Sunday, June 28, 2015

GRACE LEE BOGGS (b. June 27, 1915): Legendary Activist, Public Intellectual, Revolutionary, Author, and Radical Scholar is 100 Years Young Today!


I submit the following series of posts In glorious tribute to, and heartfelt celebration of, one of the finest and most important public intellectuals and authentic revolutionary activists and organizers in the history of this country, the great and indefatigable Grace Lee Boggs--and a living legend if there ever was one. Imagine still being alive to acknowledge one's very own centennial year? What an inspiration!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY GRACE! Thank you so much for what you so brilliantly and lovingly contributed to our collective struggle for freedom, justice, equality, self determination and COMMUNITY well over seven decades (!) now. May your extraordinary and sustaining light continue to shine. WE LOVE YOU...


Grace Lee Boggs, Activist And American Revolutionary, Turns 100
June 27, 2015

Grace Lee Boggs, who has spent much of her life advocating for civil rights and labor rights, became such a noted figure in Detroit's Black Power movement that people assumed she must be partially black. In some of her FBI files, Boggs, who is Chinese-American, was described as "probably Afro Chinese."

(We'll let that sit with you for a moment.)

And that's not the only assumption she's defied. For almost a century — she turned 100 Saturday — she's challenged how people think about their own activism.

Many people — in and out of Detroit — have been honoring her life this year. Her own organization, the Boggs Center, hosted events and lectures all this week to celebrate her life; the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center shared a hundred of Boggs' best quotes, one for each of her years; and the James and Grace Lee Boggs School, a charter school she helped start a few years ago, threw her a birthday party.

The Start Of Her Revolution

Born in Providence, R.I., to Chinese immigrants in 1915, Boggs studied at Barnard College and went on to earn her Ph.D. in philosophy from Bryn Mawr College. For years, she pored over the work of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Karl Polanyi and Karl Marx, and even translated three of Marx's essays from German to English. She was transfixed by the process and challenge of thinking through complicated ideas.

After finishing grad school, Boggs struggled to find work — any work, she told a group of students in 2012. "Even department stores would say, 'We don't hire Orientals,' " she recalled. So she moved to the Midwest, where she found a job with the University of Chicago's philosophy library. It paid only $10 a week, a stipend so low she was forced to find free housing in a rat-filled basement.

But even the rats had an upside. One day, as Boggs was walking through her neighborhood, she came across a group of people protesting poor living conditions — which included rat-infested housing. This, Boggs recalled, connected her with the black community for the very first time.

"I was aware that people were suffering, but it was more of a statistical thing," Boggs said. "Here in Chicago I was coming into contact with it as a human thing."

A few years later, in the 1940s, she moved to Detroit to help edit the radical newsletter Correspondence. There, she met a charismatic auto worker and activist named James Boggs.
Grace and James Boggs married in 1953.
Courtesy of American Revolutionary
"When he rose to speak his mind, he would speak with such passion, challenging all within hearing to stretch their humanity ... he would often bring down the house," Boggs wrote in 1998 in her autobiography, Living For Change.

They married in 1953.

Together, the couple became two of the city's most noted activists, tackling issues related to labor and civil rights, feminism, Black Power, Asian Americans and the environment. In 1974, they wrote Revolution And Evolution In The Twentieth Century; in 1998, she published an autobiography, Living For Change; and in 2011, she co-wrote The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism For The Twenty-First Century with Scott Kurashige, a professor and author.

A Human Experience

Though many of the Boggs' ideas centered around revolution, her personal philosophies were guided more by human experience — and the individual's own ability to transform his or her world — than overthrowing a system.

As I've grown older, I've realized that philosophy has to do with how we value ourselves as human beings, and how we look at ourselves, and how we relate to reality.

Grace Lee Boggs
In 2012, she gave a lecture at the University of California, Berkeley, with the activist Angela Davis. A group of students applauded her when the conversation turned to using non-violence — which Boggs endorses — in protest.

Boggs, who pairs her heady intellectualism with a wry humor, was quick to interject.

"All of you who are clapping, I suggest you do some more thinking," she told the crowd in a gently mocking reprimand.

She suggested they react with reflection, instead of an automatic response.

Grace Lee Boggs in Detroit in the 1950s. Courtesy of American Revolutionary
"It's a philosophical question — it's not just a tactical question.... As I've grown older, I've realized that philosophy has to do with how we value ourselves as human beings, and how we look at ourselves, and how we relate to reality."

Boggs has helped shape the thinking of generations of activists, including Tawana Honeycomb Petty, a writer and community organizer who also serves on the Boggs Center board.

"There isn't a go-along-to-get-along [attitude]," Petty says. "She invites and challenges and provides us opportunity to share what we're thinking, and we can struggle back and forth."

Re-Creating Herself

James Boggs died in 1993, when Grace was 78. After her husband's death, Grace became even more active in Detroit's activist communities.

"I was still trying to figure out what I was going to do on my own or, indeed, whether there was any 'my own.' That is what often happens when you lose the person with whom you have lived and worked closely for decades," she wrote in her autobiography. "Especially if you are a woman, you need time to re-create yourself, to discover who you are."

I was still trying to figure out what I was going to do on my own or, indeed, whether there was any 'my own.'

In 2005, she began writing a weekly column for the Michigan Citizen, a Detroit-area newspaper, until she was 98. Two years ago, keeping in line with her dedication to working with young people, she helped start the James And Grace Lee Boggs School, a charter school that weaves Detroit — and its issues — into its curriculum.

Boggs, who is in hospice care and was unavailable for an interview, has talked publicly about aging — and the changing waves of activism she's been through. In the documentary American Revolutionary, which was about Boggs' life, she acknowledged that she was dying, and said that living longer than everybody else made for a lonely life. But she remained optimistic.

"To me that's not a terrible thing. ... I see this as a period of transition that I can make a transition by the things that I choose to engage in," she said. "I don't know what the next American revolution is going to be like, but we might be able to imagine it if your imagination were rich enough."…/grace-lee-boggs-free-stream/29344807/

WATCH: 'The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs' documentary for free!

(Click on the link above)

Detroit Free Press
June 27, 2015

With famed Detroit social activist Grace Lee Boggs celebrating her 100th birthday this weekend, the Free Press is offering a special way to commemorate her remarkable life.

The award-winning documentary "American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs" will be viewable for free today through midnight Sunday at The feature-length movie played Freep Film Festival in 2014, and won awards at many festivals across the country. It later received a prestigious Peabody Award in connection with its national PBS broadcast on the show "POV."

Related: 100th birthday for noted Detroit activist Grace Lee Boggs

It tells the story of Chinese American and Detroit icon who has spent 70-some years as a writer, activist and philosopher with an eye on social justice and change. The portrait by filmmaker Grace Lee (who is not related) finds Grace Lee Boggs at the forefront of major movements of the past century, including labor and civil rights in the African-American and Asian-American communities along with feminism and environmental issues. The movie puts her in the context of history as she grows and adapts along with the Motor City that she still calls home.

The film's DVD is available for purchase through the movie's website, and includes a number of bonus features, including extended conversations with Grace Lee Boggs. It is also available for educational use via Good Docs.

Grace Lee Boggs, from left and Grace Lee, the director of American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs talk after the screening in a conversation moderated by Celeste Headlee of National Public Radio at the Detroit Film Theatre at the Detroit Institute of Arts in Detroit on Saturday, March 22, 2014. Romain Blanquart/ Detroit Free Press (Photo: Detroit Free Press)

The Panopticon Review's photo.

Exclusive Interview: Grace Lee (Director, “American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs”)
May 14, 2015 
About two weeks ago, I was able to watch a free screening of American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, and I was introduced to a woman whom I’d heard about thanks to social media, but has never really understood the impact of her social work. During that same week, I was able to talk to the director of the film, also named Grace Lee.

In the interview below, Lee and I discuss the film’s newest accolade—a Peabody Award—and how Lee came to find what she didn’t she didn’t know she was looking for Boggs. We also discussed the hot issue at the time (and technically still is a hot issue despite it not being featured in the news), the unrest in Baltimore triggered over the police-involved death of Freddie Gray.

American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs is currently available for free viewing on PBS until May 24. Definitely check it out for yourself. How does it feel to get a Peabody Award?

It feels amazing! It’s an incredible honor and it’s really exciting. I didn’t even know it had been submitted; it had been submitted through POV. It’s a really nice surprise. To me, it just means that more people will be able to learn about this incredible story of Grace Lee Boggs and everybody involved in 100 years of social movement.

One thing that I realized as I was watching it is that in history books, I learned about Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and the like, but I’d never learned about people like Grace Lee Boggs. What do you think about the probable lack of awareness about who she is and what she’s done?

I think part of the reason is because Grace, like a lot of grassroots activists, aren’t out in the spotlight. There are so many people doing incredible community work and just staying part of the community…Even in the film, there are no images [of Boggs]. I used what I could from Grace’s collection, but they weren’t out on the street [self-promoting]. I think they were just out there doing the work.

