LOVE in the City
By Grace Lee Boggs
June 10–16, 2012
Last week I was the commencement speaker at the Ecumenical Theological Seminary, which is located in the historic First Presbyterian Church at Woodward and Forest in Detroit.
ETS educates students for urban ministry.
In the more than 75 years since my first commencement, I have participated in many commencement ceremonies. But this was my first gig as a commencement speaker.
I didn’t even know how to begin until I was asked to provide a scripture, That prompted me to choose the familiar passage from Corinthians about Love.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
I chose this scripture because it was probably the one Dr, King had in mind when he described different kinds of Love in a 1957 speech.
In this speech, MLK not only talks about Romantic Love (or Eros) and Friendship (or Filia) but also about Agape or the willingness to go to any lengths to restore community.
The concept of Love as Agape explains King’s constant advocacy of the “beloved community” in the few years he lived after the 1963 March on Washington, which was more about the struggle for integration.
We are living today in a state of fear of one another because we have not taken King’s concept of “beloved community” or Agape seriously enough.
Especially since the success of the civil rights movement we have emphasized integration without realizing that in doing so, we have been raising our young people to value material things more than community or our social ties to one another.
I’ll never forget one of my neighbors saying after Selma ‘I’m going to give my children the things I didn’t have.”
She meant well but she didn’t realize that success in any struggle gives rise to new contradictions and new challenges which require a deeper exploration into what it means to be human.
The uniqueness of human beings is that we are constantly in the process of striving to become more advanced in our uniquely human capacities: consciousness, responsibility, self-criticism.
We are constantly evolving. That is what it means to be human.
Blacks did not rise to this challenge when the success of the civil rights struggle gave them their first opportunity to elect black politicians. On every question except racism, the values of these black politicians were no different from those of white politicians. So blacks became black politicians, accepting and practicing the values of a thing-oriented or capitalist society.
That is why in his 1967 anti-Vietnam war speech King said we need a radical revolution of values, not only against racism but against materialism and militarism.
Now, in the second decade of the 21st century, after four decades of materialism and militarism, our neighborhoods have become so dangerous that some people, especially church congregations, have begun to realize that we must begin to practice Agape.
Thus, on the east side of Detroit a collaboration of seventeen diverse faith communities have come together on one accord, that is, to show the east side some LUV. They call themselves the Riverfront East Congregational Initiatives (RECI)
RECI is practicing Agape, It is growing the souls of congregations and of east side community residents:
- by providing free food and clothing for those in need.
- by supporting local businesses,.e.g. the On the Rise bakery, run by returning citizens, and Korash Florists, a company which has remained in the neighborhood through good times and bad.
- By organizing annual Peoples Festivals to bring the Neighbor back to the ‘hood.
Last year’s East Side People’s Festival, on the grounds of Genesis Lutheran at Grand Blvd and Mack, was a great success. It was especially inspiring to observe how teenagers pitched in, watching over younger children and picking up trash on their own, without being asked.
RECI’s Second Annual Peoples Festival will take place next Saturday, June 16, at the same site.
Enjoy Food, Fun, Games. Giveaways, Performances, Information!!!
PUT THE NEIGHBOR BACK IN THE ‘HOOD!!!
Grace Lee Boggs On Godsil and Sweet Water from “Living for Change”
LIVING FOR CHANGE
Milwaukee’s Sweet Water Organic’s
by James Godsil
JAMES GODSIL is a roofer, poet, civic entrepreneur and visionary. An activist in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam war movement in the 1960s, he has been a National Science Foundation and Fulbright fellow, an awardee for work related to the Bonobo Congo Bio-diversity Initiative, and the Board President of ESHAC, Inc., a community development corporation.
A board member of Growing Power Inc. , 2005- 2010, he is the founder and webmaster of Milwaukee Renaissance, founder and president of Community Roofing & Restoration, Inc., and also co-founder of Sweet Water Organics.
The father of Rachel Godsil, Megan Godsil Jeyifo, Joseph and Bridie Godsil, he envisions the charismatic cities of the Sweet Water Seas (Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Toronto) collaborating to win a bio-regional Nobel Prize for Peace.
He and his partners invite on-line brainstorming<email@example.com> around the miniaturization of Sweet Water Aquaponics systems for use in schools, museums, as well as small home systems and small businesses- GLB
Much of the story of Sweet Water is contained in the serendipitous power of the name.
Five or so years back, a polyglot group began “bathing Milwaukee in Rumi” through Milwaukee Renaissance on-line broadcasts and astonishing performances at Club Timbuktu, an African music and culture venue.
Michael Macey, a Sufi priest and enlightened State Department cultural attache, was thrilled that 30 of us had gathered at Riverwest’s Woodland Pattern poetry bookstore. So he e-mailed us from Saudi Arabia offering us a Rumi reading upon returning to his beloved community in Milwaukee and a small farm a bit north.
The next morning, he was beside himself with joyful visions upon experiencing the magic of Will Allen and his Growing Power team.
Will and Macey “recognized” one another. Macey orchestrated Will’s Address to the Royal Academy in London and a year later a visit by some of London’s top “urban agrarians” to Growing Power projects in Milwaukee, Chicago, and New York.
At some point during all this, Macey told me that the First Americans named what we call the Great Lakes.the “Sweet Water Seas!” This concept sparked a Sweet Water vision, i.e., the collaboration of planetary citizens, first in the cities of the Great Lakes, then the world beyond, to advance a new technology called Aquaponics to renew our soil, our water, cities, our selves!
Milwaukee is greatly blessed with the ingredients required to co-create these fish veggie farms in historic factories and their yards for local markets.
Key to the initial inspiration was the historic partnership of Will Allen’s Growing Power and Fred Binkowski’s Great Lakes Water Institute, a link sparked by Jon Bales and Leon Todd of the Urban Aquaculture Center.
Growing Power has connected hundreds, even thousands, of Milwaukee citizens to the Good Food (R) evolution, including myself and the other two original partners of Sweet Water Organics, Josh Fraundorf, and Steve Lindner.
The Great Lakes Water Institute is funded by the Wisconsin Sea Grant Foundation to re-populate the Great Lakes with native fish and enable Aquaculture and Aquaponics to become, quite possibly, major 21st century industries.
Will has often said that Milwaukee is destined to become the urban agriculture city of America. Fred has proclaimed Milwaukee the likely urban aquaponic city of America.
Their teams, along with a deeply-rooted urban agriculture movement that includes the Milwaukee Urban Agriculture Network, the Victory Garden Initiative, Walnut Way, the Urban Ecology Center, Alice’s Garden, Mother Jan’s Riverwest projects, UW-Extension projects, Michael Field Institute, Center for Resilience, Well Spring, and more (!), provide the spirit and information necessary to explore whether the highest yielding form of urban agriculture, Aquaponics, can also help us grow a “higher humanity!”
So Sweet Water is an enterprise whose creatives stand on the shoulders of ying and yang giants!
Another Education Is Possible
In today’s Detroit, what we urgently need is NOT Another Controller but Another Education, whose purpose is to prepare young people NOW to become active partners in rebuilding, redefining and respiriting Detroit from the ground up.
This has become especially clear since the 2nd USSF which told us that for growing numbers of Americans, Detroit is becoming a city where people are making a way out of no way and where a new vision is emerging for 21st century American cities.
What we need at this point is actions, programs, demonstrations, and discussions. That makes clear to us and to the world that “Another education is necessary, another education is possible, and another education is happening.”
We do not lack for models. In 1964, during Mississippi Freedom Summer, SNCC activists created Freedom Schools so that black youth could become first class citizens by participating in the civil rights movement.
In 1992 we created Detroit Summer as an intergenerational multicultural movement to enable young people to rebuild, redefine and respirit Detroit from the ground up.
In Humboldt Park, Chicago, the Pedro Albizu Campos School is creating an alternative to traditional education by organizing its curriculum around Social Ecology, Urban Agriculture; Social Emotional Learning and Community Engagement.
In a People’s Movement assembly at the 2nd USSF, as I reported in my July 16 column, 300 people from around the country discussed “Another Education.”
A new 82 pp spiral bound pamphlet, Another Education is Possible, with articles by Julia Putnam, Shea Howell, Grace Lee Boggs, Shari Sanders, Emma Fialka-Feldman and Bill Ayers, is now available, $5+$1 SH from the Boggscenter. The articles can also be read online at our website www. boggscenter.org/
Richard Feldman’s and Grace Lee Boggs’ Detroit
Grace Boggs provides a history beyond your imagination, a philosopher and a citizen’s view through her 70 decades of participation. I know that her schedule is extremely busy but you can email her firstname.lastname@example.org. You should check out her writings and articles on www.boggscenter.org & www.boggsblog.org. To prepare yourself, please read Living For Change (Grace’s autobiography), the new Monthly Review Edition of the 1963 classic by James Boggs (The American Revolution, Notes from a Negro Worker’s Notebook) and the 1970 book (Racism and the Class Struggle which includes the essay: The City as a Black Man’s Land).
I also suggest that you speak with the following individuals who are grass roots leaders in the re-defining, re-spiriting and rebuilding of Detroit from the ground up. These are veterans of past movements and young people who are re-imagining a Detroit based upon a commitment to becoming more human- human beings, committed to new concepts of education, new forms of work and the birth of beloved communities in our city.
You can find many of the following websites on www.dcoh.org
- Sharon Howell, Columnist for Michigan Citizen email@example.com. Sharon is a founder of Detroit Summer.
- Ron Scott: Peace Zone for Life community transformer, producer and radio talk show host, and organizer, founder of the Detroit Black Panther Party and a leader in community creation and transformation.
- Mama Sandra- Simmons and Charles Simmons firstname.lastname@example.org Founders of Hush House where young people become leaders, where houses are turned into museums and sustainable local economics provide a foundation upon which to create community and love.
- Yusef Shakur, The Window 2 My Soul: My Transformation from a Zone 8 Thug to a Father and a Freedom Fighter. email@example.com 313–459–6008
- Jenny Lee & Starlit, Allied Media Conference and Live Arts Media Project, Community Media Projects, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Malik Yakini, email@example.com, Initiator of the Black Food Security Network.
- Patrick and Lisa at Earth Works, firstname.lastname@example.org The first urban agricultural organic farm located on Detroit’s East Side.
- Lottie Spadie, Diana Seales- EMEAC email@example.com East Michigan Environmental Action where they work with young people in Detroit with a commitment to a green city and a local sustainable economy.
- Invincible- Hip Hop Artist and international musician committed to the story of the new Detroit being born form the ashes of the old. firstname.lastname@example.org
- William Copeland, Poet and Current Coordinator of the US Social Forum, Detroit 2010. Williamwholenote@gmail.com
- Maureen Taylor, Michigan Welfare Rights, USSF 313–964–0618
- Mike Wimberly, Founder and creator of the Hope District, recently planted 150 fruit trees, creating space for peace zones, center for young people. email@example.com
- Julia Putnam and Nate Walker, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, Currently creating a visionary, community based school: Boggs Educational Center.
- Jackie Victor and Ann Perrault: Avalon Breads, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ashley Atkinson, Greening of Detroit, 800 community gardens, 22,00 volunteers, email@example.com
- Tyree Guyton, Heidelberg Project, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
- Blaire, Detroit Poet, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Matrix Theatre- Shaun Nethercott 313–980–2711
- Mark Covington http://georgiastreetgarden.blogspot.com/
www.flypmedia.com/.archive/23 Detroit: Breath of Hope
Catherine Ferguson Academy, School for Mothers and Pregnant Women
A Lifelong Search for Real Education: Grace Boggs, Julia Putnam
In These Times: Detroit City of Hope: Grace Lee Boggs
Resurrection City- Bill Wylie Kellerman
Detroit Arsenal of Creativity: Jenny Lee-
African American Family Magazine August 2009 edition
Detroit Arcadia- Rebecca Solnit
Urban villages in Detroit’s future?
Planners say Detroit could one day resemble the English countryside
BY JOHN GALLAGHER • FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER • May 22, 2009
Living For Change: Grace Lee Boggs
American Revolution: Notes from a Negro Workers’ Notebook- 1963 & 2009
Yes Magazine: Will Allen- Milwaukee Fish Farms, Urban Farming
Growing Power: Will Allen, Milwaukee Renaissance: http://bayviewcompass.com/archives/1205
http://www.growingpower.org/ Growing Power
Food Among the Ruins by Mark Dowie
Nelson and Joyce Johnson: Beloved Communities, Greensboro North Carolina
Additional information and websites:
Urban Farming and Agriculture & sustainable economics and environment:
Co-founders of Avalon Bakery on Cass and Willis
Jackie Victor: email@example.com
Ann Perault: firstname.lastname@example.org
Back Alley Bikes- The Hub: www.thehubofdetroit.org
The Hope District:
Mike Wimberly: The Hope District: Friends of Detroit
Visions of work, community, fruit trees, peace zones and community stages
Earthworks – Urban Farm East Side of Detroit
Lisa Richter: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, 313–969–3495
Patrick: email@example.com 313–579–2100 ext. 204
Black Food Security Network Malik Yakini: 248–935–8329 firstname.lastname@example.org
Greening of Detroit:
Ashley Atkinson @ Greening of Detroit: 313–4013347 email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Green Earth Summer Program
Evan major: email@example.com
Local Bee and Honey Business and Training
Rick Whiske, Raises Bees, Honey and Trains young people: The Bee Person- 248 585 5558 firstname.lastname@example.org
EMEAC (East Michigan Environmental Action Coalition:
http://www.emeac.org/ Programs with Young people in the schools, media and environmental work-
Diana seals (website), Lottie spade 313–505–3325 email@example.com, Work in Detroit Public Schools, Environmental Education
Great Lakes Region Bioneers- Gloria Rivera- firstname.lastname@example.org
Detroit worker/community owned grocery store- email@example.com
Detroit Public Schools Catherine Ferguson: Academy
DPS Farm School: Catherine Ferguson Academy
Catherine Ferguson Academy- DPS Paul Wertz
Work: (313) 571–4918.
Invincible (rap artist): Illana 646 228 5054 firstname.lastname@example.org
WSU- email@example.com ,
Wayne State Dance Theatre
firstname.lastname@example.org, Will Copeland 313–718–0868 & US Social Forum- 2010
Heidelberg Project- Tyree Guyton http://www.heidelberg.org/ Jeanine Whitfield
Allied Media Conference: http://www.alliedmediaconference.org/ email@example.com
Jenny lee 313 903 0322 (Detroit summer, allied media Conference, LAMP)
Live Arts Media Project High School Youth and Education, Spoken Word
Matrix theater- Shaun & Wes Nethercott- Inclusive theater, puppets, parades
firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com work in the schools
End the Violence: Create Peace Zones for Life: Restorative Justice,
Ron Scott – firstname.lastname@example.org 313 399–7345 Founder of the Detroit Black Panther Party and currently the founder of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality: Creating Peace Zones for Life, member of the Boggs Board- Ending Violence in the Community
Hush House- Sandra and Charles Simmons- 313 613–6897 email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org,
Rev. Williams at King Solomon Baptist Church
Elena Herrada @ Centro Obrero Latino immigrant organizing) 313–974–0501
Pioneers for Peace: http://www.pioneersforpeace.org/
Mike Wimberly- Hope District & Friends of Detroit email@example.com
Creating Work in the community-
Hmong community: Barbara Stakowski 586 855–7866 firstname.lastname@example.org
Church, Spirituality and Community Building: Creating the Beloved Community:
Minister Bill Wiley Kellerman - Resurrection City- good follow-up to Rebecca Solnit Article- the activities that go on and not just hope- 313 433–1967 email@example.com,
Reverend Williams: King Solomon Baptist Church
Reverand Rowe, Central Methodist
Education: Project Education http://boggseducationalcenter.org/who-we-are/
Education: Nate walker 248 219–3117 firstname.lastname@example.org
teacher with project education, he and Julia Putnam- 313 876–9334 email@example.com,
Shari Saunders- University of Michigan
Inclusive Education: Micah Fialka-Feldman www.throughthesamedoor.com 248–546–4870 & www.danceofpartnership.com
Catherine Ferguson Academy- DPS Paul Wertz
Work: (313) 571–4918.
Co-founders of Avalon Bakery on Cass and Willis
Jackie Victor: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ann Perault: email@example.com
Back Alley Bikes- The Hub: www.thehubofdetroit.org
Michigan Welfare Rights: Maureen Taylor
Arab American Community and Arab American Museum: Ishmael Ahmad
A few names for contact in the Arab American/Muslim Community:
Hasan Newash: 313–945–9660 firstname.lastname@example.org (He is a retired Chrysler employee)
Barb Logan- 313–624–0205- Works at the Arab American Museum which has an entire section on American Passage. Others at the museum: Kim Silarski (media person), Ann Anan and Noel.
