Grace Lee Boggs
Activist, Community Leader, Author
(1915 - )
People are aware that they cannot continue in the same old way but are immobilized because they cannot imagine an alternative. We need a vision that recognizes that we are at one of the great turning points in human history when the survival of our planet and the restoration of our humanity require a great sea change in our ecological, economic, political, and spiritual values.
Additional Quotes by Grace Lee Boggs
- I believe that we are at the point now, in the United States, where a movement is beginning to emerge. I think that the calamity, the quagmire of the Iraq war, the outsourcing of jobs, the drop-out of young people from the education system, the monstrous growth of the prison-industrial complex, the planetary emergency, which we are engulfed at the present moment, is demanding that instead of just complaining about these things, instead of just protesting about these things, we begin to look for, and hope for, another way of living. And I think that-- that's where the movement-- I-- I see a movement beginning to emerge, 'cause I see hope beginning to trump despair.
- The struggle we're dealing with these days, which, I think, is part of what the 60s represented, is how do we define our humanity?
- In order to grapple with the interacting and seemingly intractable questions of today’s society, we need to see ourselves not mainly as victims but as new men and women who, recognizing the sacredness in ourselves and in others, can view love and compassion not as some “sentimental weakness but as the key that somehow unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality.” (Martin Luther King)
- How are we going to make our livings in a society becoming increasingly jobless because of hi-tech and outsourcing? Where will we get the imagination to recognize that for most of human history the concept of Jobs didn’t even exist? Work, as distinguished from Labor, was done to produce needed goods and services, develop skills and artistry, and nurture cooperation.
- What will move us to care for our biosphere instead of using our technological mastery to increase the speed at which we are making it uninhabitable?
- How do we redefine education so that 30-50 percent of inner-city children do not drop out of school, thus ensuring that millions will end up in prison?
- Can we build an America in which people of all races and ethnicities live together in harmony, and Euro-Americans, in particular, celebrate their role as one among many minorities constituting the multiethnic majority?
- How do we achieve reconciliation with the two-thirds of the world that increasingly resents our economic, military, and cultural domination?
- These are the times to grow our souls. Each of us is called upon to embrace the conviction that despite the powers and principalities bent on commodifying all our human relationships, we have the power within us to create the world anew.
- We can begin by doing small things at the local level, like planting community gardens or looking out for our neighbors. That is how change takes place in living systems, not from above but from within, from many local actions occurring simultaneously.
- We never know how our small activities will affect others through the invisible fabric of our connectedness. In this exquisitely connected world, it’s never a question of ‘critical mass.’ It’s always about critical connections.
- People are aware that they cannot continue in the same old way but are immobilized because they cannot imagine an alternative. We need a vision that recognizes that we are at one of the great turning points in human history when the survival of our planet and the restoration of our humanity require a great sea change in our ecological, economic, political, and spiritual values.
- Rebellions tend to be negative, to denounce and expose the enemy without providing a positive vision of a new future...A revolution is not just for the purpose of correcting past injustices, a revolution involves a projection of man/woman into the future...It begins with projecting the notion of a more human human being, i.e. a human being who is more advanced in the specific qualities which only human beings have - creativity, consciousness and self-consciousness, a sense of political and social responsibility.
- I think we're not looking sufficiently at what is happening at the grassroots in the country. We have not emphasized sufficiently the cultural revolution that we have to make among ourselves in order to force the government to do differently. Things do not start with governments.
- [P]eople think of evolution mainly in terms of anatomical changes. I think that we have to think of evolution in terms of-- very elemental human changes. and so, we're evolving both through our knowledge and through our experiences to another a stage of human-- humankind. So, revolution and evolution are no longer so separate.
- Do something local. Do something real, however, small. And don't-- don't diss the political things, but understand their limitations.
- It takes a whole lot of things. It takes people doing things. It takes people talking about things. It takes dialogue. It takes changing the whole lot of ways by which we think.
- I think we have to rethink the concept of "leader." 'Cause "leader" implies "follower." And, so many-- not so many, but I think we need to appropriate, embrace the idea that we are the leaders we've been looking for.
- You cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it, unless you see yourself as belonging to it and responsible for changing it.
For Lee, it began in Chicago, where she joined the movement for tenants’ rights, and then the Workers Party, a splinter group of the Socialist Workers Party. In these associations, as well as in her involvement with the 1941 March on Washington, Lee found her niche as an activist in the African-American community, focusing specifically on marginalized groups such as women and people of color. In 1953, Lee married black auto worker and activist James Boggs and moved to Detroit, where she remains an activist today, writing columns for the Michigan Citizen. James died in 1993.
Grace Lee Boggs embraces a philosophy of constant questioning – not just of who we are as individuals, but of how we relate to those in our community and country, to those in other countries, and to the local and global environment. Boggs has rejected the idea of the stereotypical radical as one who only views capitalist society as something to be done away with, believing more that “you cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it, unless you see yourself as belonging to it and responsible for changing it.” It is in smaller groups, working together, that positive social change can happen, rather than in larger revolutions where one group of power simply changes position with another. That is why, in 1992, she and her husband founded Detroit Summer, a community movement bringing people of all races, cultures, and ages together to rebuild Detroit - a city Boggs has described as “a symbol of the end of industrial society…buildings that were once architectural marvels, like the Book Cadillac hotel and Union Station, lie in ruins…and in most neighborhoods people live behind triple-locked doors and barred windows.” Working literally from the ground up, Detroit Summer’s activities include planting community gardens in vacant lots, creating huge murals on buildings, and renovating houses. There is a Center set up in honor of Grace Lee and James Boggs,http://www.boggscenter.org, which fosters their ideas and encourages independent thinking and leadership. You can read several of her speeches and columns on its website.