I think what attracted me to her story was exactly the same reason [as you]—why hadn’t I heard of this woman? I just couldn’t believe she existed and that this story hadn’t been told. …Learning about her, I couldn’t believe nobody had [told her story] before. I just became obsessed with asking the questions and figuring out how the daughter of immigrants became part of the black community and part of this rich movement in Detroit. I think there are a lot of stories that we never hear about, and to tell a story like Grace Lee Boggs’, to me is a way to look at others’, like who is the Grace Lee Boggs in the New York community that we never hear about, or even in your family or down the street?

In the documentary, you say that you didn’t know you were looking for someone like Grace until you met her. What would you say you were looking for?

I’m interested in community work and I’m interested in human rights social movements, but I never really knew of Asian-American women who were doing that. We don’t hear those kind of stories…In general, there are no stories [like this] that we learn about in history books. First of all, [we] don’t even learn about women in movements. I…was a history major, I sort of sought out [these stories] myself, but to actually find somebody who is in her 80s and very much a part of these movements is an incredible discovery and affirmation that there are people who think this way, who I can relate to and want to learn from and are a part of American history. She’s an American revolutionary, not an Asian-American revolutionary. She’s part of looking at American history in a new way.

One of the themes of the documentary, almost like a refrain, is Grace saying in so many words that thinking outside the box leads to change. Do you think people a lot of that nowadays? Since there is a new wave of activists, do you think that they embody this “thinking outside the box” ideology?

Well, I know in one part, Grace has that one quote in the film where she thinks the radical movement has overestimated the role of activism and underestimated the role of reflection, and I think she embodied the need for both. She’s this hardcore intellectual and philosopher, and she could use those ideas because she was so grounded in community and community work. That combination is what I think could potentially be most powerful because it’s not off in a ivory tower theorizing about social change or somebody just protesting or getting angry or somebody just doing marches without reflecting on what it all means and where it’s all going.

I think there are definitely people doing that [introspection] right now. You see it in a lot of the movements happening right now as we speak. It’s exciting. I don’t think everybody’s there, but I think if you do it long enough [you can]. That’s one reason why I made this film; I was interested in these questions about how do you sustain a life of activism, how do you keep from getting burned out? With all of this chaos in the world, how do you make sense of it all?

Grace also said in the film, “You don’t choose the times you live in, but you choose how you want to think.” What do you think about that statement in relation to what we’ve been talking about?

It goes back to “I didn’t know I was looking for Grace until I found her.” As someone…who grew up in the ’80s, I didn’t know how to make sense of all of the conservatism around  me and even though it’s happening now, you don’t have to be the dominant ideology or political system.

I think there are ways people resist and there are people like Grace who are constantly reflecting and moving forward. If you don’t have that within yourself, you’re just going to get stuck. While making the film, I really took that to heart because of many things that are happening in the world. Just having some kind of framework to think about history, current events, and all the chaos—war, poverty, racism, everything around us. How do you think about that without just getting depressed all the time, you know? There’s just got to be something beyond.

I just appreciated watching this woman and how she struggled through it throughout her lifetime, starting with Hegel in college to Marx, to the ideas of King and Malcolm X and going back to King, going through the rebellion in Detroit, getting older. It was just sort of like a blueprint. She’s not the answer to everything, but it’s a really great way to get in touch with someone who has been through it and has been thinking deeply and acting for so many years. We’re all going to make our own paths in a different way…and we have to make our own way from where we are at this moment… She…learned from history but she didn’t get stuck in it.

She’s been at the forefront of people helping Detroit get back on track and now there’s a school named after her and her husband James. What do you think about her capacity to still be affect change in Detroit?

Her legacy is incredible. The people who started the Boggs School, [like] Julia Putnam, whose in the film, she was 16 years old and was the first volunteer at Detroit Summer because she was looking for a venue or opportunity to think about Detroit in a different way. I think Grace and James and their colleagues put it out there that there is a different way to think about Detroit [and] it really made an impact on her.

Grace herself didn’t have any biological children, but I feel she has an incredible legacy of people, sort of her philosophical children, who are doing incredible things in Detroit and are committed to the city in the same way she is. For me to see that as an outsider is incredibly moving and forced me to think about…where I live in a different way. I needed to go to Detroit all these years to think about how I live and where I live in Los Angeles and my own commitment to the city that I live in.

Another thing in the documentary that struck me as interesting is that Grace would always insist on conversation. What do you think about the power of conversation and Grace’s relationship to conversing with people?

It seems almost obvious that conversation can lead to these things, but in a way, it’s not obvious because we always think about these big movements, protests and marches and things like that in terms of changing policy and government. But…the conversation is the building block of creating a movement, creating the next thing.

To see that become more in the forefront as she’s gotten older because that’s what she can do still, it’s really inspiring because you don’t need a whole lot to start a conversation. You just have to have the willingness to engage civilly with another person who may not share the same ideas as you and see where you can go from there. If you can agree, to have a civil conversation, I think you can move forward on many levels.

It started with a conversation that I made this film. I didn’t even know what I was going to do when I first started out, when I first met her. I just knew that there [were] these very generous invitations to come to Detroit and see what she was doing. I had to percolate on what the film actually was for many years, but it all started with simple conversation.

In all of your conversations with her, was there anything that stuck out to you or something you added to your own life?

There are so many things. I really think it’s just her example of really always seeing an opportunity of meeting another person and exchanging ideas as an opportunity to learn. Never getting stuck of being defeated.

There are so many great quotes from Grace; it was so difficult to make this film because of money or there wasn’t enough footage, resources, whatever. There was always a Grace Lee Boggs quote that kept us going. [For instance], I [didn’t] know whether to cut [a] section or if it belongs in the film, and we would think about her saying something like, “You make your path by walking; you just have to do it and just start going forward.” I think that comes from her philosophy, her Hegelian philosophy, seeing through the negative and trying to come to something new. That really applied to filmmaking, which can be a really difficult haul. I think we got a lot of encouragement from those words as we were editing.

My last question, I have to set up with the fact that  right now I’m watching what’s happening in the news with Baltimore that directly goes back to what Grace was speaking to in the film and what she’s dealt with in other parts of the country, especially when she says that there are black cities that are not run by black people, which seems to be the common denominator with how these blow-ups happen. With all that’s going on, what do you think Grace’s message would be to people trying to make sense of this?

I think she says it in the film when she’s talking about Detroit with Bill Moyers about that awful riot, and she says, “We called it the rebellion.” And what they’re pointing out is that it’s an outburst of pain and anger and standing up against this system that’s…created these riots. I think she definitely, herself, is of the non-violent persuasion, but not without belittling or not understanding why people are so upset and angry…

The thing about what’s happening now…that’s why…Grace’s perspective is so deep. It just keeps happening over and over again. 1967 Detroit, 1968 Baltimore, Newark, all those places. It’s just kind of [like] “I’ve seen this before.” I recently rewatched American Revolutionary, I think it was right after Ferguson, and I was like, “Oh my God, these images!” It’s just upsetting…I appreciate Grace and her perspective, given that history just seems to keep repeating itself, and just digging into the ideas and really struggling with how do we move on beyond this. If you don’t have that deep reflection and struggle to think about it, it’ll just keep happening over and over again, reaction upon reaction.

Cover photo: Grace Lee. Interior photos: Grace Lee Boggs, Boggs with Lee. Photo credit: Quyen Tran 

The Essential Grace Lee Boggs Reading List

Explore the books written by American Revolutionary's Grace Lee Boggs — handpicked by Boggs herself — and the texts that inspired and shaped her philosophy and activism.









The Phenomenology of Mind by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel  


GWF Hegel's Phänomenologie des Geistes, originally     published in German in 1807, is one of Boggs's favorite works — though even she admits struggling to understand the writing. 
"Often I would read and reread passages as if I were listening to a piece of music or poetry, unable to understand what was being said but feeling my humanity expanding and stretching as a I read."
— Grace Lee Boggs, 1998












The 1844 Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts by Karl Marx

In 1947, the Johnson-Forest Tendency, a study group within the leftist Workers Party comprised of Boggs, C.L.R. James ("Johnson") & Raya Dunayevskaya ("Forest"), published the first English translation of this Marx text in the United States.

Boggs translated three of the essays from their original German to English.












Science and the Modern World by Alfred North Whitehead

While attending Bryn Mawr College in the 1930s, Boggs discovered Science and the Modern World.
"I still read and recommend it for its priceless exposure of 'the fallacy of misplaced concreteness' or the tendency of intellectuals to become so preoccupied with the abstractions necessary for scientific thinking that they lose sight of concrete reality, which is always many-sided."
— Grace Lee Boggs, 1998












The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time by Karl Polanyi

Political economist Karl Polyani's The Great Transformation criticized the self-regulating market, which he wrote became a key to American society after the Industrial Revolution.

In 1988, Concordia University established the Karl Polanyi Institute of Political Economy, a research center dedicated to his legacy and the book, published in 1944, remains a top-seller in the Public Policy category on












Notes on Dialectics by C.L.R. James

Despite their ideological and personal break in 1962, Boggs's working relationship with C.L.R. James remains one of the most important in her early years as an activist and philosopher.

Boggs worked closely with James on Notes on Dialectics, which James has said was his most important work.












The American Revolution: Pages from a Negro Workers Notebook by James Boggs

When this book was published in 1963, actor, director, poet and activist Ossie Davis (No Way Out, Do the Right Thing) sent a copy to every member of Congress. It has since been published in French, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Catalan and Portuguese.











Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics As If People Mattered by EF Schumacher

Published during the 1970s energy crisis, Small Is Beautiful was considered a radical critique of mass production and consumerism. But by 2014, Schumacher's ideas on environmentalism and sustainability had become mainstream.
"'Small is beautiful' is an idea that keeps reappearing — the latest incarnations are farmers' markets, and local cafes baking homemade cup cakes — because it incorporates such a fundamental insight into the human experience of modernity. We yearn for economic systems within our control, within our comprehension and that once again provide space for human interaction — and yet we are constantly overwhelmed by finding ourselves trapped into vast global economic systems that are corrupting and corrupt."
— journalist Madeleine Bunting in The Guardian












Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century by Grace Lee Boggs and James Boggs

Boggs and her husband, James Boggs, wrote this book together. Its first part breaks down lessons, circumstances and key strategies from four 20th-century revolutions — Russian, Chinese, Guinea-Bissauan and Vietnamese. Its second part focuses on class structure of American society and considers what an American Revolution might look like.

The latest edition brings the book into the 21st century with a foreword from Boggs about modern community organizing in Detroit.












The Modern World-System by Immanuel Wallerstein

Boggs sees Wallerstein's multi-volume collection of books as essential reading for anyone trying to answer the question, "What time is it on the clock of the world?" And it's a question she has challenged everyone to consider.












Conversations in Maine by Grace Lee Boggs, James Boggs, Freddy and Lyman Paine

"As we sat here, against the background of the ocean, of the trees, we just began talking." — Grace Lee Boggs.
Conversations in Maine explores the obstacles facing those attempting to achieve social transformation.
Watch Boggs discuss Conversations in Maine »












The Third Wave by Alvin Toffler

Toffler's book broke down society into three "waves" of change — the agricultural age, the industrial age and the information age, which was just beginning at the time of publication, in 1980.












Dreaming the Dark by Starhawk

Boggs often quotes Dreaming the Dark's appendix, according to fellow activist Shea Howell, and has shared copies of it "far and wide."

Starhawk organized the first fundraiser for the Detroit youth community group Detroit Summer, which began in 1992.












Living for Change by Grace Lee Boggs

Boggs's autobiography begins in the room above her father's Chinese-American restaurant in downtown Providence, Rhode Island, where she was born in 1915.

The book was translated into Chinese and published in China in 2014.











Leadership and the New Science by Margaret J. Wheatley

This book applies lessons from quantum physics, chaos theory and molecular biology to managing organizations.












The Next American Revolution by Grace Lee Boggs

"How do you make a new beginning? And why is this such a wonderful time on the clock of the universe when we're challenged and we find both necessary and possible to create the world anew?"
— Grace Lee Boggs, American Revolutionary 
In her most recent book, Boggs explores where we stand right now and where we can go from here.

Find out more about the POV documentary American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs.…/video_legendary_detroit_activ…

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Legendary Detroit Activist Grace Lee Boggs Turns 100; Watch Never-Before-Aired Interview


As legendary activist and community organizer Grace Lee Boggs turns 100 years old today, we revisit an interview with her from our archives that has never aired before. In 2008, Amy Goodman interviewed Boggs, an activist based in Detroit, about her work in the civil rights, Black Power, labor, environmental justice and feminist movements for seven decades.

See all of our interviews with Boggs.


AMY GOODMAN: Welcome to Democracy Now!, Grace Lee Boggs.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: It’s wonderful to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: Where were you born?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I was born above my father’s Chinese restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island, and my folks had come over from China. And I think I first understood the changes that were necessary in this world, because the waiters in the restaurant, when I cried, used to say, "Leave her on the hillside to die. She’s only a girl baby." I think they said it somewhat as a joke, maybe not, but it made me I understand that being born female in this world was very different from being born male.

AMY GOODMAN: The year you were born?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: 1915, during World War I. It’s unbelievable, when I think—

AMY GOODMAN: How did the war affect your family?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, I remember a picture that appeared on the front page of the Providence newspaper, the daily, of our family. I was on my father’s lap. They solicited you. They sold Liberty Bonds during that time. And to have a Chinese-American family buying Liberty Bonds was newsworthy. So that’s what I recall from World War I.

AMY GOODMAN: When did you leave Rhode Island?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: In 1924, my father had restaurants. He had a restaurant in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in Boston, in Providence. And in each one of these, one of my siblings was born. And then, in 1924, he came to New York and opened a restaurant at 49th Street and Broadway, and we moved to New York in 1924.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about your political awakening.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, it began—I left. I got a Ph.D. in 1940, and in those days the idea of a woman, or let alone a Chinese-American woman, getting a job in a university was unthinkable. I mean, the department stores would come right out and say, "We don’t hire Orientals." So, I went to Chicago.

AMY GOODMAN: What inspired you even to get a Ph.D.? Why did you go that route?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: It was a little bit like these days: People go to college, and they keep on going to school because there’s nothing else for them to do. They can’t get jobs and things like that. In those days, even department stores would come out and say, "We don’t hire Orientals." And so, after I got my Ph.D., I decided to go to Chicago, where my—the person on whom I’d done my thesis, George Herbert Mead, had taught. And I got a job in the philosophy library for $10 a week, which wasn’t much money, but a lot of people in those days only made $500 a year or $1,000 a year. But it wasn’t enough to get a place to live, other than some—a little Jewish woman took pity on me and let me stay in her basement rent-free. And the only difficulty was I had to face down a barricade of rats in order to get to the basement. That made me rat-conscious, made me join a tenants’ committee against rat-infested housing, brought me into contact with the black community for the first time in my life, and enabled me to become part of the March on Washington movement organized by A. Philip Randolph.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about A. Philip Randolph, his significance, who he was.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, most people, I think—you know, it was a long time ago, it’s almost 65 years ago. But Randolph was the labor leader who had organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in the '20s. He was the first one, I think, to say that—you know, unless we go back to Frederick Douglass—in the modern world, that we had to get some sort of power in order to have very simple needs met. And so, in 1940, ’41, the Depression had ended for white workers, because of defense jobs, but blacks were still excluded from industry. So he called on blacks to march on Washington to demand jobs in defense plants. And thousands of blacks began to meet in the big cities. And Roosevelt, and Mrs. Roosevelt even, didn't know what to do. And they kept demanding or trying to persuade Randolph to call off a march, and he refused. And at that time, FDR was preparing for the war in Europe, and he could not afford the picture of or the news of thousands of blacks marching against racism in the United States. So they issued Executive Order 8802, which banned discrimination against blacks in industry, in defense plants. And that changed so many things for the country, for black people and for me, because when I saw what a movement could do, I decided that’s what I wanted to do with my life.

AMY GOODMAN: Why would the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the union of train conductors, be such a powerful place, such a powerful organizer?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Not of train conductors, of train porters.

AMY GOODMAN: Right, sleeping car porters.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, it wasn’t so much that their capacity—the union was a remarkable development, and I think Randolph, in organizing it, in establishing a black force as a national force in the labor movement, did an extraordinary thing. But it was the conjuncture of the war and the eyes of everybody in Europe and around the world upon this country that was—it was an opportunity which Randolph seized. And I think that ability to combine our domestic struggles with the view that the world has of us is really critical to developing a strategy. And that’s one of the things I learned from that. I think the whole world needs to learn more about that. And King knew how to do that also.

AMY GOODMAN: So, 1941, the March on Washington—most people think of the March on Washington as being 1963—


AMY GOODMAN: —led by King—against racism, against discrimination against African Americans in the defense plants.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: And for the hiring of blacks. I think one of the things that we’ve sort of not paid sufficient attention to is that a demand must also—must not only be against something, but for something.

AMY GOODMAN: And yet, the military was still not integrated.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, no, the military wasn’t integrated until 1948, Harry Truman. But that, again, was with the eyes of the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Where did Eleanor Roosevelt fit into this picture?


AMY GOODMAN: Eleanor Roosevelt.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Eleanor Roosevelt, I’m sorry to say, like her husband, tried to get the march called off. Because we—for us today who have witnessed the Montgomery bus boycott, Martin Luther King, Malcolm, who lived through these years, it’s hard to understand how tightly woven in the Democratic Party was with the Southern senators, the Southern racists and Northern labor. It was a different kind of coalition. We don’t think about it that way these days.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you look at the power of organized labor, comparing it to 1941?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Today, I think that’s one of the things we have not dealt with seriously enough. If you look at the present and the campaign now for the Democratic nomination, that sense that workers had in the '30s of themselves as a community, of themselves as a movement, has been lost in the wake of deindustrialization and globalization. And so, workers today feel like victims. The organized labor movement seems to have no power. And that's a very, very important—I don’t know whether I should call it a development, but it’s something that we really haven’t paid serious enough attention to. I think that the competition now going on between Obama and Hillary is forcing us to pay more attention to that, when we look at how avidly she is courting the vote of white workers in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, white workers? Explicitly white, as opposed to workers?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, in the Midwest, we are very conscious that in 1968 the labor movement—not the leaders, but workers—voted for George Wallace. We have to understand that the militia movement has its base in the Midwest. Now, it could have involved all workers—I mean, black and white. But I think the fact that the upsurge, in terms of blacks, the hope that they see in Obama, that we will be able to go beyond race in looking at the future, has given a new quality to the black vote. I don’t think it’s just a racial vote, but it’s a very important vote. I mean, we are living in such an extraordinary period where we can learn so much from what is taking place.