ADAPT- Disability Rights: Scott Heinsman- 734–462–2423
Micah Fialka-Feldman, Inclusive Education, email@example.com www.throughthesamedoor.com
Kurt Metzger- Wayne State University
Scott Kurashige- U Michigan Professor- American Studies and Community Visionary
Stephen Ward- UM Professor African American Studies and Detroit Historian-
Karen Hammer: Green Acres Community President: 313–863–3219
Frank Hammer- Retired GM Worker
Frank Joyce: Retired UAW Solidarity Magazine Director- Former PR Director UAW, currently writing a book on Workers and Unions
Rich Feldman: 30 years at Ford Motor Company, Elected UAW official, Member of the Boggs Board and Detroit City of Hope. Co-edited the book: End of the Line: Autoworkers and the American Dream 1988: Wiedenfeld Grove Press.
Dan Luria: Economist- 810–515–4007
Jerry Harrow: American Studies – Wayne State University
Sharon Howell: Oakland University Professor Columnist for Michigan Citizen
Jim Chaffers- University of Michigan- Architect Professor- Detroit and Cities
Bunyan Bryant- University of Michigan, Environmental Justice and Planning
Fritjof Bergman- University of Michigan Professor: Concepts of Work and Alternatives
The above list was put together by Rich Feldman
FYI: There are many other individuals and organizations that could be included.
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LIVING FOR CHANGE
Love and Revolution
By Grace Lee Boggs
The older I grow, the more I realize how lucky I am to have lived so long and been part of so many historic changes.
When I became a radical nearly seventy years ago, you ran the risk of seeming ridiculous, as Che Guevara put it, if you thought Love had anything to do with Revolution.
Being revolutionary meant being tough as nails, committed to agitating and mobilizing angry and oppressed masses to overthrow the government and seize state power by any means necessary in order to reconstruct society from the top down.
In the last 50 years this topdown view of revolution has been discredited by the demise of the Soviet Union. At the same time our approach to revolution has been humanized by:
- The modern women’s movement which informed us that the political is personal.
- The ecology movement which emphasized loving Mother Earth and the places where we live.
- Martin Luther King Jr.’s call for a radical revolution in our values and his concept of “beloved community.”
- In the last 15 years tens of thousands of very diverse community groups have sprung all over the world to resist the commodifying by global corporations of our relationships to one another. On January 1, 1994, the day NAFTA took effect, the Zapatistas dramatized this new movement by first taking over six Mexican cities militarily, and then retiring to Chiapas and other indigenous communities to engage the people at the grassroots in non-violent struggles to create new forms of participatory democracy.
- Nearly six years later, in the November 1999 “Battle of Seattle,” 50,000 members of labor, women’s youth and peace groups closed down the World Trade Organization, to inform the world that the time has come to create alternatives to corporate globalization.
- In 2001 a series of “ Another World is Possible” World Social Forums began in Porte Allegre, Brazil, to help movement activists around the world recognize that it is futile to keep calling on elected officials to create a more just, caring and sustainable world, and that we ourselves must begin practicing in the social realm the capacity to care for each other, to grow and share food, skills, time, ideas, that up to now most of us have practiced only in our most cherished personal relationships.
- As part and parcel of this new approach to revolution, the first United States Sociaf Forum (USSF) was held in Atlanta, Ga. in 2007. The second will convene in Detroit in June 2010.
Detroit was chosen for the second USSF because, having suffered de-industrialization decades ago, Detroiters are now engaged in a City of Hope campaign, infused with new values of local sustainable economics, useful Work and participatory democracy, to rebuild, redefine and respirit our city from the ground up. Increasingly being viewed as a North American Chiapas, Detroit has become the mecca for young people, journalists and scholars, wondering if our efforts can help other cities address the increasingly urgent problems of homelessness and hunger created by the economic meltdown and the increasingly dangerous climate crisis caused by our consumerism and materialism.
That is why I hope thousands of Detroiters will join in planning and preparing next June’s second USSF.
Normally it would take decades for a people to transform themselves from the hyper-individualist, hyper-materialist damaged human beings that Americans in all walks of life are today, to the loving, caring Americans we need in today’s deepening crises.
But these are not normal times. If we don’t speed up this transformation, the likelihood is that, armed with AK47s, we will soon be at each other’s throats.
That is why linking Love and Revolution is an idea whose time has come.
We urgently need to bring to our communities the limitless capacity to love, serve, create for and with each other that up to now we have practiced only in our personal relationships. We urgently need to bring the neighbor back into our hoods, not only in our inner cities but in our suburbs, our gated communities, on Main St and Wall Street and on Ivy League campuses.
Beginning tonight we can begin forging a new link between Love and Revolution so that when we gather next June in Detroit we will have already begun the revolution of the 21st century.
Godsil Introduction to Grace Lee Boggs
In the early 1980s when Detroit was a devastated “bombed-out” city, Grace and her husband Jimmy Boggs advanced the concept of self and community self-sufficiency through organic city farms and gardens, and inspired a vision of Detroit’s empty lots and unemployed factory workers as the natural and human resources for creating, step by step, garden by garden, neighborhood artisinal shop and artist studios, one by one… a new permaculture civilization!
Grace Lee Boggs Celebrated Milwaukee’s Will Allen’s Growing Power Partners in Her National Interview with Bill Moyers Tonight at 8 p.m.
Significance of Moyers/Boggs Interview Expected to Equal Contribution of Moyers Interview with Joseph Campbell
Tonight at her 8 p.m. interview with Bill Moyers, legendary Detroit movement writer activist Grace Lee Boggs will tell the nation that Milwaukee’s Will Allen’s Growing Power city farm and community garden projects are prime, real-world examples of her compelling visions of “cities of hope.”
Grace is 92 and still going strong. She won a PH.D. in philosophy from Bryn Mawr in 1938, partnered with C.L.R. James in a highly signficant “anti-communist” left tendency in the 1940s, married renowned Detroit auto worker/philosopher Jimmy Boggs in the 1950s, was a major leader in the labor, civil rights, peace, black power, Asian American women’s and environmental movements in the 1960s and 1970s, and, since the 1980s, has been a major planetary actor of the permaculture movement.
I am looking as much forward to this interview as I did of Moyers’ interviews of Joseph Campbell, and I expect Grace’s statement to reverberate through the culture for years to come.
view a clip of this interview at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQ7weQ0QRHs
see the Boggs/Moyers free online after broadcast at www.pbs.org/moyers and iTunes - free of charge
go to Moyers Blog and contribute to a conversation about the permaculture movement www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/blog
inspire schools, faith communities, and eco-associations to purchase the Moyers/Boggs Interview on DVD/VHS tape and present it to their constituents.
God willing, Moyers and team will visit Milwaukee and spend some time with Big Will Allen and team at the Growing Power City Farm and Community Food Movement center!
If you would like to receive copies of Grace’s newsletter “Living for Change,” send an e-mail to Grace@Milwaukeerenaissance.com.
If you would like to participate in a project that aims to inspire a Bill Moyers visit to Milwaukee’s winning “permaculture home transformation project,” send an e-mail to Moyers@Milwuakeerenaissance.com.
Photos from Grace Lee Boggs 94th Birthday
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The ‘Womanist’ Liberation Movement
Milwaukee’s Sharon Adams Included As Local Leader
The Womanist Liberation Movement
By Grace Lee Boggs
Last week I celebrated Women’s History Month by telling the story of how the feminist struggles of the 19th and 20th centuries have won high level positions for professional women like Condolezza Rice and Hillary Clinton but have not transformed the lives of the billions of working class women living in poverty in the United States and around the world.
To transform these lives, I said, will take a radical revolution in our values and new ways of thinking not only about race and male-female relationships but about the ways we all need to make our livings by caring for each other and for the Earth in the 21st Century.
Alice Walker, the author of The Color Purple, has coined the word “womanist”to describe this new movement which begins with a profound critique of how industrial society has degraded not only women and the Earth but all living things.
Women from many different backgrounds are creating this movement.
Winona LaDuke (Anishinaabekwe Ojibwe) and Kathy Sanchez (Tewawa) are enriching environmental activism with their Native American legacies. “Three Pillars of Oppression” by Andrea Smith ( Cherokee) has helped people of color understand each other better by explaining the very different historical roots of African American, Native American and Hispanic oppression.
Eco- Feminists Maria Mies and Vandana Shiva have explained how the nurturing Work of Women and small farmers differs from the Labor of industrial society. Women and peasants, like artists, do not judge the value of their efforts by the time clock.
In “Burning Times”(1982) Starhawk told us how Western industrial society began with the 17th century witchhunts which not only expropriated the land from the peasants but also replaced the intuitive knowledge of women with the Scientific Rationalism of Bacon and Descartes. Starhawk conducts permaculture workshops for young people, organizes transformative and spiritual demonstrations that involve poetry, dance, singing and fellowship, and helped create the affinity groups which closed down the WTO in the 1999 Battle of Seattle.
In cities around the country women plant community gardens to reconnect urban youth with the Earth and give them a sense of process. Professional women like Philadelphia’s Donna Jones return to inner city communities to create caring, learning environments for young people. As the coordinator of Detroit Summer, Shea Howell engaged young people in caring for community gardens created by elders.
In Milwaukee, Sharon Adams returned to her neighborhood near the Harley-Davidson and Anheuser-Busch plants which had become infested with crackhouses and crime. Planting community rain gardens with the help of Will Allen’s Growing Power, Sharon and her husband have restored pride to her “Walnut Way” neighborhood.
These efforts are on a small scale. But as Margaret Wheatley points out in Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World:
“In a web the potential impact of local actions bears no relationship to their size.
“From a Newtonian perspective, our efforts often seem too small, and we doubt that our actions will contribute incrementally to large-scale change.
“But a quantum view explains the success of small efforts quite differently.
“Acting locally allows us to be inside the movement and flow of the system, participating in all those complex events occurring simultaneously. We are more likely to be sensitive to the dynamics of this system, and thus more effective. However, changes in small places also affect the global system, not through incrementalism, but because every small system participates in an unbroken wholeness. Activities in one part of the whole create effects that appear in distant places. Because of these unseen connections, there is potential value in working anywhere in the system. We never know how our small activities will affect others through the invisible fabric of our connectedness.
“In this exquisitely connected world, it’s never a question of ‘critical mass.’ It’s always about critical connections.”
Grace Lee Boggs on Education and the 1950s
Unfortunately I can’t recommend a D. C. person who can direct you to contacts in your home town as Rich did for FLYP and “Breath of Hope” in Detroit. But if anything similar is happening in DC, the best way to find it is by seeking out (1) some community gardening/local foods center in the city (it could be a neighborhood bakery like Avalon or a coffee shop where folks meet to chat and organize); and (2) an “Open Mike”/Slam Poetry/ Spoken Word event where millennial generation folks gather regularly to create the new language they need to communicate the very different thoughts of today’s youth.
In Milwaukee James Godsil, approximately your age and Rich’s, would be your man. He’s the webmaster of Milwaukee Renaissance, which began with Will Allen and Growing Power. In New Orleans I’d contact Greta Gladney, who is turning the local farmers market into a weekly organizing center. In Chicago I have been inspired by the imaginative ways in which Lisa Lee, a member of the Bryn Mawr College Board of Trustees and the director of Jane Adams-Hull House, is using our many relationships to food (from production to preparation to enjoyment) to transform this venerable think tank into a place where basic belly needs and new ideas feed each other.
I am also cc-ing this to my friend Olga Bonfiglio, an education professor at Kalamazoo College who may have discovered from her research and writings on urban gardening some things about it in D.C.
I’m glad you asked my opinion of what Obama said about education in his Tuesday speech. Like his appointment of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education, it struck me as another example of Obama’s core weakness. Like other members of the black middle class who have succeeded in the present school system, he just doesn’t “get” that in the 21st century we need a paradigm shift from the educational system created more than a hundred years ago at the beginning of the industrial epoch when there was no radio or TV or computers so information was hard to come by and classrooms were structured like factories to prepare kids to become economic cogs to enable the U.S. to compete on the world market
So they talk about “quality education” without stopping to question what anachronisms are contained in the phrase. Recently, in a couple of long phone conversations with Marian Wright Edelman, the head of the Children’s Defense Fund, I tried to get her to think outside the box on this question, but it is not easy. To give you a sense of what a “paradigm shift” involves, I attach the 5 minute remarks I made at a 2002 Education Summit here in Detroit and a list of books projecting a more participatory kind of education.
Our brief discussion during your visit about your book you’re writing about the 1950s has encouraged me to think in a more focused way on the significance of that decade, which I as a movement activist look back on as the decade when we had to abandon the ideas for radical change that came out of the 19th and early 20th centuries, just as western historians were forced by World War I to relinquish 19th century illusions of progress. In other words, the 19th century ended culturally and philosophically not in 1899 but in 1914–17.
In the 1950s the children of your generation of baby boomers responded to air raid sirens by hiding under school desks, while Albert Einstein , living in Princeton in his old age, recognized that “the splitting of the atom has changed everything but the human mind and thus we drift towards catastrophe.”
I especially value the decade of the 1950s because it was a personal watershed for me. In the early 1950s I moved from New York to Detroit, married Jimmy and was present at countless meetings in our living room where veterans of the labor movement of the 1930s struggled over how to respond to the automation or high tech which was reducing the work force and the clout of labor.
Meanwhile the civil rights movement was beginning in the South. The murder of Emmett Till in the fall of 1955 triggered the Montgomery Bus Boycott in December 1955, “ the first struggle by an oppressed people in western society based on the concept of two-sided transformation, both of ourselves and of our institutions. Inspired by the twenty-six-year-old King, a people who had been treated as less than human struggled for more than a year against their dehumanization, not as angry protesters or as workers in the plant, but as members of the Montgomery community, new men and women representing a more human society in evolution. Using methods including creating their own system of transportation that transformed themselves and increased the good rather than the evil in the world, exercising their spiritual power and always bearing in mind that their goal was not only desegregating buses but building the beloved community, they inspired the human identity, anti-war and ecological movements that during the last decade of the twentieth century were giving birth to a new civil society in the United States.” ( p. xix in my introduction to the recent republication of Revolution and Evolution in the 20th Century, originally published in 1974, as a Monthly Review Classic)
Living in Detroit in the 1950s I also witnessed the construction of the freeways which enabled whites to flee to the suburbs, not only depopulating and impoverishing the city but turning it into one that was becoming nearly all black, and therefore giving rise to the Detroit Black Power movement and the Detroit rebellion of 1967.
In love and struggle,
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Books projecting a Paradigm Shift in Education
- Cammarota, J. & Fine, M. (Eds.) (2008). Revolutionizing education: Youth participatory action research in motion. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Group.
- Driskell, D. (2002). Creating better cities with children and youth: A manual for participation. London, England: UNESCO & Earthscan.
- Ginwright, S., Noguera, P., & Cammarota, J. (2006). Beyond resistance! youth activism and community change: New democratic possibilities for practice and policy for America’s youth. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis Group.
- Gruenewald, D. A., & Smith, G. A. (2008). Place-based education in the global age. New York: NY: Taylor & Francis Group.
- Hart, R. A. (1997). Children’s participation: The theory and practice of involving young citizens in community development and environmental care. London, England and New York: NY: Earthscan and UNICEF.
- Klindienst, P. (2006). The earth knows my name: Food, culture, and sustainability in the gardens of ethnic Americans. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
- O’Sullivan, E. et. al. (2002). Expanding the boundaries of transformative learning: Essays on theory and praxis. New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan.
- Orr, D. (2004). Earth in mind: On education, environment, and the human prospect. Washington, D.C.: Island Press.
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Paradigm Shift in our Concept of Education
By Grace Lee Boggs
An Educational Summit on the Urban Crisis
State Theatre, Detroit, August 20, 2002
More than thirty years ago, after having been heavily involved in the struggle for community control of schools, I made a speech on Education here in Detroit that has been widely reprinted in journals, including the Harvard Educational Review, and also as a pamphlet entitled Education to Govern which went through three printings.
In that speech I warned that in the light of the urban rebellions which have brought black youth on to the historical stage, we need to go beyond community control and begin grappling with fundamental questions about the purpose of education and how children learn,. The time had come, I said, to go beyond the top down factory model of education which was created at the beginning of the century to supply industry with a disciplined work force.
In order to transform our children from angry rebels into positive change agents, our schools need to give them a sense of the unique capacity of human beings to shape and create reality in accordance with conscious purposes and plans. Learning must be related to the daily lives of children. Ii is not something you can make people do in their heads with the perspective that, eventually, they will get a good job and make a lot of money, or as the saying goes, “get somewhere.”
