroit Agricultural Policy was in place, Rob Anderson, the Director of the city’s Planning and Development Department urged the council committee to approve the deal. The council’s Planning and Economic Development Committee, chaired by Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins, declined approval awaiting more specifics. Mike Score, President of Hantz Farms told the committee he would work with the planning staff to have a planning agreement for their approval before this week’s session.
And that is the core of the problem. At best, this committee will have a day to review a planning agreement that will cover the largest single land sale in the history of the city. This deal is 3 times as large as the Poletown debacle. It holds implications for the residents of the area and has persistently been weak on specifics. As Councilman Kenyatta commented at the hearing, “No one thinks this deal is so Hantz can cut the grass on vacant lots.”
Councilman Cockrel noted that the deal raised basic questions of fairness. Why should John Hantz be given rapid approval for land purchases at this moment? Why are others not given an equal opportunity? As Councilman Cockrel pointed out, the Recovery Park Project, an equally ambitious program, has been put on hold. What is the rush on this deal? Will it make the Recovery Park effort more difficult? What will be the impact on the growing urban garden movement? What will be the impact on residents?
These questions seem worth pursuing. But they also raise some fundamental issues for the Council to consider about its own responsibilities. First, much of the contentiousness around Hantz Farms and other development efforts would be moderated if the Council, as a matter of course, required Community Benefit Agreements (CBA’s). In the early 1990’s activists influenced by environmental justice saw these agreements as a way to offer a broader vision for urban reconstruction and to ensure that residents get permanent improvements in the quality of their lives. Beginning in Los Angeles, the CBA movement has spread to several other cities including Pittsburg, San Diego, Syracuse and Atlanta.
By bringing together a broad based community coalition to work with developers and city officials in an inclusive, transparent, and accountable process, the CBA has proven to be a tool that enables development to reflect deeper community values to the benefit of those often left out or victimized by such efforts in the past.
The Planning and Economic Development Committee is aware of these practices. At the same meeting with Hantz, they requested that Henry Ford Health Systems provide such an agreement with the residents of the area affected by a proposed development plan there. The Council is also aware of the efforts by developers to turn this process into a sham by creating their own sponsored citizen advisory groups. Councilwoman Jenkins sharply questioned representatives of HFHS as to why they wanted to create their own citizens advisory council instead of dealing with the coalition of organizations already well established in the area affected by the proposed expansion.
Additionally, the City Council should consider establishing a policy that protects the tax structure of long term and elder residents in areas affected by sale of city lands. At a minimum, taxes on residents and elders should be fixed at current rates, with predictable small increments over time. This would enable people to stay in their homes, rather than be taxed out as land values increase.
The one specific purpose stated by Hantz for this land grab is to create scarcity. This has predictable effects that bring about the most inequitable and unfair results of development schemes. We, and our City Council can do better than this.
It isn’t what she said — I couldn’t hear her well standing in the back of the room. It was what others said about Grace Lee Boggs, revered activist, that moved me during her 94th birthday celebration last night.
A motley crowd, indeed. Young and older. People from the city, suburbs and way across the water. Lawyers, rappers, students. Musicians, students, pastors, journalists. Families. Teachers. Activists, for sure.
They were all at Central United Methodist Church in Detroit for Boggs.
The man in front of me: “That’s an honor for all these people to come. When I told my mother where I was going, she said, ‘Ooooooo, that’s an honor.’”
A woman who no longer lives in Detroit and who hasn’t seen Grace in 26 years: “I just got back from China six days ago for a first-ever conference for women’s studies and her name was evoked three times while I was there.”
My friend, who said this as we walked in: “I’m just glad to be in the same room with her.” She tweeted — good grief — about it the whole time. Final tweet: “Just had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Boggs. This is a good day.”
Guest speaker Danny Glover, the actor and activist: “I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. Thank you for being a part of my life.”
Group Emphasizes Cooperation over Confrontation
Heal Detroit will launch its second community restoration event:
Saturday, August 7th, 2010
9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Palmer Park Community Picnic
3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Pontchartrain Drive & Seven Mile Road
The clean-up will occur in the following neighborhoods:
“If the city is to change and violence is to abate, we must start from the bottom up,” said organizer Lakeisha Harris. That’s why we as citizens of Detroit are taking the lead to change the physical and cultural atmosphere in our city.”
Following the tragic shootings of 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley Jones and 17-year-old Jerean Blake, and the issuance of a call to a community-wide response to violence by Detroit-based entertainer Al Nuke and organizer Lakeisha Harris, Heal Detroit came together last month to initiate a march that drew more than 500 people who walked from the east and west sides of Seven Mile Road to converge at Palmer Park for a rally focused on peace-making throughout Detroit. The group consists of citizens and numerous community-based organizations. The groups “Urban Network,” “It Takes a Village Y’all,” and “Peace Zones 4 Life,” will serve as co-sponsors for the event.
Heal Detroit invites community organizations and businesses alike throughout the city to the clean-up and picnic. For more information, contact Lakeisha Harris at 313.974.5932.
The whole fucking community is in the prison system; everybody knows somebody who’s been locked up. if we think that’s the solution, we’re twisted.
You wrote your book based on your nine-year prison sentence. Tell us how you wound up in the “belly of the beast,” as you put it, and why you decided to write the book. I was convicted of assault with intent to rob. It was my second offense as an adult, and was ignited from the gang culture I was involved in (Zone 8). Some of my homeboys went to a local school and jumped some guys. The police didn’t know the perpetrators, but they knew it was a gang.
The local gang squad investigated the case, and when they looked at the list of gang members, my name was on top of the list. I had a long history with one of the detectives, and one of the people assaulted was his nephew, so all the cards were against me.
Tyree Williams has been selected as 1 of 4 high school students in the Country to debate at the Smithsonian Institute in DC for Policy Debate the week of April 17th, and of course his super proud mom, Tawana Petty who attends nearly everything, wants to be there front and center. However, due to recent car expenses, health expenses, etc., she cannot afford the trip to support him.
Please help Tawana to go support her son in Washington, DC.
The Marygrove College Institute for Detroit Studies presents a Defining Detroit event:
Henry Ford and the Rise of Protest Politics in Black Detroit
Lecture, Discussion, Booksigning featuring: Beth Tompkins Bates
Weds, October 17, 2012 at 7:30pm
Main Dining Room, Madame Cadillac Building
Marygrove College, 8425 W. McNichols at Wyoming, Detroit, MI
Free and Open to the Public
For more info, call 313-927-1291
By Grace Lee Boggs
May 12th, 2013
Over the May 18-19 weekend the Detroit Museum of African American History (MAAH ) will be celebrating the 88th birthday of Malcolm X who was born May 19, 1925 and killed February 21, 1965.
On Saturday the film Make it Plain will be shown, and my old friend University of Massachusetts Professor Bill Strickland will be speaking.
Sunday afternoon I will speak briefly about why honoring Malcolm in the 21st century has become so important.
Most people associate Malcolm with violence. But Malcolm’s unique power came not from physical weapons but from his courage and skill in speaking the truths that empower us to go beyond viewing ourselves as victims. He was always challenging us to look in the mirror and accept responsibility for our pain and suffering instead of looking for others to blame.
Thus, after the assassination of President Kennedy in November 1963, Malcolm said “The chickens have come home to roost.”
Malcolm’s comment involved only seven words but those seven words were dangerous because they called upon us, the American people, to recognize and take responsibility for the terrorism that people all over the world have been experiencing as a result of our government’s foreign policies.
In fact, Malcolm’s few words were so dangerous that Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad suspended him for uttering them, fearful that they would bring the wrath of the authorities down on the organization.
In the 21st century, since 911, we have been living in fear of terrorists, without acknowledging that (as Noam Chomsky put it recently) the U.S. is the world’s top terrorist state.
Honoring Malcolm in the 21st century is also important because it is in this century that the American Dream has died, challenging us to create a new dream. This challenge was one of Malcolm‘s most important contributions. I can still see people at his meetings squirming with discomfort as he chided us for our continuing dependence on status quo institutions instead of creating our own.
If Malcolm were alive today, I am confident that he would be warning us against trying to discover Muslim connections for the Boston Marathon bombing suspects.
He would be urging us instead to acknowledge that we are enjoying our comforts and conveniences at the expense of people all over the world and that the chickens have come home to roost.
If we do not listen to Malcolm and keep looking for “others” to blame, we will be creating a nightmare for ourselves, giving up our inalienable right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness in defense of a terrorist state.
In Detroit especially I believe Malcolm would be challenging us to go beyond protesting the Emergency Financial Manager and suggesting that we encourage grassroots neighborhood organizations to form a Council to govern the city.
We/they are already beginning to create a new post-industrial society:
Creating community safety by looking out for each other.
Growing our own food.
Using new methods of local, small-scale production (such as 3-D printing) to produce our own clothing, housing, transportation, etc.
Creating community-based schools to educate our children.
Practicing restorative justice with neighborhood offenders.
Forming a Council to govern ourselves is the next step!
Gloria Lowe is a community organizer and founder of “We Want Green, Too.” (Photo courtesy of Amanda Le Claire)
I worked in an automotive plant. I understand what it means to not be able to think. What that takes away from a person. Because, it took it away from me. They said just do the job, don’t think about the job.
I could not even give suggestions to building something. I’m the one who’s working there. I could not understand why you felt that I didn’t have valuable input for building this automobile that people like myself would buy. And it seems like such a small thing. But it really isn’t. Not when you’re building something.
I was a final line inspector. My job was to drive the cars outside the plant and park them in a certain area so then transportation would pick them up and load them on the trucks. This particular day, I had driven the car out and was walking back into the building and just as I was up under the automatic door, the bushing fell. The door came down, right on my end.
There was so much pain. Couldn’t sleep. Didn’t eat much. Delayed speech. Problems with my vision. Ringing in my ears. My body would go into contortions. On a lot of medication. The neurologist that I saw told me that I had left side nerve damage from the top of my brain down through my feet.
It took about two, two-and-a-half years for me to come back around. I felt so blessed to have been given an opportunity to live again. But I was told by my doctors that I would never work again, that all of that was complete in my life. I was only 50 years old. I didn’t know what it meant not to work.
I do remember that there was an awakening that happened inside of my soul that when I came up out of this, I no longer had the same concerns. I understood what love was unconditionally because it had been given to me. And all I could do was return it.
A new day
Gloria Lowe prepares for a discussion at the recent “Reimagining Work Conference” in Detroit. (Photo courtesy of Amanda Le Claire)
I’m usually up at 6:30, 7:00 a.m., stop at the Tim Horton’s, always get me one coffee, oftentimes with a bagel. And I do the Michigan turnaround and enter Belle Isle. Belle Isle is the blessing we have in Detroit, an island that is attached to us that separates the United States from Canada. And it’s surrounded by all this beautiful water and boats, which I love. And I go there and I meditate and I think.
I woke up this morning with this thought about language. In the news you hear, ‘the poverty stricken, citizens of Detroit, oh the devastated communities, it’s so desolate and homelessness is everywhere and despair.’ That was enough to make you feel bad. What if it read, ‘the spiritually rich citizens of Detroit, experiencing abandoned homes, have now decided to embrace, with love and hope their communities and rebuild for a future’. That sounds different.
Spiritually it’s said that nothing positive can come out of a negative. If we embrace transformation, I’m not sure that’s true. The ability to recreate is always with us.
The ability to recreate
Gloria Lowe envisions the next step for rebuilding the home she grew up in. (Photo courtesy of Amanda Le Claire)
I’m founder of “We Want Green, Too.” Our mission is to re-educate, retrain and rebuild a 21st century, sustainable Detroit. We are looking to construct various teams in the basic skills: dry walling, painting, floor repair.
Right now we’re working out of shelters and the Detroit Veterans Administration building, a connection we have with homeless vets. We work with young people who are underemployed, people who have overcome their substance abuse, as well as those who have been incarcerated.
We have very good housing stock in the city. And these houses, many of them date back to the early 1900s and late 1800s, it would cost you a fortune to try and build a house today with the same quality of material. So we know that the greenest house is the house that’s already there. All you do is take the time to rebuild it.
Every house in Detroit has a foundation. So where you have people who are challenged, they don’t have jobs. Why not make their jobs restructuring their own communities?
I don’t think that prior to my accident I would have understood the value of working from our hearts through our minds, through our hands. What it does in terms of helping to recreate a humanity that’s been taken away from us.
The work I’m doing now, it’s phenomenal. There’s not a price tag I could hang on it. And I know that ‘cause I’ve been on the other side.
Gloria Lowe instructs her apprentice, Travis Rushon. (Photo courtesy of Amanda Le Claire)
By Olga Bonfiglio
It was a serendipitous weekend of soul-searching, collaboration, information sharing and problem solving as activists “occupied” Detroit, one of the world’s most de-industrialized cities, to re-imagine “work” and ways it can reinvigorate local communities.
Over 300 participants from around the country converged on the Focus: Hope facility October 28-30 to address the nation’s accelerating decline of the jobs-based industrial economy, where over 14 million Americans are unemployed and another 9.3 million hold “involuntary part-time” jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“We never anticipated Occupy Wall Street or the Arab Spring when we planned this conference,” said Richard Feldman, from the Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership. “Nevertheless, we are here to show the world that Detroit is the place where we can imagine what the 21st century can look like.”
Activists in Detroit have been preparing for change long before this year’s revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests in the Middle East, Europe and Occupy Wall Street. Neighborhood leaders were among the first to promote urban gardens, and they started re-visioning the concept of “work” two decades ago when it became obvious that globalization was taking a toll on jobs.
Read the entire article here.
20 years of the Prison Creative Arts Project
Join University of Michigan professor and Prison Creative Arts Project (PCAP) founder Buzz Alexander and Detroit artists and activists for an evening of story telling and community dialogue bearing witness to the human costs of mass incarceration in Michigan.
The Park Shelton
15 E Kirby St.
Detroit MI, 48202
Prisons are an invisible, but dominant, part of American society: the United States incarcerates more people than any other nation in the world, with 25 percent of the world’s prisoners currently held within its borders. Is William Martinez Not Our Brother? describes the Prison Creative Arts Project and its work giving incarcerated individuals an opportunity to participate in the arts, enabling them to withstand and often overcome the conditions and culture of prison, the policies of an incarcerating state, and the consequences of mass incarceration.
by Blair Nosan, Oren Goldenberg, Eitan Sussman, Amit Weitzer, Miriam Liebman, Dana Applebaum, and Zak Rosen.
Since Toby Barlow’s post, “‘Detroit,’ Meet Detroit,” followed by Rabbi Jason Miller’s subsequent response, there has been much discussion about both pieces, and what it means to talk about Detroit productively.
We are not writing to argue over who is a ‘real’ Detroiter and who is not, nor who is and is not going to save Detroit. We are more interested in unpacking our region’s history with a critical eye. We do this not to bring up bitter memories, or to point fingers, but because as young people raised in West Bloomfield, Farmington Hills, Huntington Woods, and Ann Arbor, now living in Detroit, we’ve come to believe that the way we understand and relate to our history very much informs our perspectives on Detroit’s present and future.
Rabbi Miller’s piece calls attention to pivotal chapters in Detroit’s history that have created many disparities between individual perspectives. Coleman Young’s mayoral reign and the uprising of July 1967 are both frequently cited as the cause for the metro region’s segregation. But these events do not stand apart from history. They sprang from the indelible and deep wound institutionalized racism had on the city’s Black population.
In the instance of the ’67 uprising, the clashing started when Detroit police officers raided an after-hours unlicensed club, where a party celebrating the return of Black Vietnam veterans was taking place. The uprising was, in many ways, a counteraction against the brutal Detroit police force, who many considered to be an occupying army at the time, committing countless acts of brutality. It was, according to many people we’ve met and respect, a moment of righteous indignation. While the riots were, for many Detroiters, a fearful moment in history, to others, the events that occurred during the summer of 1967 were in fact a rebellion.
And though Coleman Young drew hard lines between the city and the suburbs, it serves us well to recall that it wasn’t the mayor of Detroit who built a physical wall along 8 Mile. It was a developer in the 1940s who wanted to build homes for white families but skirt the federal government’s reluctance to back mortgages in the neighborhoods with too many homes owned by Blacks. The Young administration didn’t institute the racist lending guidelines that made it all but impossible for Blacks to secure a mortgage on a home in the suburbs — it was the same Federal Housing Administration that allowed for the building of a six-foot high wall to separate Black and white neighborhoods so that perceived integration did not drag down market rates.
When we fail to honestly discuss the multitude of histories that led us to the present, it becomes difficult to understand why Detroit is the way it is. That’s why we’re inspired and excited about the region’s recently initiated Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a process that aims “to examine the context, causes and consequences of structural and institutional racism in the region. By understanding and coming to terms with the forces generating the patterns of racial privilege and oppression that hold us all back, we can create a more just, equal and prosperous future for all.”
Development in Detroit is experiencing another “renaissance,” and Rabbi Miller’s piece calls our attention to two very different visions of Detroit’s future. While the Truth and Reconciliation Commission strives to create a more just and equal future through cross-cultural dialogue and truth telling, Rabbi Miller represents another common sentiment — that bringing more people, and thus, more dollars to the city will lead to Detroit’s “rebirth.” Yet, it is clear to us that the city never died, nor did disinvestment alone create the city’s problems, and thus money alone cannot fix them.
Development centered on wealth creation has led to housing incentives and marketing campaigns aimed at bringing the young “creative class” to Detroit. As long-time residents are losing their homes, wealthy donors and anchor institutions are subsidizing rent for newcomers. When we value new individuals and institutions over long-time residents and small businesses, we deepen the socio-economic and racial gaps that have long divided us. Additionally, we miss an incredible opportunity to realize the mutual benefits of collectively growing a city on principles of justice and stewardship, and to prioritize community knowledge over financially backed power.
Yes, the city needs money, a bigger tax base, and a diverse population. However, when money isn’t explicitly tied to the public good, we’re not really talking about renaissance. A true renaissance would be moving in a new direction, as a city and a region, and learning finally to value all voices, from West Grand Boulevard to West Bloomfield, and acknowledging that we need to grow our relationships with each other as much as we need to grow our financial base. While wealthy suburbanites may be buying buildings downtown and funding state-of-the-art education facilities, public libraries are closing and public service workers are being laid off in droves.
Metro-Detroiters of all stripes need to acknowledge that having a stake in our region means more than spurring economic growth. It requires learning and unlearning all the ways we’ve all built walls around the city, and around ourselves. And furthermore, it means, acknowledging and celebrating the amazing, creative, and effective work that’s been taking place in neighborhoods across the city for many years. Throughout the city, Detroiters old and young are busy growing a local, sustainable food system, nurturing a new education paradigm, and creating social enterprises that build community and capital. These are the projects that inspire us to live and work in Detroit.
Julia Putnam discusses her educational experiences through Detroit Summer in the most recent issue of YES! Magazine.
She has also written an introduction in the re-issued The American Revolution: Pages From A Negro Worker’s Notebook (James Boggs), which can be purchased on the Boggs Center store online.
Come celebrate the life of our beloved Blair this Sunday, July 31, 2011.
We want to give Blair back some of the love and life he gave to all of us. We are going to send him off with a 2nd Line Jazz funeral and we invite you to come mourn and celebrate.
1pm: Please gather on the corner of Cass and MLK/Mack. We will march down Cass to the Unitarian Universalist Church (UU)/Cass Corridor Commons at 4605 Cass on the corner of Forest. Percussion instruments are welcome to join in this march.
2pm: Life Celebration at the UU church/Cass Corridor Commons
3pm: We will 2nd Line March back out into the street and let Detroit hear us celebrate.
3:30pm: Community Potluck at Memorial Hall at the UU/Cass Corridor Commons. Please bring a dish. (To find out what is still needed for the potluck give Priscilla a call at 313-492-0000)
4pm Open Mic and Film Screenings ongoing
* David Blair Memorial Fund*
Donations are still needed. please give what you can and spread the word. Donations can be made at www.dBlair.org
* New Jersey Memorial Services*
A date has not been set for the New Jersey service. As soon as information is available it will be posted.
* You Can Send Condolences and mail donations to*
To the Family of David Blair 100 Swartswood Rd / APt 136/ Newton, NJ 07860
To the Detroit Family 812 Blaine St / Detroit, MI / 48202
We lost one of the areas most profound artists the other day. Probably a victim of the oppressive summer heat, the young and talented poet and songwriter, BLAIR, left our midst without notice at 43 years old. Way too young to die, Blair was prepared to contribute to our lives much more relevant cultural work that we all needed.