AMY GOODMAN: Grace Lee Boggs, can you talk about C.L.R. James, a man with whom you had an alliance for several decades, his significance, the Trinidadian-born social theorist, journalist?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, I met C.L.R. James for the first time in 1942. I was in Chicago. He had just come from working with sharecroppers in southeast Missouri. I went down to the train station to meet him, and he had two books with him: one, Marx’s Capital, and two, Hegel’s Science of Logic. And when he discovered that I knew German, that I had studied philosophy, we sat down on my little red couch in my basement. We began comparing the Hegel and Marx. And so, I worked with him for 10 years in New York, with him and Raya Dunayevskaya, who was born in Russia and became really a member of the Communist Party of the 1920s. And what we did was we studied Marx. We particularly studied the economic philosophical manuscripts that Marx had written in 1843, 1844. In fact, Raya discovered the Russian manuscript, and I translated the German of Marx’s—these essays. And they brought forward a humanist aspect of Marx, which people had sort of lost in the emphasis on the economist aspect. And then, most people don’t know that in 1915 Lenin, very, very depressed because the German social democracy had joined the war of the kaiser, Lenin began reading Hegel seriously for the first time. And he wrote these marvelous notes on Hegel and began to see how the movement had emphasized only the materialist aspect of Marx. And he began to say, "We cannot have such a sharp division between the ideal and the material." And his mind was thinking, and that helped him through the early years of Soviet power. And you really need to read Lenin’s notes on Hegel in order to understand the struggle that he was undergoing in trying to lead the revolution, particularly after taking state power.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, C.L.R. James, what did your collaboration consist of?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, what we did, we called ourselves the Johnson-Forest Tendency.

AMY GOODMAN: The what?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Johnson-Forest Tendency. And our emphasis was on the humanist aspect of Marx and Lenin. We emphasized—you know, most people, when they read The Communist Manifesto—oh, excuse me—they don’t understand that last—that paragraph where Marx says—you know, Marx, by the way, in '48 was only 29 years old. I mean, that's a very interesting thing that I think about very often. But he said, you know, the constant revolutionizing of production is going to lead us to the place where we have to face, with sober senses, our conditions of life and our relations with our kind. Has this tremendous humanist dimension to him. He also said that be your payment high or low as a worker, your fragmentation, the fact that you have to do such degrading work for wages, it’s not a question of higher wages; it’s a question how your humanity is destroyed by capitalism. So most people think only of the economic aspects of Marx. And I think, through working with C.L.R. James and in the work of the Johnson-Forest Tendency, that aspect has remained with me.

AMY GOODMAN: What happened to C.L.R. James? He was forced to leave the United States?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Yes, and he had come here in 1938 to—you know, the movement in those days was very confused about what we called the Negro question. And the question was a question of "black and white, unite and fight?" which was the line pretty much of the Communist Party, or did Negroes, as we would call—"we," I get very confused sometimes, "we," "they"—was there something in their independence struggle that we had not only to support, but had a significance bringing in a new quality to the revolutionary struggle? And it was that which Trotsky was trying to understand and had difficulty understanding. But the Trotskyist movement brought C.L.R. James to the United States to talk about that and to help the movement figure this out.

AMY GOODMAN: So, C.L.R. James was forced out.

AMY GOODMAN: Oh, this was ’38. But he came here only to spend a short time. Then the war came, and so he continued, and he—what he did, he married an American woman. He had an American son. He loved this country. I mean, can you imagine growing up in Trinidad and coming to the United States and getting that sense this huge expanse and the potential, the possibilities for, you know, expansion of the human personality? It just absolutely excited him, and he wanted to stay here. And in 1950, ’52, they refused to renew his permission to stay here. And he left voluntarily, rather, to ultimately open the possibility that he could return.

AMY GOODMAN: How did you meet your husband, Jimmy Lee Boggs?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, one of the things that we were very proud of in the Johnson-Forest Tendency was that we not only—we not only talked about workers, the rank-and-file workers, but women, young people and blacks, at a time when most of the radical movement was only emphasizing the working class. And at the end of the war in Detroit, Jimmy was a worker at the Chrysler plant. Jimmy had come around to the Johnson-Forest Tendency, and everybody recognized that he was something that was quite unusual, in terms of having been born in the South and becoming a writer, because people in his mostly illiterate community couldn’t write, and he had to begin writing letters for them at a very early age, and someone who was really thinking and, in the most amazing sense, saw himself as part of the agricultural epoch, of the industrial epoch and of something that was now coming to a close, and was new beginning—a new epoch that was beginning. And so, I met him. I kept chasing him. He kept avoiding me. And he finally came to dinner one night and asked me to marry him, and I said yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Didn’t Kwame Nkrumah, the founding president of Ghana, also propose to you?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Yes, yes. I met Kwame in 1945. He had just graduated from Lincoln University. He wanted to go back and struggle—

AMY GOODMAN: In Pennsylvania, the historically black college in Pennsylvania?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Yes. He wanted to go back and work in Ghana. And he came, and we had a meeting. C.L.R. had a meeting with him at [inaudible]. And C.L.R. sent a letter to George Padmore. George Padmore was in England. He and Dorothy were in England. They had been giving advice and helping most of the leaders, the African independence leaders—Azikiwe in Nigeria, Kenyatta in Kenya. And anyway, so George groomed Kwame to go back to Accra in '47, and by ’49 Kwame Nkrumah was holding such huge meetings that he was made leader of government business and incorporated into the establishment. And he became president in—I think that was 1951. Actually, Ghana gained its independence in ’57, yes. Anyway, and so he asked me to come to Ghana and marry him. And it was amazing, because it was inconceivable to me that I would go to a country where I didn't know the language, I knew nothing about the history. But he had and many of the African leaders at that time had these grand ideas. He felt, I think—it wasn’t because I was so wonderful, I think. But I thought—you know, he eventually married a woman from Egypt. So, I think he saw himself as sort of uniting the continents—I mean, West Africa and East Africa. And actually, he was overthrown in 1966, when he went to Asia to try and do something about the Vietnam War. But people had very heady ideas of what could be accomplished in those days.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, when you met him with your husband, Jimmy Boggs, in Conakry?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: In Conakry. In 1968, Jimmy was on tour in Europe talking about the Black Power movement. And I wrote to Kwame and suggested that we have a meeting. So we went to Conakry and spent a week talking with him. And at the last, as we were toasting our goodbyes, he said to Jimmy, he said, "Jimmy, I hope you don’t mind my saying this, but if Grace had married me, we would have conquered all Africa." And I think it’s—I tell the story, I think it’s worth telling, because it gives us a sense of the kind of illusions we had in the '60s that solutions would come quickly. And it wasn't only us in this country; it was people all over the world, leaders.

AMY GOODMAN: What about that? Here we are, 40 years later, 1968, 2008. What about the significance of that particular year, 1968, from the French uprising, the Tet Offensive, Dr. King, Robert Kennedy assassinated, the student uprisings across the country?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, I can tell you about it as Jimmy and I reflected on it. And as the world—I think, for much of the world, and for many, many people who were in the movement, the violence of those days, the murder of John F. Kennedy, of—


GRACE LEE BOGGS: —Medgar Evers, of Malcolm, and then of King and Bob Kennedy, it was as if there was no hope. And because I think in those days we had the illusion that uprising, that rebellion, that defiance, that challenge was the solution. We had some idea somehow that the power structure would collapse under our assault. I think we had very little sense of how we had to build something new. And it’s taken us years to come to that recognition. And we’re very lucky in Detroit, because we were forced to come to that recognition, because we saw that changing the color of those in power didn’t change the deindustrialization.

AMY GOODMAN: When did you move to Detroit?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I moved to Detroit in ’53.


GRACE LEE BOGGS: I had some personal reasons, and I had political reasons. The Johnson-Forest Tendency was publishing a newsletter, which we called Correspondence, and I went to Detroit to work on that.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about your experiences with Malcolm X?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, I first met Malcolm through his brother Wilfred. One of the first mosques is in—in fact, the mosque number one, I think, is in Detroit. And my sense of Malcolm and of the movement, I think, is very different from that of many people, partly because I thought of Mr. Muhammad not so much in terms of his bizarre concepts, but as someone who, like many Muslims, I think, today, have a sense of themselves as part of another development, that is not Western development, that there must be another way. And I heard Mr. Muhammad, you know, head of the Nation of Islam, make some of these speeches. I heard—I met Wilfred, Malcolm’s brother, for the first time. I began to host meetings at my home where he could talk to people and give them a sense that—most people think of the black movement in the ’60s mainly as a struggle for white rights, but for Muslims, for people who joined the Nation, it was a question of creating our own identity. It was more a part of the identity movements of the ’60s than it was just a rights movement. And I wanted folks to understand that. And so, I began working with Malcolm. I was one of the organizers of the Grassroots Leadership Conference, where he made his famous speech.

AMY GOODMAN: In Detroit.