Our schools, I said, need to be transformed to provide children with ongoing opportunities to exercise “their resourcefulness to solve the real problems of their communities.” Children will be motivated to learn and their cognitive juices will begin to flow because their hearts, heads and hands are engaged in improving their daily lives and their surroundings.
In the decades that have elapsed since 1969, our schools and communities have deteriorated far beyond anything that I could have imagined. As corporations have exported jobs out of our communities and the information revolution has brought us to the threshold of a post-industrial society, our schools have continued to operate on the factory model. So 35–50% of inner city youth drop out, many of them becoming trapped in the drug economy and ending up in prison, because they are no longer willing to sit passively in classrooms for twelve or more years, receiving and regurgitating information, when all around them the need for change and for creative thinking is so obvious.
The factory-type school is based on the profoundly anti-democratic belief that only experts are capable of creating the knowledge which teachers then deliver in the form of information and students give back on tests. Like workers in the factory, children and young people are treated as cogs whose “job” is to ingest basics in order to survive, consume and produce.
Most educators still practice this ”Stand and Deliver” model which worked fairly well in the first half of the twentieth century when this country was pioneering mass production and when most working class children were children of immigrants. Its limitations didn’t become glaring until the 1960s when we began to move towards a post-industrial society at the same time that young people, through rebellions at both the university and street level, proclaimed their right to be full participants in deciding this country’s direction.
Since then our schools have been in continuing crisis because so few educators are able or willing to take the risk of leaving behind the old factory model and creating a new one which meets the human and social need of young people to be creators of knowledge and of social change. Parents have not been much help because their fears for their children’s survival have led them to stress staying in school to get a job. So millions of young people, coming of age in a new world where information is everywhere and industrial work is disappearing, experience schooling as boring, a denial of their humanity and a kind of incarceration.
It is not going to be easy to relinquish this “Command and Control” model of schooling. To do so we need the incentive that comes from recognizing how many of our children have already left it behind. We also need a new philosophy in which students are not viewed mechanistically (or from a Newtonian perspective) but as human beings who like all human beings, regardless of age, ethnicity, gender or national origin, are capable of self-organization, self-reflection and creativity.
The need for a new kind of schooling is supported by scientific studies of the mind. For example, Today’s schools fail, Renata and Geoffrey Caine explain in Education on the Edge of Possibility, because they see brainpower only as memorization instead of building on the multiple and complex powers of the human brain. Among these are the capacity to function on many levels simultaneously, to change in response to others, to keep searching for meaning, to create patterns, to enrich ideas by linking them to emotions and all the senses, to simultaneously perceive and create, to be inhibited by threats (like rewards and punishment) and to be enhanced by challenges and opportunities to make a difference.
Schooling which denies children and young people the right to exercise these capacities produces individuals who are in a constant state of rebellion and perceived by the adult world (especially the police) as threats to an orderly society. On the other hand, education which gives children the freedom to exercise their powers creates the kind of socially responsible, visionary and creative young people that we urgently need as change agents in the daily lives of our communities.
In an important book entitled The Hand: How its development shaped the Brain, Langues and Human Culture, Frank Wilson, a practicing neurologist, describes how he became fascinated with the role of the hand in the evolution of the human race and the development of the mind because of his experiences (1) as an adult trying to learn how to play the piano and (2) as a doctor working with patients who have difficulty using their hands.
After intensive study Wilson became convinced that one of the major reasons for the crisis in our schools is that we have underestimated the role of the hand. Because our society has made such a sharp separation between the mind and the body and because we are so prejudiced against manual labor, we have created a brain-centred (cephalocentric) educational system based on the illusion that we can educate the mind by itself. This system doesn’t work because it violates the way that learning actually takes place. Biologically the head and the hand evolved together. “For the brain to work it needs information that can only come from the hand acting on objects or from tactile and kinesthetic perception.” “There is not, and cannot be…anything called intelligence, independent of the behavior of the entire organism, or of its entire and exclusive history of interactions with the world.” “The attainment of early language milestones in the child always takes place in company with the attainment of very specific motor milestones.”
Our schools actually do violence psychologically to children because we fill their minds with information and confine them to classrooms, divorcing them from physical activity and the physical world at a time when they need to know what the world really is about.
That is why we urgently need a paradigm shift in our concept of the purposes and practices of education. We need to leave behind the concept of education as a passport to more money and higher status in the future and replace it with a concept of education as an ongoing process that enlists the tremendous energies and creativity of schoolchildren in rebuilding and respiriting our communities and our cities now, in the present.
During Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964 civil rights activists created Freedom Schools because black schools in the South had been organized to produce subjects, not active citizens. Black children were encouraged to see themselves as part of a social movement. That is the kind of schooling we need today.
Just think of how much safer, healthier and livelier our communities would become almost overnight if as a natural and normal part of the curriculum from K-12, school children were taking responsibility for maintaining neighborhood streets, planting community gardens, recycling waste, creating healthier school lunches, organizing neighborhood festivals, relating to elders. This is the fastest way to motivate all our children to learn and at the same time turn our communities into lively neighborhoods where crime is going down because hope is going up.
This is not an idle dream. In 1992, recalling how Martin Luther King Jr., in response to the urban rebellions, had proposed self-transforming and structure-transforming projects for Negro youth in “our dying cities,” we founded Detroit Summer, a multicultural intergenerational program to involve young people in community projects to rebuild, redefine and respirit Detroit from the ground up. Every summer, for the last twelve years, teams of middle and high school youth have organized themselves to turn vacant lots into community gardens and parks, paint public murals, rehab houses, and at the same time explore new ideas about economics, transportation, education and social change. Every year Detroit Summer is attracting more college students preparing to become teachers and looking for new ways to break down the walls between the classroom and the community. The beauty of Detroit Summer is that it is creating a fluid model that can be adopted and adapted by all kinds of community groups and also by schools.
Another community-building model is being created by public schools in the de-industrialized cities of New England through a program calling itself KIDS, Kids Involved in Doing Service. Students at the Moretown Elementary School in Vermont, for example, researched the feasibility of planting trees along the banks of the Mad River to decrease thermal impact on the river, absorb runoff and enhance animal habitats. Middle School students in Bath, Maine, mapped a historical walking tour of downtown Bath for distribution by the chamber of commerce, local restaurants and information centers. Lewiston Middle School students restored the interior and exterior appearance of their historic building. You can find out more about KIDS at www.kidsconsortium.org
Ten years ago the Pew Charitable Trust, recognizing the overwhelming desire of young people to act on behalf of the environment and to help their communities through voluntary service created EARTH FORCE, a program that helps schoolchildren monitor water quality and solve other environmental problems in their communities.
In Ypsilanti, Michigan, there is a non-profit organization calling itself Creative Change Educational Solutions (CCES) that provides teachers with training and curricula to that make connection between the environment, society and the economy, are aligned with national and state standards and can be easily integrated into economics, civics, language and/or science classes. Teachers who have been trained by CCES talk about how exciting it is to teach in this way. MEAP scores rise because the kids see themselves in the hands-on projects. For example, clean air really means something to them because many use inhalers. Instead of depending on the teaching to decide the lessons, the kids bring lessons to the teachers based on their own experiences. “Creative change teaching,: they say, “incorporates core democratic values because it helps kids see that their food, transportation and housing choices matter. If we’re serious about democracy, this is the way we have to teach. Students have to be able to see, feel, hear what they’re studying and see that it actually makes a difference in their lives.”
There may be similar models in other parts of the country. But the importance of programs like Detroit Summer, KIDS, Earth Force and Creative Change EducationalSolutions is that by enlisting the energies and creativity of schoolchildren in addressing the urban crisis, they provide children and young people with opportunities to take ownership of problems or issues affecting their school and their town. Thereby they give meaning to the lives of our children in the present while preparing them to become active citizens in a democratic society. At the same time they foster the culture of hope and change in the community which is something we all need, whether we live in the inner city or the suburbs.
“What can I say about the forum? Well, to tell the truth, I’m not sure I heard anything that I hadn’t heard before except for a statement from Detroit activist Grace Lee Boggs. Boggs talked about the need to move beyond the top-down model of school administration and develop community-based clean-up and gardening programs that allow children to transform themselves and their communities.” Betty DeRamus, Detroit News columnist, August 21, 2002.
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Inauguration Week for Grace Lee Boggs
ONE WEEK IN JANUARY
It is Saturday, January 25, and I am reflecting on the past week which ends (for me) with the Boggs board meeting tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon, followed by a discussion with Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn and the book party for their new book: RACE COURSE AGAINST WHITE SUPREMACY.
THE WEEK began for me on MONDAY morning, MLK Day, with a phone call from Frances Reid in the Bay area.. Frances, who produced the 11 minute video from existing footage for Jimmy’s 1993 Memorial Celebration, said she was on her way to spend the day planting trees as a volunteer, in response to Obama’s call to celebrate MLK birthday by a Day of Service in the community. Frances, who has been twice nominated for an Oscar, also told me that she has retired from filmmaking to study sustainable architecture. Our conversation helped me write this week’s Living for Change, emphasizing MLK’s profound concept of community-building as the only alternative to chaos. (Monday evening my dvd message was scheduled to be aired at the mulifaith celebration of MLK Day in D.C. but I learned from Marcia Lee on Wednesday that the program had been so long that they had eliminated many speakers, including me).
Around 1 p.m. Grace Lee, the Grace Lee Project filmmaker, arrived to set up to film my conversation with Danny Glover (after his MLK Day speech at Oakland University) and for a week of filming for a documentary on me. Danny had visited the Boggs Center in 2002 but this was the first time we’ve talked 1-on-1. Our conversation was one of the most stimulating that I have ever engaged in. Danny is a man with a deeply personal and political sense of the power and importance of ideas for movement-building. He was especially interested in EDUCATION and asked for a list of the books on place-based education that Shari Saunders had lent me.
Monday evening about 25 Detroiters who are engaged in building Detroit as a City of Hope shared their stories with him. (Diana Nucera, our video artist, filmed the discussion)..
Before the DCOH meeting Tyree Guyton, creator of the Heidelberg Project, stopped by briefly and we talked with one another for the first time, even though we have lived and worked within shouting distance for more than 40 years, each in our own way wrestling with the challenge of how to restore hope to a dying Detroit. We both look forward eagerly to future conversations and collaboration. He and Jeannine, his wife and director of the Heidelberg Project, have since sent me their wonderful book on the Project.
The next day, TUESDAY, my eyes were glued from early on to the TV screen watching the Inauguration. Around noon a call came from Democracy Now asking me to comment on the event. To my surprise and delight this turned out to be an on the air discussion with Alice Walker who was covering the inauguration with Amy Goodman. The main question on my mind (and Alice’s) was “Where do we go from here?” - “here” being the ocean of joy of the millions witnessing the inauguration of our country’s first African American president. Our discussion on Democracy Now can be found at http://www.democracynow.org/2009/1/21/novelist_alice_walker_and_activist_grace
This critical question was answered for me WEDNESDAY morning when a group of activists from Milwaukee stopped by for a few hours on their way back from D. C. They told me how, in the mixture of both Joy and frustration (because of the crowd) in D.C. they had been able to create a community out of chaos by just helping to open up a little passageway. Out of this experience, they had arrived at the conviction that, instead of looking to Obama to solve our problems, instead of only supporting the administration in D.C., each of us needs to find a way to overcome chaos in our own community by finding ways and means to build the local equivalent of “a little passageway.”
As we were getting ready for lunch, James Godsil, who works with Will Allen at Growing Power in Milwaukee,and whom I have never met (although we have been in almost daily email contact,for a year) arrived with student and filmmaker Emanuel Pratt. Over lunch upstairs about a dozen of us first viewed the Jimmy Boggs and Ossie Davis video together and then shared stories about the Inauguration.and projections of where we go from here.
Godsil and Emanuel also participated in the Wednesday evening DCOH meeting, and we began to get a clearer sense of how our two de-industrialized cities together are creating a Midwest region of Hope.
Most of THURSDAY was spent in Grace and Quyen filming me. Soon after they left in the afternoon, , Nate Walker, Julia Pointer and Frank came by for a meeting to share with me the mind-blowing, soul-stirring “ Guiding Principles” of Critical Thinking, Creativity, Community and Multiple Literacies which they, as members of a small group of parents and teachers, have created after six months of weekly meetings. I was very moved not only by the outcome but by the patient and collective process by which these young people had arrived at their own profound understanding of the Paradigm
shift now urgently needed in Education because we have come to the end of the industrial epoch and because web technology has made obsolete the emphasis on transmitting information which came out of the.age when the main medium was print.
I think the city and country are hungry for these guiding principles and suggested that they share them at today’s Swords and Plowshares meeting on Education.
On FRIDAY Grace and Quyen did more filming, mainly talking with me in the kitchen about how the young people who are so much a part of my political life are like my grandchildren and great grandchildren, and also visiting and filming each of the rooms in which I have lived and worked for 46 years.
Their documentation of the week helped me to see it as a concentration of the kinds of interactions that I have been having over the last year: one-on-one conversations with (mostly) young people, searching for how to contribute to the emerging movement. After each of these conversations, I pass on to the next person who sits in the big chair at my right what I have learned. These interactions have taught me that my role is mostly that of a connector or transmitter, a horizontal rather than a vertical role.
During the week I also received and passed on email reports of Community Centers for Healing, Restorative Justice, Safety that are being created by activists in other cities.
All my interactions during the week were very revealing. For example, Grace, Quyen and I, who are all Asian American, talked about the huge age segregation in this country, a recent historical phenomenon which deprives contemporary Americans of the intergenerational connection which have been so critical to the millenniums-long evolution of the human race (See Phillippe Aries’ Centuries of Childhood). So the Boggs Center not only plays the unique horizontal role of “Connector” (e.g. of individuals and of cities like Milwaukee, Chicago and Detroit), but of evolution, transmitting experiences and inspiration between generations of movement activists.
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With Obama Movement We’ve Begun Learning To Become More Self-Governing
LIVING FOR CHANGE
It’s Our Time
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, Nov. 30- Dec. 6, 2008
This is a magical time. The participation of so many millions of Americans from all walks of life, ages, and faith and ethnic groups in the campaign to elect Barack Obama to the presidency, their interacting with him at rallies, the door-to-door canvassing by volunteers urging strangers to vote, the patient waiting in long lines to cast ballots prior to and on Election Day — all this means that we have taken a giant step towards becoming a more responsible, more democratic and more self-governing people.
Every time Barack insisted that it was not about him but about us, we were reminded of our potential for becoming a better people and a better country. When he talked about change we can believe in, and we shouted back “Yes we can,” we were discovering the room for growth in ourselves. Opponents complained about the lack of specifics in his mantra of change, but that is because, stuck in old political boxes, they were only interested in policies and platforms, unable to recognize the transformative process that has been taking place over the last year in ourselves and therefore in our practice of democracy.
Our challenge now is to recognize that the future of our country and our planet is as much about us as it is about Obama, that in our communities and our cities we have become responsible for grappling with the issues he is wrestling with in the Oval office – the economic meltdown, our unsustainable life style, the future of the U. S. auto industry, the health and education of our children, and how to extricate ourselves from our occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, and resolve the many other crises in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia. Because we played such a huge role in electing him, because these issues are so critical to our daily lives, and because our transformation towards taking greater responsibility has been so great, we cannot return to the old separation between we, the people, and those we elect to office.
How do we continue this transformative process? How do we join in the work of remaking this nation, block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand? How do we nurture this new spirit of service, of sacrifice, patriotism and responsibility , where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other?
We might begin by discussing these and related questions with our families, neighbors, co-workers, classmates, church members, bible study groups, book club, garden club, bowling club, and/or at any gathering, e.g. Thanksgiving dinner.
In the last couple of weeks I have thought a lot about the chaos in South Africa since the 1994 election because the people left it all to Mandela and the African National Congress. I also recall how Malcolm’s audiences used to squirm when he chided black people for what he called their “slave mentality” by which he meant expecting others to solve our problems for us.
In future columns I will have other suggestions for how to continue this transformative process. Meanwhile, I would like to recommend a careful reading of Expanding the Boundaries of Transformative Learning: Essays on Theory and Praxis, edited by Edmund V. O’ Sullivan, Amish Morrell, Mary Ann O’Connor, Palgrave 2002.
I bought this book initially because it contains “From Opposition to Alternatives : Post-Industrial Potentials and Transformative Learning.” a mind-blowing essay in which Bruce Milani, writer, student, teacher, carpenter and environmentalist, explains how the end of the industrial age of cog-labor has made obsolete the 19th century division between politics, economics and culture, and hence also reduced the need for liberal and leftist parties to represent “we, the people.”