Unique, courageous and talented are words that decribe this young singer/guitarist who chose the route of Œfolk¹ music when it wasn¹t the typical choice for an African American at this particular time in history. He began performing with the likes of legendary Josh White Jr. and Robert B. Jones, artists that knew the powerful impact music can make in our society. He did many things, uncategorizable and daring, a renaissance man for sure.
I was deeply moved by his love poem about Detroit that he recited recently at the Grace Boggs Dinner. We worked together a few times over the years, but I wish I knew him more personally, I had intended to get to that point some day. There are many fans who are deeply saddened. I¹m sorry if you didn¹t know this person. He was a jewel. I¹m sure you¹ll hear much more about this sweet and gentle poet, a searcher for truth, a lover of life, who left us much too early.
In the meantime, please check out his website and help spread the name of this true people¹s artist.
By Frank Joyce
February 3rd, 2013
Are you in the precariat? Probably. Most of us are. Or will be.
What is the precariat? It is the condition of being in a precarious relationship to employment.
In other words, you have only a part time job. Or no job. Or three jobs. Or you have a job, but you are way overqualified. Why? Because you took out loans to get the degree you were told you needed, but your chosen field isn’t hiring. Or maybe your friend just got laid off and you didn’t. But you live in fear and dread because you know you could easily be next.
In his brilliant book The Precariat, British author Guy Standing connects the dots that show just how vulnerable workers have become in recent decades. This is a book that makes one light bulb after another go off in understanding why and how being in the precariat is the new normal all over the world.
The Precariat illustrates how even those who have a relatively stable J.O.B—one that provides you with a W-2 form and at least some benefits—are still in a high risk situation. That’s because the voracious growth of even more precarious sectors of the global economy puts your wages, your working conditions, your health and your retirement at grave risk.
With the overwhelming majority of the workforce now in the precariat, the danger is that resentments between workers will grow. Racial and ethnic tensions intensify, hostility toward immigrants becomes a potent social and political force, and antagonism toward unionized or other workers perceived as somehow privileged increases.
Indeed, understanding the extraordinary growth of the precariat goes a long way toward illuminating the decline of unions. When all workers are “expendable” employers gain the upper hand in bargaining and in resisting union growth. Hence we see the decades long pattern of falling wages, multi-tier wages, the growing percentage of “temporary” workers, shrinking pensions, higher costs for health care and the erosion of the previous protections that come with seniority.
As the economic power of employers grows so does their political power. So, at the same time that employment is becoming precarious, so are social benefits that once served as “shock absorbers” for the built in limits of the J.O.B. System.
And if employers want to make a once strong union state like Michigan a right-to-work-for-less-state or abolish collective bargaining rights for public sector workers as in Indiana and Wisconsin—they have the capacity to do so. Even when unions win a fight here and there, the larger trend toward insecure employment grows unabated.
One of the reasons we aren’t able to act together is that we don’t yet realize we are together. A big fog machine makes us think we are in trouble because we made bad choices as individuals. The relentless message is that we don’t deserve a decent and secure standard of living, let alone meaningful work.
As Standing makes clear, it doesn’t have to be this way. Yes, remaining passive and continuing our descent into the “politics of the inferno” is an option. But, he says, we can also decide to recognize our condition and our challenges and fight for a “politics of paradise.”
In Detroit and all around the world, more and more of us precariats are coming together to build a New Work economy that is more fair, more secure, more rewarding and better for our communities.
That is a story for a future column.
Frank Joyce is a lifelong Detroit -based political and labor activist and writer, A former News Director at WDET and former communications director for the UAW, he contributes weekly to the Land of Hopes and Dreams radio program heard Sunday afternoon from 1-4 PM Eastern time at SiriusXM Channel 127.
Dear Boggs Board and DCOH friends,
Last evening was an historic event. For the first time in my life, the paradigm shift from protest and opposition to transformation, resistance and alternatives occurred in the presence of 150 to 200 people (many young and most from the community) as people marched from the park to the home where Robert was killed, to 8 mile, into Warren and then returned.
This is my understanding and may not be based upon a larger historical context. I remember marching with We Pros and Save our Sons and Daughter against violence, Down with Dope and Up with Hope in the 1980s. I remember planting tress in front of the homes or at the sites of where people had been killed by violence.
This event has emerged from the “tenacity” and dedication of a group of people struggling against police brutality for more than a decade and came to the conclusion that there was a need to create community and peace zones for life while working for justice in and accountability.
Ron, the coalition, friends and the family of Robert Mitchell did somethign different on this day: May 21, 2009.
The Demands were clear:
Justice for Robert Mitchel
Create a Detroit-Warren Peace Zone for Life
End the use of Tassers
Prosecution the POlice Officers
The tone was set by Ron, Scott, Sandra and Yuseef Shaku (from Hush House) who said: put the neighbor back in the hood, this is about life, ending the anger, becoming and creating community, caring for each other. This was truly about “ending the war on Mack” and also making it clear to the authorities that the communities of Detroit and Warren would take responsibility for creating peace, ending the violence and ending the police brutality. This was about a community saying: “we are responsible to make the change” and we will turn our pain and tragedy into community building ,transformation so our children and young people have a future.
The leadership by the family, Cora Renee Mitchell (mother of Robert) who has worked on her own painful journey and the support of other famileis who have had been victims of police violence or community violence came to support this event. This was a space where voices of life and dedication and hope were heard.
In the process of the march, the chants changed and the paradigm changed.
While some folks chanted:
“No Justice! No Peace” the group also chanted:
What do we want? Justice!
What do we need? Peace!
Peace Zones for Life! Peace Zones for Life!
Put the neighbor back in the hood!–
There were organizations present, NAACP, Lawyers Guild, Green Party, Young Democrats, President of Local 909 (came out on crutches to speak) Rep, from Conyers office, a large group of young people who were playing basketball joined the march. We needed a few more young people to speak or rap or do some spoken. Andrew met a young woman from the community who has been part of City Year. Barbara and Larry were also present. Larry suggested that we make up signs: Justice for Robert Mitchell: Create Detroit Warren Peace Zones for Life Posters: Peace Zone for Life- and place them in the front windows of homes.
As Ron pointed out on an early morning phone call, there was no mention of race (except the BAMN signs) but the fact that folks know in their heart that racism exists, know about the history of Warren Police, this was about Justice that could only come about through ttransforming ourselves, becoming more human, ending the violence, creating different ways and tools for people to care for each other. Robert Mitchell’s mother said: Sop running from the cops, end the B&E’s, let’s take care of each other.
Larry took some great pictures and the DCOH Banner lead the march through the community. To have a banner that says; Detroit City of Hope (we need one that says: Create Peace Zones for Life- added to this historic day.
I was honored and humbled by the mothers, the teens, the young people and the friends that came out for this gathering.
May 19th was Malcom’s birthday and both Malcolm and Martin would be honored to see that we are all works in progress and we all are working to change ourselves, create community and do the hard work necessary to show that Another Detroit is Happening!
Please join Mack Alive in celebrating Kwanzaa this year! Pastor Skip Wachsmann of Genesis Lutheran Church will be honored on the second day of Kwanzaa – Kujichagulia (Self-determination), Monday, December 27, 2010, 7 p.m. at Saunders Memorial AME Church – 3542 Pennsylvania (Corner of Mack Ave).
Join LAMP in celebrating the 2010 media project. Saturday October 16 at the CCNDC Community Center 3535 Cass ave enter through the back. From 11am- 5pm
The main event is the tour of our murals, see how we created them and see how they’re a true multimedia project. We have limited space so to reserve a space email email@example.com with who and how many people. please be at location by 11:45 tour departs at noon
If you can’t join us for the tour then come by afterward at 2:00pm where we’ll have food, an auction for prints of the murals, a presentation of the program with the organizations and people we partnered with, and live performances.
The best part is this event is free! and donations are always accepted.
Tell no lies…claim no easy victories.
Constructive criticism is a prerequisite for self & organizational development, but don’t be critical of me if you don’t have my best interest at heart.
Yusef Bunchy Shakur
As a 36 year old Black man in Amerikkka, my experience of traveling to Greensboro, North Carolina (which was my first time ever going down south) was like a little boy taking a trip down south to visit relatives. Unfortunately, for Black males in urban Amerikkka that trip going down south is no longer a ritual and has been replaced with a new ritual of taking a trip up north to modern day slave camps: PRISONS. That is a harsh reality, which is a by-product of the social, political, educational, cultural, spiritual and economic decay that is at the root of manufacturing human decay in urban Amerikkka. Urban environments in Amerikkka resemble that of Third World Countries, or as Professor Carl S. Taylor of Michigan State University states, Is nothing but Third World Cities.
During the 12 hour drive from Detroit to Greensboro, I felt so relaxed and relieved…it was the first time in a long time that I wasn’t anticipating some phone call, rushing to get to a meeting only to leave that meeting to rush to get to another meeting, or doing everything for everybody else and not finding any time in the day for myself. When we finally arrived at our living quarters, my comrads and I all dispersed to our sleeping areas. We were all excited to be in Greensboro and passionately anticipated to attend the conference. When morning arrived we decided to leave a little early to make sure we arrived early for the conference. During the drive from Detroit to Greensboro, the eight of us immediately began to bond. When we arrived at the conference, the Detroit collective had a glow about us that was shining as bright as the sun.
The first person we saw as we entered the church where the conference was taking place was Nelson Johnson. He instantly recognized Bill, and stopped what he was doing to share a brief conversation with us before the conference began. Nelson shared with us that the people of Greensboro had been dealt a severe blow with the defeat of the then-present Mayor and certain City Council members, which he felt directly resulted from their political support of the efforts to keep the memory of the1979 massacre alive. Even though he was disturbed by the defeat, you could just sense that that would not stop him from continuing to fight the good fight. After hearing this news my mind began to think about the elections in Detroit, that the Mayor (who I had the [dis}-pleasure of meeting during his run for Mayor, which at the time I attempted to give him one of my books, but he told me he didn’t have time to read such a book) that was elected was more concerned about corporate Detroit than downtrodden Detroit, and how certain people had been hoodwinked and bamboozled by electing City Council members because of name recognition instead of individuals who had the work experience to be effective in serving the people of Detroit. I carefully listened to Nelson as he briefly recognized the importance of establishing and cultivating relationships with certain City officials who may express a desire to go beyond their call of duty as a City official, but also being a servant of the people. It was important for me to hear this, and examine what he was saying because of the attention I attract from certain City officials as a community leader actively involved in the community.
During the first day of the conference, we watched a documentary that highlighted the killing by the Klan, and how the Greensboro police arrived afterwards only to arrest those who had survived the bloody massacre. Even though I knew what I was watching was real, my mind still could not comprehend that they had been openly murdered. I instantly began to think back to Detroit and reflect on the recent murder of the Imam by the FBI, where he was shot over 18 times. Connecting the past to the present boldly reminded me of the bloody acts of the FBI COINTELPRO, including murdering FREEDOM FIGTERS as well as FALSELY incarcerated them. The only crime these heroes committed was that they were REVOLUTIONARIES committed to REVOLUTION on Amerikkka soil. The lessons from the past to the present were so clear; that those in power will never relinquish their power without a fight, and that they are willing to fight till the death
Once the documentary ended, those who had survived the massacre were asked to recount that bloody day. Each one of them gave a vivid account of November 3, 1979, that had left us all speechless. When Paul Bermanzohn spoke (who had actually survived gun shot wounds from that bloody day that left him partially paralyzed on one side of his body), his testimony was not only of being a survivor from the massacre, but that we must continue to resist oppression by any means! This was so inspiring to me that my commitment to the struggle was renewed in a way that I felt he was talking directly to me. Not only did I feel like he was passing his torch, but he was saying I will still struggle and fight with you. I felt connected to him and the struggle, and more importantly I felt the obligation to continue the struggle. I was so deeply moved by what Paul had shared, that I gave him a signed copy of my Memoir to show the appreciation, love and respect I had for him. I remember experiencing something like this, when I attended the 10th anniversary of the Million Man March where I had met the legendary Cicero Love. I had no idea of who Cicero Love was. While we were on the bus on the way to Washington, I had been sitting next to Cicero, and somehow we began to talk about the history of the movement in Detroit, and he shared with me that he had been involved in the movement for over 40 years in Detroit through different organizations. He even mentioned to me that he was part of a task force that was sent to New York to investigate the murder of Malcolm X. I couldn’t believe that I was actually sitting next to someone, and holding a conversation with that person, about things I had read religiously. As I was impressed with him, he was as equally as impressed with me…to see that I was a student of history and an aspiring revolutionary.
The struggle for social justice must be continued but it only can be continued if it is passed down from generation to generation, that way the lessons that need to be learned can be effectively taught, instead of wondering and pondering have they been learned, and when those mistakes of the past are repeated then we realized they have not been learned or generations after generations are left to find their own way through the maze of oppression. Sure I am well read on the protracted struggle in Amerikkka, however those two examples above had re-enforced everything I had every read. Reading from a book is fine, but it is nothing like receiving first hand knowledge from someone who had lived it, and can share the wisdom from living it. That is crucial in the transformational struggle that is taking place because it gives transformational education of examples to be learnt from. More importantly as the great George Jackson wrote: I refuse to allow future generations to curse me, as I curse those before me. It is imperative that the elder generation engage the younger generation, in cultivating the passing of the torch. I was glad to see in Greensboro that this was taking place.
After an intense period of sharing potent information throughout the conference, we finally broke to go eat dinner before the next two events took place, which the first was a marched with college students to a museum to view another movie about the Greensboro massacre. As we all departed from the church to go the restaurant to eat, everybody began to jump into different cars and I found myself driving with Nelson. I immediately began asking him different questions to pick his brain, to learn as much as I could in that short period of time. After I could not think of anymore questions he began to ask me questions, and I briefly shared with him my journey and he responded by saying he had wished he read my book before we came (Bill had sent a copy of my book to him). I was so honored to spend that brief time with Nelson, because he is a down to earth type of person that relates to you in away that you feel connected to him and want to be apart of what he is doing. His leadership style is that of Early Wheeler and General Baker, who both are out of Highland Park, which I met early in my development when I was a Head Start teacher in Highland Park. I remember when I first met Mr. Wheeler, and he did not hesitate to share with me his travels throughout the world, and General Baker shared we me about going to Cuba and meeting Che and how he helped organize a sit-in at Highland Park Community College. What all these men have in common to me is a valley type-of-leadership that is needed in rebuilding our communities and reclaiming our families, but instead we have mountain type-of-leadership that keeps us confused to overstanding our shit-uation.
Once we were done eating, we departed for the museum to watch the movie. The theater was packed with college students. The one thing that stood out to me about the movie was the part, when certain members of the survivors were together one summer at a beach just having all types of fun together. Out of their ordeal they were able to cultivate family ties amongst each other, which provided them with the necessary strength, support and love to continue to live despite what they had been through and what they were continual to go through as a result of being survivors from the massacre.
As the movie was going on I notice a Latino brotha enter the theater, which I immediately thought that was Jorge Cornell/King J the leader of the Almighty Latin Kings and Queens Nation, with whom I was I selected to do a workshop the next day with. I got up and introduced myself to him, and we briefly talked where he shared with me his disappoint of not winning a seat in the City Council race, but at that moment an instant bond between the two of was born.
After leaving the museum we got back to our living quarters kind of late. I was exhausted because we were getting so much information throughout the day, that I immediately went to bed to digest it. When morning arrived we followed our same routine of leaving early to arrive early. When we got there Bill was approached by one of the organizers, and after talking with her he came over to me and asked me would I mind filling in for King J to be one of the presenters during the “Healing Circle” because they were unsure if he would make it.
I thought the day before was real intense at the conference, being apart of the “Healing Circle” took it to another level. Listening to the relatives of those who had been murdered and survived the massacre hit an emotional cord in all of us that put things in a human perspective that as human beings that we take for granted. As things progressed in the “Healing Circle” King J had arrived to share his story, which I was excited to hear. He shared with us why he felt the need to start the Almighty Latin Kings and Queens Nation in Greensboro, which was a direct result of the police harassment of Latinos. As a result of his community organizing to politicizing Latino youth he became public enemy number 1 and had been charged over 20 times for trumped-up charges, with the result of those charges being either dismissed or him being found not guilty. Then he shared with us were an attempt on his life had been made, which he believe was made by the police in Greensboro. Instead of been left on a island by himself to face the harassment by the police, Nelson along with other pastors and community leaders wrapped their arms around him to stand with him to demand justice and the harassment stop. I believe it was sincere support because they overstood the history of the Greensboro police from the lessons they learned from 1979. I immediately told King J I wish I could get the type of support from religious leaders and community leaders in Detroit like he do in Greensboro.
In Detroit there is an abundant of elitism leadership that has suffocated this City to its death bed, that is a reflection of certain religious, activist, business, conscious community and political leaders that only operate in their little circle(s) and if you are not part one of these circles you find yourself on the outside looking in, and the only time you are invited to be apart of one of these elite circles, if they see that they can benefit from you. Despite this reactionary leadership, and me having much TEFLON SKIN I have been able to find my way as one the most energetic leaders to emerge in Detroit in along time. A close comrad of mine shared with me a biblical scripture: “a prophet is not honored in his own home.” Those few words have stuck with me as I have traveled to cities outside of Detroit, and the people in these different cities have showered me with so much love, that I have began to question myself is it worth putting up with all the bullshit in Detroit? At those low points in my life, thoughts begin to emerge in mind of all the people in Detroit who are depending on me, and found some type of hope, inspiration and dignity from the things that I am doing on a grassroots/ground zero level, that I find the strength to continue to struggle
The unique thing about attending the conference in Greensboro, the atmosphere for me wasn’t one where I had to prove anything to anybody. They accepted me as if I was a family member. When I was asked to participate in the Healing Circle, I felt so honored. But as we progress in the Healing Circle there wasn’t enough time for me to share my story. I was cool with that and again I was just honored to be there. However, the anticipation of wanting to hear my story amongst the people influenced the organizers to alter the conference after lunch where we would all come back together in the Healing Circle, so I could share my story. That was one of the most powerful experiences in my young life, and it re-enforced in my mind the type of leadership that is necessary to lead the people, which is one that has to be flexible, innovative, honesty and has its finger on the pulse of the people.
Then there was a dinner event that we attended in Greensboro with the pastors, to discuss the dynamics of the U.S.S.F that will be held in Detroit in June of 2010. The conversation centered on people in Greensboro attending the U.S.S.F., and many of the pastors presented legitimated questions/concerns about the U.S.S.F. But the most powerful thing that was said during this dinner meeting was when one of the pastors said: “if Nelson said it was important for us to be there, then we will be there.” During the whole time we were in Greensboro, it was never mistaken who was the leader of the event, which was Nelson. However, during the whole time Nelson never felt the need to be the center of attention. His unique leadership style is refreshing because it supports others to be leaders right beside him. How he engages people empowers you to realize your own potential…it reminds me of when I met Professor Carl S. Taylor, Tom Hardiman and Grace Lee Boggs and how they immediately embraced me and found time in their busy lives to help nurture and guide me with wisdom and knowledge to further grow as a leader. That is so crucial in the 21st century if we are to make sanity out of the insane shit-uation we find ourselves in. Practical leadership is necessary and more importantly needed to cultivate new leaders to engage the people where they are at to teach them to move them where they need to be. But that type of leadership will only come when a true pro-people orientation is instituted. Being in Greensboro reaffirmed in me that, a new world is possible and that a new world is happening and that I play a crucial role in its development.
Dear Tom, ( Thomas Sugrue )
I very much enjoyed your presentation yesterday morning at the WSU Law School, and have previously learned much from you both through Origins of the Urban Crisis and your edited book The New Suburban History.
I am a professor and researcher of urban educational policy sociology at Oakland University, and am presently researching the “post-welfarist educational policy complex” of metropolitan Detroit. My first book, Market Movements: African American Involvement in School Voucher Reform (Routledge) won the 2009 American Educational Studies Association Critic’s Choice Award.
To cut to the chase, I am deeply worried about the implications of Detroit’s planned “downsizing” for Detroit’s most vulnerable residents. (As well the downsizing of neighborhoods includes the closing and consolidation of many Detroit Public Schools buildings.) Once more, the city’s “revitalization” involves the forced relocation of the city’s least powerful mostly black residents. The neighborhoods slated for clear-cutting are those in the city’s non-Downtown interior, and these neighborhoods greatly overlap those characterized as most lucrative for realty development by a recent (2006) realty study commissioned by the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. My sense is that realty interests desire the removal of “undesirable” people (and their homes and businesses) so that new development can be optimized, and is not about the efficient redistribution of city services in the interest of city residents. This pattern is all too familiar to anyone who has lived in Detroit and/or is familiar with your work, and portends the misery of relocation coupled with more broken promises.
