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By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, July 8-14, 2007

As the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Rebellion approaches, reporters from all over the country are descending on the city asking “How does Detroit remain a city of hope despite the vacant lots and gutted buildings?”

What is it about our city that inspires someone like Rebecca Solnit to write
(in the July Harpers) that “in years to come Detroit, once the steel-gray capital of Fordist manufacturing, may be the shining example of the post-industrial green city that the rest of us can look to”?

Why did the 500 young people who participated in the recent Allied Media Conference feel an energy and passion here that they haven’t felt elsewhere?

Did Detroit contribute something unique to my recent conversation with Bill Moyers that prompted one PBS viewer to respond: “What Grace Boggs offers us is the real option to think outside the box…the empowerment of a grassroots movement. Working from the inside out, Grace Lee Boggs has shown us an alternative - not ready-made or easy, but one in which personal investment, an essential requirement, has the greatest rewards.”

And another: “Moving out of our comfort zones, connecting with people in neighborhoods on the other side of the highways. Creating our own commons, even while our cities are trying to destroy them. No matter how hard the government tries they will never kill our need to communicate, our will to force change when it's in our self-interest and our determination to create a system to sustain ourselves and our neighbors. It's forcing us to come back to life, and we're doing it, and not all that slowly either, considering how sloth-like we've become over the last few decades.”

On Saturday, July 21, the Detroit: City of Hope campaign, initiated by the Boggs Center, will commemorate the Rebellion with a day-long program at the Williams Community Center in the neighborhood where it first exploded.

The commemoration begins in the morning with “Stories from the Neighborhood. “ Long-time residents and leaders of the Virginia Park Community Investment Corporation will describe how they have remained committed over the years to rebuilding the neighborhood.

Community activists from across the city will then discuss “Where do we go from here?” Besides myself, panelists will include Rev. Wilson of Triedstone Baptist Church; Ron Scott, Coalition Against Police Brutality; Julian Witherspoon, Vice President, Virginia Park Citizen's District Council; Weusi Olusola, Pioneers for Peace.

From our discussion and from organizations displaying literature and activities on the mall from 12-5 p.m., you will get a glimpse of the seeds of change germinating in Detroit. (Call 313 826 5583 to reserve space).

You’ll learn about the community gardens on vacant lots all across the city that provide tons of fresh food to Detroiters while also helping our children understand that milk does not come from the store.

Ron Scott will explain the steps the Coalition against Police Brutality is taking to create safety zones in our neighborhoods by engaging residents in community restoration activities.

Hip Hop artists will report how they are creating coops to provide models so that cooperation and mutual support, instead of dependence on multinational corporations for jobs, can become the norm in our communities in the difficult days ahead.

You’ll be encouraged to organize Restorative Justice programs to keep non-violent offenders in the community instead of being sent off to prison.

“Detroit Dreamers” will describe how they are meeting the challenge of raising their small children in the city on a “diet of hope” rather than on the consumerism and escapism of suburban living.

Enterpreneurs, like the founders of Avalon Bakery and other stores in the Cass Corridor, will explain how small businesses succeed by serving the needs of the community.

Nearly 20 years ago, in response to Coleman Young’s challenge to provide an alternative to Casino Gambling, Jimmy Boggs warned that “We have to get rid of the myth that there is something sacred about production for the national and international market and begin thinking of creating small enterprises which produce food, goods and services for the local market, for our communities and cities.”

Today, 40 years after the Rebellion, global warming and the perils of importing food, toys, etc. from abroad are helping us to understand how our personal health and that of the planet depend on our building self-reliant sustainable cities.

A new relationship between Freedom and Necessity is unfolding.

Independence Day
By Shea Howell
Michigan Citizen, July 8-14, 2007

Independence day. The Fourth of July. The anniversary of the American Revolution is a time for picnics, parades and barbeques. The political turmoil that this day marks is rarely considered.

This year, however, is a good time to pull out that old Declaration of Independence and take a look at some of the ideas it advances. Framed by an illegal war, amidst secrecy, scandal, incompetence, cronyism, and the dismantling of long-held beliefs and institutional practices, its familiar phrases take on new meaning. Reading it today is an opportunity to think about the kind of country we are becoming and to consider if we like what we see.

The preamble begins with an appeal to something that seems far removed from those who govern us today—“a decent Respect to the opinions of mankind.” Most of us could make a very long list of how little respect this government holds for the opinions of the majority of people in this country or around the world. The decision to invade Iraq, to stay there, and to increase troop strength are the most obvious, among the many instances of disrespect.

The preamble also sets forth a succinct view of the role of government and its source of legitimacy. It declares:

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their CREATOR, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

The Declaration lists what it calls a “ long Train of Abuses and Usurpations,” as a way to establish that the Right and Duty “to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security.”

Less familiar and often rooted in the context of the late 18th century are the “repeated Injuries and Usurpations” that served as the basis for revolt.

Here are some of the indictments of King George:
HE has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public Good.
HE has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing Importance, unless suspended in their Operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
HE has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.
HE has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the Tenure of their Offices, and the Amount and Payment of their Salaries.
HE has kept among us, in Times of Peace, Standing Armies, without the Consent of our Legislatures.
HE has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
HE is, at this Time, transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the Works of Death, Desolation, and Tyranny, already begun with Circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy, scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous Ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized Nation.

These words echo through the centuries as a reminder of what motivated the best in the American tradition. It is time to declare ourselves anew if we wish the security and peace that comes with the respect of humankind.

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