AMY GOODMAN: That speech being?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: The speech that—

AMY GOODMAN: "Prospects for Freedom"?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: —was made on November 10th, 1963, a few weeks prior to the assassination of JFK, at which he made his remark, "The chickens have come home to roost," which led to his suspension by Mr. Muhammad. And then, after he left the—after he actually left, forced out of the Nation, he was looking for what he should do. A group of us came here to New York to meet with him and asked him to come to Detroit to work with us, because we understood Malcolm’s hunger for new ideas, that he was a person always searching to transform himself. And so we met with him and asked him, and he said no, that he was going to be an evangelist, and he could not become an organizer with us.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean an evangelist?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: He felt that his voice was what needed to be heard. And so, he made the Hajj, and he made this enormous discovery that it’s not a question of your biology, that there are people of all races who are part of this sort of humanist journey that we’re making. And he came back to this country, and he said—I think most people don’t know that—he said, "I’m a revolutionary, and I’m a Muslim. That’s all I know about myself. Where I’m going to go, what ideology I’m going to develop, I don’t know. But I must crawl before I walk, I must walk before I run, and I don’t think I’ll have time." This was in November or December of 1964. He was killed on February 21st, 1965. So we’ll never know what Malcolm would have become. He was a person, as all of us are, in the process of transformation.

AMY GOODMAN: How would you describe him, knowing him, meeting him, his personality? What struck you about him?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: He was one of the gentlest people I’ve ever met. People don’t know that. I can remember, after he was assassinated, attending a meeting, and I remember young people getting up and saying Malcolm stands for "by all means necessary." They had taken that little bit of him and made it him. Which isn’t true. I mean, it’s not true of any of us, obviously, but it was particularly not true of Malcolm. And I think people who read the autobiography, to this day, understand that he was in the process of transformation. And I think that’s one of the most important qualities of a revolutionary, to be transforming yourself, to be expanding your humanity as events challenge you.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Grace Lee Boggs, what was your understanding at the time of who murdered Malcolm X? In fact, where were you in February when he was gunned down?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: On February 21st, 1965, it was a very snowy day in Detroit. I was picketing the church of Reverend Shoulders, who had said that militant blacks—he had made some terrible remarks about militancy among blacks. So we came back from the picketing, my husband Jimmy and I, and I got a call from Pat Robinson in New York that Malcolm had been assassinated. And we didn’t know who it was. We were not ready to attribute the murder to the Nation. So we tried to convene an international tribunal that would include Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre. We thought there needed to be an investigation. It was very hard at that point, when black unity seemed the answer to so many of our issues, to think of something such disastrous happening inside the black community, that could actually have been—at the moment, at that time, we did not know that Malcolm, because of the conduct of Mr. Muhammad, had already switched from him in his heart.

AMY GOODMAN: And how would you compare what Malcolm X represented to Dr. King? You hadn’t personally met Dr. King, but you were certainly living between these two tendencies, movements.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, in Detroit we thought King was a little naive. We were very—I mean, Detroit is made up of many people who have come from the South. So we were very happy—we welcomed the Montgomery march. We felt—in fact, it was so interesting. Many blacks who had escaped from the South and come North and had considered that blacks in the South were sort of backward, because they hadn’t done the same thing, began to recognize that something might come from the South rather than from the North. But then, the issues that were facing people in the South were not the same as those that were facing us in the North, and so we had to redefine what was necessary in the North. And we saw the thing not so much as a question of democratic rights and political rights, obviously, but we—particularly for us in Detroit, Detroit was becoming very largely black, and the ruling power, the power structure, the downtown government, the school board, police department, the police chief and all that were still largely white. And we were feeling that we were being occupied by a foreign structure. And so we felt that. So Black Power was not just a thing to arouse people. It wasn’t just a slogan. It wasn’t so much an emotional appeal as it was when it was sounded by Willie Ricks and Stokely Carmichael on the march in Mississippi in 1966. It was more a necessity: We have got to have black people at the head of government, heading the police force, heading the school board in Detroit. And Black Power was a very—it was a very sort of real possibility. We didn’t know how it was going to come about, but because it was a real possibility, a real demand, we were able to test it. We were able to find out, when blacks came to power, that they couldn’t solve the problems.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you change your view of King over time?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Oh, tremendously. It was just amazing. I began to read his last speeches, and as the violence—you know, the violence in Detroit began to mushroom after the rebellions of 1967. And—

AMY GOODMAN: Explain the rebellions, very briefly.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: OK. What happened in the—beginning in 1964, riots, as they call them, or breakdown of law and order, began to happen in the urban ghettos. And the two biggest ones were the ones that occurred in Newark and in Detroit. And in 1967, Jimmy and I had been in the radical movement for a total of nearly 40 years, and we had never made the distinction between a rebellion and a revolution. And when the rebellion erupted in Detroit in '67, we weren't there, by the way. We were on vacation, even though we were allegedly responsible for it, amongst.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Among the six people called responsible for it.

AMY GOODMAN: By the authorities?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: No, by the press. There were six people who were sort of most identified with the Black Power movement in Detroit: Albert Cleage at the Shrine of the Black Madonna; the Henry brothers, Milton and Richard; his name escapes me at the moment, head of the Black Star bookstore; and Jimmy and I. And people—when the rebellion broke out, the press thought that it was a conspiracy. You know, that’s usually what the people think about breakdown of law and order. And for us, on the other hand, who, though the Marxist movement had made us think—they didn’t make us think, we thought that way—that rebellion was what was necessary to overthrow the power structure. And here we had this enormous rebellion, and all it created was first jubilation and then demoralization. And so, it forced us to try and make a distinction between rebellion and revolution. We understood that just standing up, just defying the power structure, can become very temporary; it can create demoralization, as well as hope; and that we needed to redefine revolution. And that’s when we wrote the Revolution and Evolution in the 20th Century.

AMY GOODMAN: So you had the Detroit riot of 1967.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Yes. I’m urging you, please, to rethink it. I think language is so important in naming things. And the people of Detroit, particularly us activists, defined it as a rebellion, as a justified, as a righteous defiance of the authorities, of the resistance to an occupation army. And that’s why we called it a rebellion. And I think if you start there, you—a riot could happen for all sorts of reasons. It could happen over food. It could happen over someone getting beaten, an incident of police brutality. But a rebellion is something that is developing as an explosion coming out of the righteous grievances of a community of people. And so, it becomes important for us to name it as such so that we can see its shortcomings.

AMY GOODMAN: The Detroit rebellion—


AMY GOODMAN: —of July 1967, a few months before, Martin Luther King had given that speech at Riverside Church, why he opposed the Vietnam War, that brought together not only the civil rights movement in this country, but the antiwar movement. The significance of that?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, I think unless you go back to 1965, it’s hard to understand 1967 and that speech. In the spring of 1965, Martin Luther King was among those who celebrated the passage of the Voting Rights Act, which had come about as a result of Selma. And a few days after the celebration, Watts erupted. And King was astounded. And he flew to Watts. He tried to talk to the young people.

AMY GOODMAN: In California, Los Angeles.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: In California. They had never heard of him. And they were celebrating the riot, the rebellion, because they had forced themselves on the attention of the authorities. And King, King tried to figure out what was going on. So, the next year he moved to Chicago. He began talking to the young people, began trying to understand why he, himself, had not paid a sufficient attention to the demoralization, the desperation rising in the urban North. And he began doing a whole lot of very serious thinking about it. And it’s reflected in his last speeches, which people—most people don’t read. They don’t understand that in response to the rebellions taking place, he understood that something was wrong with the way that the West was concentrating on rapid economic development at the expense of community. He understood that we had to rethink the way that we had been looking at development. He understood that we had to rethink the way that we were looking at citizenship, that we’ve been thinking of citizenship in a very narrow sphere, as American, and that the world had changed, and we needed a concept of global citizenship in order to remain true, as he said, to the best in our own traditions.

AMY GOODMAN: How did King’s organizing in Chicago affect you in Detroit?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I didn’t even know about it. We were very provincial. We were very concentrated on our—I didn’t discover these things about King until quite late, when we began to try and solve the questions of Detroit and what was happening with our young people. And I read King and heard him say that what we need in our dying cities are direct action projects which enable young people to transform themselves and their surroundings at the same time. And I saw that that was a whole new concept of education that we had been drawn to by our own experiences in the creation of Detroit Summer.

AMY GOODMAN: What did Malcolm think of King?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, there’s a very famous picture of Malcolm going down to—it was Selma in the—let’s see, that was 1964, to meet with King. And King was in jail, and he couldn’t meet with King, but he met with Coretta. And he gave her his lessons and asked her to tell Martin that he was with him.