I’m also worried about New Detroit’s partnership with CEOs and regional political leadership around this issue. New Detroit is ostensibly one of the more progressive philanthropic organizations in the area. However recently it has allied itself closely with Business Leaders for Michigan (formerly Detroit Renaissance) and other corporate and political leadership through One D in pursuing a business-friendly strategy of concentration of public resources for private sector investment enhancement. In the realm of education, New Detroit has joined an educational agenda of Broad Foundation Fellow Robert Bobb focused on the development of more charter schools, merit pay for teachers, more outsourcing of vital school services to private contractors, and the implementation of high stakes test-driven curricula– the very types of curricula that do not cultivate critical thinking for effective citizenship and the addressing of community problems.
The vast majority of Detroit residents have not been consulted about either the plans for forced relocation or the school closings.
Here is the question I wanted to ask you at the end of your talk yesterday.
“To what degree do you think the current proposals for downsizing detroit and closing 45 more schools is motivated by social justice and good governance considerations, and to what extent do you think it is motivated by the usual interests– real estate development and its desire to clear the land of undesirables?”
I am also attaching the realty study I mentioned above, with the areas identified as most lucrative for realty investment pictured on page 8 of the pdf.
In 1992 at the age of 19, Yusef Shakur was a full-fledged product of the gang- and crack-infested Detroit neighborhood known on the street as Zone 8. He was also starting a prison sentence of five to 15 years for assault with intent to commit robbery.
By Grace Lee Boggs
March 17th, 2013
Detroit’s international Women’s Day Celebration on Saturday, March 9, at the UAW-GM Center was more moving and revealing than any of the many IWD celebrations in which I have participated over the years.
Co-hosted by the UAW Women’s Department and the Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership, the celebration brought together hundreds of women from many different walks of life and generations.
The theme was LISTEN TO WOMEN FOR A CHANGE!
Besides short talks by UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada and myself, it featured a series of workshops which demonstrated that women are the ones needed to give leadership on the many critical issues now facing everyone in our city and country:
-Taking Back Our Households
-Creating Peace Circles: From War Zones to Peace Zones
-Making a Splash at the Ballot Box
-What’s Love got to do with it? (HIV)
-Seeing Past Hell and onto Hope
Workshop leaders included Andre A Jackson, Julia Putnam, Conja Wright, Bonnie Smith, Deb Kozol, Stephanie Purvis, Wanda Latham, Rev. Sandra Simmons.
In all the workshops it became clear that women are effective leaders because we/they have ways of communicating, caring, and compromising that are specially needed at this time on the clock of the world.
The celebration concluded with a multi-generational conversation.
The IWD organizers will be meeting Wednesday, March 20, 5 p.m. at Solidarity House , 8000 E. Jefferson, Detroit 48214.
Living by the Clock of the World: Grace Lee Boggs’ Call for Visionary Organizing
By: Matthew Birkhold
April 17, 2012
In response to a question regarding advice for young activists, 96 year old movement veteran Grace Lee Boggs recently told Hyphen Magazine that activists should turn our backs on protest organizing because it “leads you more and more to defensive operations” and “Do visionary organizing” because it “gives you the opportunity to encourage the creative capacity in people and it’s very fulfilling.” This quote made its way around facebook, twitter, and tumblr, as fans of Grace reposted it like it was common sense while others thought the quote bordered on conservatism.
By Grace Lee Boggs
December 30th, 2012
The University of Minnesota Press, publisher of Living for Change, has signed an agreement with China Film Press in Beijing to publish a Chinese translation of my autobiography in China and sell it “throughout the world.”
This is exciting news. I was born in the U.S.A. and I was in China only once –for two months in 1984 when I discovered that I was much more American than Chinese. But I am conscious and proud of my Chinese heritage.
From my mother who never learned to read or write because there were no schools for females in her little village, I learned early on that huge changes are needed in our world.
From my father, who like most overseas Chinese, was a supporter of the 1911 Chinese revolution, I got a sense of the pride that comes with supporting or making revolution.
Also, while I don’t expect my life or book to affect developments in China, I am very conscious of how much our world is being affected by China’s extremely rapid urbanization and industrialization which like our urbanization and industrialization is accelerating global warming and endangering life on Earth.
Meanwhile, I am encouraged by the growing number of militant demonstrations by the Chinese people against pollution.
China has long been known as a place where the world’s dirtiest mines and factories could operate with impunity. Those days may not be over, but a growing environmental movement is beginning to make the most polluting projects much harder to build and operate.
By Grace Lee Boggs
December 30th, 2012
As China becomes increasingly urbanized, its people are also experiencing troubles that resemble ours. For example, in recent years there have been a number of attacks outside Chinese schools. On Friday, December 14, the same day that little school children were massacred in Connecticut, 22 Chinese children were stabbed outside a primary school in a village in Henan province. The main difference is that they were stabbed rather than gunned down with an automatic weapon.
At my age I don’t expect to visit China again. But I’m delighted that my life is being made accessible in China through my autobiography.
My mama asked me to write some considerations of the biblical Nehemiah’s “re-building the wall” to share with a group of ministers and I thought that I would share some of those thoughts with you.
ps: Please share your thoughts too, if you have a mind to do so and I will forward them on.
On re-building the “hedge,” the “fortification” (built for defensive purposes), a barrier to flooding, a line of defensive players, to separate one area from another, to close an opening, to seal somebody or something,
“Keep one hand on the work (re-building the wall) and one hand on your weapon.”- Nehemiah (Jehovah has consoled)
Nehemiah kept his eyes on the light, not the darkness:
Even Nehemiah had to go back to the hood, the ghetto, to do the work of God. So, ministers follow your elder, back to the hood. Like, Nehemiah, we are soldiers and statesmen and women for God, in Jesus’ holy name!
When was the last time your heart was moved with great sorrow over broken down walls of our communities of faith? Did you complain and point or are you ready to get to work, like Nehemiah?
Consider where the wall was located, Jerusalem had fallen open to the ravages of war and neglect; people wanted to know why in the heck would this man go BACK THERE, in their minds there was nothing worth saving. Communities are worth saving. Don’t get lost in the location, war zones are even where your feet are resting while you read these words.
God gave Nehemiah a mission to go back to the raggedy hood and stand on the raggedy “tow down to the flo down” wall and re-build it, but he also told him to keep one hand on his weapon! What is your weapon of choice to deal with assaults outside of your comfort zone?
Warning: you will be ridiculed, feared, folks will shun you, being full of guile; you will be falsely accused and misunderstood; you will have to face painful corruptions of friends an associates, as you do this work-
We must go back and lay claim to our communities; we must go back and build up the walls of the likes of our old places where the people parish. Yes, there will be many who will scoff at our efforts, so we must keep watch for those who would come against us looking ridiculous as we re-build the walls of love, protection and nurture.
Are you ready to attain strength that you never knew you had? Are you ready for an experience of unity and closeness that binds classes, races, issues and spaces? Are you ready to “work with one mind”?
Come to the ghetto, come to The Hush House on Wabash, (________ add your community) between 14th street and Ferry Park, in one of the poorest communities in Detroit, and remember what you forgot. We can teach you about re-building the walls of Hope because that is what we do. In fact, people have come to us from China, Korea, Liberia and so many states that we cannot remember them all. We have solutions for making hope real-you are the solution!: re-build the wall with us as we teach the world by creating hope, together.
Peace and blessings to you.
The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality will be hosting a Peace Zones For Life March on Friday, October 23rd from 4:30-6:30pm. The group will convene at Schoenerr and Bringard Park at 4:30. The group will then march to the home in which Robert Mitchell was chased and hang a plaque to memorialize Robert Mitchell and recognize the existence of the Peace Zone. After an incredibly successful May 21st march – which generated the support of 200+ people – DCAPB hopes to emulate that support on October 23rd. For more information, call 313-962-1336.
Michigannow.org is a one-stop resource for news and information about how Michigan can succeed in the new economy. Beyond being a public radio news series, it showcases new thinking, new technology, new products, and new ideas that have the potential to be catalysts for Michigan’s recovery.
By Grace Lee Boggs
January 27th, 2013
I flew to Iowa to speak at Grinnell College on MLK Day. The weather was many degrees below freezing but the reception was warm.
I was scheduled to speak at 4:15 pm Monday. At 4 people from the community began streaming into the chapel-like auditorium: mostly white women, their eyes shining with anticipation.
On each chair Shea Howell had placed two Boggs Center brochures: “Re-Imagining Revolution“ and “Self-Evident Truths.” Doc Holbrook had set up a literature table. (We sold all our copies of The Next American Revolution).
At 4:15, when classes ended, people from the community were joined by hundreds of students, so many that they filled the balcony, and many stacks of chairs had to be brought in for the overflow.
I spoke from notes I had made following President Obama’s inaugural address. I said that, although I had not campaigned for MLK Day, I was delighted that it it is our only national holiday that has become a time for reflection and looking in the mirror instead of pageantry, fireworks, barbecue, football and shopping.
I recalled Martin Luther King’s l967 “Time to break the silence” speech in which he called for a radical revolution of values, not only against racism but against materialism and militarism.
At this time on the clock or world, I said, we are suffering from the militarism of our country, not only in the Middle East and North Africa but on the streets of our cities and even in small towns like Newtown, CT.
All over the world the center is not holding; things are falling apart. People are hungry for a new dream. The overthrow of dictators has not provided this dream, and it is not coming from Congress or the White House.
But I feel very fortunate that I come from Detroit where I have lived for 60 years, most of that time in the same house. When I moved to Detroit in 1953, it was still the national and international symbol of the miracles of industrialization. Then, as a result of Hi-Tech and globalization, it became the national and international symbol of the devastation of de-industrialization.
But now, as a result of Urban Agriculture, which is bringing the country back into the city, and our Re-imaging Work and Education, we are becoming the national international symbol of a new post-industrial society.
We are creating a new dream that can address the hunger of people not only in this country but all over the world. We are reimagining Work. We are reimagining Education. We are creating Community.
Thirty years ago I co-authored, with John Gruchala and Ilaseo Lewis, a little poem:
“We are the children of Martin and Malcolm
Black, white, brown and yellow,
Our right and duty
To shake the world with a new dream.”
This new dream is what is urgently needed at this time on the clock of the world.
This new dream is what we are creating in Detroit.
We are growing our souls at a time when just growing our economy is endangering our planet and all living things, including ourselves.
By Shea Howell
March 17th, 2013
The crisis in Detroit is not economic. It is a crisis in democracy. The contours of this crisis are becoming clearer with each passing day. Last Thursday, Mayor Bing called a press conference to announce that even though he disputed the “facts” of the rationale provided to the Governor to appoint an emergency manager, he would not challenge the findings. He said, “We need to end the drama and infighting and understand that whether we like it or not, an emergency financial manager is coming to Detroit.”
Mainstream media and the elites they represent hailed this statement. Meanwhile those who oppose the appointment of an emergency manager were diminished and demonized. The Detroit Free Press labeled protesters as numbering in the “dozens.” Jack Lessenberry characterized us as irrational children saying, “we can scream and kick our little feet—or we can rationally start preparing to try to work with whomever that emergency manager may be to try to save Detroit. Fighting the inevitable is a waste of time.”
While virtually no one joined the Mayor in his decision to go along to get along, hundreds of people gathered with Councilwoman Joann Watson to stand up for democracy. This meeting kicked off a series of organized efforts to draw public attention to the real issues at stake in the struggles against the Emergency Manager. This is a struggle about the basic right of people to self-determination, to have a right and responsibility to decide our own future, and to have a meaningful and full voice in our government.
Councilwoman Watson began the meeting emphasizing the historic nature of the fight in front of us. She began the meeting talking about the struggles of people to secure the basic rights of citizenship and emphasized the key role Detroit has played in the history of our country as a center for the dignity of labor, for the birth of black power and self determination, and as home to people who have a long history of standing up and speaking out. This struggle against the EM, she said, was like the struggle for basic rights begun more than 50 years ago on the streets of Montgomery, Alabama. With the appoint of an EM in Detroit, 49% of African Americans in the state will not have the right to elect local officials and 75% of all elected African Americans will be disempowered.
Mayoral candidate Krystal Crittendon discussed the challenge to the EM as a question of constitutional rights. She said, “You have a right to democracy. Even if you only have two pennies, you have a right to elect your officials. Just because you live in an economically depressed region, you do not lose the right to elect people.” She went on to say that this is especially true when “the people who take away that right are the same people who owe us money.”
This meeting was an example of the new democratic forms developing in Detroit. As representative elected bodies are being outlawed by the state, leadership is emerging to create new forms for political discussions and decision-making. Here, people came together to remind one another of our history, to share information and ideas, and to generate strategies for action. People pledged to remember Martin, Malcolm, Rosa Parks, Coleman Young, Maryanne Mahaffey, Erma Henderson and all those who struggled for justice. They pledged to lift up our young people and to educate one another about the real issues we face.
As one minister said, these are times that require us to become “creatively ungovernable,” even as we find new forms to make decisions about our lives and our communities. Detroit is finding new voices that promise to shake the efforts of the old order to hang on to power and privilege. It is a new day.
By Babara A. Stachowski
May 19th, 2013
Jimmy Boggs (1919-1993) encouraged people to “make a way out of no way.” That is what we have been doing in Detroit as we have been grappling with the economic devastation of the postindustrial era and have had to imagine our lives anew.
A tsunami hit us decades ago when robots began replacing human beings on factory assembly lines. Resilient Detroiters became keenly aware that, to avoid the catastrophe of another tsunami, we had to move to ‘higher ground,” to a new way of life, of work. We call this New Work.
What is New Work and how does it promote New Cultures and New Economies? How is it different from the old culture?
Frithjof Bergmann, the international philosopher activist of New Work, New Culture, explains: “First we must realize that the current jobs system is only about 200 years old and obviously doesn’t work. Everything connected to the jobs economy has been reduced, diminished and made worse. New Work is an effort to turn the whole thing around from the bottom to the top.”
Frithjof warns that in the next relatively few months or years, we will experience a calamity on the level of six or eight tsunamis if we do not find an alternative to the current jobs economy. “These tsunamis are rolling in from the ocean towards us and if we do not do anything very intelligent and imaginative, they will destroy us and we will be drowned.
“New Work from the start was conceived as a possible staircase up to a new culture that will be more humane, more intelligent and more cheerful than the one we are leaving beneath and behind us.”
Specifically, New Work makes use of new technologies to become independent and self-reliant, to NOT depend on a boss to get a job.
Bergmann reassures us that, “A quantum leap is now possible, and it is important to understand that this is not just a fantasy, not something that people in some ways just dream about. Detroit is the place where this is becoming more real, more substantial, more graspable, more graphic than maybe any other place in the world.”
This quantum leap has to do with an astounding technological development called miniaturization or micronization. An iPhone is an example of this technology. Like smartphones, miniaturization applies to manufacturing and factories.
“With 3D printers it is now possible to manufacture anything from houses to electricity, to computers, to electric cargo bikes. Almost anything can be produced almost any place.
“In remote villages in Africa, on blighted neighborhoods in Detroit. Community production is what makes possible the quantum leap up to New Culture, a new way of life, a new experience of the spiritual.”
Community production has an enormous advantage over archaic attempts to rebuild an economy of meaningless jobs because it allows people to focus on doing work that they really, really want to do to make things that we really, really need. We can now move into a New Culture that, as Grace Lee Boggs says, concentrates on developing people and growing our souls.
When we do work we really, really want to do, we realize a sense of strength and not exhaustion. We begin to feel that we are living; we begin to feel that our lives have meaning.
As the waters of the economic tsunami continue to recede, leaving behind fertile ground, Detroiters are creating a New Culture based on Community Production. Grassroots community-based centers of work and culture are emerging in the Brightmoor and Birwood neighborhoods, the MakrSpace in the Church of the Messiah, and the Feedom Freedom Growers’ Manistique Garden project.
According to Bergmann,“The fact that Detroit has a tradition that goes over generations makes it plausible that Detroit can become the model for no end of other cities that will come here to study how this is accomplished and what it looks like.”
Barbara Stachowski is now in Germany visiting with Fritzhof Bergmann’s associates.
(note from GLB: President Obama referred to 3D printers in his February State of the Union speech. The May issue of the Smithsonian Magazine features an article on “a factory in every home.” TIME Magazine, April 22, is about the “comeback” of HiTech Manufacturing in the USA).
By Shea Howell
December 30th, 2012
The coming of the New Year is a time for reflection. We assess the past and project our hopes for the future. For many of us in Michigan, this past year has been one that has sharpened the two different visions for our future.
While much of the country rejected the idea that we would move backward in time, the republican dominated government in Michigan has redoubled its efforts to restore power and privilege to a few.
Governor Rick Snyder and the right wing republican legislature have aggressively adopted policies that come straight out of the Reagan-Bush-Romney vision for America. They want a country where market capitalism runs unfettered over the lives of people and the protection of the planet. They want policies that foster individual greed rather than communities of compassion. They believe that public resources should be used to create private wealth.
At the core of their vision is the belief that a select-elite know better than the majority of the people what should be done. This belief, once scoffed at as an archaic idea belonging to a time of limited understandings, was on full display during the last frantic days of the lame duck legislature in Lansing.
First, it was expressed in the brazen violation of the will of the people to curb the power of the state to impose emergency managers on cities and school districts. The overriding argument against emergency managers was that they were undemocratic, setting aside locally elected officials.
The effort to bring this issue before the public for a vote took unprecedented effort, overcoming almost laughable attempts to invalidate petitions and then to throw up court challenges. Even before the election, Governor Snyder and his group of extreme right wing republicans announced they didn’t much care what the vote was. They had another law waiting in the wings.
The people overturned the emergency manger law, especially in cities that were suffering from them. Within days, the republican dominated legislature reinstated a new emergency manager law. To prevent it from being overturned, they tied it to an appropriation of funds, precluding any future referendum.
A similar process was followed by the so-called “right to work” legislation. Attacking the capacity of unions to collect dues from all who benefit directly from union negotiations, the legislature again invoked an appropriations measure to preclude the right of the people to challenge this act.
Disrespect for the opinions of the people was on display at the Detroit City Council, too. Against a clear and vocal majority of citizens, five council members voted to practically give away almost 2,000 publicly owned lots on the east side to a single individual.
These actions have revealed starkly that legislative bodies do not represent the will of the people. Nor do they protect our interests.
In contrast to this limited view of power and privilege is one that has been slowly emerging as people have been reconstructing life on a human scale. In places long abandoned by corporate greed, neighbors have been coming together to create new community life that fosters local production, creativity, and compassion.
These new communities are rooted in radically democratic processes. People are coming together to make decisions about the things that effect daily life and the protection of what we hold as the common good. They are developing a sense of shared values and authentic processes for decision-making. In small groups, people are organizing new forms of education, establishing public safety, providing means for healthy food, and celebrating artists who advance our vision of a more just and sustainable future.
Over the next year, those of us envisioning a vibrant democracy necessary for rich community life will have to call upon our deepest resources of memory and imagination. These local, community-based efforts creating new democratic forms are our path to a better future.
Over the past few months, the Detroit Food Policy Council and interested residents have been working in good faith with the Planning and Development Department of the City of Detroit on the development of a land sale process that is just, fair and transparent. During this time, a Public Listening Session on the sale of city owned land was held. Commitments were made by the Planning and Development Department and City Planning Commission on how to proceed. Soon, the Detroit Food Policy Council will publish a report on the listening session that will include recommendations for the development of a fair, just and transparent land sale process.
However, on Wednesday, November 7th, we became aware that a discussion on the proposed sale of 1,956 city owned lots to Hantz Woodlands was scheduled to take place the following day, Thursday, November 8th at the Planning and Economic Development Committee and that PDD would be asking the Committee to approve a resolution related to that sale.
The Detroit Food Policy Council and the residents of the city of Detroit were assured by PDD over the past few months that the sale of these lots would not be proposed until after the urban agriculture ordinances were passed and property owners in the area contacted about their right to purchase adjacent lots. In a meetings held today (November 13th), DFPC members and PDD Director Rob Anderson discussed land use and land sales in the City of Detroit. At the DFPC monthly meeting, community members also shared their thoughts about the importance of a fair and transparent land sale process in general and about the Hantz Woodlands project in particular.