Other essays which also enlarged my view of our magical time are “The Project and Vision of Transformative Education,” the introduction in which Edmund O’Sullivan points out that we are at a turning point not only in human history but in the very history of the Earth itself. Therefore we need both a larger cosmological context for our lives and a deeper rootedness in place. In “Feminist Perspectives on Globalization and Integrative Transformative Learning” Angela Miles explains that individual development cannot be separated from collective engagement, critical awareness of and resistance to unjust social institutions and relationships. Budd Hall’s “The Right to a New Utopia: Adult Learning and the Changing World of Work in an Era of Global Capitalism” ends with the statement by Julius Nyerere, first president of Tanzania, that “all other goals can come if we believe that change is possible.”
Grace Lee Boggs on Will Allen and Obama
LIVING FOR CHANGE
Where Do We Go From Here?
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, Nov. 16–22, 2008
It was block by block, from the ground up, community organizing. which won the White House for Barach Obama. Inspired by his eloquence and audacity, his commitment to change we can believe in, and his faith in himself and in human possibilities, determined to leave behind us the shameful legacy of slavery, Jim Crow, the Iraq war and the other atrocities of the Bush- Cheney regime, and to begin healing and redeeming our country and ourselves, tens of thousands of Americans, of all ages, ethnic backgrounds and faiths, members of unions, churches, synagogues, peace, women’s and other community groups, discovered in them/ourselves the energy that comes from renewed hope and commitment to a just cause. So, especially after the Democratic convention. we/they went door to door, block by block, in neighborhoods all over the country, persuading strangers and folks who had never voted or who had lost faith in voting, to vote for Obama. It was a great feat, worth celebrating.
Where do we/they go from here? Some people will use the experience to advance their own careers. Others will be content with Obama’s closing down Guantanamo and undoing similar Bush- Cheney abuses. Still others, outraged at Obama’s appointments of pro-Israel zealots, rightwing Democrats and economic heavyweights whose only concern is growing the economy, will organize protest demonstrations, trying to push Obama to the Left. Or they will regret that they did not vote for Ralph Nader or Cynthia McKinney
I will not be among them. I think that Obama has already done our country a great service by encouraging tens and hundreds of millions all over the world to believe that America can change and that together we can change it. I do not delude myself that despite Obama’s formidable multi-tasking skills, he will be able, in the Oval Office, as commander in chief of the U.S. Armed Forces, struggling to extricate this country from two unwinnable wars which have become occupations, saddled with a trillion dollar deficit, and needing to court both Republicans and Democrats even for modest health care legislation that will not make us more healthy but only make heath insurance more available, to initiate the profound changes in our values, in how we live, how we make our livings and how we educate our children, that are urgently needed at this milestone in our evolution when we are in the midst of a cultural transition as far-reaching as that from hunting and gathering to agriculture eleven thousand years ago and from agriculture to induntung ustry three hundred years ago.
Changes of this magnitude cannot come from the top down, only from the ground up. .
And that is where they are coming from. All over the country citizens from all walks of life, parents, teachers, administrators, recognizing that our Fordist model of schooling is the main cause for school dropouts and expanding prisons, are exploring new ways of educating our children that involve their hands and hearts and engage them in community-building. One outstanding example is the Catherine Ferguson Academy in Detroit where caring for small animals and planting community gardens is part of the science curriculum for teenage mothers .
In Milwaukee former basketball player Will Allen has founded Growing Power, an urban farm that not only grows produce for thousands of city-dwellers but helps communities grow their own gardens in order to bring the neighbor back into the ‘hood.
“We have to go back to when people shared things and start taking care of each other. That’s the only way we will survive. What better way to do it than with food?” said Will as he was honored with a 2008 MacArthur Genius Award.
All over the United States the local foods movement is helping Americans cope with spiraling food prices, at the same time slowing down global warming and making us healthier because we are not importing adulterated foods grown on factory farms and transported thousands of miles in gas-guzzling trucks.
In neighborhoods all over the country the economic meltdown is forcing people to rethink the waste of suburban living and SUVs and the cost of shopping at malls rather than neighborhood stores. So this Thanksgiving people will be swapping stories of an older generation whose hands were more calloused but who cared not only for themselves but each other.
At the end of 1966, four months before his anti-Vietnam war speech, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote “Where do we go from here: Community or Chaos” in which he called for a radical revolution of values against the giant triplet of racism, materialism and militarism. It would be fitting if on January 20 as we celebrate Barach Obama’s inauguration we also commemorate MLK’s 80th birthday by holding teach-ins on this little pamphlet.
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Reflections On 40 Years of Sutton Island Summer Retreats
I have just returned from my 40th annual vacation on Sutton Island. It was on this tiny, one mile long Maine island that in 1968 Lyman and Freddy Paine, Jimmy Boggs and I began informal yearly conversations to explore our nation’s future. At the time the U.S. future seemed very uncertain — in the wake of the civil rights and Black Power movements. the urban rebellions, the expanding Black Panther Party and anti-Vietnam war movement, the assassinations of Dr. King and Robert Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson’s decision not to be a candidate in the upcoming presidential election.
I describe these conversations in the chapter “Beyond Rebellion” in my autobiography. Some were compiled and published in 1978 by South End Press
This year, because I was being filmed for a documentary, I was very conscious that I am the sole survivor of the original four, and also that, at 93, I am becoming increasingly frail and dependent on others for my physical needs. This loss of independence is very painful, but it is the price one pays for longevity. So I thank my parents for the genes that have made my long life possible and hope that I will make my transition before I lose all my marbles and my privacy.
This year I was also very conscious that, although we did not know it at the time, the projections we made in our conversations (to change ourselves to change the world, to grow our souls and to build community) were amazingly similar to MLK’s in the last three years of his life when, in response to the Vietnam war and the urban rebellions, he called for a “radical revolution of values” and for building beloved communities.
Besides myself and Shea Howell, who became a movement activist in the 60s and coordinated Detroit Summer, this year’s conversations included six young people in their mid-20s to mid-30s, members of the Millennial Generation. African, Latino and Asian Americans. they had recently been informed that by 2042 people of color will be the majority in this country.
We were each very conscious that at this time on the clock of the world, the future of the United States and of our planet depends on Americans, whatever their class, race or gender, faith or national origin, acquiring a new sense of global and planetary responsibility.
We are all Obama supporters. But we also believe that the movement to change ourselves to change the world goes beyond any leader, regardless of his/her identity, charisma or projection of change we can believe in.
This conviction is based primarily on our shared experiences in struggling to rebuild, redefine and respirit Detroit from the ground up, in Detroit Summer and in the urban agricultural movement in a de-industrialized and devastated city that has been governed by a black Mayor for all or most of our lives.
It has been my good fortune, because of Detroit Summer, the Detroit Summer Collective (DSC), the DSC Live Arts Media Project (LAMP), and the Allied Media Conferences that have convened in Detroit in the last two years, to be in continuing interaction with young people who realize at a gut level that we have entered a post-industrial epoch requiring cultural and political transformations and imaginations as profound as those involved in the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture 11,000 years ago and from agriculture to industry a few centuries ago.
I felt the same new tides of hope and energy a couple of months ago at a dinner meeting with about 15 field organizers of the League of Young Voters from around the country. So I asked Heather Box, a member of the group, to help write a column. In my July 27th column (“The Power Vote“) Heather describes the difficulties her generation has had in making our elected officials actually represent us. That is why her group, the Energy Action Coalition, is building a base of young people committed to developing a new green economy that will create millions of jobs, improve our health and avoid future wars. Whoever is elected, they have pledged to assemble by the thousands in D. C, during the first 100 days of the new administration to lobby the President and Congress to take immediate action.
Democracy and the End of Cheap Oil
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, August 10–16, 2008
The shift from an industrialized to an agrarian economy, mandated by the end of cheap oil, will not only slow down global warming. Our food will be safer to eat and our society more democratic, according to a paper by Maynard Kaufman presented at the recent Green Party convention in Chicago.
That’s why we should “actively affirm this as an agrarian revival, and not just wait in a passive way for it to happen. If we affirm it, we can plan for it—and for the recovery of democracy.”
“The average family of four that buys its food,” Kaufman points out, ”uses more energy in the food they buy than in the car they drive. The burning of fossil fuels such as coal (for electricity), along with oil and natural gas, has long been recognized as a source of air pollution with acid rain..
“Other environmental impacts of the industrial food system include soil erosion, wasteful use of water, run-off from excessive fertilizer use, manure pollution in confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Most of these costs are ‘externalized’ into the environment, not included in the price.
“Thus food is cheap in America because many costs are externalized. The annual subsidy of 39 billion dollars to the oil industry is not included in the price of food. And the cost of war to secure access to oil is also externalized to be paid by our children.”
Industrial civilization has also “facilitated the transfer of wealth into fewer and fewer hands. Already in 2000 the top 1% of Americans had as much disposable income as the bottom 100 million, or 35%.
Thus “the United States is more of a plutocracy than a democracy.”
“We lost our democracy when we were trained to be good consumers of what the industrial food system produced. And as long as we had energy slaves to provide our food, we did not worry about it. Now we face a new situation as the spike in energy prices creates new threats and opens new political possibilities.
Thomas Jefferson promoted this possibility but it was gradually over-shadowed by a culture based on manufacturing.
The end of cheap oil re-opens this possibility. “Rising food prices are already stimulating more people to raise their own or seek local farmer’s markets which are popping up in every town. There are now nearly 5,000 farmer’s markets in this country, up from around 300 in 1970.“Still another aspect of an agrarian culture will be organic methods of food production, working in harmony with nature.”
“An agrarian economy…will be a society with a great deal more informal economic activity….It would very likely get us off the treadmill of economic growth and into a steady-state society.”
An agrarian society would be a good place or a Eutopia, according to Paul Gilk, Wisconsin Green activist in his new book, Politics is Eutopian. A utopian society is noplace in that it is not grounded in a natural context but exists as a man-made imposition of abstract and conceptual mental patterns on the natural environment. By contrast, a village (or city) that is rooted in the natural environment is a real place where people raise food with organic methods and live in harmony with nature.
One of Gilk’s special concerns is the status of women as we move into an agrarian way of life. In past agrarian societies work was often gendered with women bearing the brunt of drudgery. If feminism can remain strong in a post-petroleum society, sexist discrimination may be mitigated. More efficient and appropriate technology might also be helpful.
Maynard Kaufman is a retired professor of religion and environmental studies. While teaching at Western Michigan University in the 1970s, he became a back-to-the-land part-time farmer so that his students could experience self-sufficiency and harmony with their environment. In 1991 his involvement in the organic movement led him to organize Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance as a state-wide group promoting local organic food and farming. Organic farming does not use chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Thus it uses 30% less fossil fuel energy. Organic fertilizers also reduce carbon emissions because they sequester carbon in the soil.
LIVING FOR CHANGE
A (Nearly) Carfree Society is Possible
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, June 22–28, 2008
“A quality city is not one that has great roads but one where a child can safely go anywhere on a bicycle. If we can build a successful city for children, we will have a successful city for all people.”
A lot of people are angry these days about the high price of gas. But one hundred years from now our posterity may bless this period when soaring gas prices finally forced Americans to bike or take public transportation to work and to start dreaming of neighborhood stores within walking distance.
An interview with Enrique Penalosa by Deborah Solomon in the June 6 New York Times
Magazine inspired this thought. My eye was caught by his statement that “The 20th century was a horrible detour in the evolution of the human habitat. We were building much more for cars’ mobility than for children’s happiness.”
Never having heard of Penalosa, I googled him and discovered that he was a journalist born and educated in the United States. Elected Mayor of Bogota, Colombia, on his third try in 1998, he served until 2001 when he was forced out by term limits. Since then he has become a senior fellow at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy and is advising other world cities on transportation.
Penalosa believes that “We need to walk, just as birds need to fly. We need to be around other people. We need beauty. We need contact with nature. And most of all, we need not to be excluded. We need to feel some sort of equality.”
To make Bogota a city that could be enjoyed by the carless majority, he closed 120 kilometers of roads to motor vehicles for seven hours every Sunday. This enabled a million and a half people of all ages and incomes to come out and ride bicycles, jog, and simply gather with others in the community.
Penalosa views children as a kind of “indicator species.” “A quality city is not one that has great roads but one where a child can safely go anywhere on a bicycle. If we can build a successful city for children, we will have a successful city for all people.”
“When we tell a three-year-old child anywhere in the world, ‘Watch out -- a car’ the child will jump in fright -- and with good reason because more than 200,000 children are killed by cars every year… In any month today there are more children killed by cars than were eaten by wolves all through the Middle Ages. But we have come to think that that’s totally normal. As soon as our children come out of their houses, we are afraid they might get killed. After 5,000 years of cities, is that where we are?”
Penalosa learned from Jaime Lerner, who was the maverick mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, for 3 four year terms between 1971 and 1992.
The three keys to a livable city, according to Lerner, are Mobility, Sustainability and Diversity.
Believing that a livable city begins with children respecting the city, Lerner
gave Curitiba children the responsibility for separating and rccycling garbage. He gave the Curitiba homeless a stake in a clean city by offering them a bag of food in exchange for a bag of litter. He speeded up the buses by building stations where riders could pay fares before boarding.
You don’t need a lot of money to come up with measures like these What you need is the courage to think outside the box of “economic development” or trying to catch up with the cities of the Global North which are in deep trouble.
After the splitting of the atom, Einstein warned that we were drifting towards catastrophe because we had changed everything but the way we think. Imagination, he said, is more important than knowledge.
Penalosa quotes a Danish urbanist, Jan Gehl, who says that a good city is like a good party – people don’t want to leave. It is a city where people want to be out of their houses. The good city is the one where people want any pretext to be in the parks, on the sidewalks, in the cafes.
We have a choice: between a city that is friendlier to cars or a city that is friendlier to people, especially children.
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A note from Bill Sell
Thanks for mentioning Curitiba which has solved many urban problems creatively.
More comments, photos from Curitiba, including its novel bus system.
Discussion with Mayor of Curitiba, Jaime Lerner, about the design and effect.
Believing that a livable city begins with children respecting the city, Lerner gave Curitiba children the responsibility for separating and recycling garbage. He gave the Curitiba homeless a stake in a clean city by offering them a bag of food in exchange for a bag of litter. He speeded up the buses by building stations where riders could pay fares before boarding.
Back to top
LIVING FOR CHANGE
The Next American Revolution
By Grace Lee Boggs
Left Forum Closing Plenary, Cooper Union
New York, March 16, 2008
I have decided to talk about the next American Revolution because I
believe it is not only the key to global survival but also the most
important step we can take in this period to build a new, more human
and more socially and ecologically responsible nation that all of us,
in every walk of life, whatever our race, ethnicity, gender, faith or
national origin, will be proud to call our own.
I also feel that it would be a shame if we left this historic gathering
in this Great Hall, at this pivotal time in our country’s history —
when the power structure is obviously unable to resolve the twin
crises of global wars and global warming, when millions are losing
their jobs and homes, when Obama’s call for change is energizing so
many young people and independents, and when white workers in Ohio,
Michigan and Pennsylvania are reacting like victims — without
discussing the next American revolution.
Since it is hard to struggle for something which you haven’t
struggled to define and name, my aim this evening, quite frankly, is
to initiate impassioned discussions about the next American revolution
everywhere, in groups, small and large.
I begin with some history. Forty years ago my late husband, Jimmy
Boggs, and I started Conversations in Maine with our old friends and
comrades, Freddy and Lyman Paine, to explore how a revolution in our
time in our country would differ from the many revolutions that took
place around the world in the early and mid-20th century.
We four had been members of the Johnson-Forest Tendency, a tiny group
inside the Workers Party and the Socialist Workers Party, led by
C.L.R.James and Raya Dunayevskaya. Lyman, an architect, and Freddy,
a worker and organizer, had been in the radical movement since the
1930s. Jimmy, an African American born and raised in the deep
agricultural South, had worked on the line at Chrysler for 28 years and
was a labor and community activist and writer. I was an Asian American
intellectual who had been inspired by the 1941 March on Washington
movement to become a movement activist, and after spending ten years
in New York studying Marx and Lenin with CLR and Raya, had moved to
Detroit in 1953, married Jimmy Boggs and became involved in the
struggles organically developing in the Detroit community.
Our mantra in the Johnson-Forest Tendency had been the famous
paragraph in Capital where Marx celebrates “the revolt of the working
class always increasing in numbers and united, organized and
disciplined by the very mechanism of the process of capitalist
production.” In the early 60s when the working class was decreasing
rather than increasing under the impact of what we then called
“automation,” we separated from CLR when he opposed our decision to
Our separation freed us to recognize unequivocally that we were coming
to the end of the relatively short industrial epoch on which Marx’s
epic analysis had been based. We could see clearly that the United
States was in the process of transitioning to a new mode of
production, based on new informational technologies, and that this
transitioning was not only epoch-ending but epoch-opening, with
cultural and political ramifications as far-reaching as those involved
in the transition from Hunting and Gathering to Agriculture or from
Agriculture to Industry.