AMY GOODMAN: The effect of King’s assassination, April 4th, 1968, on you, on the movement in Detroit?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, I’m ashamed to say that I really didn’t understand the significance of it. I was still very identified with Malcolm. Malcolm’s assassination was still affecting me more than Martin’s. But as the years have developed, and particularly after King’s birthday was declared a national holiday under the Reagan administration in the 1980s, I’ve been asked to speak quite often at January 15th celebrations. And that has forced me to do a lot more thinking about King, to go back and read him, to go back and read Gandhi, and to try and understand what it means to say, to think or to believe that we must be the change that we want to see in the world. That’s a very different way of looking at revolution, that we must be the change that we want to see in the world.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, the revolutions of the past, and the ideology, still very deep in the mind of radicals, is that they are the ones who are responsible, therefore what we must do is attack them; that’s what we must do, is we must replace them with some of us. And the idea that Bush is only there because there are a lot of people who believe that the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, the Israeli occupation of Palestine are OK, because we need the fuel of the Middle East to maintain our way of life. I mean, to look at ourselves, to see how much agency we have, all of us, to say that lovingly and hopefully, I think, is the role of a revolutionary.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about Detroit Summer? What is that?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, Detroit Summer is a very important part of our experience and of the experience of struggle, because—let me put it this way. In 1991, '92, in the ’80s and the late 90s, we were marching against crack houses in Detroit. We called ourselves We the People Reclaim Our Streets, or WEPROS, for short. And we found that even though older people and children joined us, younger people were not joining us, people in their teens. And people said, "You know, that's because young people don’t care." And we said, "Well, no. How do we know they don’t care? If we don’t create something that they can become part of, we’ll never know. We’ll just have these judgments."

So, in 1992, we started Detroit Summer as a multicultural, intergenerational program movement to rebuild Detroit from the ground up, which would involve young people planting community gardens, painting public murals, organizing poetry workshops. And we found not a huge number of young people, but enough young people so we could understand that something was happening among young people, that young people growing up in the asphalt jungles of the North needed this reconnection with the Earth, that they accepted that there was something that we had to do, that they felt the idea that we had to redefine what a city was, that that was possible, and that it was also necessary that we respirit our cities. People here in New York or in the secular left find it very hard to use the word "spirit." We are very locked into a substance concept of spirit. We think of spirit as it’s got to be a soul, or it’s got to be a thing, and we’re too sophisticated to believe in that. We don’t understand that the idea of soul as a substance is just a very small part of what is the spiritual development of the human race, that when you think of spirit not as a substance, but as a way, as an activity, as a present participle, that the idea of not abandoning one’s humanity, of recapturing it in the face of dehumanization, as black people have done over the ages in the United States, and as people who have listened to their music recognize, and which they identify with, but which we haven’t adequately understood in the circumstances of the present time.

AMY GOODMAN: So explain exactly what Detroit Summer is. What do you do?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: OK. What do we do? Well, a relatively small group of young people plant community gardens, do workshops, talk about the city, paint public murals, create bike programs, alternative ways of education.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you think you would be doing this in 1941 or in—

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Absolutely not, never had been thought. I mean, it’s conditions—I quoted Marx from The Communist Manifesto. At a certain point, you’re forced to face with sober senses your conditions of life and your relations with your kind. And sometimes it’s too early to begin doing that. But sometimes you’re at a point in history, which we are now, where the opportunity to do that is great.

AMY GOODMAN: Where do you see this country headed?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: We’re in a very, very profound crisis. It’s so obvious that no one in the power structure, either the corporate power structure or the political power structure, knows what to do or is willing to do what’s necessary in relationship both to global war and global warming. It’s so obvious that conditions are getting worse for the great majority of Americans. It’s so obvious also that we face a very serious danger from people who feel, see themselves only as victims. And we have to somehow, in a very loving way, help the American people to recover the best that is in our traditions. And that’s what King understood, and that’s what we have to understand. I don’t know whether you noticed the face of Patricia McFadden as I was speaking last night. She’s from Zimbabwe. She was so delighted to hear an acknowledgment of how we have advanced and maintained our comforts at the expense of the rest of the world. We have to acknowledge that. We have to find reconciliation both with ourselves and with the rest of the world. We have to find concrete ways to do that. We have to see struggle as very different from the way that we’ve seen it in the past, to see that the responsibility is ours, and not just those that of Bush.

AMY GOODMAN: And this presidential campaign, does it give you any hope?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: It creates opportunities for us to think differently in a way that has not been present up to now. I think that the battle between Hillary and Obama—I don’t know where it will go, but I think that it is helping us to understand that we cannot just see the maintenance of our middle-class way of life as our responsibility. I think that Obama’s history as a community organizer and the things he said 10 years ago about how the people in the inner cities must become not only the beneficiaries but the producers of change, that is a great strength. I think that electoral politics, being elected to the White House or not being elected to the White House, presents different challenges, and I don’t know how he’s going to—I don’t know him. I don’t know how he’s going to meet those.

AMY GOODMAN: Grace Lee Boggs, speaking of challenges, you are 92 years old.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: About to be 93.

AMY GOODMAN: You’ll soon be 93. Can you talk about aging?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, there’s a frailty involved. I have a sense that this, the speaking I’m doing this year, is kind of my last hurrah. It’s kind of a valedictory. So I have a responsibility that goes beyond that of younger people. I have to exercise whatever—take advantage of whatever moral authority I have, because of my involvement in the past, because of what I’ve learned, because of the people that I relate to and who relate to me, to say things that others don’t have the same responsibility or the opportunities to say. And so, I’m the only survivor of the four of us who carried on the conversations in Maine 40 years ago—Lyman and Freddy Paine and my husband, Jimmy Boggs. So I have an enormous responsibility to them, and so I have to keep strong as—keep my voice as strong as can be.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you maintain your memory?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, I lose my memory of proper nouns. I’m not very good on initial consonants. But when you live the kind of life that I do, years like '63 are not just years in my personal biography, they are years in the history of the country. Years like ’55, likewise. I mean, I—one of the things, I attended a workshop at the Left Forum on how do you maintain structure. Well, sometimes you maintain structure by a physical thing, and sometimes you just maintain structure by continuing to live in the same place. And I've lived in the same house and in the same city for 55 years, most of that time in the same house.

AMY GOODMAN: When you talk about frailty, becoming frail, what do you mean?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, you should see me trying to get around without help. When I see—I’m concerned that I’m going to fall. I had a fall for the first time in August of last year. And after I fell, I didn’t feel competent and confident driving. So I’ve given up driving. And when you give up driving, it means that other things happen. Each thing that happens to you, it’s connected with other things. And so, I need help getting up and down chairs. I do what I can.

AMY GOODMAN: Will you do more writing?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Yes. Monthly Review, I talked to the people at Monthly Review yesterday. They’re going to reprint Revolution and Evolution in the 20th Century. I’m going to write a new introduction to it. My husband’s writings that were previously unpublished or out of print are being brought together in the James Boggs Reader, in which I make a small contribution. I write every week. I write a weekly column on all sorts of things in Detroit—the evolving of the meaning of revolution, how Detroiters point the way to 21st century cities, how African-American leadership is changing.

AMY GOODMAN: Grace Lee Boggs, what is your message to young people, or should I say younger people, and that would be most of the world?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, last night I ended my speech with a quotation from Frantz Fanon, that each generation coming out of obscurity must define its mission and fulfill or betray it. Younger people that I’ve met and related to and connected with over the last few years, who belong to what is called the millennial generation, born in the 1980s, who use the new informational communications technology the way that we use a IBM typewriter, they have a self-defining quality. They have a way of connecting. They are creating all sorts of connections with each other. I think they have an enormous role to play in creating the future. I think that what I find in the present period is they would like to know about the past, and I think that there’s something—there’s some way—I read a thing on Common Dreams a couple weeks ago, and I wrote a column about it, and I entitled the column "Joining the Very Old with the Very New." And this woman, from the Inuit population in the north of Canada, talked about how the people who are being threatened by the melting of Arctic ice are being told, "Go to the cities. Give up your way of life." She’s just not willing to do that. They watch the hunting-and-gathering mode of production have its pleasures, its uses. And she said one of her sons is an air pilot. She says, "Somehow or other, we have to find a way to combine the very old with the very new." And I think that’s our challenge, to recognize that the Industrial Age was relatively small, that it brought a tremendous advance in the economic productivity, in abundance, in material abundance, but it was at the cost of a lot of our own humanity, that we felt that to have a job and to get a paycheck was OK even if you were producing missiles, and to confront that, and to rejoice that we’re not doing that, that that was a tremendous cost not only to nature, not only to other people, but to our own humanity, to recognize that and to see ourselves as the creators of a new kind of life.

AMY GOODMAN: How do we recapture that lost humanity?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, we seize opportunities like the present. And I think the present crisis of the war and the occupation of Iraq, actually, the tremendous—I mean, what we’ve done to the world, what we’ve done to the people of Iraq, the countless deaths that we have caused, and what we have done also to our own soldiers, in destroying their humanity and forcing them to engage in such a criminal, illegitimate operation, first we need to acknowledge that and to ask a kind of forgiveness. That will reconcile ourselves with our own humanity, to begin with.

AMY GOODMAN: You said something interesting at the Left Forum. You said, "We have to live simply."

GRACE LEE BOGGS: So others may simply live.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you repeat that?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I think we have—you know, I think that deep in our hearts we know that our comforts, our conveniences are at the expense of other people. I think King understood that when he said that we need to make a radical revolution against both militarism and materialism. We know that there’s something almost evil in the way that we chase after material goods, that we consume with such abandon. And until we face that, we’re not really honest. We’re not being true to who we are as human beings. And we are able to say that to children, that actions have consequences, but we are not saying it to ourselves. To acknowledge who we are and to see what we can become and to begin to create ways together whereby we make that journey is our salvation and also the salvation for the planet.