As a result, the Detroit Food Policy Council, on behalf of the residents of the City of Detroit, is asking the Planning and Economic Development Committee to take the following actions:
· 1, That the Planning and Economic Development Committee hold off on considering the proposed sale of land to Hantz Woodlands until such time that the urban agriculture ordinances are passed.
· 2. That this proposed sale and other large scale sale of city owned land be subject to public hearings.
· 3. That the proposed development or purchase agreement (or whichever legal instrument is used) for the Hantz project be made public before the Council votes on it.
· 4. That evidence be provided that property owners adjacent to all of these lots have been adequately informed of their right and the process to purchase adjacent lots as well as given adequate time to respond before any sale is approved. The DFPC is willing to assist in engaging and informing residents in this process.
· 5. That an independent analysis on the economic, environmental and policy implications of selling large quantities of land to one entity be conducted and shared with the public.
COUNCIL MEMBER GARY BROWN
COUNCIL MEMBER SAUNTEEL JENKINS (Committee Chair)
(313) 224-4248 (office)
By Professor/Baba Charles Simmons
May 5th, 2013
Since most of the world’s population was not around at the beginning of this conflict, it is important for people everywhere to know the history of this 60-year old struggle between the Western Powers led by the U.S. on one hand, and the peoples of Asia on the other. The U.S. invaded Korea in 1950 in an attempt to stop the Chinese Revolution led by Chairman Mao Tse Tung that had kicked out the Western powers in 1949. The West feared a general independence victory against Western Colonialism throughout Asia that was set in motion in the early part of the 20th century. The U.S. was defeated in its objectives in the mid-1950s especially after Mao Tse Tung sent in Chinese troops on the side of the Korean forces. However, the U.S. still succeeded in dividing the nation politically into North and South, with a major force of U.S. troops, naval and air forces remaining in South Korea under a puppet U.S. government. The same pattern would play out a decade later in Vietnam following the freedom fighters defeat of the French colonialist in 1954 at Dien Bien Phu led by the revolutionary leader, Ho Chi Minh, who said that one of his major mentors was Marcus Garvey who Ho Chi Minh had heard in Harlem during WWI.
The North of Korea became the site of the revolutionaries under Kim Il Sung, the grandfather of the present leader. There was never an armistice nor an official end of the war between the U.S. and Korea although the U.S. withdrew after 3 years of fighting and declared a victory. But if you talk to any U.S. soldiers who were there on the ground they will tell you a totally different story of major U.S. defeat. Some of the African American soldiers remained in Korea and became citizens to avoid returning to the Segregated U.S.A. There have been minor and major escalations of the conflict since the end of the shooting “War,” and Korea, a poor but proud agricultural nation, has maintained its right to its path of socialist development. The U.S. has surrounded the nation with tens of thousands of troops, a naval fleet, the U.S. Air Force, and nuclear weapons scattered throughout the islands and nations of Asia. Wall street is waiting for an opportunity to return and restore ‘democracy and capitalism.” We have a son stationed in the region at the present moment. Many more thousands of young men and women of the U.S. will be the casualties if Wall Street has its way. But no one or any life form on our embattled planet is safe, and all of humanity –rich and poor–will suffer greatly from the fallout if the nuclear weapons begin to fly.
That is the immediate problem for all of us. It was the hope of the colonial powers and the U.S. that the only countries to have the nuclear weapons would be the white nations, including Western Europe, South Africa under the apartheid government and Israel. However, the Chinese broke that rule in 1960 and others followed including India, Pakistan, and North Korea. So the western objective now is to keep any other country outside of Europe from getting the bomb and thereby maintaining U.S. and European supremacy. The U.S. is the only country to have used them. However, the only way to rid the planet of nuclear danger is to require ALL nations to get rid of the nuclear weapons. No one should have them, and the people of planet Earth must struggle for peace and the elimination of all weapons of mass destruction. An immediate goal of neighborhood, city and county governments throughout the U.S. and the World should pass legislation calling for the end of weapons of mass destruction including mines that are crippling the poor people everywhere. Trade unions, universities and Faith organizations should demand the withdrawal of their money from any bank or investment that finances warfare. We must teach our youth everywhere to support peace. Collectively, these actions will force the national governments to act in favor of the people.
Baba/Professor Charles Simmons is co-Founder of the Hush House Black Community Museum and Leadership Training Institute for Human Rights. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday May 23 @ 2pmBoggs CenterThe upcoming Allied Media Conference and United States Social Forum are opportunities for us to show that another world is already happening in Detroit. We need your help in lifting up our city so that out of town guests and media will leave these gatherings with a deeper sense of the kind of transformational politics emerging throughout Detroit.
Being an Ambassador of Detroit City of Hope is one way for us to have a focused impact on these two conferences.
We are asking you to volunteer to spend a few hours at either of the conference making yourself available as an Ambassador for our city. To do this, we are asking you wear a specially designed T-Shirt for at least some part of the time you participate in the AMC/USSF.
In addition, we are asking for your help in supporting the DCOH and the Boggs Center in a variety of responsibilities. We need people willing to:
Any time that you can donate is welcome.
Please join us Sunday May 23 @ 2 pm at the Boggs Center, 3061 Field Street for a brief organizational meeting.
Please email Barb at email@example.com by May 20 to let her know if you will be attending. Please indicate T-shirt size as well.
Grace Lee Boggs
December 9th, 2012
This week in Doha, Qatar, on the Persian Gulf, delegates to COP18, the UN Framework on Climate Change, are discussing the urgent need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions if we and our planet are to survive.
OUTSIDE the conference hundreds of Arabs from the newly formed Arab Youth Climate Movement are calling on delegates to take action, getting governments and leaders to submit voluntary pledges for emission mitigation targets and take concrete steps towards a binding future agreement in Doha and a second commitment of Kyoto protocol to start in 2013.
INSIDE no targets are being set.
The reality facing the delegates and the world is that global emissions and the global temperature continue to rise. And unless the average global temperature rise is stabilized at 2 degrees Celsius by 2020 from a 2005 base level, people all over the world face increasingly catastrophic weather, more droughts, more wildfires, more Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.
The Doha conferees are hoping that governments will take steps to reduce emissions. China has pledged a considerable reduction. The U.S. also has a greenhouse gas emissions reduction target. In January 2010 after the Copenhagen Climate Conference the United States pledged to reduce emissions by 17 percent by 2020, relative to the 2005 baseline.
But we can’t and shouldn’t depend on China or the U.S government.
Instead we should be inspired by the Arab Youth Movement to take accelerated action at the ground level.
In every classroom from kindergarten to graduate school, in every household, every neighborhood, every congregation WE THE PEOPLE can and must begin taking steps to reduce carbon emissions.
It will mean growing our own food instead of depending on produce shipped from factory farms thousands of miles away.
It will mean producing our needs in neighborhood workshops instead of purchasing them at box stores.
It will mean a lot of walking and biking instead of driving.
It will mean giving up Black Fridays.
In other words, it will mean making the radical revolution of values or the cultural revolution that Dr. King called for in his 1967 “Break the Silence” speech.
All these steps at the ground level are possible and necessary.
We can live more simply so that we and future generations can simply live.
WE CAN DO IT! YES WE CAN!!!
By Grace Lee Boggs
Last week’s conference honoring the 40 year career of University of Michigan Professor Bunyan Bryant was both inspiring and instructive.
In one session after another, former students of many different ages and ethnicities described how Bunyan’s Environmental Justice leadership empowered them to struggle for a better environment for all our children.
At the celebratory Friday night dinner, students, colleagues and members of the community rose one after another to toast his contribution to the continuing evolution of ourselves and of the Environmental Justice movement.
At the Conference, an hour before the dinner, Bunyan made his retirement speech, titled “The moral arc of the universe bends towards justice.” In it he thanked his colleagues, former students and Conference organizer Kevin Merrill, and also emphasized that, like Dr. King, he is a philosophic activist.
“I want to talk about a concept that I first heard used by Martin Luther King. King was not only an activist; he was a philosopher. He posited that the arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice. In other words, reality shows a preference for truth and justice.
“I want to take this concept of King’s further because it implies a future state that makes it important that we focus on the future. Also I want to say that the arc of the moral universe bends toward environmental justice.”
“We can ill afford to leave the bending of the arc to chance. To make our communities free of toxins will require more than a reactive approach to justice.”
The Conference and Bunyan’s speech helped me realize that although a lot of people have been praising and paraphrasing Dr. King’s advocacy of the beloved community since his assassination in 1968, very few have been proactively creating programs, curricula and activities that enable the beloved community to emerge.
That is what Bunyan has been doing and that is why his career at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and the Environment (SNRE) has been so important.
That is also what the Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership has been doing in Detroit. That is why Detroit, which was once the national and international symbol of the miracles of industrialization and then became the national and international symbol of the devastation of deindustrialization, is now becoming the national and international symbol of a post-industrial sustainable society.
You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour.
Now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour.
And there are things to be considered:
Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?
Know your garden.
It is time to speak your Truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader.
This could be a good time!
There is a river flowing now very fast.
It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.
They will try to hold on to the shore.
They will feel they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly.
Know the river has its destination.
The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of
the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water.
See who is in there with you and celebrate.
At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally.
Least of all, ourselves.
For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.
The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!
Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
-The Elders, Oraibi, Arizona Hopi Nation
Please join us for a post AMC & USSF conversation.
Wednesday, July 14th at 6:30 pm at the Boggs Center.
The Spirit, the participation, the emerging theory and practice as well as the growing commitment that: Another World is Possible! Another US is Necessary and Another Detroit is Happening was experienced by all those who attended the AMC and the USSF. Detroit is becoming a Chiapis of the North. We witnessed history and we made history.
On Wednesday, July 14, at 6:30, we invite you to share your reflections, your significant moments, new relationships and your questions/challenges that emerged in the “10 Days that Shook Detroit and our Country.” What did you learn? What does it mean for our work locally, regionally and nationally.
The Detroit Anchor Organizations, and all the organizations and friends from across the country and Detroit did a tremendous job to make this gathering a success.
We want to specifically thank all the Ambassadors and friends of the Boggs Center, DCOH, Detroiters for Dignity and Democracy who helped with the book sales, T-Shirt distributions, setting up for Grace’s 95th Birthday and participating in so many workshops and discussions. Each of you helped people “fall in love with Detroit” as well as “experience an expanded vision of the future of Beloved Communities and Cities of Hope. The diversity, the multi-generational dialogues, the poetry, the songs, music and quiet conversations renewed some and inspired us all.
From the opening ceremony at the AMC to the opening march, to the discussion between Grace and Immanuel Wallerstein; to the conversations at the PMA on Education with Vincent Harding & Bill Ayers to the Long Haul workshop with Starhawk, Margo and Shea; to the workshops organized by Yusef Shakur, to Word & World, to the DAY Project, to Detroit City of Hope and the Coalition Against Police Brutality discussion by Ron Scott; to the Asian American gathering at Genesis Church to the I Dream a Garden Dance, the list goes on and on. Please share your pictures of the Matrix Theatre gatherings, puppets, parties and friends. This was a truly inclusive social movement gathering.
On Wednesday, July 14th, we hope to learn about the many other activities that made this a special historic gathering for you, for our city and for our country. You contributed to the re-imagining of our country, the redefining of work, economics and education and truly put on the agenda the recognition that the only reason for the Next American Revolution is the belief that we can advance human evolution. We are redefining community and democracy as we walk together in these times. As Grace often says: “We are Growing our Souls.”
A popular democratic 21 century movement is emerging in our country, some will say the Next American Revolution has begun while others will say: “the only reward for good work is more work.”
See you Wednesday, July 14th @ 6;30 at the Boggs Center.
3061 Field Street, Detroit 48214. For more information call 313-923-0797.
By Shea Howell
After months of rumors, Mike Duggan entered the race to become Mayor of the City of Detroit. His campaign raises troubling questions.
First, even supportive folks like Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press acknowledge that Mr. Duggan is a “carpetbagger” and fits “the dictionary definition of the opportunistic outsider.” He has barely lived in the city six months and wants to be mayor.
Duggan’s claim to run is that he can turn the city around. He argues that his experience as CEO of the Detroit Medical Center has given him the experience needed to get Detroit out from under state financial oversight. According to a recent interview, he says he will cooperate with unions, protect the police force, and back off of Bing efforts to privatize health and human services. He is critical of Bing’s handling of the lighting department, light rail, and Belle Isle, preferring to keep control in the city.
Further, he says that while parts of downtown are developing, neighborhoods are suffering. He told the Free Press “You’re seeing businesses and young people moving in at a rate that I haven’t seen in the 30 years that I’ve been working in the city. On the other hand, you go into the neighborhoods, and the neighborhoods aren’t seeing any of the benefits of that. And that’s what we’ve got to do: We’ve got to extend those successes into the neighborhoods.”
Much of Mr. Duggan’s criticism of Mayor Bing will find a welcome reception among Detroiters. He is positioning himself as the turn around guy. He says, “I was born in this city. I went to high school in this city. I’ve worked in this city for 30 years. I think I have roots with almost every organization in this city. But if what you’re doing is you’re voting for a mayor who’s lived in the city the longest, that isn’t necessarily going to get you to the person who can execute a financial turnaround.”
So far, Duggan has dodged the issue of race. If he were elected he would be the first white man to hold the office of Mayor since Roman Gribbs in 1974. Duggan says that when he talks about the issues that matter to people, race is irrelevant. He says, “What I’m focused on is we need to get the violence down, get the streetlights on, and get people moving into abandoned homes, not just knocking them down. That’s what I find everyone wants to talk about. And what I find is when you talk about those issues, issues like race melt away.”
And that is precisely the most worrisome thing about Duggan. He seems oblivious to the racial dimensions of his bid. He lacks any reflection on the social and political implications of a middle aged white male making a bid to be the leader of a majority African American city at a time when forces that look a lot like him are threatening the very existence of Detroit.
Race never “melts away.”
Detroit has a long history of supporting principled politicians, regardless of their ethnicity. For years an older white woman, Maryanne Mahaffey, garnered more votes than the elected mayor. People voted for her not only because of her positions, but because she spoke forthrightly about race, class, sexual identity, and a vision of an inclusive city. She constantly used her public office to educate people about social differences and why they mattered. She helped folks move toward a deeper appreciation of one another and our experiences.
To pretend that concern for crime and lighting overshadow the critical need for us to reconcile social difference does us all a disservice. It is not the kind of vision we need from those who claim leadership.
Friday, September 17 at 6pm free
Radical Detroit History Art Show Closing with Grace Lee Boggs, Detroit Summer & Matrix Theatre
To close Trumbullplex’s summer Radical Detroit History Art Show, longtime Detroit activist Grace Lee Boggs will speak on the role of youth art in the city on today’s stage of community organizing for social change, 8 pm.
After Party 10 pm – music by Defiance Ohio $6
Trumbullplex 4208 Trumbull Ave. 48208 313-758-7144 firstname.lastname@example.org
Papercut in the show at the CAID. “ART Work/Detroit”
opened September 11th @ the Contemporary Art Institute of Detroit (CAID), located at 5141 Rosa parks Blvd. in Detroit.
The exhibit is part of ArtWork: US: A National Conversation on Art, Labor & Politics, http://artandwork.us/, bringing together arts from Detroit and across the country. The show will be up from September 11-October 22. For more information about the show, www.staceymalasky.wordpress.com
ALSO! Huge punk show on Sat 9/18 @ the Trumbullplex w/ Star Fucking Hipsters & guests $8
Cafe Trumbullplex III ! Benefit Friday evening 9/24-seating and a gourmet meal for $10,
9/25 Trumbullplex Zine Library Benefit, share a story about the city ONLY $3! 16 & under are free
By Grace Lee Boggs
April 21st, 2013
(This article was originally published 20 years ago in The Future: Images for the 21st Century, edited by University of Michigan Professor Bunyan Bryant).
American families today are so unlike those in which human beings have traditionally raised children that it is questionable whether they should be called families at all.
Since the invention of agriculture more than 10,000 years ago, children and young people have been raised in families which included not only parents and siblings but other relatives of all ages. Within this multi-generational family, growing children developed a sense of their continuity with the past and the future. Naturally and normally they each discovered that their own individual uniqueness was the result of a subtle interplay between ancestral influences and individual choices and contingencies. Surrounded by a wide variety of adult models on whose conversations they “eavesdropped”, they acquired the ability to distinguish between appropriate and inappropriate behaviors.
At the same time, because the agricultural family was an economic production unit, work life and home life were intermingled. Women and children were subordinate, but everyone had a socially necessary role to play. Through the performances of daily chores children developed competence, a sense of responsibility, and self-esteem.
It was only with the coming of the Industrial Revolution and the shifting of work from the field to the factory that family structures and patterns began to change. To go where the jobs were, families had to be mobile. Thus the “extended” family” became the “conjugal family” of parents and children, stripped of relatives, streamlined so that it could serve as a labor pool for expanding industry.
It has taken more than two centuries to complete this change in the United States. Before World War II the great majority of American working people still raised their children in some form of the “extended family”.
Since the end of World War II, however, the American family has been steadily shrinking so that today it has been reduced to the “nuclear family” in all classes, and in the suburbs as well as the city. The automobilization of our society has made it possible for the upwardly mobile to move to the suburbs, leaving behind blacks, the poor and the elderly. Thus nuclear families are housed in one-dimensional neighborhoods segregated by race, class and age.
Instead of being a community of work, the American home has become the bastion of consumption. In single as well as two-parent households, mothers have two jobs. After working all day in the factory, office or hospital, they continue to shoulder the main responsibility for the care of the children and the home. An increasing number of children grow up in single-parent households, and raising of children has been turned over to schools and baby-sitters.
For most children the parents, grandparents, relatives, neighbors, and other caring adults of an earlier period have been replaced by the TV, same-age cliques or gangs, loneliness.
The effects of this erosion of the American family have been catastrophic. Child abuse by parents has become a national problem. Our country, the most scientifically and medically advanced in the world, is 17th among nations in combating infant mortality. Crime, vandalism, drugs, suicide, and other anti-social and self-destructive behaviors among youth are so widespread that programs to save our sons and daughters have become a growth industry.
Liberals and conservatives are little help to parents trying to survive and to raise their children in a society which is constantly undermining their role. Both add to the cause of inadequacy and powerlessness which parents are already feeling, liberals by claiming that the solution lies in more support from state agencies, conservatives by insisting that responsibility for raising children rests solely with today’s “families” and by implying that parental laxity is the cause of youth errancy.
The weakness in both the liberal and the conservative approaches is their inability to recognize that the crisis of the American family is part and parcel of the disintegration taking place in all our institutions as we come to the end of a civilization that has been ruled by the blind, fanatical, and destructive forces of the market. Our families, like our communities, our cities, and our country, are suffering the consequences of a system which has been miraculously efficient in the production of goods, but devastatingly destructive of all our human relationships.
However, by the same token, we are privileged to be present and to participate in the creation of new families, new communities, and new cities based on more human and more spiritual values. This is our challenge and our opportunity.
To be continued: The American Family: Rebeginnings
By Shea Howell
February 24th, 2013
Last week the Roberts Riverwalk Hotel was buzzing. Progressive teachers, professors, students, artists, organizers, and philosophers from around the country came to Detroit to reimagine education.
The talk was of teaching, learning, playing, assessing, laughing, writing, thinking, singing, developing whole people for a new time, citizenship, democracy, creating critical connections, and embracing crisis as opportunity.
The group came in response to a challenge made in 2010 by the Boggs Center. In the introduction to the conference they say, “that transformative education rooted in social justice is not only necessary, but possible.” Inspired by the words of Grace Lee Boggs, “We undertook the challenge of moving the meeting to engage in place-based, social justice-oriented education. And what better location than Detroit, one of America’s most storied cities, uncritically viewed as a struggling wasteland to give up on, a place where some say another future is possible, a land of post-industrial transformation.”
More than a meeting to just talk, the gathering featured active participation as groups worked with eleven community-based learning sites. The purpose of these collaborative activities was so participants would engage with “people working tirelessly to transform communities and education for the twenty-first century.” By working closely with community groups, the conference hoped to “embrace Grace’s notion that we need to invent ways to prepare young people to be ‘solutionaries’ who are able and willing to participate in wide ranging cultural and economic evolution.”
Conference goers found themselves at Allied Media Project, the Boggs Educational Center, Center For Applied Inclusive Teaching and Learning in Arts and Humanities, Catherine Ferguson Academy, Church of the Messiah, Detroit Community Schools, Earthworks, East Michigan Environmental Action Council, Hope District, and Nsoroma Institute. As one participant reflected about the power of these engagements, they were able to see education “where every child was welcomed for the gifts that they bring.”