As movement activists and theoreticians in the tumultuous year of 1968,
we were also acutely conscious that in the wake of the civil rights
movement, beginning with the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955, Rachel
Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962, and the exploding anti-Vietnam war
and women’s movements, new and more profound questions of our
relationships with one another, with Nature, and with other
countries were being raised with a centrality unthinkable in earlier
Hence, as our conversations continued, we became increasingly convinced
that our revolution in our country in the late 20th century had to be
radically different from the revolutions that had taken place in
pre-or-non-industrialized countries like Russia, Cuba, China or
Vietnam. Those revolutions had been made not only to correct
injustices but to achieve rapid economic growth. By contrast, as
citizens of a nation which had achieved its rapid economic growth and
prosperity at the expense of African Americans, Native Americans,
other people of color, and peoples all over the world, our priority had
to be correcting the injustices and backwardness of our relationships
with one another, with other countries and with the Earth,
In other words, our revolution had to be for the purpose of
accelerating our evolution to a higher plateau of humanity. That’s why
we called our philosophy “Dialectical Humanism” as contrasted with the
“Dialectical Materialism” of Marxism.
Six years later the practical implications of this somewhat abstract
concept of an American revolution were spelled out by Jimmy in the
chapter entitled “ Dialectics and Revolution” in Revolution and
Evolution in the 20th Century (Monthly Review Press, 1974).
“The revolution to be made in the United States,” Jimmy wrote, nearly
30 years before 9/11, “will be the first revolution in history to
require the masses to make material sacrifices rather than to acquire
more material things. We must give up many of the things which this
country has enjoyed at the expense of damning over one third of the
world into a state of underdevelopment, ignorance, disease and early
death.” Until that takes place, “this country will not be safe for the
world and revolutionary warfare on an international scale against the
United States will remain the wave of the present.”
“It is obviously going to take a tremendous transformation to prepare
the people of the United States for these new social goals.” Jimmy
continued. “But potential revolutionaries can only become true
revolutionaries if they take the side of those who believe that
humanity can be transformed.”
Thus, the American revolution, at this stage in our history and in
the evolution of technology and of the human race, is not about Jobs or
health insurance or making it possible for more people to realize the
American Dream of upward mobility. It is about acknowledging that we
Americans enjoy middle class comforts at the expense of other peoples
all over the world. It is about living the kind of lives that will
end the galloping inequality both inside this country and between the
Global North and the Global South, and also slow down global warming.
It is about creating a new American Dream whose goal is a higher
humanity instead of the higher standard of living which is dependent
upon Empire. About practicing a new more active, global and
participatory concept of citizenship. About becoming the change we want
to see in the world.
The courage, commitment and strategies required for this kind of
revolution are very different from those required to storm the Kremlin
or the White House. Instead of viewing the American people as masses
to be mobilized in increasingly aggressive struggles for higher wages,
better jobs or guaranteed health care, we must have the courage to
challenge them and ourselves to engage in activities that build a new
and better world by improving the physical, psychological, political
and spiritual health of ourselves, our families, our communities, our
cities, our world and our planet,
This means that it is not enough to organize mobilizations calling on
Congress and the President to end the war in Iraq. We must also
challenge the American people to examine why 9/11 happened and why so
many people around the world who, while not supporting the terrorists,
understand that they were driven to these acts by anger at the U.S.
role in the world, e.g. supporting the Israeli occupation of
Palestine, overthrowing or seeking to overthrow democratically-elected
governments, and treating whole countries, the world’s peoples and
Nature only as a resource enabling us to maintain our middle class way
We have to help the American people find the moral strength to
recognize that, although no amount of money can compensate for the
countless deaths and indescribable suffering that our criminal invasion
and occupation have caused the Iraqi people, we, the American people,
have a responsibility to make the material sacrifices that will help
them rebuild their infrastructure. We have to help the American people
grow their souls (which is not a noun but a verb) enough to recognize
that since we, who are only 4% of the world’s population, have been
consuming 25% of the planet’s resources, we are the ones who must
take the first big steps to reduce greenhouse emissions. We are the
ones who must live more simply so that others can simply live.
Moreover, we need to begin creating ways to live more frugally and
cooperatively NOW because as times get harder, we “good Americans,” if
we view ourselves only as victims, can easily slip into scapegoating
the “other” and goose-stepping behind a nationalist leader, as the
“good Germans” did in the 1930s, itlerHitler
This vision of an American revolution as transformation is the one
projected by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in his April 4, 1967
anti-Vietnam war speech. As Vincent Harding, Martin’s close friend
and colleague, put it recently on Democracy Now, King was calling on
us to redeem the soul of America. Speaking for the weak, the poor, the
despairing and the alienated, in our inner cities and in the rice
paddies of Vietnam, he was urging us to become a more mature people by
making a radical revolution not only against racism but against
materialism and militarism. He was challenging us to e was
“rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle
for a new world.”
King was assassinated before he could devise concrete ways to move us
towards this radical revolution of values. But why haven’t we who
think of ourselves as American radicals picked up the torch? Is it
because a radical revolution of values against racism, militarism and
materialism is beyond our imaginations, even though we are citizens of
a nation with 700 military bases whose unbridled consumerism imperils
In Detroit we are engaged in this “long and beautiful struggle for a
new world,” not because of King’s influence (we identified more with
Malcolm) but because we have learned through our own experience that
just changing the color of those in political power was not enough to
stem the devastation of our city resulting from deindustrialization.
I don’t have time this evening to tell you the story of our
Detroit-City of Hope campaign. We hosted a panel about it yesterday
morning and you can read about it in the Boggs Center broadsheet.
Our campaign involves rebuilding, redefining and respiriting Detroit
from the ground up: growing food on abandoned lots, reinventing
education to include children in community-building, creating
co-operatives to produce local goods for local needs, developing Peace
Zones to transform our relationships with one another in our homes and
on our streets, replacing punitive justice with Restorative Justice
programs to keep non-violent offenders in our communities and out of
prisons that not only misspend billions much needed for roads and
schools but turn minor offenders into hardened criminals.
It is a multigenerational campaign, involving the very old as well as
the very young, and all the inbetweens, especially the Millennial
generation, born in the late 1970s and 1980s, whose aptitude with
the new communications technology empowers them to be remarkably
self-inventive and multi-tasking and to connect and reconnect 24/7 with
individuals near and far.
Despite the huge differences in local conditions, our Detroit-City of
Hope campaign has more in common with the struggles of the Zapatistas
in Chiapas than with the 1917 Russian Revolution because it involves a
paradigm shift in the concept of revolution.
One way to understand the paradigm shift is by contrasting our vision
of health in a revolutionary America with the health care programs
offered by the Democratic presidential front-runners.
Hillary’s and Obama’s “health care” programs are really insurance
programs having more to do with feeding the already monstrous
medical-industrial complex than with our physical, mental and spiritual
health. By contrast, once we understand that our schools are in
such crisis because they were created a hundred years ago in the
industrial epoch to prepare children to become cogs in the economic
machine; once we recognize that our challenge in the 21st century is
to engage our children from K-12 in problem-solving and
community-building activities, our children and young people will
become participants in caring for their own health and that of our
families and communities. Eating food they’ve grown for themselves,
creating and sharing information from the Net, and organizing health
festivals for the community, they will not only be caring for their own
health. They will be helping to heal our communities.
This kind of transformation is what the next American revolution
is about. It is not a single event but a process. It involves all of
us, from many different walks of life, ethnicities, national origins,
sexual orientations, faiths. At the same time, based on our experiences
in Detroit and the panels I attended at this weekend’s Forum, I see
the Millennial generation playing a pivotal role. As Frantz Fanon put
it in The Wretched of the Earth, “Each generation, coming out of
obscurity, must define its mission and fulfill or betray it.”
On Urban Agriculture and Rebirth of New Orleans
A HEALTHIER FOOD SYSTEM IS POSSIBLE
by Grace Lee Boggs
July 1, 8:35 a.m.
My friend, James Godsil, is a poet and roofer who lives in Milwaukee,and works closely with Will Allen, the retired basketball player who is known nationally and internationally for Growing Power, the 2–1/2 acre urban farm with five greenhouses which produces over 100,000 pounds of chemical-free vegetables a year and is also a fish farm.
To date, Will has taught farming and food processing to more than 1,000 students and helped launch more than 25 urban gardens, some in the poorest counties in the U.S.
For example. Sharon Adams has eliminated blight and reclaimed her Walnut Way neighborhood not far from Growing Power with youth community gardening programs developed by Will Allen.
“We’re not just growing food, we’re growing communities,” says Will.
Godsil is the webmaster for Milwaukee Renaissance and works tirelessly not only to spread the good news about Growing Power but to create a national network of urban farmers as the surest way to rebuild and respirit 21st century U,S. cities. See www.milwaukeerenaissance.com/BillSell/AnUrbanManifesto/
Greta Gladney is the executive director of The Renaissance Project in New Orleans,. Her project works with the Farmers Market in the Upper Ninth Ward. The New Orleans Food and Farm Network envisions a vital community that values its agricultural and culinary heritage by celebrating regionally and sustainably produced food and ensuring its access to everyone.
Last week Greta emailed me that she was going to be in Milwaukee. So I put her in touch with Godsil . He arranged for her to tour Growing Power and Walnut Way. One evening he organized a cookout at Alice’s Garden so that Greta could brainstorm with Milwaukee folks about worker-and community-owned cooperative enterprises to restore cities, green habitat transformation, urban farming, fish farming, and creating a Wiki. During the magical evening they also discussed plans for Milwaukee dwellers to visit New Orleans in January after Obama’s inauguration.
As a result, Greta is returning to New Orleans inspired and convinced that gardens, large and small, can have a similar transformative impact in New Orleans. And Godsil has written a new poem which begins
You know I’m movin to New Orleans,
I’m movin to New Orleans,
Gonna rent me a house
Grow me a farm
I’m movin to New Orleans.
Not gonna winter in Milwaukee,
No more winters in Milwaukee,
Gonna move on down South,
Gonna rent a battered house,
Help fix up New Orleans,
Help fix up New Orleans.
There’s a freedom train a comin
There’s a freedom train a comin
From Detroit, Milwaukee,
Chicago and St. Louis…
A freedom train’s a comin
Cars with black gold from Milwaukee,
Filled with black gold from Milwaukee,
The world’s finest soil,
Red wrigglers gifts to us,
We’ll bring black gold from Milwaukee.
This is the kind of story I like to share these days when it is becoming clear that our whole food and farming system is sick. It is unsustainable because it is based on finite supplies of oil, whose use contributes to climate change. It is so industrialized and so controlled by agribusiness, that it has displaced millions of small farmers who end up in the slums of Third world cities.
Our industrialized food system is also causing health problems, like last year’s spinach-induced illnesses and this year’s salmonella–tainted tomatoes. Year in and year out, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, some cancers, and diabetes come from eating processed foods..
800 million people on this planet are starving, both for calories and nutrients , while one billion people are overweight, which means they are getting ample calories, but not necessarily nutrients.
That is why we need to grow our food closer to where people live, in a way that enhances rather than destroys the environment we depend on, and that safeguards our health.
And that’s why the Will Allens James Godsils and Sharon Adams in Milwaukee and the Greta Gladneys in New Orleans are so important. They are creating a movement for food safety and security.
Grace Lee Boggs’ “MLK’s Visionary Legacy”
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan citizen, Feb. 3–9. 2008
I’ve learned a lot from MLK celebrations over the years.
For example, during the 15th annual University of Michigan
celebration in 2002 I participated in a “Futuring” conference
designed by my old friend, School of Natural Resources and the
Environment Professor Bunyan Bryant, to encourage us to dream, as MLK
did, of the world we would like to live in. Bunyan believes Hope can
be generated by “rehearsing the future.” Through stories, images
and role plays, we broaden our consciousness to imagine ideas we might
otherwise never consider.
The conference agenda included time for each of us to create our own
vision of the future. In 2003 these stories were published in a
little book entitled The Future: Images of the 21st century, edited by
My story was about how life for Detroiters in 2032 had been
completely transformed because, inspired by Detroit Summer youth and
elders, we were growing our own food and producing goods and services
in neighborhood shops and offices. Young people felt needed and were no
longer alienated because productive work for the community had been
incorporated into the school curriculum.
That vision still motivates my activism in the Detroit-City of Hope
The next year I was the keynote speaker for the University of
Michigan 16th annual MLK symposium. The theme was Gandhi’s iconic
statement “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” To
prepare my speech I re-read Gandhi and discovered how much MLK had
been influenced not only by Gandhi’s concept of non-violence but by his
rejection of unlimited economic growth and western strategies of
The abundance created by unlimited economic growth, Gandhi warned,
would make it almost impossible to distinguish between Needs and Wants.
So we would end up enslaved by the temptations of material wealth and
luxuries or what we now call “consumerism,”
The struggle for independence, Gandhi also warned, should not be mainly
a struggle for state power but should revolve going to people at the
grassroots, encouraging them to think for themselves and to create
self-reliant local communities based on Work that preserves rather than
destroys skills and encourages cooperation rather than competition, and
on Education whose goal is building community rather than increasing
the status and earning power of the individual.
Last Friday night I participated in the monthly film/speaker series at
Marygrove College created by IHM Sisters Kim Redigan and Liz Walters.
Following the reading of MLK’s “Breaking the Silence” speech by poet
Karega Ani and introductory remarks by me, we counted down into
small groups of eight, to grapple with the questions posed in “The
Fierce Agony of Now” Call issued by the Beloved Communities
Initiative: Creating Healthy Communities, Sustainable Living,
Immigration, Justice (see Michigan Citizen, January 13, 2008 or
The reports from the small groups were transformative. For example,
most groups proposed that in order to build healthy communities we
need to sponsor potlucks, study circles.,urban gardening. We can
sit on front porches, talk to our neighbors, and walk and talk in our
neighborhoods, Although these activities are simple, they are not
easy in today’s world when many of us enter our homes through our
The next day, at a family and community visioning meeting in my
own neighborhood, I recalled how friendly we once were with our
neighbors, running errands and baby sitting for each other. Now we
are more afraid of one another, and especially of young people, than
we used to be of wild beasts. How do we recover that sense of
community? How do we bring the neighbor back into the ‘hood?
As we brainstormed around these questions, I was reminded of MLK’s
bequest to us the night before he was assassinated. Desiring longevity
but recognizing that his time was running out, he remained true to his
visionary self. “The nation is sick,” he said. “Trouble is in the
land. But I know somehow that only when it is dark enough can you see
LIVING FOR CHANGE
The Evolving Meaning of Revolution
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, Jan.27-Feb. 2, 2008
If you’re open to thinking dialectically about the constantly changing meaning of revolution, you need to read and re-read the writings of California activist Rebecca Solnit. Last year, following her visit to the Boggs Center, Rebecca wrote a superb account of the “quiet revolution” in our city which began with the “Gardening Angels” (African American elders) planting community gardens on vacant lots. (Detroit Arcadia, Harpers Magazine, July 2007)
Now, in her report of her experience at a New Year’s Zapatista Women’s Encuentro, she describes how the Zapatista revolution “has been feminist since its inception.“ (Revolution of the Snails, Common Dreams, 1/16/08, also Boggscenter.org}. Once upon a time, she explains, “ revolution” meant to return, to cycle, to rotate. Around 1450 A.D., when time began to appear less cyclical and more linear, it began to mean “instances of a great change in affairs.” As feudalism was being replaced by capitalism , it meant “a complete overthrow of the established government in any country or state by those who were previously subject to it.” That is what it still means to most people.
However, in our own revolutionary times, “the revolution is not some sudden change that has yet to come, but the very transformative and questioning atmosphere in which all of us have lived for the past half century, since perhaps the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, or the publication of Rachel Carson’s attack on the
corporate-industrial-chemical complex, Silent Spring, in 1962; certainly, since the amazing events of 1989, when the peoples of Eastern Europe non-violently liberated themselves from their Soviet-totalitarian governments; the people of South Africa undermined the white apartheid regime of that country and cleared the way for
Nelson Mandela to get out of jail; or, since 1992, when the Native peoples of the Americas upended the celebration of the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival in this hemisphere with a radical rewriting of history and an assertion that they are still here; or even 1994, when this radical rewriting wrote a new chapter in southern
Mexico called Zapatismo.”