AMY GOODMAN: You have a core of—you had worked in a core of people. You have survived all of them. What does it mean to lose so many of those you were so close to? How do you emotionally deal with that?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: You know, when you’re the only survivor of so many people who have contributed so much to you, you owe a lot to them. And that’s one of the reasons why I continue. I think that that keeps me going, that I’m the one who’s telling the story.

AMY GOODMAN: And why do you think that is? What is your secret of long life?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, as I say at the conclusion of my book, my genes. My father lived to 95, and the day that he died he was out trying to get people to put benches along the walls or along the streets so old people could rest. My grandmother lived to 104, and they gave her three years: Because she had three sons, they said she was 107. So I have good genes. That’s number one. Now, for two, I’ve had an awful lot of luck in the number of people that I’ve met and whom I’ve been close to. And one of the things I think that’s my great good fortune is that I’m both a philosopher and an activist. And so, a combination of activism and reflection are that sort of pattern—is the sort of pattern of my life.

AMY GOODMAN: And do you have anything in particular to say to young women?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: What’s happening is very interesting, I think, at this time in terms of young women, and the older women, which is being unleashed by the Hillary Clinton campaign. My sense of the younger women that I’m relating to is that the struggle for gender equality, which was so much a part of the struggles of the older generation, are not a part of their struggle. There is a—the younger people I know who—the women—and mostly, by the way, many of the leaders of the present struggles are women—they sort of take their leadership and their humanity for granted. They are able, in an extraordinary way, to understand the shortcomings of men and to understand it’s not their fault and that somehow we must all rise together. So it’s a very different dynamic. It just was a very different dynamic. I remember Simone de Beauvoir being asked by some feminist of the '60s why she related to Jean-Paul Sartre as she did. And she said, "You need to understand that we didn't have a movement. I may have been a feminist. I may have been able to write The Second Sex. But I didn’t have people around me to give me the strength that you younger women have." So, I mean, things change. I was a feminist at 15, but I was a lone feminist, and the younger people today take feminism for granted.

AMY GOODMAN: Grace Lee Boggs, how do you want to be remembered?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: This is very interesting. Here I am at the age of 92, going on 93, and people—and I’m being recognized and acknowledged. You called me on one of your programs a "legendary activist." I thought, "That’s OK. I don’t mind being called a legendary activist." I don’t want to be called a rock star. I don’t want to be called a celebrity. I think what you called me, a legendary activist, will do for now.

AMY GOODMAN: Thanks so much for being here. I’m looking forward to our next interview.…/grace-lee-boggs-birthday-p…/29384585/

Grace Lee Boggs' 100th birthday celebrated in Detroit
by Niraj Warikoo,
June 27, 1915
Detroit Free Press

Hundreds gathered Friday night at the Charles H. Wright African-American Museum in Detroit for the 100th birthday party of Detroit activist Grace Lee Boggs, who turns 100 today.

A diverse range of labor leaders, community activists, and elderly Marxists gathered to honor a woman who has been part of Detroit's leftist movements since the 1950s, when she moved to Detroit.

"Are you ready for revolution? " Ron Scott, head of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, asked the packed crowd.

"Amen!" they replied.

Boggs, who has become weakened over the past year, was unable to make the party, which included tributes, cake, and dancing. In front was a large banner with her photo, with a quote from her underneath: "I don't know what the Next American Revolution is going to be like, but we might be able to imagine it, if your imagination were rich enough."


WATCH: 'The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs' for free

The crowd was racially diverse, reflecting the wide range of people that Boggs has touched.

Today, her supporters will take part in a march for peace in Detroit along with other groups.

Boggs is known as a fierce critic of capitalism, and has worked with a range of Marxist and black power leaders throughout her life, including Malcolm X. The FBI kept a file on her and her late husband, Jimmy Boggs.


100th birthday for noted Detroit activist Grace Lee Boggs

But in recent years, she has emphasized more the importance of internal changes and using non-violence to transform how humans interact with each other. She later agreed with Martin Luther King Jr.'s criticism of violent protest movements. In 1995, she helped open a Detroit center in her name and her husband's name, the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership, that educated youth and encouraged urban gardening as a way to heal a city ravaged by deindustrialization and crime.

"Transform yourself" was Boggs' message, Scott, a former Black Panther leader who has known Boggs for almost 50 years, told the crowd Friday. "I want you to look internally."

Lila Cabbil, a Detroit activist, echoed those views, telling the audience that Boggs said to "first change yourself and take on a revolutionary spirit."

"Happy birthday, Grace."

Cindy Estrada, a vice-president with the United Auto Workers (UAW) union who heads their General Motors (GM) division, also spoke at the event.

Estrada met with Boggs after she had become a UAW vice-president, and admits that at first she felt "very uncomfortable" meeting Boggs because she was such a strong critic of corporations and some mainstream unions.

Ron Scott, head of the Detroit Coalition Against PoliceBuy Photo

Ron Scott, head of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, speaks to hundreds at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History in Detroit, for Grace Lee Boggs' 100th birthday party on June 26. (Photo: Niraj Warikoo/Detroit Free Press)

But Boggs "was so excited" for her, Estrada recalled of their meeting. "She gave me an enormous amount of confidence."

Boggs stressed the "responsibility I had to the community" and that getting good union contracts should not be the only focus. "To grow our souls" was also important, Estrada said Boggs told her.

After getting her PhD in philosophy, Boggs became a tenant organizer in Chicago and moved to Detroit in the early 1950s. She translated some of Karl Marx's writings and debated with various Marxist intellectuals.

Later, she became active in black power movements, working with Malcolm X and others, helping advise them."Struggle is essential to who she is," said Stephen Ward, who teaches at the University of Michigan. "We are building on her legacy."

Julia Putnam, co-founder and principal of a Detroit charter school named after Boggs, the James and Grace Lee Boggs School, said that Boggs has encouraged her personally. She said Boggs stressed the importance of creating an "inclusive and healthy and functioning" society.

In the 1990s, Boggs worked with younger Asian-American activists, reconnecting with her roots as the daughter of Chinese immigrants. State Rep. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit), who used to work with Boggs at her center and Theresa Tran, executive director of Asian & Pacific Islander American Vote-Michigan, were among the Asian-American advocates who attended the birthday.

Roland Hwang, an Asian-American advocate who is an attorney with the Michigan Attorney General's office, also attended, noting that the diversity of the event was a testament to Boggs' work.

"It was inspiring to see such a multi-racial, multi-ethnic crowd," Hwang said. "I wish her well."

Invincible, a Detroit activist and rapper, said Boggs told her last year: "This is a great time to be alive. We are in the midst of a spiritual uprising."

At 10 a.m. Saturday, The Boggs Center will participate in "Silence the Violence March" organized by Church of the Messiah 231 E. Grand Blvd., Detroit

Contact Niraj Warikoo: or 313-223-4792. Follow him on Twitter @nwarikoo

American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs ‪#‎americanrevolutionary‬
PBS Premiere: June 30, 2014

Grace Lee Boggs, 98, is a Chinese American philosopher, writer and activist in Detroit with a thick FBI file and a surprising vision of what an American revolution can be. Rooted in 75 years of the labor, civil rights and Black Power movements, she continually challenges a new generation to throw off old assumptions, think creatively and redefine revolution for our times.

Right at the start of American Revolutionary, director Grace Lee makes clear that she isn’t related to Grace Lee Boggs. She met the older woman through her earlier documentary, The Grace Lee Project, about the shared name of many Asian American women and the stereotypes associated with it. Philosopher, activist and author Grace Lee Boggs, then in her vigorous 80s and very much a part of Detroit’s social fabric, began applying a spirited analysis to the film project itself. She habitually turned the tables on the filmmaker with a grandmotherly smile that belied her firm resolve, probing the younger woman's ideas and suggesting she consider things more deeply. Thus began a series of conversations over the next decade and beyond.

Grace Lee interviews Grace Lee Boggs.
Credit: Quyen Tran

Director Grace Lee always knew she’d make a film about the woman with a radical Marxist past, intimidating intellectual achievements and enduring engagement in the issues — a sprightly activist who can gaze at a crumbling relic of a once-thriving auto plant and say, "I feel so sorry for people who are not living in Detroit."

In some ways, the radicalization of Grace Lee Boggs typifies an experience many people shared during America’s turbulent 20th century. Yet she cut an extraordinary path through decades of struggle. As Angela Davis, an icon of the 1960s Black Power movement, puts it, "Grace has made more contributions to the black struggle than most black people have." Actor Danny Glover and numerous Detroit comrades, plus archival footage featuring Bill Moyers, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee and Boggs’ late husband and fellow radical, James Boggs, all testify to Boggs’ highly unusual position.

How a smart, determined, idealistic Chinese American woman became a civil rights movement fixture from its earliest post-war days and, later, a spokesperson for Black Power (often the only non-black — and only woman — in a roomful of unapologetic activists planning for a revolution they believed inevitable) is a riveting and revealing tale.

American Revolutionary shows that Boggs got in on the action — and the action got going — long before the turbulent 1960s. As she reminds a group of students, “I got my Ph.D. in 1940. Just imagine that.” Born in 1915 in Providence, R.I. to Chinese immigrants who moved to New York and prospered in the restaurant trade — Chin Lee’s opened in Manhattan in 1924 — she grew up relatively privileged and excelled at the nearly all-white Bryn Mawr and Barnard Colleges.