The gathering was the 39th annual meeting of the North Dakota Study Group, a network of students, researchers, and teachers who have led the fight against mindless standardize testing and the diminishment of public education. Their numbers included Deborah Meier, a MacArthur genius grant winner who founded East Park Secondary School in East Harlem and the Mission Hill School in Boston; Jay Featherstone, emeritus professor of education at MSU; Jonathan Carlisle, a high school student from Marion, Alabama, Scott Nine, Executive Director of the Institute for Democratic Education in America; John Lockhart, co-chair of the gathering and an assistant professor of education at Pacific University; Cara McCarthy, 4th grade teacher from Dorchester, MA; and Dr. Vincent Harding, close associate of Dr. Martin Luther King and founder of the Veterans of Hope.
The conference opened with a bus tour of the city that emphasized the transformation we are experiencing from the industrial age to a new, more human, sustainable, and ecological future.
Detroiters provided panel discussions about this moment in our city. Scott Kurashige, Professor of history at University of Michigan and member of the Boggs Center, described the dangers we face as the right wing politicians and corporate interests scheme to disenfranchise our city and convert public assets to private wealth. At the same time, he said, people are not only resisting these assaults, but building new, alternative ways of living. This was reinforced by Charity Hicks, who described the “resilience and brilliance” of Detroiters making a way out of no way, creating new forms of education and new systems to produce food as they grow community.
Diane Nucera of the Allied Media Project said, “We believe Media-based community organizing is a process of speaking and listening as a community in order to investigate the problems that shape our realities, imagine other realities and then work together to make them real.” Our theory of change, she said is to “CREATE, CONNECT, TRANSFORM.”
Across the country people are creating, connecting and transforming. They recognize that another Detroit is emerging. Unseen by the corporate elite, these transformations are creating a better future for all of us.
You can see highlights of the conference on twitter at #ndsgdetroit.
For the last 200 years virtually all of humanity has been dominated by an inhumane economy. That economy goes by many names. Fritjhoff Bergman calls it the JOBS system. For our purposes here this weekend I think that term is extremely helpful.
Tomorrow, just before lunch, we will hear from Fritjhoff via video. We will discuss together his inspiring insights into the past, the present and the future.
Starting tonight, we accelerate our journey along a road that is leading to a new kind of economy. As we reimagine work we reimagine life. We reimagine what it means to be a human being.
We visualize an economy that reaches for a better balance between human and earth, parent and child, the entire spectrum of female to male, neighbor to neighbor and community to community.
Tonight, that image looks like a messed up jigsaw puzzle. A few of its pieces inter-lock quite nicely. Others are scattered about the table, waiting to be fit. But most are missing altogether.
As we perform our labors of love from now through Sunday—as we do our work together over the next 48 hours—we will make the picture clearer. We will make some new pieces and join some others together.
Of course, we will come nowhere close to finishing the job. What we are about takes hard work, patience and time.
Hundreds of years ago, people came slowly to realize that the earth revolved around the sun, not the other way around. The authorities of that time insisted that Copernicus was wrong. They punished Galileo severely.
It took courage and struggle before the new truth took root.
So too with the belief that the world was round, not flat. After all, does it not look flat?
Oftentimes, new ideas are not so easy to grasp. Ultimately though—new truth prevails. So it will be for us.
As we go about our daily lives, just as the horizon looks flat, the J-O-B system appears invincible. Every hour of every day, the authorities of our time insist that there is no alternative to the present system.
If we are to survive, they say, each person must have a J-O-B—maybe more than one. Either that or we must attach ourselves to someone who does have a J-O-B. Of necessity, they say, we must therefore have a J-O-B System. And so, we must also accept the power and the domination of those who rule the J-O-B system.
They preach “individual responsibility and self-reliance.” But what they demand is our total dependence.
From the time we are infants, we are taught to please them. Vast and deep systems of ideology, superstition and education are devised to drive the lesson into our minds. We are conditioned to be engulfed in cold-sweat fear at the very idea that we might not get, or worse, might lose a J-O-B.
We should not be surprised then that so many of our brothers and sisters believe with all their hearts that if we can just beg loud enough and urgently enough for JOBS, JOBS, JOBS, surely they will reach into their vaults and their banks and their souls and bless us with more jobs.
Brothers and sisters. Begging is not freedom. Begging is not power. Begging is not democracy. Begging is not love of self, of earth or of humanity.
We have gathered here tonight because in our deeds and our thoughts we have begun to see beyond the J- O-B tyranny.
We see that the emperor is as naked as a jay-bird. Their system is broken. It is lurching from one crisis to the next.
This should not come as all that much of a surprise. Contrary to myth and ideology, capitalism is not a job-creating system.
Do not be misled by recent history. The golden age of US capitalism that lasted from about 1950 until about 1980 was a fluke. The capitalism we have now is the real thing.
In 1945 the United States had decisively won World War II. In the following decades it faced no significant economic rivals or competitors. War production had highly rationalized and advanced manufacturing methods and capacity. Energy and raw materials were cheap.
There was enormous pent up consumer demand. In the 1960’s the civil rights and feminist movements contributed to yet another expansion of purchasing power and consumption.
Back then, thanks to the Bolshevik revolution and the depression, a very different social contract was in place. It tilted toward a more fair distribution of productivity gains than now.
That was then.
By 1980, it had all changed. Productivity had increased so much that the need for labor drastically declined. While not obvious at first, the power of unions was already beginning to fail. So were other elements of a more evenhanded social contract.
The costs of defending the American Empire were beginning to offset the economic benefits of being an empire. Losing the war in Viet Nam is but one example. At the same time, the capacity of other nations to offer labor, machines and markets comparable to or better than the US was exploding.
And so the system adjusted.
Since 1980 the JOBs system has mostly created fake jobs. Jobs for the sake of jobs. Wasteful jobs. Destructive jobs. Dehumanizing jobs.
For starters there is the Gulag of capitalism. In one way, this atrocity may be all we need to know about the degeneration of the system. In an earlier capitalist crisis we got the Works Progress Administration known as the WPA. It used government funds to pay artists and unemployed workers to create murals and symphonies and libraries.
What do we get? Millions of working age adults—mostly people of color—are channeled into the prison-industrial system. More than two million are incarcerated. Millions more are on parole or probation or awaiting trial. It is the J O B of millions more to process them.
Yes, that surely operates to impose racial and social control. But put that aside for a moment. Consider the economics of it.
Have you ever thought about what would happen to the unemployment rate if that system were eliminated? At a minimum there would instantly be five million more unemployed.
Consider the post-1980 education-industrial system. One of the great myths of our time is that unemployment is caused by a lack of education. Well, education itself has become a significant cause of employment. From junior college through graduate school, the education business has exploded. I am showing my age here but I am old enough to remember when education was considered valuable in its own right. Not these days.
Now all you ever hear is that education is the key to getting a J O B.
Really? As with the prison system, keeping people in school does keep them out of the workforce and therefore technically off of the unemployment rolls. At the same time, the growth in secondary school enrollment and the corresponding construction explosion did create some employment.
But here’s the thing. You can look at all kinds of statistics on this. But you don’t need any numbers at all to know that by any measure, the US population is more educated than ever. And yet the unemployment rate is still astronomical. So much for education being somehow the cause of
J O Bs.
Like the education boom, here’s another make-work program: The so-called J O B of millions in the labor force is to fight and supply endless and meaningless wars. Once again funded by taxpayers—not by the exalted private-sector.
So all by itself, has the private sector done anything at all to provide employment? Well, yes, sort of. Up to a point. Women have been brought into the private sector work force in large numbers. Child labor is up too. But wages are driven down to the point that poverty goes up anyway.
Simultaneously, the J-O-B system buys time—and makes some jobs for itself for itself by substituting IOU’s for money. Public debt, credit card debt, student loan debt, housing debt. All of it enslaves us still more.
The truth is, if you took debt out of the economy over the last 30 years, the bankruptcy of both the theory and the practice of the JOB system would have become obvious that much sooner.
Over and over, the J-O-B system propaganda machine tells us that government is the source of all evil. But actions speak louder than words.
In the last 30 years the JOBS System has grown government exponentially. Why? Two reasons. One is so that corporations can get fat government contracts, while claiming that only the private sector creates jobs. The other is that increasing government employment keeps unemployment down. That in turn helps to conceal the fact that the private sector is not creating jobs—even in the so-called “good” times.
Colossal government spending and employment notwithstanding, the vastly undercounted official unemployment rate is still enormous.
And even when there are jobs—many of them add little of true value. Is harnessing vast human skill and creativity at marketing things no one really needs, just to keep the system going, useful work? It is not.
And what is the cost of this system? To our ecosystem? To our dignity? To our potential.
Here in Detroit the decline and bankruptcy of the J-O-B system has been on display with a vengeance for more than 30 years. In many circles it is what we are now famous for.
Fortunately, that is only one side of the story.
It is no accident that we are meeting here in Detroit. For decades now, we have been proving that we can make a new system without the masters of the JOB system universe. A little more each day, we prove that we can make a way out of no way.
We are not alone in seeing that light. All over the world the J-O-B System fog is lifting. As we will hear from Vandana Shiva on Sunday, more and more people are understanding the difference between JOBS and work.
Work is intrinsic to humans. Life today is quite different than it was one year ago, 100 years ago, 1,000 years ago and 10,000 years ago. Without work, that would not be true.
One of the advantages of being a grandfather is being able to see my grandson Nathan do his work. To me it’s obvious. Watching Nathan, who is now just ever a year old, growing his body, mind and skills is proof that work is at the very core of our DNA.
And all around us, can we not see that there is so much work to be done? There are children and adults to be taught. Sick people to be helped. Prisons to be emptied. Rivers to be cleaned. Houses to be rescued and new ones to be built.
There are new systems of energy to be discovered. New ways to resolve human conflict to be devised. Songs to be sung. Poems to be written. Baseball games to be played.
Truth be told, the J-O-B system has admittedly done all these things. Even today it does many of them well. Let us appreciate what we are given by the human evolution that brings us to this point.
We humans have paradigm shifting opportunities today because the JOBS system has given us new axes and wheels and needles and steam engines. We call them smart phones and the Internet and solar power and neuroscience and 3-D printers and quantum physics. We truly do possess vast new knowledge and new ideas.
But now, like the feudal system that came before the capitalist system, the machine that organizes those things is worn out. It is like a car with too many miles to be worth fixing. It has run its course.
It cannot succeed because we are already way past the capacity of our eco-system to sustain it. Freedom and democracy and the planet are being destroyed faster than life is getting better. Capitalist growth is not the solution. It is the problem. It is like cancer.
But we can unearth the cure. We can be the cure. Medicine is already being tested in women’s new work in India. You can find it in Feedom farms and Peace Zones for Life, the Urban Network Bookstore, the Catherine Ferguson Academy and at Happy Frog dot com.
In teeny, tiny but important ways, we are already building the new food system, the new education system, the new manufacturing system and the new political system.
The new way has begun to reveal itself in Cairo and Tunisia, Greece and Madrid. A piece of it is on display on the dirt surround by the towers of Wall Street.
It is in the Evergreen Laundry in Cleveland, in the pages of Yes! Magazine and AlterNet.org. You can join it on Sirius radio 127 every Sunday afternoon on the Land of Hopes and Dreams radio program. It is at the Damon Keith Center at the Wayne State Law School and right here at Focus Hope.
It is at Hush House, Avalon International Breads and on Heidelberg street in Detroit. It is in the work of We Want Green Too and the Allied Media Conference.
Yes, it is young. It is fragile. It is flawed. But it is here.
What is most exciting about all these seedlings and more is this:
We are learning ever more urgently that to make a new system, we must become better.
Only better humans can make a better system. And by definition, a better system is the one that helps makes us better humans.
If I were to reduce my lifetime of political action and political thought to one thing it is this: Just now. Just in the last year really, I have had an epiphany of sorts.
I have come to understand the true meaning of a slogan that I have heard all my life. The slogan is “BE THE CHANGE.”
Historically, to be a revolutionary has meant spending a lot of time figuring out what other people should do and then mobilizing the power to force them to do it. Perhaps the best known version of this is the idea of revolution as replacing the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie with the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Thanks to the work of Grace Boggs, Michael Hardt, Antoni Negri, Vandana Shiva, Dr. Claudio Naranjo and many others we now see a different paradigm. Making a revolution is not just about changing others. It is not just about changing THE SYSTEM. It is about changing ourselves. It is about practicing what we are preaching.
We cannot build an economy based on love without building a culture of love. The Jobs System rests on a philosophy of competition driven greed and selfishness. Our system is based on the practice of cooperation and sharing. This weekend, we each have an extraordinary opportunity to Be the Change.
Is that possible? Of course it is. All of our lives we have been told that we cannot overcome human nature.
Sisters and brothers—that is no more true than the idea that the earth is flat or that the sun revolves around us.
Human nature is what we decide to make it. That is the true miracle of our existence.
My own nature is different today than it was yesterday and a year ago and beyond. So is yours.
More than once, it has been my good fortune to have glimpsed human nature at its best. I have been in the embrace of the beloved community in Detroit and Selma and Hanoi and more than a few jail cells.
I see the beloved community in this room right now.
So do you. Turn and look around. Accept the feeling that comes to you.
Now just imagine how we will be together in the hours, days and years ahead.
In late October, local and internationally known figures active in building a new, more humane economy will convene in Detroit for a groundbreaking conference and collaborative discussion. Titled ‘ReImagining Work’, the meeting will take place at Focus:HOPE from Oct 28-30, 2011.
“This is an extraordinary time on the clock of the world,” according to Grace Lee Boggs, renowned activist and author of ‘The Next American Revolution’. “All over the planet, people are pursuing alternatives to the economics of greed, over- consumption and destruction of the eco-system.”
Participants will explore efforts by grassroots organizations to create new ways of living out of of the devastation of a dying postindustrial economy. They will emphasize how people are developing sustainable, cooperative and transformative economic and social relationships while reinvigorating democratic action.
Guest speakers Vandana Shiva, Grace Lee Boggs, Gar Alperovitz, Frank Joyce, Jenny Lee, Ron Scott, Gloria Lowe, and others, will discuss the profound opportunities offered by the accelerating decline of the jobs based economy. As we evolve beyond it, attendees will be encouraged to share their vision of what “work” looks like .
“It’s no accident that this meeting is being held in Detroit,” says Gloria Lowe, founder of ‘We Want Green Too!’, and eastside Detroit activist. “We have been among the first to see both the collapse of an unsustainable economic system and the birth of new ways of thinking and doing the work of being human.”
The ‘ReImagining Work’ Conference was launched by the Boggs Center To Nurture Community Leadership, in partnership with EMEAC (East Michigan Environmental Action Council), Allied Media Conference, Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, Putting the Neighbor Back In the ‘Hood, Damon Keith for Civil Rights and Focus:HOPE.
By Shea Howell
May 19th, 2013
The Office of the Emergency Manager issued its “Financial and Operating Plan” for the city of Detroit. It is a limited document. As predicted, it said Detroit is in financial trouble. It repeats the concern for the $15 billion in long-term debt and adds that the city was out of money as of April 26, having $64 million in cash but $226 million in obligations. It goes on to tell us that much of the city is “dysfunctional.” Police, fire, water, lighting, transportation, and recreation don’t work. All require an overhaul. All will be studied for plans for improvement. And we have a problem with blight. That will be studied too. And then we can expect quick action.
The New York Times summed up the report as “dire.” The Times explains, “The picture of debt and disarray he paints may be bleaker even than earlier grim portrayals.” The best the Detroit Free Press could come up with was, “It’s hard to imagine how something could be disappointing and illuminating at the same time.” Nancy Kaffer noted it is “not exactly groundbreaking.”
As the Times suggests, the report is likely “to become a new focal point for debate for some in Detroit who have questioned the seriousness of the city’s troubles and the need for state intervention at a level rarely seen for a city of its size.”
But the limitations of the report rest more in the thinking it represents than in accounting.
Here unions are singled out as the major reasons for the problems of city finance. Pension and health care responsibilities are targeted as primary contributors to long-term debt.
There is no mention in this report of the serious, sustained disinvestment in the city by corporations. No mention of ill-conceived tax incentives given over the years to all kinds of development schemes. No mention of the role banks played in the encouragement of suburban over urban development. No mention of the foreclosure crisis and its acceleration of the depopulation of our city. No mention of the hostile state legislature that has done everything from remove residency requirements to renege on revenue sharing promises. No mention of the millions of dollars squandered by foundations.
The solutions the EM seeks will be directed primarily at what he has identified as the sources of the problem—unions, pensions, and healthcare. Moreover, the solutions are seen in isolation from one other.
He continues the worn out strategy of asserting “demolition” of abandoned structures will improve neighborhood life. He makes no mention of the use of “deconstruction” by neighborhood groups, churches and civic organization as a way to increase the economic activity in a community and to harness valuable resources. Instead, the current picture of “demolition” he advocates is one that conjures up destruction, dumping, and dollars leaving the city.
Nor does he talk about the connections between various sectors of public life. We know that increasing recreational facilities and opening public parks decreases criminal activity. Yet this report, in its desire to privatize and punish, talks of these areas as unrelated.
The Emergency Manager got one thing right. He said, “You don’t get the magnitude of neighborhood blight we have overnight.” He went on, “Without a vision for what you want your city to be three, five, 10, 20, 30 years out, the totality of those circumstances drove us here” will continue.
That is the challenge. We need to take every opportunity in our neighborhoods, block clubs, faith and civic organizations to talk with one another not only about how we want our city to look, but what values we want that vision to reflect. That, in the long run, is the only path to a new future.
Time Magazine recently published its incipient article in a year-long “expose” on Detroit. To many folks’ dismay, although not so much surprise, the magazine did not begin its series with anything new, but rather is continuing a long-line of rhetoric with the only sense of creativity being that it is being espoused from a home purchased in East Village.
Rich Feldman and Shea Howell, two activists who have been working to re-build and re-spirit Detroit over the last 40 years, have written thoughtful articles in response to Time’s initiative, and should be widely read. Click here to read the articles in their entirety.
By Shea Howell
Corica Jefferson has been lovely doing what women have done for thousands upon thousands of years. She has been raising chickens at her home on the East side of Detroit. She sells their eggs. “It’s how I make my living. I share eggs with my neighbors and the kids come over and feed the hens and rooster. This is my life. I love being around animals and I love my birds. It’s very therapeutic.”
One day last week this quiet scene was shattered. Animal control officers surrounded her house. “It seemed like 20 people surrounded the place. It was like a drug raid. They said I couldn’t keep the chickens. I would have to get rid of everybody. They said a duck that stays in the backyard was a federal crime. I don’t know what to do. I can’t believe this.”
It seems one of Ms. Jefferson’s neighbors complained to the Health Department, saying she was “keeping a cow” in her yard. She’s not. She does have 3 baby lambs that are helping her keep overgrown areas mowed. “There Jacobs sheep,” she explained, they keep the grass drown and I spoil them with treats, they are humble animals that love you.”
Ms. Jefferson has appealed to the Detroit agricultural community for support. Myrtle Curtis of Feedem Freedom growers said, “The city has really dropped the ball on so many regulations, there must be a way for people to keep their animals.”
At the heart of this controversy are competing ideas about what kind of city we are creating. From the view of the Mayor and the Shrinking of Detroit folks, small agricultural efforts like those that have sustained Ms. Jefferson are considered a nuisance and a potential health risk. They bristle at the idea that cities would contain not only gardens, but animals. They think this way because they have neither a sense of history nor a vision for the future.
For much of human existence, access to common land for gardening and small animal grazing has been crucial to self-sufficiency and self determination. Eco-feminist scholars like Vandana Shiva, Starhawk, Maria Mies and Silvia Federici have carefully demonstrated that the destruction of the commons has been a central force in the development of capital and the establishment of exploitive relationships.
In a recent interview in Politics and Culture, Federici says: “There is a direct relation between the destruction of the social and economic power of women in the “transition to capitalism” and the politics of food in capitalist societies.
“In every part of the world, before the advent of capitalism, women played a major role in agricultural production. They had access to land, the use of its resources and control over the crops they cultivated, all of which guaranteed their autonomy and economic independence from men. In Africa, they had their farming and cropping systems, which were the source of a specific female culture, and they were in charge of the selection of seeds, an operation that was crucial to the prosperity of the community and whose knowledge was transmitted through the generations. The same was true of women’s role in Asia and the Americas. In Europe as well, under the late medieval period, women had land-use rights and the use of the “commons”—woods, ponds, grazing grounds—that were an important source of sustenance.”