The Snail’s Spiral Shell “Caracol”
“The Zapatistas have given the world a model — and, perhaps even more important, a language — with which to re-imagine revolution, community, hope, and possibility.” “Five years ago, the Zapatista revolution took as one of its principal symbols the snail and its spiral shell ‘caracol,’ In August
2003, the Zapatistas renamed their five autonomous communities’caracoles.’ Their revolution spirals outward and backward, away from some of the colossal mistakes of capitalism’s savage alienation, industrialism’s regimentation, and toward old ways and small things; it also spirals inward via new words and new thoughts…The caracol represents entering into the heart… the caracol also represents exiting from the heart to walk the world….”
“The liberation of the women of the Zapatista regions has been a core part of the struggle. The testimonies addressed what this meant — liberation from forced marriages, illiteracy, domestic violence, andother forms of subjugation. ….They often began with a formal address to the audience that spiraled outward:… And then they would speak of what revolution had meant for them. “’The saddest part is that we couldn’t understand our own difficulties, why we were being abused. No one had told us about our rights.’ “’The struggle is not just for ourselves, it’s for everyone.’
“They spoke of how their lives had improved since 1994. On New Year’s Eve, one of the masked women declared: “’Who we think is responsible [for the oppressions] is the capitalist system, but now we no longer fear. They humiliated us for too long, but as Zapatistas no one will mistreat us. Even if our husbands still mistreat us, we know we are human beings. Now, women aren’t as mistreated by husbands and fathers. Now, some husbands support and help us and don’t make all the decisions — not in all households, but poco a poco. We invite all women to defend our rights and combat machismo.”
“They spoke of the practical work of remaking the world and setting the future free, of implementing new possibilities for education, healthcare, and community organization, of the everyday workings of a new society.”
“The Zapatistas…have created hope….Many of their hopes have been realized. The testimony of the women dealt with this in specific terms: gains in land, rights, dignity, liberty, autonomy, literacy, a good local government that obeys the people rather than a bad one that tramples them. Under siege, they have created community with each other and reached out to the world.”
That is what we are also creating in our five year Detroit- City of Hope campaign.
To join in the discussion of last week’s column on Obama & MLK. see
Letters to the Editor, P.6.
OBAMA AND MLK
Thanks for these insights on Obama. I was trying to reconcile his
charisma with his foreign policy statements which I thought were not on
the mark, eg. invasion of Pakistan, etc. Just because we elect an
official doesn’t mean we abrogate our own responsibility to make that
leader live up to what we hope and think: one man cannot change a
system or institution by himself. Neither can one woman, for that
matter, if Hillary should get the nomination. As always, you remind us
that our responsibility must be community-based, rather than agreement
or adulation of a persona. Russell L., Los Angeles
Obama is really bad news, particularly since he has fooled so many
people, but I didn’t think Grace Boggs would be one of them. Obama has
nothing to do with change beyond the word on a lawn sign. His positions
on everything from the war to health insurance to his obeisance to
religion to his compliments about Reagan are centrist and in many ways
worse than Clinton and certainly worse than Edwards. In fact, what is
Obama good on? Does he want to cut the military budget by at least
half? No. Is he against nuclear power and a vast reductions nuclear
arms? No. And the list goes on; all show; no go.
He’s totally corporate and has surrounded himself with the worst cold
warriors as foreign policy advisors including Brzezinski, Lake, and
others. It’s real desperation of the Left to bother with him at all.
How many times is the Left going to sing, “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” and
then get fooled again?
If we were a great people, we wouldn’t need a great president. All the
rest of what she says is spot on and said very eloquently, but she’ll
feel pretty badly when President Obama invades Venezuela, as will
anyone else who falls for such empty rhetoric as we’ve heard. Peter
The Obama campaign has generated discussion on the streets and the
first real communiity criticism of the Clinton era that reaches people
beyond the “old choir.” The challenge from the black community to stop
“loving Clinton” is much more significant than debating government
policies. It has also created the first real challenge to the old
civil rights leadership which is all about race and a yearning to
return to the struggles of the past. In creating another discussion.
the campaign provides a much-needed opportunity to move beyond the
welfare state, the rights movements of the 20th century and build a
real movement from below.
Kucinich’s policies are more progressive than Obama’s, but his
campaign can’t unleash a movement of young people to begin doing at
the grassroots level what urgently needs to be done and what no one in
Washington will ever do unless forced to do so by the grassroots
movement . That is the only way serious changes have ever taken place
in this country. Grace Boggs comments are not mainly about Obama but
about the opportunities that his campaign provides for those who want
to build a movement to rebuild community and a new self-governing
America from the ground up. They challenge us to explore how a real
movement is built. What role does electoral politics play? What is our
role? Obama is not going to do our work. Neither would Edwards,
Kucinich or anyone running for president.
Our job is to create a new movement. From that movement a new
leadership will emerge. Rich Feldman, Detroit
You are right, of course, in your analysis of what is fundamentally
wrong with the country but more thought is needed on the question of
Obama and what leadership he really offers. One should know that many
of his top advisors are associated with the same imperialistic and
militaristic policies you abhor. He has said next to nothing about
cities and their future which is inextricately linked to the future of
blacks and immigrants. He offers no insights about education and no
concrete view of the country’s reconstruction. For sure no candidate
has and some of them like Guiliani and Thompson are simply put power
mongers and defense nuts. Dangerous. But we don’t expect leadership
from them. What and Why do we expect from Obama? If he is capable of
giving it, he would either come like a trojan horse able to neutralize
the race issue so he can get in office to work with the masses to make
change or come full throttle forward knowing death through
assassination is certain. He would either build a party or work with
one. Perhaps he is underground in which case we shouldn’t know it. In
any case the presidential race is not the place to build revolutionary
consciousness. It might create conditions to educate but you need an
organization that is willing and ready to move city by city to build a
movement. The potential is there. But who is ready to lead? I doubt
Obama. But, sadly, neither are we.. Marcia B., Newark.
I wish him well, but Obama is not my first choice nor do I think he
would be Dr. King’s. His health care plan is moderate: it includes the
insurance companies and does not cover everyone. He is indefinite on
the military in Iraq, etc. He recently spoke positively of Reagan and
talked about his speaking clearly after the “excesses of the 60′s”.
Only Dennis Kuchinich has spoken of universal single payer health care,
troops out of Iraq now, civil rights for gays and lesbians. He was
blocked from the debate in Las Vegas because he is anti-war and
anti-corporations. This is who progressives should support, not because
he can’t win but because he stands for all that the left stands for.
Reginald W., Washington, D.C
Grace Lee Boggs On Obama, MLK, and Ourselves
Grace Lee Boggs is a legendary Detroit activist who, At 92, has been in the center of Detroit’s social movements Since the 1950s, including civil rights, peace, nbd. development, And now urban farms and gardens.
Bill Moyers interviewed her in 2007.
I met her at Growing Power in 2005 or 2006.
LIVING FOR CHANGE
OBAMA & MLK
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, Jan.20–26 , 2008
The new energies being unleashed by Barack Obama hold great promise.In his person and prose Obama embodies the achievements of the movements of the 20th century and the hope that we can become the change we want to see in the 21st century.
To build the movement for change will not be easy. The challenges we face demand profound changes not only in our institutions but in ourselves. To become part of the solution, we must recognize that we are a large part of the problem.
That means we can’t leave it all to Obama. Instead of being followers of a charismatic leader, we must be the leaders we’ve been looking for. This is the best way to make Obama less vulnerable to corporate funders and lobbyists. It is also the best way to protect him from the assassins who gunned down so many charismatic leaders in the 1960s.
We don’t have to start from scratch. As we celebrate Dr.King’s birthday this month and commemorate the 40th anniversary of his assassination this year,we can look to the vision that he was creating at the height of his awareness before he was taken from us.
In the last three years of his life Dr. King recognized that “the war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit. We are on the wrong side of a world revolution because we refuse to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment.”
“We have come to value things more than people. Our technological development has outrun our spiritual development. We have lost our sense of community, of interconnection and participation.”
In order to get on the right side of that revolution, he said, we must undergo a radical revolution of values against the giant triplets of racism, materialism and militarism.
“A true revolution of values will look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth… It will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: ‘This is not just.’ The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach and nothing to learn is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: ‘This way of settling differences is not just.’ A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”
The urban rebellions had also made King acutely aware of the needs of young people. “This generation,” he said, “is engaged in a cold war with the earlier generation. It is not the normal hostility of the young groping for independence. It has a new quality of bitter antagonism and confused anger which suggests basic values are being contested.”
“The source of this alienation is that our society has made material growth and technological advance an end in itself, robbing people of participation.”
To overcome this alienation we need to change our priorities. Instead of pursuing economic productivity, we need to expand our uniquely human powers, especially our capacity for the Love that is ready to go to any length to restore community.
This Love, King insisted, is not some sentimental weakness. “We can learn its practical meaning from the young people who joined the civil rights movement, … putting on overalls to work in the isolated rural South because they felt the need for more direct ways of learning that would strengthen both society and themselves.”
What we need now “in our dying cities,” King said,are ways to provide young people with similar opportunities to engage in self-transforming and structure-transforming direct action.
King was assassinated before he could discover and implement ways to nurture this two-sided transformation. Forty years later, that is the mission of a new generation.
We have to create the momentum for these changes at the grassroots level. Instead of being seduced by Walmart’s low prices, refusing to acknowledge that these bargains exist because multinational corporations outsource U.S. jobs to Chinese sweatshops, we need to create local sustainable economies that not only reduce carbon emissions but provide more opportunities for our young people to be of use. Instead of viewing success in terms of more consumer goods, we need to devise ways to live more simply and cooperatively, thereby not only making it possible for others to simply live but also discovering positive and even joyful ways to grapple with our own increasing economic hardships.
Because Detroit has been so devastated by deindustrialization, we have embarked on a five year Detroit City of Hope campaign. Out of necessity we are becoming the kind of leadership by example which is now needed.
Obama can become a great President only if we become a great people. We must grow together.
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Midwifing A Living Democracy
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, Aug. 5–11, 2007
Excerpts from my speech opening the SDS Convention in Detroit, July 27.
Forty years ago this month Detroit youth rose up in a rebellion on such a huge scale that it forced the power structure to accept black political power in Detroit.
One of the roots of that uprising was the concern of young people that they were being made expendable by Hi-Tech and the exodus of plants from Detroit.
Since then, Detroit’s de-industrialization has escalated to the point that our city, once the national and international symbol of the industrial age, has become a wasteland.
But Detroit’s history has not come to an end. The industrial epoch only began a few centuries ago, and although it produced technological miracles and a material abundance that were once unimaginable, it has also polluted the Land, Waters and Air on which our lives and those of future generations depend. In the process it has also turned us into individualists and materialists, consumers rather than citizens, seeking to compensate for the emptiness of our lives by the endless pursuit of more things.
Thus Detroit’s deindustrialization challenges us to create a new post-industrial 21st century city and new kinds of citizens who, having rid themselves of the myth that there is something sacred about producing for the national and international market, are accepting the challenge to create a local economy. Producing food, goods and services for local needs instead of importing these from distant places, we will not only provide Work (as distinguished from Labor) for Detroiters of all ages and capabilities. We will also be combating the climate crisis and transforming ourselves from selfish individualists into responsible members of our city and communities.
I hope that some of you will consider joining this movement in Detroit or other de-industrializing cities.
As students, you can help build this movement. For example, the educational system which was developed a hundred years ago to serve the industrial economy is now obsolete. Yet our schools and universities are still stuck in the processes and practices used to industrialize the Earth in the 19th and 20th centuries. . What we urgently need at all levels are educators with the imagination and courage to introduce innovative curriculums and structures that create a much more intimate connection between intellectual development and practical activity, root students and faculty in their communities and natural habitats, and engage them in the kind of real problem-solving in their localities that nurtures a love of place and provides practice in creating the sustainable economies, equality and community that are the responsibilities of citizenship. *** Unlike past revolutions, the coming American revolution will be one in which, instead of demanding more things, we will be giving up many of the things that we have acquired at the expense of other peoples of the world and of Nature. In so doing we will be creating a new concept of American, global and planetary citizenship.
When you discuss what SDS should do NOW about Iraq and the Bush administration, I hope you will consider joining the movement to impeach President Bush and Vice President Cheney for placing themselves above the law.
Because the first American revolution was made to oppose and resist the imperial power of George the Third, the founders designed the method of Impeachment as a way to inquire into the conduct of the executive branch and if necessary to remove a President swollen with power and grown tyrannical.
Over 50% of American voters now favor impeachment
In the lives of individuals and nations the opportunities to participate in a new birth of freedom come rarely, if at all.
“The process of impeaching this president and vice-president,” as Shea Howell wrote recently, “ is the single most important step we could take as a nation to begin to restore a sense of living democracy to our country.”
Cindy Sheehan called it “our opportunity to challenge the status quo because the status quo is no good. We need to be plugged into our government once again as active participants, not just passive voters.”
In other words, impeachment provides everyone with the opportunity to create the participatory democracy which was the goal of yesterday’s Students for a Democratic Society.
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The “Quiet Revolution” in Detroit
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, Aug. 12–18, 2007
It’s three years since I’ve been on the August Garden Tour. At that time we only needed two buses. This year there were so many participants and so many gardens that it took six buses, some visiting gardens on the west side of the city and others on the east side. It also included a bike tour.
The Westside garden tour , according to a young woman who has lived here only one year, included a lot of the city’s newer gardens that really showcased the growingtrend in community gardening, the different aspects of organizing that are incorporated into gardening, and the involvement of everyone across racial and ethnic lines and across age groups. It was amazing to see so many youth proudly explaining the work they had done on their garden and interacting with elders who are still excited about learning! The entire experience was truly inspiring and served to remind many of the tour participants why we love Detroit.
The first stop was the Brightmoor Community Garden, which was started just one year ago in the Northwest corner of the city. Tour participants were in awe of the gardener’s own expansive personal garden, with everything from bees and melons to tomatoes and flowers, but even more impressed by the positive transformation of vacant land into a space where community members beautified abandoned houses adjacent to the garden and have successfully deterred criminal activity. The “D-Town Farm” garden is also new, just under two months old! The gardeners of this Black Community Food Security Network Garden seek to address food insecurity issues in Detroit’s black community by providing fresh vegetables and fruit. It was here that I learned from another tour participant about unique ways to grow potatoes in stacks of tires!
Romanowski Farm Park is an amazing collaborative effort between the Greening of Detroit, MSU Extension, Capuchin Soup Kitchen, American Indian Health and Family Services, Latino Soccer League, and two neighboring public schools! An Americorps volunteer who coordinates the effort remarked that some youngsters recalled that just three years ago,there was nothing there. Now there are apple and pear trees, beautiful sunflowers, and vegetables and fruit ranging from okra to collards! One girl who lives in the neighborhood and attends the nearby school gave a few of us an informal mini-tour of some of her favorite parts of the community garden. She proudly informed us that anyone can help and eat from the garden! She remembers when she was just in third grade and, through her class, started to help out with the garden.
We drove by the garden at American Indian Health and Family Services,which features berries used in coming-of-age ceremonies and tobacco used to educate youth about health issues. Our final stop was the Birdtown Garden in Cass Corridor, where we were greeted by chickens, samples of honey, and yet another inspiring story of community members coming together.
A Detroiter who retired recently from her job in the City County Building was on an Eastside bus. “I got a sense,” she told me, “of how important community gardens are to our city and how we need to replicate them all over the city. They reduce neighborhood blight, build self-esteem among young people, provide them with structured activities from which they can see results, build leadership skills, provide healthy food and a community base for economic development, People, especially young people, not only learn where food comes from but how to prepare healthy food.
“We drove down one street where the residents had contacted the Detroit Agricultural Network about the vacant lots on the block. Now, after planting a community garden, the grass is cut on every lawn. There is no litter on the street. People have become more neighborly The garden brought the children together and the adults together. They had discovered a new use for the Land.
“One community garden, grown without pesticides, provides enough healthy food for 25.families. There were a lot of young people on our bus and I thought of the many young people who say they have nothing to do and who only eat fast food.”
“I see this as the ‘Quiet Revolution.’ It is a revolution for self-determination taking place quietly in Detroit.”
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Living for change: Is John Conyers doing the right thing?
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, Aug.19–25, 2007
The controversy over the recent pro-impeachment demonstration at Congressman John Conyers’ office provides an opportunity to revisit black leadership which, like everything in these changing times, can use some revisiting.
The demonstration, on July 23, was led by Cindy Sheehan, Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr., President of the Hip Hop Caucus, and Ray McGovern, former CIA analyst and co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. They brought with them a petition signed by a million citizens, asking Conyers, as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, to put impeachment back on the table. When Conyers rejected their request, they refused to leave and he had them arrested by Capitol police.
