Hi world. It’s been a loooong time since I have blogged. So I figured I’d start back up with my adopted grandma in Detroit and share with you about her and how she inspires me every day. What has inspired you today?
Grace Lee Boggs is a 97-year old woman who has lived through every social movement of the 20th Century. She has published books that have been translated into many languages and continues to write a weekly column for the Michigan Citizen. She has received numerous honorary degrees including doctorates from the University of Michigan, Wooster College, Kalamazoo College, and Wayne State University. She was the first to translate some of Marx’s economic and political manuscripts of 1844 into English. Grace participated deeply from the March on Washington to now as Detroiters fight for democracy in our own city. She has been a part of and an inspiration for many projects in Detroit from Kevin of Singing Tree arborist business to the people who are currently working on starting the Boggs Education School. So what is it that makes this woman relevant to our struggles as individuals and a community today? Why are people coming from all over the world to learn from her?
Some people come because of her connections with Marxist, C.L.R. James. Others because they see Detroit as an epicenter of the new U.S. (r)evolution. Still others because she is 97, “still has all of her marbles” (as she says), and has lived through decades of life that most of us have never had the privilege to see other than in our history books. I think that these experiences and focus does make her relevant; however, I think that the secret to her life that many people are seeking to find in their own is that throughout her life, she has maintain a great curiosity for the world, a strong sense of commitment to her community, and a willingness and openness to change.
On Grace’s 95th birthday (from left) Marcia Lee, Grace Lee Boggs, Grace Lee
I first met Grace when I was 20 and just started to come to Detroit because of work being done with the Asian Pacific Islander American community there and as a member of a spring break trip to Detroit. Since that time she has become the equivalent of my grandmother in Detroit. Throughout the years that I have known her, I have seen many people come to her looking for answers, and she reminds them that they have their answers within themselves in the context of their community. She inspires me because of her stubborn tenacity to growth and to challenge other people to grow. Grace has never lost her fervor for learning new things and pushing her own and other’s growing edges. This is really what makes her relevant today.
Most recently, Detroit was forced by the governor of Michigan to lose our democracy through an emergency financial manager. Instead of feeling defeated, Grace recently excitedly told me that with the forcing of the emergency financial manager, we now have an opportunity to create our own community councils. She said that this is an important time on the clock of the world for (r)evolution, right here in Detroit and that we have what it takes to do it.
Grace and the people at the Boggs Center talk about the idea of ‘reimagining.’ They invite people to take their current situation and experiences and grow their own soul and the soul of their community not only with their heart and hands, but with their imagination. What would be possible if we no longer saw ourselves as victims, but full participants our own lives in the context of all of creation?
This is our calling, no matter or age, race, gender, class, sexual orientation, we are called to take in our reality as it is, in the present moment, add in our experiences and the wisdom of our own and others, and re-imagine a future that is based on the values that most build a holistic community, from the inside out. Then we are invited to live as if. Live as if all that we believe in is true, shift and grow with new experiences and information, and invite others to do the same.
This is Grace Lee Boggs.
Members of the Detroit Asian Youth Project and Detroit Summer – two groups that Lee Boggs helped start.