The Detroit City Council should act swiftly to grant a waiver to Ms. Jefferson so she can keep her animals. After all they give waivers to the incinerator for pollution and to casinos for neon signs. Surely they can make a space for a woman who is contributing to supporting life.
Then they should ensure urban farming policies give every neighborhood access to a commons. This is a critical step in creating a city that will be self sufficient, cooperative, and caring.
i pledge allegiance to do my part in restoring the neighbor back to the ‘hood.
i pledge to develop myself, my family & my household to greatest extent possible of being a shining example of being father, son, mother, daughter, sister & brother in my neighborhood.
i will learn all that i can in order to give my best to improve the quality of my neighborhood.
i will keep myself mentally sound, spiritually groundded & physically fit; building a strong body, mind & spirit that will exemplify positivity & productivity in my neighborhood.
i will unselfishly share my time, knowledge & overstanding with my neighbors (young & old) in order to build & maintain a healthy neighborhood.
i will discipline myself to direct my energies thoughtfully & constructively to maintain peace, harmony, brotherhood, sisterhood & love in my neighborhood.
i will train myself to never hurt or allow others to harm anyone in my neighborhood for an unjustice cause or through negative behaviors of stealing, gun violence, verbal abuse, police brutality works, selling drugs, rape or any other social ill that works to destroy my neighborhood.
This is my pledge to do my part by being a caring neighbor in my neighborhood
Auto idolatry and casino economics have left Detroit tottering on the brink. What will it take for Motown to rise again?
by Bill Wylie-Kellermann
Kitty-corner from my church, St. Peter’s Episcopal, stand the remains of Detroit’s old Tiger Stadium. A new ballpark named after a bank-part of the run at the casino economy-is located in the new sports and entertainment district closer to downtown.
By Grace Lee Boggs
April 7th, 2014
The Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership (BCNCL) has issued a new edition of Revolution in the 21st Century (65pp. $5.00).
It was originally published in 2010.
The contents of the 2010 edition were:
Changing Concepts of Revolution
Rediscovering the American Past
Naming the Enemy
Toward a Self-Governing America
Re-affirming Self-Evident Truths
Neighborhood Peace Pledge
Neighborhood Peace Codes
Two new articles have been added to the 2013 edition.
Re-Imagining Work: Another Production is Possible by Richard Feldman
New Work & New Culture by Barbara Stachowski
As the American revolution continues to gain momentum, BCNCL is hosting an increasing number of movement groups from different parts of the country.
For example, a few weeks ago we enjoyed a visit from Movement Generation, a Justice and Ecology group rom the Bay area which is traveling to different cities in order to establish connections between local movement organizations.
In New England they will spend time with the Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative in the Roxbury-Dorchester neighborhoods of Boston.
MG’s members are mostly people of color. Carla Maria Perez, a founder, is a community organizer of Native/Latin American heritage who graduated from UC Berkeley in 1999 with a BS in Conservation & Resource Studies with an emphasis on Environmental Racism.
We are hearing from university professors from around the country that their students want to become more involved. A number of professors include both The Next American Revolution and Living for Change in their syllabus.
Professors from local universities who feel the need of their students to connect their studies to the struggle developing in Detroit are also bringing their classes to the Boggs Center.
By Grace Lee Boggs
February 10th, 2013
Rosa Parks, “the first lady of civil rights,” and “the mother of the freedom movement,“ was born Rosa Louise McCauley a hundred years ago on February 4, 1913.
Her Centennial was celebrated last week at many events, including the unveiling of a special stamp issued by the U.S. Postal Service.
Most celebrations focused on Rosa’s courage, saying little or nothing about the Montgomery women whose Visionary Organizing of the 13-month Montgomery Bus Boycott launched the civil rights movement.
Their story is told in The Montgomery Bus Boycott
and the Women Who Started It, the memoir of Professor Jo Ann Gibson Robinson, president of the Women’s Political Council (WPC), which had been waiting for the perfect symbol around which to organize a boycott against the racially abusive bus system.
Within two hours of Rosa’s arrest on Friday afternoon, December 1, 1955, the WPC had blanketed the city with 50,000 “Don’t ride the bus” leaflets and was busy organizing the boycott. Special committees were set up, the main one focusing on transportation.
To keep people off buses, an alternative means of transportation was created. Hundreds of volunteer cars had to be contacted and pooled, and donations determined through cooperative means. Routes were mapped out to get workers to all parts of the city. Regular bus routes were followed so that workers who “walked along” the streets could be picked up.
The pickup system was so effectively planned that many writers described it as comparable in precision to a military operation.
The women’s organizing was so visionary that “the Montgomery Bus Boycott was more than a movement for civil rights. It was also a woman’s movement for dignity, respect and bodily integrity.” (Danielle McGuire: At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape and Resistance).
It was also so solutionary that by the fall of 1956 a United States Supreme Court decision declared Alabama and Montgomery laws requiring segregated buses unconstitutional.
Register Today! Ticket Deadline is this Friday, September 4!
Join the Capuchin Soup Kitchen’s Earthworks Urban Farm, for our second annual Harvest Dinner Saturday, September 12, to celebrate working together for food justice for all.
For more information, visit Earthworks’ website.
By Victoria P. Davis
It’s wake up time. Our nation heaves under the weight of complicated, layered crises; wars, a failing economy, economic and racial divides, collapsing infrastructure and urban decay, environmental devastation, soil and air pollution and challenges that affect the source, quality and supply of our foods. The crises are so interrelated and polarizing that it is difficult to know where to begin to affect meaningful change. Perhaps, however, the real challenge involves making a shift in the way we think about change. Should you venture to listen beyond the bitter argumentation inside Washington for example, beyond the deafening rhetoric within city councils and mayoralties, beyond even the overwhelming negativity, fragmentation and divisive national conversations, you will find quite a different scenario unfolding. Critical numbers of people within urban neighborhoods are demonstrating a powerfully creative approach to issues that adversely impact the quality of their lives. The seeds of change are being quietly sown and have already sprouted wondrous roots. At first glance, you may never hear or notice them at work as you drive through the neighborhood. Nevertheless, intergenerational bands of earth warriors, urban farmers, people from diverse backgrounds and cultures are busily engaged in a grass roots movement now comfortably called “The Good Food Revolution”. And far more than good food is being introduced. (more…)
By Shea Howell
December 23rd, 2012
This is a sacred time shrouded in sadness. This is usually a season to celebrate family ties and wishes for peace. But the holiday season was disrupted by the senseless massacre of 27 people. Twenty of them were small children.
President Obama mirrored the grief of the nation at these killings. At his press conference, the President identified as a parent, recognizing the painful loss that families face with the death of a child. Later, at a service in Newtown Connecticut he spoke movingly, offering consolation to the community.
“No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society,” he said. He added, “In the coming weeks I’ll use whatever power this office holds” in an effort “aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.”
“Because what choice do we have?” We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage? That the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”
It has been a long time since such public questions have been raised. Yet there is little sign that we as a people are willing to seriously pursue them. We fall quickly into the predictable debates of gun control laws, questions of motive and parenting, of mental illness and disturbed individuals.
But there is a deeper level of violence we continue to ignore.
For most of Adam Lanza’s life, we have been a country at war. We began these wars as an act of revenge, choosing vengeance over justice. We celebrated the obliteration of a city that played no part in the terrorist attack that provoked these responses. We have killed countless women, children, and men in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Libya. We have displayed the bodies of the son’s of our enemy on the hoods of cars, like animal trophies. We have justified the use of unspeakable tortures with legal arguments, unleashing the most sadistic impulses among us.
President Obama continues to justify war. He has celebrated the killing of Osama bin Laden and his right to have a list of enemies, to be killed by any means necessary. He has authorized the use of drone warfare, accepting as realistic politics the killing of those who happen to be nearby.
We, the people, have become so used to this killing, we rarely notice the formal apologies offered to those in Afghanistan and Pakistan when children are killed, wedding parties mistaken for armed attacks, villages destroyed as collateral damage. Such “carnage” is “routine.”
We have become a people of selective sensitivity. We identify with the children of Newton, but not those of Gaza. We understand the pain of parents at the sudden death of a child, but ignore the slow death of the spirit faced by families forced to live on the streets of our cities, amidst fear, hunger, and daily brutality.
If there is one lesson to be learned over this last decade it should be that we cannot commit public violence without private consequences. As long as we choose revenge over reconciliation and celebrate the death of anyone, we contribute to the culture of death.
We have come to accept a culture that claims some human life is more valuable than others. As long as our public life celebrates violence over virtue, those among us who are the least connected and most troubled will find our way to explode without restraint.
President Obama’s call for change is an opportunity for us to take an honest look in the mirror and to acknowledge how much we have to change if we are to become a people of peace.
Through a veil of tears,
I see happiness, joy and peace divine;
these blessings be mine.
I see a new day coming in the light;
and oh, its brightness gives delight
to a woman woe ing in her soul.
I see a new day coming into the Night.
Oh so bright, so bright,
its brightness gives delight.
Your smiles illuminated, bearing open your soul
to a wo(e)man like me,
who’s seeking to be free of the woe ing tyranny.
Through a veil of tears I see you.
I see you seeing me, seeing
happiness, joy and peace divine;
these blessing are thine, as mine.
I see a new day coming in the Night.
And Oh, its brightness is a delight
to a wo(e)man like me; who covers you through a Holy mystery.
For I see through a veil of tears, even still,
and through you.
My blessings abides With you,
even still, in your trek through the Night
Towards the light.
I see a new day coming into the Night; these blessings be mine.
Peace and blessings, Mama Sandra
The Hush House, Detroit, MI
By Shea Howell
February 3rd, 2013
Detroit Works (DW) launched a new format for its public information campaign about its strategic framework for the redevelopment of Detroit. The most recent newsletter says, “We know that Detroit Future City is an extensive document, so we would like to highlight smaller sections of the framework to make it easier for you to become familiar with the different strategies.” They begin by highlighting neighborhoods, and invite people to a series of “Road Shows” that they will coordinate throughout the city.
This effort to get people to carefully read the document is welcome. To assist in the dialogue, we offer some things for you to consider as you read it or participate in meetings. By way of illustration, we will explore the section on City Systems.
As we have explained in earlier articles, one of the deficiencies of the Detroit Works Project was the inability to answer basic questions about in whose interests the city will be reshaped. The implication from the Detroit Works team is that we do not have to choose among competing values or mutually exclusive alternatives.
There is some truth in this position. We would all benefit from the improvement in air and water quality, from more green space and an emphasis on healthy modes of transportation like bicycling and walking.
There is also a major problem in this approach. Early in the section on City Systems the DW team introduces the idea of “Reconciling and Replenishing.” Revamping our aging infrastructures are not just matters of “efficiency,” they say, but “it is a matter of just for all.” To emphasize this the report notes that these aging systems, “harm health as well as pocketbooks. In particular air pollution form industry and car exhaust have contributed to high rates of asthma and other respiratory diseases, especially among children.”
Later they specifically look at the impact of poor air quality, saying
“Detroiters have among the highest rates of asthma and related respiratory diseases nationally. African Americans and the poor are disproportionately affected due to the legacy of racially charged policies that targeted these communities as receivers of new highways, incinerators and industrial activity.”
Suggested strategic actions do not match these strong statements of the problems we face. This is because the document does not tackle any of the major private-corporate interests who have been so keen on diminishing our public services and public ownership of utilities and municipal responsibilities.
So, for example, in the Implementation Actions section for waste management we find these 3 items:
1. Reduce waste through citizen education and working with the packaging industry,
2.develop targeted and city wide curbside recycling programs, and
3. Ensure the incinerator emissions remain at or below US EPA standards and international best practices.
In other words, in spite of all of the claims of reinventing our city, this plan does not even entertain the possibility of closing the Detroit Incinerator. The closing of this incinerator would arguably be the single most important recommendation the DW could have made to immediately improve the quality of air we all breath.
The Incinerator has been the object of an international law suit to shut it down, innumerable citizens protests, at least two recent City Council resolutions attempting to stop city waste from being burned in it, and when those failed, a resolution to hire an attorney to seek an injunction against its continued use.
Why does this incinerator continue? One reason, according to Miller Canfield Attorneys who represent the incinerator is that it needs the city’s garbage in order to provide the steam it needs to meet the contracts it now has with the city to provide steam heat and power. We are putting lead into the air our children breath in the name of providing heat for their schools.
Redesigning our city requires more than ideas. It requires speaking the full truth to power.
Grace Lee Boggs says she would like the chapter titles of her new book, The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century, written with Scott Kurashige, to become buzzwords for progressive activists.
So I imagine “Detroit, Place and Space to Begin Anew” or “We Are the Leaders We’ve Been Looking For” on T-shirts, trying to fit them on for size in the coming era of struggle to rebuild Detroit and Michigan.
More than just buzzing around, Boggs wants people to really ponder the meaning and implications of those words. “What does it mean to start anew? What does it mean to say we are the leaders we’ve been looking for?” she asks me rhetorically. “I think instead of growing our budgets, we need to be growing our souls. What are the economics of happiness instead of gross national product? People of every race are beginning to think differently. They’re beginning to recognize that life isn’t just about making a living. It’s about making a life.”
Boggs is a political philosopher whose thought and activism have been reaching around the globe from her modest home near Mack and East Grand Boulevard. Last week, I sat down with her and Kurashige, a Boggs Center board member and director of AC Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies at the University of Michigan, to ask how her ideas relate to some of the tumultuous events taking place these days. The large, though not fancy, brick house is filled with books and papers. It’s not an advertisement for the electronic age and predictions of a paperless society. Boggs, the daughter of Chinese-American restaurant owners, earned a Ph.D from Bryn Mawr in 1940, became a leftist, and married black autoworker-activist James Boggs. The Boggses collaborated with the Marxist historian and theorist C.L.R. James during the 1950s, and, starting in the 1960s, set their own course, writing several books either separately or together. These days, Grace, a widow recently turned 95, is the leader of the nonprofit Boggs Center, headquartered at her home, which is the hub around which a number of efforts — Detroit Summer, the Allied Media Project, Detroit City of Hope, the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality and others — maintain their philosophical grounding and connection to a broader, growing movement in Detroit.
Boggs’ revolution is not a call to seize political power from the government. “A cultural revolution has begun to take place,” says Boggs. “It’s a phenomenon as historic and as far-reaching as the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture, and from agriculture to industry. Now we’re at the heart of a change from industry to a world where people work not so much at jobs. Work is something that we do to develop skills as much as to produce goods and services. We’re so used to the idea that we work in order to make money, but that’s not why people have worked throughout history and that’s the kind of way we’re going now. It provides a very different perspective of revolution. It’s not about seizing state power to plan the economy.
“The new focus of work is to develop one’s ability and one’s capacity to do a whole lot of things. For example, we’re going into a period where, instead of people doing mass production line stuff, people will think much more of craftsmanship, which involves the development and expansion of the human being.”
Indeed, that is a turn away from the revolutionary ideals of the past few centuries. Boggs has witnessed revolutions, rebellions and plain old social upheaval, and struggled with the idea of what those things mean. She was here and took part in the hope and euphoria that accompanied Coleman A. Young’s election as mayor of Detroit. But over time she saw that having a black mayor wasn’t enough to change the larger economic order, as she writes in Next:
But even though he was one of this country’s brightest and most skillful politicians, he was helpless in the face of the deindustrialization and outsourcing that were gaining momentum in the 1970s. Because he had failed to think seriously about the profound changes taking place in the economy, he had no idea how to deal with the new information technology and the massive export of jobs overseas that was making it impossible for young people to find meaningful paid work in the city.
All Coleman could do was react, and he was ultimately driven to desperate measures to try to replace the jobs that were gone for good.
Boggs sees Detroit as the forefront of changes sweeping the industrialized world. Once the front line of industrialization, Detroit could be the model of what the future of the deindustrialized world looks like. That thought has led her to work on seemingly small projects in Detroit neighborhoods.� For instance, she sees urban gardening as the beginning of a major shift in the way we feed ourselves as well as a way to connect generations in a widely inclusive movement.
“Detroit, because we have this position in the history of the country and the world, is creating that alternative — not in words but in action,” she says. “There’s a group on the east side called Feed ‘Em Freedom Growers; if you don’t have food you can’t be free. Detroit has over 1,000 community gardens. Urban agriculture started very simply with some African-American women seeing some vacant lots. That’s how big changes take place, with small changes. Important changes always start from the bottom up. We think they come from the top, or start with millions of people. No, they start when some people respond to the historical context and do what needs to be done. That’s how revolution takes place.”
This revolution is a turning away from the capitalist ideals of more and more, and bigger and bigger. She says that we are in the end days of capitalism as we have known it for the past few centuries. And the new order is being fought over in places like Madison, Wis., and Lansing, in North Africa and even in the way Japan responds to man-made and natural disasters.
Anyone who has paid attention to Boggs’ ideas in the past will see that the narrative of Next builds upon ideas she has been developing for some time. She cites a section from Jimmy Boggs’ Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century: “The revolution to be made in the United States will be the first revolution in history to require the masses to make material sacrifices rather than to acquire more material things.”
Does that sound like anything that is going on around you these days?
It’s the sense that things predicted in Next are already engulfing us that makes it so compelling. And the sense that we have a hand in the outcome rather than being swept along on the sea of change that makes it vital.
Boggs tasks each individual with building the world we want. Some months ago a friend asked me who I thought would succeed her as leader of the Boggs Center. To take the message of Next to heart, that leader would be all of us.
Discussion and book signing with Grace Boggs at 4 p.m. on Sunday, April 3, at the First Unitarian-Universalist Church, 4605 Cass Ave., Detroit. At 4 p.m. on Monday, April 4, she discusses the book with Robin D.G. Kelly at the University of Michigan Modern Languages Building, 812 E. Washington
Click here to download the flyer: The 8th Annual Great Lakes Bioneers Detroit Conference
October 19 – 21, 2012
Connect, Collaborate and Celebrate!
Speakers and workshops on sustainability and eco-justice movements.
“Growing Resilient Communities”Marygrove College 8425 McNichols Rd. Detroit, MI 48221
Learn more and register at: www.GLBD.org
Friday, October 22, 2010
St. Peter & Paul Church
1950 Trumbull at Michigan
Refreshments served…bring a dish if you can
For information/to RSVP contact 313.963.8116 or email@example.com
Listen to the Coalition’s radio show, “Fighting for Justice,” Sundays 10-11am on WDTW 1310AM ProgressiveTalk. Live call-in#: 248.848.1130
We’re reading Bunyan Bryant’s introduction to “The Future: Images for the 21st Century.”
By Grace Lee Boggs
April 28th, 2013
(This article was originally published 20 years ago in The Future: Images for the 21st Century, edited by University of Michigan Professor Bunyan Bryant). Read Part 1 here.
The American family must be redeñned. reinvented, and recreated because today’s nuclear families are caricatures of what families have been and can be. The family is still the best place to prepare the next generation for life. But to fulfill this role, families need to become multi-generational communities of work. This transformation cannot take place separate and apart from the transformation of our communities, our cities, and our schools.
“Communities of Work”
In order for our families to become communities of work, our cities must move towards greater economic self-reliance. That means we must rid ourselves of the myth that there is something sacred about large-scale production for the national and international markets. Actually, our experiences since World War II have been teaching us that production for the national and international markets makes it much easier for multinational corporations to eliminate the jobs of millions of workers and to turn cities like Detroit into wastelands. Moreover, large-scale production promotes consumerism, which is one of the chief causes for the decline in the American family. Because it is based on a huge separation between production and consumption, large-scale production turns both producers and consumers into faceless masses who are alienated from one another and are at the mercy of the market and the mass media.
To increase economic self-reliance, our cities need to move toward import substitution. Instead of importing food and goods, we need to create small local enterprises which produce food, goods, and services for local consumption. Instead of destroying the skills of workers as large-scale industry does, these enterprises would combine craftsmanship with the new technologies that would make possible flexible consumers.
Families can play a critical role in this movement toward local self-reliance by creating community gardens, greenhouses and workshops. They can come together to plant a community garden, to rehabilitate a house for a community center, to produce T-shirts for community organizations and activities, to repair appliances, and to organize community recycling centers and garage and yard sales which can develop into neighborhood stores. By creating a closer relationship between families and the work process, we can involve children in productive activities that develop responsibility and self-esteem.
“Living this Equality”
According to Betty Friedan, the mother of the modern women’s movement, we are now in the second ‘stage of the struggle for equality between men and women.