Traditional Democrats, stuck in electoral politics, criticized the demonstrators. They believe in waiting Bush out until November 2008 and then getting back at him by voting in a Democrat for President. Pro-impeachment activists wrote articles attacking Conyers for “betraying” our country and saying that he is “no Martin Luther King.” Some African Americans found these attacks deeply disrespectful of Conyers’ long record of supporting progressive causes Others, viewing impeachment as a “white” issue, cited the lack of support by anti-war and peace activists’ for “black” issues like “reparations.”
To assist in the revisiting, I recommend two articles by Rev. Yearwood
entitled “Race: Tripwire for the Progressive Movement, Part I and Part 11.” (Common Dreams, July 26, August 3).
In the first article Yearwood addresses his African American counterparts with a refreshing directness. “ I understand your criticism of our recent action in Mr. Conyers office, but I do not agree. It was extremely difficult to challenge a man that means so much to African-Americans, but impeaching Bush is critical to the future of our country. We cannot let the precedent stand that Bush has established, which severely oversteps the bounds of executive power. We cannot send the message that such actions will go unpunished, or at least unchecked.”
Now that he has the power, Yearwood contends, Conyers has the responsibility to provide moral leadership for the whole nation on this issue.
“Impeachment begins in the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary, which Rep. John Conyers chairs. He is in the position to begin the impeachment process or keep it from happening, and no other human being is in that position. In addition, Rep. Conyers is the recognized authority on Capitol Hill both on impeachment and on the impeachable offenses of Vice President Cheney and President Bush. He and his staff literally wrote the book on them before the Democrats won the majority last November.”
“This moment is not about race,” Yearwood explains. “It is not about John Conyers, and it is much bigger than the divides within our movements. This moment is about our future as a country, because humanity is at stake. The Bush administration’s hunger for war has caused so much instability in our world that we face a state of permanent wars.”
In the second article Yearwood challenges the progressive movement to grapple with its segmentation. Black suspicions are understandable, he recognizes, because blacks have been so often betrayed by white organizations. But he also warns against the interest group thinking of those who remain stuck in the identity politics of the 60s and 70s.
“When I speak at anti-war rallies the audience is usually all White, when I speak at immigration rallies the audience is usually all Brown, when I speak at rallies and events with Katrina survivors the audience is usually all Black. Global warming, usually White, police brutality, usually Black, and so on. Not only do I find this to be very discouraging, it is self-defeating.”
As a young black leader, Yearwood is calling on all progressives, including blacks, to stand on principle and do the right thing. As he declared at Howard University on the 10th anniversary of the Million Men March, “The time has come for all of God’s children – black, white, yellow and brown, straight, gay, male and female – to come together to fight for justice once and for all.”
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A Movement Milestone
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, July 1–7, 2007
Last weekend’s 9th Annual Allied Media Conference (AMC) at Wayne State University was the most exciting conference I’ve participated in since the 1963 Grassroots Leadership Conference.
The 1963 conference was a milestone in the struggle for black power because Malcolm used the occasion to link the black revolution in the U.S. to the Cuban and other revolutions and to distinguish between house Negroes and field Negroes. Two weeks later Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammed suspended Malcolm for his “chickens come home to roost” comment on JFK’s assassination. Jimmy was the chair of that conference and I was the secretary.
At this conference a new generation of youthful movement builders came out of obscurity. Emerging in a special time in which there is an explosion of activity in the fields of alternative media, alternative education and alternatives ways of doing politics, they have accepted the challenge to direct this explosion towards a new movement to transform society.
To begin with, the conference organizers, most of them members of the Detroit Summer Collective, are Generation X activists, in their mid-20s. Using cellphones, emails, the Net, and their imaginations, they created more than 60 workshops, ceremonies and plenaries, convened 150 presenters and 500 participants; found volunteers to transport presenters and staff the registration tables, provided housing/entertainment/literature tables. The 42 page program booklet gives a sense of the magnitude of their achievement.
At the conference young people in their teens and early 20s spoke their minds and hearts freely in raps, workshops, plenary sessions, without arrogance or anger but with the confidence of “works in progress.” As Walter Lacey put it in a workshop attended by professional media makers, “Detroit in the 20th century was the birthplace of the military-industrial complex; today we are birthing the new relationships between people that will change all that,”
Participants in earlier AMCs (the first eight met at Bowling Green State University in Ohio) recognized that youth energies and the Detroit setting made this year’s conference unique.
Friday’s all day Symposium on Popular Education began with my talk on “A Paradigm Shift in Our Concept of Education” and continued with packed workshops. I attended one on “Developing Popular Education Curriculum” facilitated by Ora Wise. A teacher herself, Ora guided participants, which included many teachers, step by step in developing a curriculum using HipHop and other art forms to link the struggles of high school youth in New York City’s multi-ethnic communities to the struggles of the Palestinians and other marginalized peoples.
I especially appreciated Ora’s sensitivity to the needs of both students and teachers because I have never forgotten the 1968 Ocean Hill Brownsville struggle in which the mostly black community and mostly Jewish teachers nearly came to blows over who should control the schools
The participation of women also demonstrated the progress we’ve made since the 60s.
Aishah Shahidah Simmons showed NO, her film on rape, which took a lot of courage and struggle to make because the black movement for so long insisted that breaking silence on this pain-filled issue would jeopardize community unity.
Habibah Ahmad, who empowers youth through public access TV, showed clips from her film on growing up in an African American Muslim family in New York.
The workshop on Hip Hop and Cooperative Economics, facilitated by Ilana Invincible, also broke new ground. After Hip Hop artists shared their experiences in producing and distributing their own work, participants were challenged to think seriously about how we can begin working cooperatively both to sustain ourselves and to provide models so that in the difficult days ahead cooperation and mutual support, instead of depending on multinational corporations, become the norm in our communities. Breakout groups brainstormed production, distribution and promotion, and plans were made for follow-up.
At the opening ceremony on Friday night, New Yorker Sydette Harry voiced the main lesson of the gathering. “We must start relating to young people as people and not as children because they are the ones who will be deciding our futures.”
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THINKING FOR OURSELVES
New Paths to Peace
By Shea Howell
Michigan Citizen, July 1–7, 2007
The Allied Media Conference held in Detroit last weekend swept through our city like a fresh, fierce summer wind. Their vision pledges to explore “how participatory media can be a source of transformation for ourselves, for our communities and, on a larger scale, the world.” They aim to find new ways of using media “ that create new relationships and realities. Against the silence that surrounds, we will find new ways of being heard and of hearing one another.” It is a grand vision, already being made real by the hundreds of young people who gathered on the WSU campus. At a time when so much of the media that dominates our lives gives us images of destruction and hopelessness, the AMC provided a space to learn about imaginative, life-affirming initiatives that are emerging around the world. Young people shared stories, ideas, and programs that are not only challenging mainstream media but creating new forms of political action. For example, in the midst of the agony of Palestine, organizers of the Youth Solidarity Network (YSN) are creating possibilities for authentic relationships between Palestinian youth and young people from communities of color in the U.S. A central part of this effort is to give young people the tools and skills to tell their own stories in their own way.
“At its best,” said Ora Wise, an organizer with YSN, during the opening panel, “radical media comes and takes our stories and may say more of what we like, but they give nothing back. We wanted to find ways to give people the means to tell their own stories in their own way, to give them the tools they need.”
Ms. Wise talked about using media to connect people. “When people are not isolated from each other,” she said, “we are able to know we have each other and can share strategies for resistance and survival. YSN is being designed to break down the barriers and borders set up to control people from the West Bank to the West Side.”
This summer Detroiters will be helping to bring these connections to life. Members of the Other Arab Artist Collective and Detroit Summer will be part of a delegation to Palestine in a groundbreaking exchange building partnerships between youth leadership programs in Palestine and the United States.
The connection between Detroit and Palestine seems evident to the organizers. In both places education is under attack. Palestinians are struggling to find ways to “to keep education alive, to keep children learning and members of the community teaching each other by creating schools in basements and homes.” said Ms. Wise. “In Detroit people are struggling to find alternatives to the school system.” Amidst economic devastation and an eroding civil society people continue to resist dehumanization, to find new ways to live together. Ms Wise says there is a word in Arabic that captures the kind of spirit she sees in Detroit and Palestine. It is sumoud. “It describes a kind of steadfastness of people, people who know that staying put is a form of resistance. In both places people know that they must stay put to make it work.” The Youth Solidarity Network is turning media upside down by making connections and providing ways for “youth to tell their own stories, share strategies and collaboratively envision creative new ways to work for freedom and justice.” Check them out at www.youthsolidarity.net. We can all become part of creating relationships that open a real path to peace.
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Born Female: Growing into Feminism and Movement Building By Grace Lee Boggs
Women’s History Month Wayne State University, March 1, 2007
I’d like to thank the Commission on the Status of Women, the Women’s Studies Program, the Undergraduate Library and the other groups sponsoring today’s Women’s History Month event for giving me the opportunity to tell the story of my journey as an Asian American female who has lived most of my adult life in the African American community.
I was born 92 years ago in 1915 above my father’s Chinese American restaurant in downtown Providence, R.I. When I cried, the Chinese waiters used to say: “Leave her on the hillside to die. She’s only a girl baby.” That experience taught me early on that going back to China (which is what Chinese immigrants in those days had in mind) was not such a good idea; and that serious changes in the treatment of females were long overdue.
Four years before I was born, my mother, who was my father’s No. 2 wife, had given birth to my sister on the floor in steerage during the month it took for my parents to come by slow boat from China, Born in 1890. my mother never learned to read and write because there were no schools for females in the little village where she grew up. My father’s No. 1 wife, whom he had left behind in China, was giving birth to a son around the same time that my mother was giving birth to my sister.
However, I didn’t discover the concept of feminism until I was a teenager and read Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “Women and Economics.” Females, Gilman explained, are little better than prostitutes. From childhood on, they are socialized to get what they want, e.g. new dolls or new clothes, by sitting on their father’s laps and tickling him under the chin.
The edition I read wasn’t illustrated, but that image made such a profound impression on me that I vowed I would never become the kind of woman who depended on a man for what I needed or wanted. So in my senior year in high school I learned shorthand and typing so that I would always be able to earn my living and decided to go to college to get the higher education that would enable me to live my own life in accordance with my own convictions.
This very personal understanding of feminism was what kept me going in my 20s and 30s. It was what gave me the gumption to decide in 1941, when I became involved with the March on Washington movement to demand jobs for blacks in defense plants, that what I wanted to do with my life was to become a movement activist in the black community. It was also what made it easy for me to marry Jimmy Boggs, an African American auto worker in 1953, without worrying what others, including my parents, would think.
Jimmy and I were married for 40 years, from 1953 to his death in 1993, Those 40 years changed my life. Jimmy was not only an activist in the labor and black movements; he was also the person who helped folks in the community and in the plant fill out their income tax forms, obtain their birth certificates, and fix their cars. As his wife I became a member of the black community and so active in the black movement in the 60s that FBI records suggested that I might be AfroAsian.
Working together, Jimmy and I were both so active in the Black Power movement in Detroit that when thousands of black young people exploded in July 1967 in what the media called “the riot” and Detroiters called the “Rebellion,” we were among the six people allegedly responsible, even though we were in California on our vacation when it erupted. The others were Rev. Cleage or Jerimoge, founder of the Shrine of the Black Madonna, Richard and Milton Henry (who died recently), and Ed Vaughn who later became a state representative .
The 1967 Rebellion, whose 40th anniversary we will be commemorating this year, was a turning point for Detroit. It was chiefly responsible for the election of Coleman Young, Detroit’ first black mayor, in 1973 because it told the Establishment that law and order could no longer be maintained in Detroit by white power.
At the same time that blacks came to power, however, multinational corporations were exporting jobs offshore so that young people could no longer drop out of school in the 9th grade and get a job making enough money to get married and raise a family.
As a result, young people lost hope and our communities began to deteriorate. This process accelerated after crack came to the city in the 1980s and kids began saying “why go to school with the idea that one day you’ll be able to get a good job and make a lot of money when you can make it now by rolling.”
Faced with this crisis, Coleman Young tried desperately to re-industrialize the city. For example, in 1980, despite fierce community resistance, he demolished 1500 houses and 600 businesses so that GM could build the Poletown plant which was supposed to create 6000 jobs. In 1988, insisting that a Casino industry could produce 50,000 jobs, he asked voters to approve Casino Gambling.
What Young was unable or refused to recognize was that in Detroit, as in other cities all across the U.S. and Europe, we have come to the end of the industrial age when economic development and material abundance were the main goal, and are entering a new age when our challenge is to stop pursuing economic development and concentrate instead on creating more human and loving relationships with each other, with other peoples and with the Earth.
The 13 month-long Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955–56, which the Women’s Political Alliance in Montgomery initiated to protest Rosa Parks’ arrest for refusing to give up her seat, was the first indication that we had entered this new era in the evolution of popular struggles. (For more on the role of women in organizing the boycott, I recommend this book by Paula Giddings: : When & Where I enter: The Impact of Black Women on Race and Sex in America).
That is because the Montgomery Bus Boycott created a theory and practice of revolutionary struggle very different from that which prevailed in the first half of the 20th century. In those days, under the influence of the 1917 Russian Revolution. most radicals, including myself, conceived of revolutionary struggle mainly as an insurrection, a seizure of state power by the oppressed from their oppressors, by the victims from the villains.
By contrast, the Montgomery Bus Boycott was a long, non-violent, disciplined, and ultimately successful boycott by an African-American community, struggling against their dehumanization not as angry victims or rebels but as new men and women, representative of a new more human society. Using methods that transformed themselves as they challenged racial discrimination and segregation, they inspired the human identity and ecology movements that over the last 40 years have been creating a new civil society in the United States.
In the late 1960s and 1970s, inspired by the black movement, the modern women’s movement exploded. It began with consciousness-raising discussions by small groups of women followed by huge demonstrations. Two parallel tendencies then emerged within the movement: (1) the pursuit of individual upward mobility by women like Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina; and (2) what Alice Walker calls the “Womanist” tendency to emphasize relationships rather than individual aggrandizement, as dramatized in “”The Color Purple,” the book and film starring Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover which created such a furore in the 1980s.
This womanist tendency represents a profound philosophical critique of Western industrial society which Starhawk describes in “Burning Times,” an appendix to her book Dreaming the Dark,
In this very important essay Starhawk tells the story of how Western industrial society began with the witchhunts of the 16th and 17th century which not only expropriated the land from the peasants but also replaced the intuitive knowledge of women with the Scientific Rationalism of Bacon and Descartes, robbing us of our “souls” by creating a sharp dichotomy between ourselves and reality and thus legitimizing our desecration and exploitation of one another and of Nature.
Since writing this essay, Starhawk has become one of the leaders of the anti-corporate globalization movement, creating transformative and spiritual demonstrations that involve poetry, dance, singing and fellowship. She has also been a key organizer of the affinity groups which closed down the WTO in the 1999 Battle of Seattle and since then have mobilized against FTAA and other administrative bodies of global capitalism.
Meanwhile, in the last two decades women all over the country who have never heard of Starhawk are returning to the community instead of pursuing careers in the power structure like Condoleeza Rice, Hillary Clinton and Carly Fiorina. Instead of working to produce wealth and individual careers, they are building caring environments for young people in our inner cities. In the process they are helping to transform our communities and cities from centers of despair into centers of hope. This is what Maria Mies, the German eco-feminist, calls a feminist perspective on Work, as contrasted with a capitalist or a socialist perspective.
For example, I am a member of a group calling itself “Beloved Communities” (see belovedcommunitiesnet.org). We began two years ago with this flyer, “These are the times to grow our souls,” which begins with a quote from Martin Luther King’s Call to the Beloved Community, What we do is identify, visit and weave a network of “beloved communities” in different cities of the United States.
Two weekends ago I spent three days at the Cookman United Methodist Church community in an abandoned neighborhood in North Philadelphia. This community is an inspiring example of the hope and joy that can be generated when a few people, mainly women who have gone to college and could keep advancing themselves individually, return to the community to create a locally-based, multigenerational, loving, caring learning environment for young people, The visit deepened my appreciation of MLK’s statement that “love is not some sentimental weakness but somehow the key to ultimate reality.”
Last year on our visit to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, we met Sharon Adams who returned to the working class neighborhood near the Harley-Davidson and Anheuser-Busch plants where she grew up but which, because of declining jobs, had become infested with crackhouses and crime. With the cooperation of Growing Power, an urban farm founded by retired basketball player Will Allen, and with community rain gardens, Sharon and her husband have restored pride to this neighborhood. See www.walnut way.org/
Fifteen years ago we started DETROIT SUMMER, an intergenerational multicultural Program to involve young people in the rebuilding, redefining and respiriting of Detroit through planting community gardens, painting public murals and rehabbing houses. Today Detroit Summer is being carried on by a group of young people in their mid-20s who are working with high school youth to create a new kind of schooling that involves young people in community-building, along the lines of the Freedom Schools that were established during Mississippi Freedom Summer in 1964.