Then two things happened. First, she read the works of German philosopher Hegel, the founder of "dialectical thinking" whose work influenced Marxism, which steered her into philosophy and a more critical stance toward society. Then, after finishing school with doctorate in hand, she found herself blocked by "We don’t hire Orientals" signs. So she took a train to Chicago, where she found a job at the University of Chicago’s philosophy library and an apartment on the South Side and began organizing her new neighborhood against rat-infested housing.

The rest is a people's history of the American left. American Revolutionary deftly follows Boggs' path from her first community campaign — as a tenants’ rights organizer — through the 1941 March on Washington movement, which demanded jobs for African Americans in defense plants; her mentorship under the West Indian Marxist writer and theorist C.L.R. James; her move to Detroit; her 1953 marriage to Alabama-born James Boggs (auto worker and author of The American Revolution: Pages From a Negro Worker’s Notebook); her split with orthodox Marxism in favor of Black revolution; her preference for the ideas of Malcolm X over those of Martin Luther King, Jr.; and her emergence as a spokesperson for Black Power.

Along the way, she studied, wrote influential books, engaged in protest and, together with her husband (who died in 1993), discovered increasing tolerance for what they saw as revolutionary violence in the face of violent repression. Then Detroit exploded in the 1967 riots, which, as American Revolutionary reveals, were watershed events for Boggs. Indeed, she instructed PBS's Bill Moyers to call them "a rebellion." After a short period of community solidarity, disorder and lawlessness took over the streets. Rebellion did not become revolution. Boggs and her husband began to reexamine their ideas in the light of experience. Though there are many who would argue with her, and she'd be ready for the argument, Boggs has maintained her dedication to humanist and even radical ideals, while tempering her understanding of revolution as an evolutionary process.

Grace Lee Boggs can feel hopeful about Detroit not despite the city's unstable financial and social condition but because of it. She retains the radical's abiding faith that a new way of living can dawn. "We are in a time of great hope and great danger," she tells Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman. Yet, as American Revolutionary chronicles, this faith has also been tempered by mistakes, lost battles, unintended consequences, age itself and the sheer evolutionary force of social change. "It's hard when you’re young to understand how reality is constantly changing because it hasn't changed that much during your lifetime," says Boggs. Still, channeling Hegel, she challenges people to "not get stuck in old ideas. Keep recognizing that reality is changing and that your ideas have to change."

Boggs’ approach is radical in its simplicity and clarity: Revolution is not an act of aggression or merely a protest. Revolution, Boggs says, "is about something deeper within the human experience — the ability to transform oneself and transform the world."

"From the moment I met Grace Lee Boggs in 2000, I knew I would have to make a longer film just about her," says director Grace Lee. "Over the years, I would return to Detroit, hang out and watch her hold everyone from journalists to renowned activists to high school students in her thrall. I recognized myself in all of them — eager to connect with someone who seemed to embody history itself.

"This is not an issue film, nor is it about a celebrity or an urgent injustice that rallies you to take action," she continues. "It’s about an elderly woman who spends most of her days sitting in her living room thinking and hatching ideas about the next American revolution. But if you catch wind of some of those ideas, they just might change the world."

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Friday, October 10, 2014

"I Am Coming to the End of a Long Journey": Legendary Detroit Activist Grace Lee Boggs in Hospice

DEMOCRACY NOW!…/video_legendary_detroit_activ…

As we broadcast from Detroit, Michigan, we get an update on Grace Lee Boggs, the 99-year-old activist, author and philosopher based in Detroit. She is considered a legendary figure in the struggle for justice in America. Throughout her life, Boggs has participated in all of the 20th century’s major social movements — for civil rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights, and has inspired generations of local activists. In 1994, she co-founded Detroit Summer, "a multi-racial, inter-generational collective" that functions as a training ground for activists, attracting young people across the country each year. Boggs has been in hospice care at her Detroit home, largely bedridden after taking a bad fall last month. She recently posted a statement on her website that read in part, "I am coming to the end of a long journey — a journey that began over 70 years ago at the beginning of World War II." We broadcast an excerpt from our 2011 interview with Boggs, and speak with her longtime friend, Alice Jennings, who is one of two people in charge of her care.


AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to, finally, switch gears a bit and ask you about Grace Lee Boggs.


AMY GOODMAN: She stated recently on her Facebook page, "I am coming to the end of a long journey—a journey that began over 70 years ago at the beginning of World War II." Grace is now 99 years old. She is the well-known activist, author, philosopher, based in Detroit. And as she has dealt in her life with grace, I think you could say, like her first name—

ALICE JENNINGS: Mm-hmm, with much grace, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: —she is talking about transitioning now.

ALICE JENNINGS: Yes, and with the same bravery that she stood and marched in front of drug houses and organized labor movements. And it’s very difficult for us who are very close to her, but she’s taken it on.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re in charge of her care?

ALICE JENNINGS: I am one of the two people. Shea Howell is also her other trustee. And we’re just trying to love her and make her as comfortable as we can. But she’s still saying, "What time is it on the clock of the world?" And we’re accountable to make sure we continue the type of work she and James Boggs were known for.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to a clip of Grace Lee Boggs talking about Detroit.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I moved from New York, where I had lived a good deal of my life and where I went to school, to Detroit, because I thought that the working class in Detroit was going to rise up and restore, reconstruct the city. And I arrived at a time when the population was beginning to decline, when the working class was shrinking. And I had to begin learning from what was taking place. And that learning process is something that a lot of people are undergoing.

And I think it’s very difficult for someone who doesn’t live in Detroit to say you can look at a vacant lot and, instead of seeing devastation, see hope, see the opportunity to grow your own food, see an opportunity to give young people a sense of process, that’s very difficult in the city, that the vacant lot represents the possibilities for a cultural revolution. It’s amazing how few Americans understand that, even though I think filmmakers and writers are coming to the city and trying to spread the word.

AMY GOODMAN: Grace Lee Boggs took a fall last month, and she is in hospice care at home. Rarely do you talk about someone as directly saying they’re dying, but Grace is acknowledging this.

ALICE JENNINGS: She is, and, in the face of it, trying to let us know what it’s going on and what it’s like. And we’re—again, we’re just there with her and loving her up.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Alice Jennings, I want to thank you for being with us, lead attorney for Detroit residents fighting against the city’s controversial campaign to turn water service off for unpaid accounts, also a board member of the James and Grace Lee Boggs School and a close friend of Grace Lee Boggs.

That does it for the show. I’ll be speaking at the Lensic theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico, tonight. I’m Amy Goodman, broadcasting from Detroit

Grace Lee Boggs, Activist And American Revolutionary, Turns 100


American Revolutionary: Grace Lee Boggs at POV

  • Aired: 06/30/2014
  • 03:34
  • Rating: NR
Grace Lee Boggs visits the POV offices and discusses the response to American Revolutionary, the documentary about her life as an activist and philosopher, the responsibility of the media today and the evolution of revolution. 

A Conversation Between Grace Lee Boggs and Angela Davis
Friday, March 2, 2012
Pauley Ballroom
UC Berkeley

4:00pm to 6:00pm
Admission free; open to the general public

For the first time in history, iconic activists Grace Lee Boggs and Angela Davis will share the stage for a conversation entitled “On Revolution: A Conversation Between Grace Lee Boggs and Angela Davis” on Friday, March 2nd at Pauley Ballroom, University of California, Berkeley from 4pm-6pm.
The opening ceremony begins at 4pm, with filmmaker Grace Lee screening a portion of “American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs,” a documentary in progress.
In this historic event, Ms. Boggs and Ms. Davis will discuss their motivation for continuing their work and activism, presenting their ideas of social justice, healing and moving activism beyond the academy.

Grace Lee Boggs is an activist, writer, and speaker whose seven decades of political involvement encompass the major U.S. social movements of the past hundred years. She is the author of The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century and Living For Change: An Autobiography. A daughter of Chinese immigrants, Boggs received her B.A. from Barnard College (1935) and her Ph.D. in Philosophy from Bryn Mawr College (1940). She developed a twenty-year political relationship with the black Marxist, C.L.R. James, followed by extensive Civil Rights and Black Power Movement activism in Detroit in partnership with husband and black autoworker, James Boggs (1919-93). She continues her work with the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center for Nurturing Community Leadership in Detroit, training the next generation of leaders to create productive, sustainable, ecologically responsible and just communities.

Angela Davis is an internationally renowned activist, scholar, author and educator. She is author of eight books, which include Abolition Democracy: Beyond Prisons, Torture, and Empire; Women, Race, and Class; and Angela Davis, An Autobiography. Davis has remained dedicated to the struggle for social justice and equality since the beginning of her activism in the 1970s. In recent years a persistent theme of her work has been the range of social problems associated with incarceration and the generalized criminalization of those communities that are most affected by poverty and racial discrimination. She is a retired professor in the department of the History of Consciousness at the University of California, Santa Cruz and has lectured in many universities throughout the world.
This event is hosted by the Women of Color Initiative at the UC Berkeley Graduate Assembly, the Ethnic Studies Department at UC Berkeley, the Center for Race and Gender, and is held in conjunction with the 27th Annual Empowering Women of Color Conference. Admission is free and open to the general public.

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