Grace Lee Boggs


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Where do we go from here: Chaos or Community?*

Michigan Citizen, Sept. 11-17, 2005

Those marginalized by race and class oppression have always suffered the most from natural disasters.   But the Auschwitz-like hell that  hundreds of thousands of black, poor and elderly New Orleanians were forced to endure because of the racism, classism and sheer incompetence of governmental bodies on all levels  tells us that it is now up to “we the people” to develop  programs “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.”

 We can no longer afford business as usual, politics as usual, hearings as usual, going back to school or to church as usual.  The time has come for us to go beyond protest and  begin developing holistic and collaborative strategies to rebuild our economy, our communities, our cities and our country on new principles of social justice, human and community development in harmony with Nature, with active involvement and participation by local residents, including school children.

A good place to start is with this program, developed by an activist in the Detroit black community,  linking the need to  provide immediate relief to New Orleanian  evacuees with the long-range need to rebuild the human and physical infrastructure of  Detroit which has been devastated by de-industrialization.           

The 21st Century Underground Railroad
Family Reunification and Evacuees Resettlement Program

Mission: Due to strong historical and current ties of our peoples, the people of Detroit are obliged to offer relief, assist refugees, and reunite families suffering from hurricane Katrina in Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana with next of kin in Detroit, Michigan.

Objective: To bring hope, healing, and relief with dignity to those suffering from the devastation in the south.

Overview: The city of Detroit is the ideal candidate for this project because our population is closely related to the populations of Mississippi and Alabama. Historically, enslaved persons walked treacherous paths north to freedom and  Detroit. It is time to follow the Underground Railroad again. This time the Federal government will pay for it.

FEMA will resettle internally displaced persons. Why  shouldn’t that settlement area be Detroit? Other Michigan cities have and continue to benefit from federally-funded family reunification programs. We can fix our houses, provide jobs, reintroduce southern manners, and get reoriented with our families.


1. FEMA will foot all bills related to resettlement and family reunification

2. Southern family values much in need in Detroit’s communities will help to address city’s problems such as violence and lack of interpersonal skills

3. This will give Detroit hope and unify its population

4. Population increase will also help  with community improvement

5. Federal funds for resettlement and training will provide a lot of temporary jobs and improve housing specially by rehabbing abandoned houses.


1. Respond to Urgent Need: Transportation along with Care Packages and First Aid from affected areas to Detroit.

2. Temporary placement with hotels, then next of kin should be able to sign for them.

3. Detail and make public process by which families could help their next of kin with support of a city-wide organized effort.

4. Mobilize churches, community groups, block clubs, and city halls to involve everyone in this effort.

5. All fundraisers should help with transportation and care packages here, not in areas where nothing is organized. Detroit should be running the operation for transportation and care package NOW.

*The title of Martin Luther King¹s final major work, written in response to the urban rebellions and the Vietnam war.