Tag Archives: #socialjusticebooks


Joann Castle | 0616/18

A Report from People’s Action, 6/11/18:  “A new U.N. report says the United States has the highest income inequality of all Western nations. On the 50th anniversary of the death of Robert F. Kennedy, we remember his words on the role of government in ending poverty.

I believe that, as long as there is plenty, poverty is evil. Government belongs wherever evil needs an adversary and there are people in distress.” – Robert F. Kennedy.

“Today, 40 million Americans live in poverty; 13.3 million of these are children.”

THIS PAST SUNDAY MORNING, The Detroit Free Press, 7/10/18, ran a front page story by John Gallagher, on barriers to work for Detroit residents:  “In the city of Detroit, 53.4% of working-age residents aren’t even looking for a job…Detroit has the lowest workforce participation rate in the nation… a symptom of poverty and poor education attainment.”

The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, second from left, and the Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, left, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign.  (Photo/Mark Humphrey)

It’s not that there are no jobs, Gallagher says, but our disenfranchised communities of color do not have the education, the skills or adequate transportation to participate in the job market.  Sometimes it’s lack of child care or elder care. Sometimes young men have been incarcerated and employers are not willing to give them a second chance. Many of these folks want to work but they can’t get hired. There are many reasons for this disparity. Most are related to continuing racism in Metro Detroit, which hasn’t changed much in the last half-century.

Many folks are talking about Detroit’s rising but we need to look at the full picture including the impact of gentrification in poverty stricken communities. There is a greater disparity in wealth in our city now than there was in 1967, during a similar effort for urban renewal.  The outcome of that short-sighted change and the rebellious response by the black community caught many people by surprise, especially the mayor. I can’t imagine what the new welfare work requirement will do to folks who want to work but can’t get hired.

As citizens of privilege, who benefit from the services provided by our local government, we have an obligation to people in our communities to assure that essential services are available to those who are still fighting for full citizenship in our society.

In my new book, WHAT MY LEFT HAND WAS DOING, I analyze lessons learned from my early activism, consider our present conditions and seek to inspire young activists to get involved. “We live in the midst of a great struggle between those who control our resources and those who have essential needs but lack the power to attain them… From the ground up, we need to be an army at work demanding and participating in efforts to improve life in our neighborhoods.”

Lessons Learned from my book offer positive steps to improving your community:

Step 1: Get involved. You live there-take an active interest in your community. Understand the issues your neighbors are facing and stand up for those who are in need of support. Your community rises or falls in relation to the involvement of those who live or work there.

Step 2: Vote and encourage others to do so.  If your community wants power from the ground up, VOTE in the August primaries and the November midterms. Local election participation helps communities.

Step 3: Dialogue. Share your community building ideas with others in a newsletter or a blog. Perhaps your group can be a model for other communities to learn from. Protect your most vulnerable citizens.

Step 4: Coalition building. There is a critical need for coalition building across all strata of society, but none is more crucial than between different racial and ethnic communities. America is more segregated than in the 1960s. We’ve grown estranged from one another, making it all the easier for the things that divide us to settle into the gaps between us.

Step 5: Partner Up: Establish alliances with communities unlike yours and learn to understand each other. Many colleges, libraries, churches and cultural institutions offer opportunities to connect.

Step 6: Turn the Negative into a Positive: Stop complaining and focus on small things that can move your community forward.

If anyone would like to guest blog on my site to share positive things going on in your community, please reply at the top of this blog.

WHAT MY LEFT HAND WAS DOING: Lessons from a Grassroots Activist by Joann Castle is  available for order on line at Amazon.com and The Seattle Book Company. Also available in Detroit at SOURCE BooksellersPages Bookshop and Bookbeat in Oak Park. In Seattle, at Third Place Books, Elliott Bay Book Company and Left Bank Books on Pike Street, across from Pike Place Market. Ask your local book seller to order it from Ingram.



By Joann Castle: 5/26/2018

Central United Methodist Church in downtown Detroit, also known as “The Conscience of Detroit,” has a storied history of advocating for social justice.

Pastor, Reverend Jill Zundal, has recently succeeded the most Reverend Ed Rowe, who retired after thirty-seven years of dedicated service to the community. Today, the church continues in its activist role, providing sanctuary to families faced with deportation by ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement).

Perhaps you are a Mom and you are new to activism. You want to be involved but you don’t have much time. You can begin with small things like taking food to a sanctuary church or getting on the mailing list of local organizations that are doing work that you believe in. Stand up for people who are being treated unjustly and let your voice be heard. Give a few hours of your time to demonstrate at a rally. Write your congress person or join a discussion group to educate yourself on the issues. Follow your passion and you will find a spiritual depth that gives greater meaning to life and a better future for your children.

Last week, Reverend Jill led a 10-day, 90-mile march for justice from Detroit to Lansing, accompanied by advocates calling for immigrant rights. “This pilgrimage is about educating people about the broken immigration system,” Rev. Jill explained. Thank you, Rev. Jill, we need to know.

Central United Methodist Church also played a role in my activist history, a story that unfolds in my newly-released book: WHAT MY LEFT HAND IS DOING: Lessons from a Grass Roots Activist by Joann Castle.

My beautiful picture

Joann moderates the CCC book club.

Central United Methodist Church is the same Church that opened its doors to the Control, Conflict and Change (CCC) Book Club in 1970.

Mike Hamlin, a co-founder of the League of Revolutionary Black Workers and Black Star Bookstore and I, one of the founding members of the Ad-Hoc Action Group against Police Brutality,

CCC Book Club Brochure
CCC Book Club brochure

conceived and organized a community-based book club aimed at liberals and progressives who were willing to work together with blacks in developing a revolutionary consciousness. We met monthly at Central United Methodist Church. Three-hundred and fifty people showed up for our first book club meeting. I was the moderator.

Read about our CCC Book Club experiences in Chapter 8, of my new book, which begins with a quote from Frederick Douglass: “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.

WHAT MY LEFT HAND WAS DOING:Lessons from a Grassroots Activist by Joann Castle is  available for order on line at Amazon.com and The Seattle Book Company. Also available in Detroit at SOURCE Booksellers, Pages Bookshop and Bookbeat in Oak Park. In Seattle, at Third Place Books, Elliott Bay Book Company and Left Bank Books on Pike Street, across from Pike Place Market.

Ask your favorite book store to order it from Ingram.

Thank you for reading.