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By Shea Howell

March 13, 2017

Over 400 people gathered at the UAW-GM Center in Detroit to celebrate International Women’s Day. This was the 7th year of Women Creating Caring Communities, initiated by the UAW and Boggs Center. The theme was “The healing power of loving communities.” This was a gathering reflecting honesty, passion and resilience as we talked about our fears and hopes for this moment.

I was part of the opening conversation, emphasizing the question often asked by Grace Lee Boggs,  “What time is it on the clock of the world?’  I shared with the gathering my thinking about what Grace would most likely be saying to us, if she were there, as she had been for the first years of these sessions.

I think she would caution us to not become stuck on Trump. Rather she would be encouraging us to look to the forces behind him. The forces of violence and white supremacy have a long history in America. They are the forces that began the genocide against the indigenous peoples of this land at Plymouth Rock and they are the forces that are carrying it out today at Standing Rock.  They are the forces that stole people from their homes in Africa to enslave them and are now the forces stealing homes from African Americans through foreclosure, school closings, and water shut offs.

At the same time, I think she would insist that we make distinctions between those forces in the past and the dangers and opportunities of this moment. History echoes through the present, but does not repeat itself.

Over the last few years of her life, Grace often said that we were witnessing the growth of counter revolutionary forces and we were in a period of revolution and counter- revolution.  Whatever the United States will become over the next few years, we will not be going back to the way things were. Something new is emerging, and it will be up to us to determine whether that something new will be better, or worse, than the past.

Grace also liked to remind us that while we do not choose the times into which we are born, we do choose how we respond to the times in which we live. Certainly it is important that we resist the efforts of those forces that are pulling us backwards, for the sake of our own humanity.  But resistance is never enough. In periods of such possibility, we have the responsibility of projecting the kind of futures we want. Visionary organizing, she said, was critical to creating programs and processes that would give us a glimpse of a better future.

Visions don’t come to us out of nowhere. They emerge as we engage with each other in probing conversations about how to solve the problems we face, imagining new possibilities.

Throughout the day, women and men talked together, acknowledging our vulnerabilities, gaining strength from sharing stories of our lives and hopes.  We talked of the importance of listening deeply to one another, opening our hearts as well as our heads.  As the day concluded with sounds of drums and dancing feet, most of us walked away with a new resolve, knowing that we have tremendous power to create communities where love and justice thrive.