Most of these groups are small, involving less than a hundred people. But that is not necessarily a weakness because as Margaret Wheatley points out in her book Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World:
“In a web the potential impact of local actions bears no relationship to their size. When we choose to act locally, we may be wanting to influence the entire system. But we work where we are, with the system that we know, the one we can get our arms around.
“From a Newtonian perspective, our efforts often seem too small, and we doubt that our actions will contribute incrementally to large-scale change. Step by step, system by system we aspire to develop enough mass or force to alter the larger system.
“But a quantum view explains the success of small efforts quite differently.
“Acting locally allows us to be inside the movement and flow of the system, participating in all those complex events occurring simultaneously. We are more likely to be sensitive to the dynamics of this system, and thus more effective. However, changes in small places also affect the global system, not through incrementalism, but because every small system participates in an unbroken wholeness. Activities in one part of the whole create effects that appear in distant places. Because of these unseen connections, there is potential value in working anywhere in the system. We never know how our small activities will affect others through the invisible fabric of our connectedness. I have learned that in this exquisitely connected world, it’s never a question of ‘critical mass.’ It’s always about critical connections.”
All over the world today individuals confronted by the destruction of our humanity, our communities and our environment by global corporations are coming together in small groups at the local level to imagine and begin creating new ways of living that will give us back control over our own lives and redefine what it means to be human in the 21st century. One estimate (by Paul Hawken) is that there may be as many as half a million of these self-healing civic groups in every country around the world, most of them small and barely visible. In order to join this movement what we need to do is find each other and develop transformative practices at the local level that can restore hope to the future. That is how change takes place in living systems, not from above but from within, from many local actions occurring simultaneously.
This feminist concept of change is what I believe we need to build the movement in our period.
Last week I conducted two workshops on Civic Engagement at a AARP conference for 50+ folks seeking new meaning in their lives. When I asked participants, mostly African American and mostly women, why they were attending the workshop, many of them said it was “because they wanted to give back to the community.”
This year, 2007, is the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Detroit Rebellion and of MLK’s anti-Vietnam war speech in which he called for a radical revolution in our values against the giant triplets of materialism and militarism. To commemorate these two historic events we are creating a Detroit-City of Hope campaign which will bring together Activists, Artists, Architects, Community Gardeners, Poets, Environmentalists, Entrepreneurs, Block Clubbers, and all those seeking and creating positive solutions to the ills that have kept our communities in cycles of broken down everything.
Our first event is planned for Saturday, April 21, on Rosa Parks Blvd. near the site where the 1967 Rebellion began. On that day we will be creating a sacred space with dancing, music, food and fellowship in order to encourage more people to engage in activities that will restore hope to our city and our communities.
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LIVING FOR CHANGE
April 21 – A Day to Remember
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, April 29-May 5, 2007
Saturday, April 21, was a very full day for me. It was also a memorable one, reinforcing my sense that what’s good for Detroit is good for America.
My day began at the Oral History conference convened by a group of Michigan university professors to discuss the “Detroit 1967 Rebellion/ Lessons Learned.”
On the first panel with Ron Scott and Ron Hewitt, I emphasized that 1967 was a Rebellion, not a Riot or a Revolution and the need to examine the contradictions that came out of the Rebellion in order to midwife the new movement that is now emerging. The rapid rise of Barach Obama, I said, reveals the hunger in the country for new black leadership.
About 50 people were present at this session, including veteran activists Mabel Williams, Max Stanford, Luke Tripp, Charles Johnson, Mike Hamlin, Gloria House, Charles Simmons.
At 1:30 I spoke to about 200 young people mobilized by Sarah Kubik, Recycle Detroit director, to clean up Cass Park. “Cleaning up a park may seem like a small thing,” I told them. “but it can birth a new concept of citizenship because it replaces the indifference which most people show to our environment with a sense of responsibility.”
From Cass Park I went to the “Transforming Grief into Hope” gathering at the Williams Community Center located at the epicenter of the 1967 Rebellion. This event, endorsed by over 30 very diverse community organizations, provided a sense of the forces emerging to create a City of Hope,
The program unfolded in the Center’s lovely multi-level, multi-colored atrium. On one wall there was a 8” tree, painted by artist Torri Crawford, where survivors were posting pictures of their loved ones. On the front stage stood Matrix Theatre’s majestic Martin Luther King puppet.
Detroit’s legendary Nkenge Zola emceed. After the libation by Cardinal Mbiyu of the Shrine of the Black Madonna, youth actors performed selections from the new Matrix Theatre production “Jesus in the Hood” and Will Copeland did a lively presentation of two of his poems.
In my remarks I pointed out that while the violent snuffing out of lives takes only a moment, creating a City of Hope requires ongoing community-building activities, like planting community gardens to produce fresh food and closer ties with our neighbors, regular clean-ups of neighborhood parks in our neighborhoods, engaging school children from K-12 in community-building activities with the same audacity with which the civil rights movement engaged them in struggles against segregation.
This is the kind of transformational organizing proposed by Martin Luther King after reflecting on the meaning of the urban rebellions. What young people need in our dying cities, he said, are direct action projects that enable them to transform themselves and their surroundings at the same time.
On Saturday, May 5, 12–2 p.m., there will be a meeting at Tried Stone Baptist Church, 1550 Taylor, to explore these activities. Tried Stone’s pastor, the Rev. Richard Wilson, described some of the community programs already taking place at the church.
High schoolers John Blount and Joshua Tuck then helped us understand how the Live Arts Media Project (LAMP) of the Detroit Summer Collective engages the hearts, minds and imaginations of students in addressing the dropout crisis.
Joya Miller, widow of recently murdered Yale Miller, and Pioneers of Peace, Detroiters who have been disabled by violence, inspired us with their stories of continuing struggle.
Christina Strong announced the candlelight vigil that Project Teens will hold at sunset and Tracye Frazier read the Mayor’s proclamation of April 21 as a Day of P.E.A.C.E., Partnering to Engage and Activate Community Empowerment.
Northern High School’s marching band brought brass and cymbals to the occasion.
We then walked from the Center to the neighborhood park (which the City of Hope organizers had cleaned up the previous Saturday) to plant a magnolia tree. After the planting Mike Wimberly told a story of oak trees; Althea Armstrong described “Redemption Mile, ” the circles of perennials she has planted on the Rosa Parks Blvd.median; Abu Hossain read his poem dedicated to MLK, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Malcolm X, Sharajini Naidu, Mandela, JFK, Moulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bashani; and “A Day to Remember” ended with joining our voices in song.
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Notes from “Living for Change: An Autobiography”
“…rebirth of hope…Community, environment, employment, education, culture, governance are all interconnected…our basic needs are spiritual as well as physical. We need love and respect for one another and a renewal of our spiritual and civic lives, as much as we need a roof over our heads and food in our bellies…There is more humility than in other groups struggling for fundamental change that I have known in the past…our of the devastation created by de-industrialization…corporate abandonment, a new concept of economics as if people, communities, nature and spirit matters is emerging in the center of the First world…more life-centered…Going beyond rights…’Many little people in many small places undertaking many modest actions can transform the world…building the movement individual by individual, small groups networking with one another…The only failure is not to try…transnational corporations…no loyalty to any community, city, country, or even the biosphere…struggles that would have to begin from the bottom up, with changing ourselves first…the state has swallowed up the energies of the people at the bottom, despite the best intentions…build resistance to the global economy by producing for our own needs, growing our own food, and producing our own clothing and shelter in environmentally friendly worker-owned and cooperative enterprises…community based economics…transform ourselves into socially responsible and mutually respecting individuals…collective self-reliance and making do with our own resources…advance the evolution of the human race…strategies to dismantle especially harmful corporations…
el renacimiento de la comunidad de la esperanza…, ambiente, empleo, educación, cultura, gobierno todo se interconecta… nuestras necesidades básicas es espiritual tan bien como la comprobación. Necesitamos amor y lo respetamos por uno otro y una renovación de nuestras vidas espirituales y cívicas, tanto como necesitamos una azotea sobre nuestras cabezas y el alimento en nuestros vientres… allí es más humildad que en otros grupos que luchan para el cambio fundamental que he sabido en el último… nuestro de la devastación creada por el abandono corporativo de la desindustrialización…, un nuevo concepto de la economía como si la gente, las comunidades, la naturaleza y las materias del alcohol esté emergiendo en el centro de primer ir vida-centrado del mundo…… más allá de las derechas… que la pequeña gente ‘Many en muchos lugares pequeños que emprende muchas acciones modestas puede transformar el mundo… que construye al individuo del movimiento del individuo, pequeño a cualquier comunidad, a la ciudad, al país, o aún a las luchas de la biosfera… que tendrían que comenzar del fondo para arriba, con cambiarse primero… el estado ha tragado para arriba las energías de la gente en el fondo, a pesar de la mejor resistencia de la estructura de las intenciones… a la economía global produciendo para nuestras propias necesidades, produciendo nuestro propio alimento, y producir nuestra propia ropa y abrigo en comunidad trabajador-posei’da y cooperativa ambientalmente amistosa de las empresas… basó la economía… se transforma en social responsable y mutuamente respetar independencia colectiva de los individuos… y conformar con nuestro propio avance de los recursos… la evolución de las estrategias de la raza humana… para desmontar especialmente las corporaciones dañosas…
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LIVING FOR CHANGE
Without A Vision Our Cities Perish
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, Mar.18–24, 2007
Detroiters are cheating themselves if they don’t participate in some of the more than 40 Shrinking Cities discussions at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Detroit at 4454 Woodward Ave. or the Cranbrook Art Museum in Bloomfield Hills.
These wide-ranging discussions include visionary interventions as well as analyses of decline by local and international artists, activists, architects, academics and filmmakers.
The series began on February 3 with a presentation on the history of the Shrinking Cities project by Philipp Oswalt from Berlin. Oswalt is the director and chief curator of the multi-million dollar project which also involves cities in the United Kingdom, Germany and Russia,
It ends on March 31 with two films: an interview with Lee Burns, a retired engineer and co-founder of the Detroit Agricultural Network; and “Garden Stories” which focuses on gardening for subsistence and social engagement, and includes an interview with me.
In between are discussions on many other topics, e.g. the Chicago-Detroit split; the Impoverished in a Shrinking City; Projects for Development in Detroit.
I have participated in three programs: a City Planning discussion on March 1; a Detroit Summer LAMP (Live Media Arts Project) workshop on March 10; and “Symptoms and Waste: Comments on Uselessness in the Fabric of the City” on March 11.
The City Planning discussion, in which I was a panelist, revealed how the lack of vision and dialectical thinking in our city’s leaders over the last thirty years has accelerated the decline of Detroit. Refusing or unable to recognize that Detroit’s deindustrialization was a sign that we had come to the end of the industrial epoch, successive administrations and City Councils were unable to project a new vision of the self-reliant, sustainable city that Detroit and other cities can and must become for our own (and the planet’s) survival.
In the March 10 Detroit Summer (LAMP) workshop, it was exciting to watch the skill and self-confidence with which high school students led the audience of mostly young people in a discussion of the deepening crisis in and of our public schools, Using a CD which they had made of interviews with middle and high school students, they created a dialogue on why students drop out and on possible alternatives to a school system whose transformation is critical to rebuilding Detroit.
I was one of the panelists in the discussion on March 11 at the Cranbrook Art Museum of “Symptoms and Waste: Comments on Uselessness in the Fabric of the City,” moderated by Dr. Michael Stone-Richards of the College of Creative Studies.
Jerry Herron, director of American Studies at Wayne State University, provided a refreshing view of Detroit as the most American place on the planet: in its enormous success in creating wealth, its shrinking as a city, its proliferation into Metro Detroit, and its inability to understand and/or remember the past,
Marygrove Professor Frank Rashid (an activist in the “Save Tiger Stadium” struggle) ”blamed” the decline of Detroit on the privatization of transportation and federal funding for highways which encouraged Detroiters to believe that by abandoning the city for the suburbs they were achieving the American Dream on their own.
Having just witnessed the creativity of the Detroit Summer Collective, I pointed out that the most glaring example of waste and uselessness in the fabric of the city has been the failure of our schools to engage the energies and imaginations of our young people in the reconstruction of life in our neighborhoods and communities.
I hope I have said enough to give Detroiters a sense of what you’re missing if you don’t participate in some of these challenging Shrinking Cities discussions.
They take place almost every night until the end of March.
For more information call MOCAD at 313 832 6622 or Cranbrook at 248 645 3323. The Jan. 28-Feb. 3 Michigan Citizen contains an insert listing all the programs in the series. Admission is free.
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LIVING FOR CHANGE
THE WORST AND BEST OF TIMES
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, Dec. 31-Jan.6, 2007
As we begin the New Year it is the worst of times.
- We are quagmired in a illegal war in which over 600,000 Iraqis and nearly 3000 Americans have been slaughtered and hundreds of billions of dollars squandered - while our schools and infrastructures crumble and millions are unemployed or underemployed because giant corporations have outsourced our jobs to countries where they can make more profit with cheaper labor.
- Our heedless pursuit of material and technological growth has created a planetary emergency. The ozone layer is being depleted, temperatures are rising, polar ice caps are melting, fisheries collapsing, species vanishing.
- Inequality in the U.S. is now greater than in any industrialized nation. Five percent of Americans own 59% of all wealth while the bottom 20% own zero wealth.
- Under the guise of defense against terrorism, our government has violated the Geneva Convention and the U.S.,Constitution, torturing detainees, suspending habeas corpus, instituting warrantless domestic spying.
- Our media is owned and controlled by huge multinational corporations who treat the American people as consumers and audience rather than as active citizens.
- Our increasingly undemocratic and dysfunctional political system has saddled us with a President who has denied reality for so long that he can no longer distinguish between facts and his personal fantasies.
BUT IT IS ALSO THE BEST OF TIMES.
- Americans are creating new forms of community-based institutions (ESOPs, coops, community development corporations, etc.) to give “we the people”ownership and control over the way we make our living.
- Entrepreneurs are creating businesses in which the health of the environment, the well-being of communities, the empowerment of employees are all part of the bottom line.
- Community and school gardens and farmers markets are springing up everywhere as growing numbers of Americans recognize the nutritional, ecological and economic benefits of local food initiatives.
- State governments, Mayors and City Councils are assuming the responsibility, abdicated by the federal government, to reduce global warming pollutants through innovative conservation measures and utilization of clean, renewable sources of energy.
- Communities are asserting their right to self-government by repudiating the concept of corporate personhood which has enabled giant corporations to override local decisions protecting health, safety, family farms and the environment. www.poclad.org/
- Dozens of Western Pennsylvania townships have banned corporate hog farms and the spreading of toxic sewage sludge on farmland; two have actually revoked corporate constitutional rights to override local decisions.
- Communities and counties in California have prohibited further incursions from chain restaurants, the planting of genetically engineered crops, and are exploring ordinances revoking corporate constitutional rights in their local jurisdiction.
- Voters in Northern Calliforniia’s Humboldt Country have approved a ballot initiative that bans non-local corporate money in elections.
- Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin have all passed laws outlawing corporate ownership of farms.
- A movement to build a U.S. media that serves the needs of active citizens in a democracy is in the making, spearheaded by veteran journalist Bill Moyers and a new generation of allied, independent media makers.
- In the 1999 “Battle of Seattle” tens of thousands of individuals and groups, representing very diverse sections of society, closed down the WTO. Since then hundreds of thousands of individuals and groups from around the world have gathered at World Social Forums to make clear that “Another World is possible.”
- In the process of convening these global demonstrations and gatherings and in these local initiatives a new form of Democracy is being created which is much more participatory, deliberative, cooperative, consensual, more rooted in community and more horizontal than the representative democracies that were struggled for and achieved within 19th and 20th century nation-states.
In these and other imaginative ways Americans are beginning to build the movement to make the structural changes projected by Dr.Martin Luther King 40 years ago in “Time to Break the Silence” and “Where do we go from here: Community or Chaos? “
These changes, King explained, must take us beyond traditional Capitalism, which encourages cutthroat competition and selfish ambitions and inspires men to be more I-centered than Thou-centered, AND Communism which reduces men to a cog in the wheel of the state.
Everyone who cares about Democracy, Sustainability, Community and living a life of purpose and meaning can help build this new movement that is taking us beyond traditional Capitalism and Communism.
That’s why this is not only the worst but also the best of times.
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Revolution and Counter-Revolution
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The Beloved Community of Dr. Martin Luther King
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