“The first stage was just having access, breaking through the simple barriers of sex discrimination to get access to training and opportunity in all of the work outside the home. We have done that significantly.” The second stage is “living this equality.”
In this stage there “has to be a profound restructuring of both work and home. In the past, work-the preparation for professions, the lines of advancement, the very hours-was structured in terms of the lives of men who had wives to take care of their other life. And home was structured in terms of the 24-hour service of a full-time housewife-mother. The great majority of women are now working outside the home, as much from sheer necessity as from new opportunity, and they are working for most of their lives. Most women and most families can’t afford to have women go home again, but the implication is that this is your own personal problem, and it’s all because the feminists are giving you ambitions for careers that have gonen you into this predicament.”
Integrating work with the home and community creates a basis for mothers and fathers to “live this equality” by spending more time at home with their children and less time working in factories and offices. Men especially need this involvement with the life process. One of the chief reasons why young Black males are an “endangered species” today is that they have become so removed from the lives of those whom they helped to create.
For this integration of family and work to succeed, work outside the home will also have to be restructured so that men and women can work flex-time and part-time.
More Family, Not Less
The overwhelming majority of Americans who today live in cities and suburbs cannot be expected to go back to the farms where parents, siblings, relatives, and grandparents lived in the same household or nearby. But we do not have to accept the frightening and dangerous isolation of today’s families. Whether we live in the city or the suburbs, we can consciously choose to live close to our parents and friends so that children grow up knowing their grandparents; we can choose to live within walking or biking distance of concerned adults, instead of being dependent upon cars or phones for such contacts. When we rent, buy, or build in a neighborhood, we can consciously choose one with a diversified and intergenerational cross-section of the population, consisting of persons of all ages and at all stages of the life families, larger families with older children, retired and working olderpersons and couples, singles, people with a wide variety of skills, occupations,and life styles-so that children will have many different adult role models.
Together with our neighbors we can organize block parties, youth block clubs, community parks and other projects so that we do not simply live next to one another but are naturally and normally developing a common interest and concern for the children of the neighborhood. To prepare children to become self-governing citizens, we can participate in ongoing struggles and activities to decide policy for our community, our city, and our country.
One of the fears we have inherited from communities of the past is that they will be narrow-minded and parochial. To safeguard against this danger, parents can consciously choose to live in ethnically diverse communities where their children, while learning the richness of their-own cultural heritage, are also exposed to the cultures of other groups. Conscious that their children are growing up in a period of rapid change, parents can welcome neighbors who, like Socrates, do not tell young people what to think or how to live but encourage them to think for themselves. And recognizing that our market economy is producing growing numbers of the homeless and hungry, parents can consciously create ways and means for our children to relate compassionately to those less fortunate so that they are not perceived as “the other.”
Communities of this diversity and common concern can be created through the conscious choice made by millions of individuals and families as to where to settle and how to live together as neighbors. Those who want to make a deeper commitment can organize cooperatives or intentional communities with common areas (central house, backyards, gardens, workshops, etc.). In the past these intentional communities usually had to be established in remote rural areas. But as more vacant lots and abandoned houses become available for “rehabbing” in cities like Detroit, there are increasing opportunities to organize Urban Cooperative/Enterprise communities or what is known as “Co-Housing.” The important thing is not that communities all be alike but that as we decide where and how to live, we think of our homes and neighborhoods as human settlements rather than as labor reservoirs or markets for industry.
Transforming our Schools
To redefine and reinvent our families we will also have to redefine and re-invent our schools. In the past it was assumed that families had responsibility for raising children, instilling in them common sense and values, while the role of the schools was to provide cognitive or academic skills. Conservatives still argue for this sharp division of roles. On the other hand, as more parents have been forced to work outside the home, they have come to depend upon the schools not only to baby-sit their children, but to teach them “sense.” As a result, there is a growing tension between teachers and parents. Teachers complain that children do not come to school prepared to learn, while parents complain that teachers do not educate their children.
The American school system is structured for the advancement of the upwardly mobile individual, and thus reinforce the individualism that Bronfenbrenner says is one of the chief causes for the decline of the family. As long as American industry was expanding, this system worked pretty well. A small minority went on to college and got the diplomas that enabled them to get good jobs and escape from the community. Those who dropped out of high school got jobs in the plant, which enabled them to marry and raise families. But in today’s de-industriaiized cities there are no decent paying jobs for the more than 40% who drop out of school; so men father children but don’t get married.
And school dropouts take out their frustration and anger in acts of vandalism and violence that create fear and devastation within the community. Thus we urgently need to restructure our schools so that they are no longer institutions to promote individual advancement out of the community. Instead, they should serve the building of the community and the all-around development of the individual. The core of the school curriculum should be the economic and social development of the community, with teachers, administrators, students, and citizens working together to achieve this goal. In this process children will learn through practice, which has always been the best way to learn. While they are absorbing the values of socìal responsibility naturally and normally, they will be stimulated to learn skills and acquire information in order to solve real problems.
Instead of simply being fed information from secondary sources, young people will be involved in solving the problems of their neighborhoods, communities, and cities; solutions that will require value judgments as well as factual knowledge and skills. Working collectively or in groups rather than as individuals competing with one another, they will also discover that multiple answers are possible, and that discovery will reinforce the importance of living in a pluralistic and constantly changing society.
For example, how can we renovate rather than demolish homes to combat the low-cost housing shortage that has created the growing homeless population? How can we grow our food in neighborhood gardens and greenhouses so that it doesn’t have to be adulterated with preservatives as a result of being transported thousands of miles? How can we conserve energy in our homes and school buildings and recycle what we do and do not use in our homes and schools? How can we serve nutritious and environmentally friendly food in the school cafeteria? How can we utilize the natural resources of our region, e.g., the sand which is so abundant in Michigan, to manufacture storm windows, and other glass products for solar heating?
Schools restructured along these lines will require cooperation and mutual respect between teachers who know and are concerned about the community and members of the community who are concerned with the development of children. Children who grapple with such questions in school will be prepared to strengthen their families, their communities, and their cities as “communities of work.”
It is not going to be easy to create a new relationship between our schools and our communities. The old relationship has lasted so long and has been accepted so uncritically that change will require intensive dialogue, time, and experimentation. Fortunately the growing movement toward “Choice” and decentralized administration of schools provides the challenge for local communities to undertake experiments. Change in this direction is especially urgent for schools in the inner city. Unless the community becomes the core of the curriculum of inner-city schools, these schools will continue to be abandoned by those parents most interested in the education of their children.
These “rebeginnings” may appear utopian at this time. However, in the next thirty years-as we are confronted with the continuing erosion of our families, our communities, our schools, and our cities, as permanent unemployment becomes a reality for the tens of millions who are no longer needed by American hi-tech and multinational corporations, as environmental considerations cry out for more conservationist and human-scale lifestyles, and as the bankrupt budgets of city, state and federal governments continue to cut back on social programs-necessity will force more and more Americans to move toward reinventing and redefining our families, our communities, cities, and our schools along these or similar lines.
Edith Floyd is the real deal. With little in the way of funding or organizational infrastructure, she runs Growing Joy Community Garden on the northeast side of Detroit. Not many folks bother to venture out to her neighborhood, but Edith has been inspiring me for years. I caught up with her on a cold, rainy November afternoon. While we talked in the dining room, her husband Henry watched their grandkids.
By Frank Joyce
March 24th, 2013
Forty years ago, on January 27, 1973, the United States officially stopped carrying out direct military attacks against Viet Nam. That phase of the war ended with the signing of the Paris Peace Accords. Henry Kissinger and Viet Nam’s Le Duc Tho subsequently won the Nobel Peace prize for negotiating the agreement.
In Viet Nam the anniversary was a very big deal. I know because I was part of a delegation of Americans and other anti-war activists from around the world invited to participate in events commemorating the Paris Peace accords. An official ceremony in Hanoi was carried live on national TV. Deep gratitude was expressed to the U.S. civilians and soldiers who resisted the war.
The Vietnamese government wants young people to better understand the war and its place in Viet Nam’s past, present and future. They think it’s especially important because 80 percent of the population has been born since the war ended.
Many young Americans were also born since the Viet Nam war ended. But the number of stories in the US media about the Paris Peace Accords anniversary was Zero. That’s not really surprising because we really are the United States of Amnesia. It all goes back to slavery.
The United States is exceptional. Never before did a spanking new nation birth its economy and its government on capitalist slavery and genocidal policies toward the indigenous people. The consequences of that birth “defect” are very much with us today. One of them is that we are loathe to recognize how much the consequences are with us today.
The fact of slavery required a rationalization for slavery. When that ended, the fact of Jim Crow segregation required the moral justification of the Jim Crow system. And so it goes. Such moral excuses require a lot of mental gymnastics.
Given what we are beginning to learn about neuroscience, we can understand that rationalizing slavery (and genocide) form neural paths that become part of the collective DNA of our citizenry. Avoidance, denial, and hypocrisy are essential components of the process. Those thought habits get passed from generation to generation.
Given that the USA has yet to come to terms with slavery we have avoided many, many other issues as well. It’s what we do. So we also have yet to process our decades long 20th century brutality in Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos. Instead we just moved on to apply similar thinking and actions to Grenada, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Africa and Iran.
It becomes almost inevitable that we make the same mistakes over and over again in trying to force other nations to bend to our will and “way of life.” It also means that we fail to connect the viciousness we visit on other countries with the brutality that characterizes our own culture.
Does anyone seriously think we can control gun violence at home when we commit massive gun violence every day in countries all over the world? Or that “PTSD” homicides, suicides and domestic violence are not “blowback” (chickens come home to roost) from foreign aggression? Of course ,we elevate a distorted view of the second amendment which was originally passed for purposes of slave control to a preeminent position in the U.S. constitution.
There is, fortunately, another side to this story. The history and traditions of our nation also include an abolitionist movement. Whites died in the struggle to end Jim Crow segregation in the South. African Americans and whites died in opposing U.S. wars against Viet Nam, Laos and Cambodia. And the anti-war movement did make a difference in bringing that war to an end more quickly than would otherwise have been the case.
In observing the end of the U.S. war, the Vietnamese made very clear that they see both sides of the picture. They know the reality so brilliantly described in the recently published book by Nick Turse, Kill Everything That Moves. Those atrocities were daily reality to the Vietnamese (and the Laotians and Cambodians).
As Chris Hedges says in his recent review: “Case after case in his book makes it painfully clear that soldiers and Marines deliberately maimed, abused, beat, tortured, raped, wounded or killed hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilians, including children, with impunity. Troops engaged in routine acts of sadistic violence usually associated with demented Nazi concentration camp guards.
“The few incidents of wanton killing in Vietnam—and this is also true for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—that did become public, such as My Lai, were dismissed as an aberration, the result of a few soldiers or Marines gone bad. But, as Turse makes clear, such massacres were and are, in our current imperial adventures, commonplace. The slaughters “were the inevitable outcome of deliberate policies, dictated at the highest levels of the military,” he writes. They were carried out because the dominant tactic of the war, as conceived by our politicians and generals, was centered on the concept of “overkill.” And when troops on the ground could not kill fast enough, the gunships, helicopters, fighter jets and bombers came to their assistance. The U.S. Air Force contributed to the demented quest for “overkill”—eradicating so many of the enemy that recuperation was theoretically impossible—by dropping the equivalent of 640 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs on Vietnam, most actually falling on the south where our purported Vietnamese allies resided. And planes didn’t just drop bombs. They unloaded more than 70 million tons of herbicidal agents, 3 million white phosphorus rockets—white phosphorous will burn its way entirely through a body—and an estimated 400,000 tons of jellied incendiary napalm.”
Yes, the Vietnamese know that reality and its ongoing consequences including continuing birth defects from Agent Orange and unexploded U.S. bombs that still kill and maim. But they also know and celebrate the contributions of the anti-war movement that helped shorten the war.
Here in the U.S. the government and the mainstream media see neither. The sooner we truly appreciate what we did in Viet Nam, the sooner we will make real headway at dealing with injustice and violence here at home.
People are resisting the assault on our city. Detroiters are standing up against the schemes of Mayor Bing, Emergency Financial Manager Bobb and powerful foundations who are plotting to take our land, close our schools, sell our last public hospital, destroy whole neighborhoods and are putting everything they can think of up for sale.
Behind closed doors they are making plans that will affect our city and our children for generations to come. They refuse to share their plans in open forums, refuse to support the elected school board and challenged court orders questioning their powers. The private foundations supporting this secrecy are not accountable to any one, using their money to dictate winning and losing neighborhoods.
We are outraged by this assault on our city and on democracy. We know there is a better way. Across Detroit, long abandoned neighborhoods are coming to life with gardens, art projects and new businesses. Schools are resisting the effort to turn our children into mindless test takers, creating imaginative life affirming programs supporting community growth. We are restoring community ties, turning war zones to peace zones for life.
These activities have caught the attention of national and international media, telling the story of a new Detroit resurgence. These activities have also attracted the attention of those who see another opportunity to make money by shifting public resources into private hands. This is our city. These are our children. No one has a right to determine our future without us.
Detroiters for Dignity and Democracy
www.boggscenter.org or call 313.923.0797
“Everybody has skills. Everybody has skills. Period.”
Like a lot of places, the folks in Portland, Maine don’t have the cash to get all the goods and services they need, so they are taking an old-school approach to help their friends and neighbors get through these tough times. NBC’s Ron Mott reports.
Check out this recent NBC story on Time Banks.
Meanwhile, the MI Alliance of TimeBanks reports that “there are now eight active TimeBanks and at least six more in exploration stage across the state.”
By Shea Howell
March 24, 2013
The appointment of Kevyn Orr as the Emergency Manager of Detroit is a sad day for democracy. There is a growing understanding that the financial crisis justifying this move was manufactured by the withholding of state funds, the drive to protect the $474 millions paid to banks, and the desire to wrest control of the city away from its people and put it into the hands of the corporate elite. Further, we know that nowhere in the state have emergency managers solved any structural problems. Nor have they improved services. They have sold off city assets, shifted common responsibilities for public health, safety, and the general good into private hands for windfall profits. They have set aside contracts for immediate services and compacts made across generations.
Emergency managers violate the will of the people. In Detroit, the EM assumes power over the objections of the City Council and a broad array of civic leaders and organizations. The appointment has sparked widespread protest and civil disobedience that will no doubt continue as citizens seek to express their righteous anger at this assault on democratic rights. Today nearly half of all African Americans cannot vote to control their local government and 75% of African American elected officials have been removed from power. There is a rising cry for federal intervention to stop the EM.
The anguish of this moment is beyond words. It forces us to look deeply into our own history to find ways to remind one another of the kind of future we wish for ourselves and our children.
For many of us this moment evokes the struggle for civil rights in Montgomery in 1955. Central to that struggle was the belief that we could create a new, Beloved Community, reflecting radical love and respect for one another.
What does radical love look like now? How do we move toward the creation of a loving community, rooted in principles of respect, dignity, and a drive to create sustainable, joyful ways of living?
Many of us have known for a long time that representative democracy would never move us toward this kind of loving community. There is too much money to be made, too many deals to be cut, and too many egos to protect. We cannot vote our way to a new future.
But we can create it. As the EM moves into the corridors of city hall, we need to deepen our relationships on the corners and sidewalks in our neighborhoods, block clubs and places of worship. We need to create opportunities to educate one another, to share ideas, strategies, and tactics for improving our daily life in the places where we live, walk, work, and pray.
We need to remember that the bus boycott grew out of a community of people that had long practiced democratic actions without any right to vote. They built churches, colleges, hospitals, schools, businesses, civic associations, and recreational centers. They developed strategies to call upon the U.S. government to live up to its highest ideals.
This history can guide us as we develop new democratic forms to create real participatory power, flowing from people making our own decisions about how we will live.
Regardless of the EM, the City Council should hold regular public meeting so citizens can openly discuss the impact of the decisions being made by the EM, share information, and strategies. The Council should follow the lead of our School Board in Exile, using such forums to insist upon transparency and accountability.
Regardless of the EM, civic organizations and places of faith should establish citizens councils to assume public responsibilities for improving neighborhood life and meeting the basic needs of people.
Regardless of the EM, citizens should organize in ways that will bring our new City Charter to life, emphasizing the creation of district leadership out of our efforts to take care of one another.
The only solution to this assault on our city is for each of us to take responsibility for recreating community life, based on respect for one another and the earth that sustains us.
In loving community, we can build a new democracy that cannot be stolen.
By Marcia Lee
March 31st, 2013
For the past four years Forbes magazine has ranked Detroit as the most violent city in the nation. Some might argue that this is because we are a city without much financial capital and/or because there are too many guns on the street. Although there is truth in both these statements , I believe, as my colleague Henry McClendon likes to say, “The problem is not that we have a violence problem in Detroit; it’s that we have a relationship problem.”
There was a time when we did not go to the police to solve problems in our communities. Instead we would gather with the people in our communities, with our cousins and elders. Together we would solve conflicts in our communities.
There was a time when the focus was on listening to what people said had happened and working with the people who had been impacted to resolve the problem instead of forced separation and punishment. There was a time when elders guided younger generations and younger generations worked with elders to maintain the community.
Now is a good time to work not only to resolve conflicts after they occur, but to create spaces for healthy relationships that will mean fewer conflicts. Now is a good time to recall older practices, to build relationships with our neighbors, and to rediscover creative and community-guided solutions. Now is a time to share our stories and learn from each others’ wisdom.
This is the focus of restorative justice: working with people in our/their own communities to bring healing to the people who have been harmed by violence and conflict. We work on healing wounds and holding people accountable for their actions.
In line with this vision and in response to horrible violence, the Detroit Area Restorative Justice Center and Corktown Restorative Justice Network were born.
Over the past couple of years small groups have been meeting to envision how to work together to create peace zones in our city. We now have an office in the Hive Space at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.
We host trainings on Introduction to Peacemaking Circles and a Speakers Series on alternating months. The office is currently open on Tuesdays if people want to drop in to talk through a conflict or set up an appointment. With the Corktown group, our focus is on supporting people who live in Corktown, but we are also happy to work with people or organizations in other areas to support them in resolving conflicts.
On April 27th, from 9am-4pm , we will be hosting a gathering for Restorative Justice practitioners to come together to learn from each other and create a vision of how to make Detroit into the Restorative Justice City in the United States. Grace Lee Boggs will begin the day for us by sharing her vision.
If you have questions about the Restorative Justice work happening in Detroit or want to become involved, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Together we can make this vision come to life, one relationship at a time.
By Shea Howell
March 10th, 2013
If Governor Snyder had any sense, he would find a way to back off from the decision to appoint an emergency manager for the city of Detroit. This is a manufactured financial emergency, created to justify seizing control of the city’s assets, breaking the power of democratic constituents, and blunting the newly revised Detroit City Charter. It is based on bogus figures.
If Governor Snyder was concerned about Detroit, he would pay attention to what the people have said at every opportunity. We do not want a state takeover. We do not want public assets turned over for private gain. We do not want to destroy the city for short term financial fixes. We do not believe Lansing has the interests of the people of Detroit in mind. We want the state to live up to its financial obligations to the city. We want the state to respect local home rule and the sovereignty of cities.
Virtually no one in the city thinks an emergency manager is a good idea. In the last election, 82% of the people voted against this law. Only the mainstream media, who flanked Governor Snyder during the announcement of his plan, have endorsed this effort.
Detroit Congressional representative Gary Peters echoed the core objections of citizens. Emergency managers are undemocratic. They do not solve the problems of any city. In a forceful statement challenging the decision, Congressmen Peters said, “I fundamentally disagree with taking measures that disenfranchise the families I represent in Detroit. Having represented the City of Pontiac for years, I’ve seen the kind of damage that can occur when emergency managers sacrifice opportunities for long-term growth in order to achieve short-term budgetary goals. In practice, emergency managers in Michigan have consistently failed to address the systemic problems plaguing older urban areas like Detroit.”
Every candidate for Mayor has rejected the idea. Here are their central concerns, in alphabetical order.
Tom Barrow said, “I am sickened by Michigan’s Governor talk about my city and my people as if Detroit is the human dump of the state, as if real Detroiters are incapable of running our own city. “ In the spirit of Frederick Douglass, Barrow said, “I call upon my fellow Detroiters, activists and citizens alike, to let’s meet to plan our actions to combat this abrogation of democracy. It may require civil disobedience in the name of all Americans who love freedom and democracy; it may require us to choose economic targets to boycott; strategic locations to disrupt; facilities to protect symbolically, and a plan of communication to our nation to show our outrage.”
Almost immediately following the report from the financial review team, Krystal Crittendon issued a detailed analysis, citing specific “omissions and inaccuracies.” She demonstrated how the debt numbers were inflated and there was no mention of money owed the city by businesses or by the state. She followed this analysis with an appeal to the Mayor and City Council to appeal the governor’s findings. She said, “Detroit should join other cities around the state in fighting for economic and political sovereignty.”
Mike Duggan objected because he does not believe emergency managers can attract the kind of people necessary to create long-term financial stability. He thinks short-term decision-making could lead to “terrible” mistakes.
Lisa Howze, a former state legislator and a CPA, also offered a detailed analysis of the accounting failures. She indicted the failure of the State to live up to its responsibilities under the Consent Agreement to assist in local tax collection and the refusal of the state legislature to pass laws forcing businesses to collect local taxes.
Benny Napoleon said that this decision was the “antithesis of democracy” and he thought the “numbers may be skewed.”
From the pragmatic to the philosophical, Detroiters are uniting in their commitment to creating a new, living democracy in the city.
Virginia Eubanks’ 2012 Book Tour
Monday, October 22, 2012 at 5pm
4201 Cass Ave., Detroit, MI
For more info.: 313-832-1155
Or visit www.digitaldeadend.com
The greater Detroit area is the nexus of an entire host of progressive enterprises, notable for both the diversity of its participants and the diversity of its projects.On February 16, Michigan’s Governor Snyder signed into law a sweeping emergency financial management bill, one that will give him wide powers to appoint financial managers across the state….read more..
Fifty years ago Detroit was booming, with two million hard working people living the American Dream. Then the auto industry fell on hard times and so did Detroit. Most people moved away.
Whole neighborhoods turned into wastelands. But some have a vision for a new Detroit, as a
human scaled city for a post industrial world. And they are starting to make it real. As spoken
word artist Jessica Care Moore puts it, “Somebody’s gotta tell them, that we are not ghosts, that we are in this city and we are alive!”
Many who stayed in Detroit envision a new kind of city for the post industrial era, and they are remaking themselves and their city from the ground up – with street art and the spoken word, with urban gardens and place based schools, with new local businesses, with block clubs and neighborhood groups to reduce violence.
Longtime Detroit activist and philosopher, Grace Lee Boggs, is one inspiration for many of
these efforts. “When crises happen, people not only try to solve them materially, of course they do. But they also recognize that something more fundamental is involved. Someone looks at a vacant lot and says, ‘I’m going to grow food on that.’ Somebody says, ‘we have to talk to our neighbors more, we have to bring the neighbor back into the hood.’ That is a profoundly philosophical approach.”
Industrial Detroit flourished in the mid 20th century, as the Great Migration brought tens of
thousands of African Americans and poor whites to Detroit to work in the auto industry. Says
civil rights lawyer Alice Jennings, “For many years it was truly the promised land, because
people could come here and they could have a job….We lived on a street with trees, nice homes, they were small homes, working class homes.” After decades of white flight, now Detroit is 80% African American, and many Detroiters still own their own homes.
“We got a chance to know our neighbors and to build life long friendships,” comments Kim
Sherrobi of the Birwood neighborhood, “The foreclosure crisis hit us pretty hard, and we’re still trying to come together and figure out solutions to live with the situation that we’re in. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely do-able and we’re going to make the best of it.”
In the 140 square miles of Detroit there is not one full service supermarket. “You have this
food desert and that’s a really terrible thing,” according to Greg Willerer, who grows vegetables on empty lots and sells them at the Eastern Market, “but it also opens up the possibility for some really amazing solutions.” “We have vast amounts of land that other cities simply don’t have,”.says Malik Yakini of the Detroit Food Policy Council, “and so we have this opportunity to grow massive amounts of food.” Yakini works with the D-town community farm that harvests several acres of vegetables and fruit in the city’s largest park.
Greening of Detroit trains home gardeners and provides seeds, tools, and starts, “everything you need to be a successful home gardener,” says director Rebecca Salminen Witt. At first the goal was just to increase the supply of fresh healthy food in the city. But local gardens also enlist the energy of young people and draw communities together, according to the organizer of one community garden, Myrtle Thompson Curtis.
New community based businesses are revitalizing Detroit, like flowers poking up through
cracks in the concrete. “We just wanted a way to make a living and make a difference,” says
Jackie Victor who helped to start Avalon, an organic bakery that has inspired 15 other new local businesses in a once blighted commercial neighborhood. Parent and teacher run schools promote place based education where students and community join forces to make things better. And Peace Zones for Life works to reduce violence and monitor police.
“I think the 20th century is a century of expanding materialism, of expanding conflicts, of
expanding consumerism. And we’re only beginning to understand that in the course of all of this expansion, we have lost our souls. And this is a great opportunity to begin to see how much we have been damaged by our affluence, how much in our pursuit of affluence we have exploited the earth, exploited other peoples, damaged ourselves.” Grace Lee Boggs
In We Are Not Ghosts, we see Detroiters remaking themselves and their city, with vision and
spirit not usually included in mass media reports that focus only on the city’s problems. “So
don’t write eulogies for Detroit,” says spoken word artist Jessica Care Moore, “no uninspired
folk song of gloom. Some of us are coming home to show the world, how we make the planet
About the producers:
Seasoned filmmakers Mark Dworkin and Melissa Young produced the film. Other recent films include Good Food, broadcast nationally on PBS in 2010, Setting the Stage, featured at the 2011 United Nations Association Film Festival, and now in production, Shift Change: Putting Democracy to Work.
In the voices, work and imagination of Detroiters a new world is taking shape. People are
remaking their city based on new concepts of sustainable, loving connections with one another and our earth. We Are Not Ghosts opens up a new way of thinking about Detroit and the possibilities we all have to make a better world. – Sharon Howell, Professor of Communication, Oakland University, columnist, Michigan Citizen
Please see http://www.movingimages.org/page22.html
Photos available upon request: Melissa@movingimages.org
By Grace Lee Boggs
November 26th, 2012
Obama‘s re-election is a challenge to us.
In his first term he did not make the profound changes his supporters hoped for. But he was re-elected because he did enough to bring into being a new demographic.
On November 6, he won 93 percent of black, 73 percent of Asian, and 71 percent of Hispanic/Latino voters. He also won 60 percent of those aged 18-29. These voters represent the future of our country.
His re-election also marginalized the Republican Party which may never recover.
The main lesson we need to draw from Obama’s first term is that we can’t look to him to make the profound changes urgently needed at this time on the clock of the world.
That is because these changes can’t be made in or from the White House. They require profound changes in us, the American people.
WE THE PEOPLE are the ones who must and can make these changes.
WE THE PEOPLE are the ones who can and must begin living more simply to slow down global warming and prevent more Katrinas, Irenes, Sandys, wildfires, floods, melting icecaps, droughts.
WE THE PEOPLE are the ones who must make the radical revolution of values not only against racism but also against materialism and militarism that Dr. King called for in his 1967 “Break the Silence” speech.
WE THE PEOPLE are the ones who must begin Redefining and Re-Imagining Work, Education, Community.
“We are the children of Martin and Malcolm,
Black. brown, yellow, white.
Our right, our duty
To shake the world with a new dream.”
WE ARE THE LEADERS WE’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR!
By Shea Howell
March 31st, 2013
As Kevyn Orr assumes civil powers in Detroit, the mainstream media has launched a campaign to tell us all how glad we should be that such a fine person now has charge of everything. They have shared a “glimpse” of his personal life, detailed facts about his career, and generously overlooked embarrassing tax questions or potential conflicts of interest. They have assured us that he wants to extend “a sincere olive branch and an opportunity for us to work together.”
They have also taken a curious turn in their arguments for why we should all welcome the loss of our democratic rights. It seems we will now have safe streets, with the street lights Stephen Henderson has so longed for back on, and wonderful city services.
In one of the most curious guest editorials I have ever read, former city council woman Shelia Cockrel argued that “Voting is a fundamental right, of course, but isn’t the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness of equal importance?” Professor John Patrick Leary offers a critical analysis of this position concluding, “Cockrel’s retail approach to democracy is also a misunderstanding of how rights work: in a truly democratic society, it’s not life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness, best two out of three, but all of them, together, of equal importance. You can’t lose one without degrading the others. To rationalize otherwise means that this sort of liberalism is really as bankrupt as the city is about to be.”
This idea of swapping democracy for city services is revealing both for the shallowness of the understanding of fundamental rights and for what is dropped out of the justification for the EFM. The financial rationale is no longer being advanced. Rather it appears as a given background statement of fact labeled “the budget crisis” or “financial emergency.” This is usually followed by the oft -repeated figures of a $327 million deficit and long term debt of $14 billion.
The fact that many analysts question the financial justification for the appointment of an EFM is overlooked.
No one disputes that Detroit, like other cities around the globe, faces serious structural challenges. But many of us do dispute that this crisis constitutes an emergency justifying the loss of local, democratic, self -determination. Tom Barrow recently noted, “Detroit has not missed a single bond payment, interest payment, or payroll.”
Shifting the argument from finances to city services allows those who support the EFM to obscure the State’s role in creating this financial crisis. It is important to remember that since 1998 Detroit’s annual revenue sharing has plunged 46 percent to $181.6 million projected for the current fiscal year from $333.9 million.
Further, it obscures the role of Wall Street bankers. A recent article in Businessweek reported, “The only winners in the financial crisis that brought Detroit to the brink of state takeover are Wall Street bankers who reaped more than $474 million from a city too poor to keep street lights working.”
It also deflects attention away from the shifting mood in Lansing, where republican lawmakers are talking about releasing money to Detroit. Republican representatives John Walsh, Jase Bolger and Randy Richardville are reported open to financial support for the city.
This new openness in Lansing, as well as the philanthropic and law enforcement collaboratives announced by the Mayor, underscore the central element of this takeover.
It is not about improving the quality of life for Detroiters. It is about power and control. The pursuit of life, liberty and happiness will not come from an EFM whose job is to privatize our city. It depends on what we can create in our own communities.
By Shea Howell
April 7th, 2013
Governor Snyder has stepped up his campaign to convince people that the appointment of an Emergency Financial Manager in Detroit is a good thing. He has released a series of You Tube clips including comments by former City Council member Sheila Cockrel, various “young professionals,” and Rev. Jerome Warfield, Chairman of the Board of Police Commissioners. All echo the same theme that city services from lighting to police protection are in disarray. As Rev. Warfield claims Detroit is “beyond a crossroads.”
The mainstream media uncritically picks up the theme, finding Detroiters who will speak in support of the manager, or diminish those who oppose his appointment. Most recently Rochelle Riley, of the Detroit Free Press, talked about city wide district elections and quoted extensively from Bishop Edgar Vann, pastor of Second Ebenezer Church. Vann says: “The anti-EFM people are going to be running their own slate of candidates,” he said. “So with all the attention media are giving them, all you have to do is get a bullhorn and stand on a box. You don’t want (the ballot) full of bottom-feeders and somebody who’s a block club president who maybe can’t even read and write.”
Such forcefully crude sentiments are critical to Snyder’s efforts to lull people into acceptance of the Emergency Financial Manager. He is hoping to link discontent with services to the idea that the EFM will improve life in the city. He is hoping we will forget only 5% of the city voted for him and 82% voted against an EFM.
Nowhere in the state has an Emergency Financial Manager improved city services or made the streets safe. Flint, enduring an emergency manager for years, now has the highest murder rate in the nation. Benton Harbor, stripped of public assets by Joe Harris, its former EFM, ranks among the top Michigan cities in violent crimes. Pontiac has outsourced vital police and fire protection. Highland Park gave up streetlights all together. Flint is considering charging people for the water used to put out fires. The idea that by cutting budgets, public services will improve flies in the face of all logic and common sense. Spending less on city services will not get us more, no matter how many police cars are donated to the city.
This notion of spending less to get more comes from the right wing republican philosophy that all public services would be “better” if they were run by private enterprises. Schools, police, fire, blight reduction, prisons, road maintenance and sanitation services are all thought to be better run though the magic of the market place.
Our experience across the state now proves otherwise. Privatized public responsibilities lead to poor services. Public goods are sacrificed for private profits. We have watched schools close as class sizes increase, seen fire trucks replaced with pick up trucks, and found deals made behind closed doors to benefit those entrusted with unlimited authority.
There is another philosophic tradition in our country we can draw upon. This second week of Occupation in Detroit coincides with the 46th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “Time to Break the Silence” speech delivered April 4th, 1967 at Riverside Church in New York. In this speech Dr. King not only spoke against the war in Vietnam, but called for a radical revolution in values against the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism. He called upon all of us to find the ways toward the creation of beloved community as the only alternative to the violence threatens all of us.
His call, to deepen our ties to one another, to care more deeply and consciously for the most vulnerable among us, to assume responsibilities for developing a future based on the protection of people rather than the pursuit of things, marks the real crossroads we face today.
By Shea Howell
November 27, 2012
What kind of city will Detroit become? That is the fundamental question underlying the struggles swirling through the City Council chambers. It is the question that has been brewing, sometimes boiling over, in public opposition to much of the direction dictated by the State, the foundation-government elite, and the Mayor.
In the last session of the City Council, this question burst out into the open. Most people in the city were heartened by the refusal of Council to be bullied into a questionable contract with Miller Canfield, the dismantling of the water department, and the wholesale transfer of vast amounts of land to John Hantz. The council raised thoughtful questions about conflicts of interest, the privatization of an essential public service, and the absence of specific agreements around land use. These questions fall under the responsibilities of the Council to protect the interests of the city. The hundreds of people who packed the council chambers and gathered outside the doors wanting to speak demonstrated the intensity of opposition to these issues.
Our mainstream media had pushed for yes votes on all these issues. They went apoplectic when the Council rejected them. This media response shows they are clueless about the nature of the struggle unfolding in our city. Most of their commentary aimed at painting the City Council and Corporate Counsel Krystal Crittendon as chronic naysayers. Their absence of analysis was covered over with vitriolic name-calling. In one short posting Nolan Finley called the council “puppets,” “dolts,” “worst elected body in America,” a “pack of pipsqueaks,” “who stuff their campaign accounts,” “don’t give a damn about poor people.” and folks who “preen and prattle,” while obstructing everything. This rant offered no analysis and ended with yet another plea for Governor Snyder to get an emergency manager law to put all these obstructionists “on the sidelines.” From the liberal side of the media, Jack Lessenberry did no better. He referred to the Council as “petulant two-year-olds” who “repeatedly reject proposals clearly in the best interests and those of the people who live there.” Actually Jack, most of the people who live here welcomed these no votes.
They are votes that said we do not want a city run by back room deals. We do not want a city where public resources necessary to sustain life become sources of profit. We do not want a city where public lands become scarce and privately controlled by a single individual. We do not want a city where development is pursued at any cost, without regard to the most vulnerable among us.
In saying “no” to the directions dictated by the corporate interests, at least some in the City Council reflect a different vision for our city. That vision has been growing slowly and surely in our neighborhoods for years. It is the vision that recognizes that Detroit offers the opportunity to create a new kind of city, capable of developing self-sustaining ways of life rooted in local production of what we need to survive and thrive. It is a vision of a city that embodies values of common access to the land and water; education that encourages creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving; and values art and craft as essential. It is a city where people struggle to make the decisions that determine their future.
This vision, emerging in many small places, is beginning to coalesce into a broader understanding of what Detroit can become.
The corporate elite sense that it is not the particular policies that are being rejected. It is their vision of a whiter, wealthier, privatized playground that is being challenged. If they could get their emotions under control, they might see that the city emerging, in spite of them, is one they too would value.
By Shea Howell
May 12th, 2013
Sometimes the earth slows you down. It is planting time in Detroit. There is a rhythm and focus brought by the turning of the seasons. At long last the weariness of winter is falling away. Soil must be prepared. Soon seedlings will find their way into the thousands of urban garden and small backyard plots that have made Detroit a global leader in urban agriculture.
Such moments of slowing down and finding focus are much needed in the whirlwind of changes sweeping through our city.
Outrageous assaults, double-dealing, and double speaking have become ordinary. They are having a cumulative effect. It seems we are living in an upside down reality. The man charged with saving the city is selling it off. He sees nothing wrong with $10 million contracts for out of town consults while laying off city workers. Yet another Emergency Manager of the schools is looking for the door, having closed schools, created chaos, and claimed hollow victories while leveraging a loan for the state created district that was to show us how education should be efficiently run. Formerly progressive leaders tell us democracy is over rated. We should be happy with street lights. Detroit’s version of the 1% are buying up large pieces of downtown and staging wholesale evictions. And regional authorities give more money for buses to the wealthy suburbs and less to Detroit. Virtually every arena of common life is under assault.
In the midst of this, it is important that we slow down and focus on the depth of the changes we are facing. The privatization of public life, the turning of every basic need into a profit center, and the grab to control land, water, and people are global trends. These are the desperate efforts of the dying industrial order to protect the power and privileges wrenched from the last 5 centuries of empire building. And they are coming to and end. As surely as the seasons change, the ways of life defined by industrial might and military force are ending.
We are in the midst of a global shift from industrialism to a yet undefined future. This shift is as great as that from hunting and gathering to agriculture, or from agriculture to industrial life. Such transformations happen rarely in the human experience, giving us little guidance from previous generations.
That is one of the reasons why Detroit matters so much. Because we were central to industrial development, its collapse was too painful to ignore. We were forced to rethink what our city could become. If not a home for people who work in factories, what will we be? What is the purpose of a city? How do we do the work that needs to be done, when the jobs have disappeared?
We are fortunate to be faced with these questions in a city defined by the African American experience. It is this experience that serves as the touchstone for how we have respond to these changes and challenges. Our elders saw vacant lots not only as abandonment, but as possibility. They remembered communities, often in the south, that survived and thrived through difficult economic times by raising their own food, sharing what they had, and making a way out of no way. They called on the deepest values of collective care to fashion new ways of living that are rekindling our ties to the earth, to one another, and to the possibility of a new kind of city based on cooperation, local production, and care for one another.
The future of Detroit is unfolding, but not in the corridors of a dying power structure. It is emerging slowly, sometimes painfully, as people come together to make lives of meaning. This transformation has deep roots that endure through the changing seasons.
By Grace Lee Boggs
February 24th, 2013
In my last column I called attention to the solutionary/revolutionary role that women play when one society is coming to an end and a new one is emerging because women’s work of raising and caring for home and family is ongoing. It never stops and it doesn’t count the hours.
This is what is happening in India today, according to an article by Frances Moore Lappe who spoke with members of the Deccan Development Society network of 5,000 women farmers in 70 Indian villages who are ending hunger by growing organic, diverse food crops, at the same time creating new lives of courage, dignity, and inclusion.
When Lappe asked them what it was like 20 years ago, they replied:
“We were so poor that in the rainy season our hut floors would turn to mud and we had to pile up branches to sleep on. We were always hungry. We depended on government ration cards. Sometimes the big landowner would pay us for a job with some grains and that would be the only food for our children. We were so poor we had only one sari—not even a second one to change into when we bathe.
“My husband was a gambler, he was not ever here. I lived on sorghum and broken rice. Our life was dictated by bigger people. We had to suffer, even if they beat us. It was a dark time.”
“Then we started meeting, talking. Every week now, at nine in the evening our sanghams [groups of women] come together and make decisions together. We tell each other our problems. If someone was abused, all of us go together to confront him. And now if there is a conflict in our village, they call on us. Through the sanghams, we’ve reclaimed the land. We don’t use any chemicals. We grow as many as 25 crops on an acre or two.”
The movement has grown exponentially because the women film their activities to spread the word to a largely illiterate population.
5:30 to 8:30 pm at WSU’s McGregor Conference Center. Program begins at 6:00 p.m.
Date: Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Time: 5:30PM – 8:30PM
Join the WSU department of Africana Studies, the WSU Library System, and the WSU Press to celebrate new releases in black history, arts and literature with an evening of readings and book signings.
Melba Joyce Boyd, editor of Roses and Revolutions:The Selected Writings of Dudley Randall, Stephen Ward, editor of Pages from a Black Radical’s Notebook: A James Boggs Reader, Steve Babson, author of The Color of Law: Ernie Goodman, Detroit, and the Struggle for Civil Rights, Bill Harris, author of Birth of a Notion; Or, the Half Ain’t Never Been Told, and David Goldberg, author of Black Power at Work, will speak about their books and sign copies.
5:30 to 8:30 pm at WSU’s McGregor Conference Center. Program begins at 6:00 p.m.
Books will be available for purchase and light refreshments will be served. To RSVP, please call (313) 577-0300