You won’t catch Grace Lee Boggs speaking in empty platitudes or trying to recapture a storied past . . . and that would be such an easy place to default to when talking about Detroit. Detroit, once a model of industry, production and success, well, now, is a shell of its former self where residents depart in droves. Boggs is an activist and author. The term activist is an ever-politicized one that often carries a polarizing connotation. But you can be assured, she is not in it for face time or to push a political agenda, she’s doing what needs to be done for her home city, for her neighborhood and the surrounding neighborhoods.
Al spoke to Grace for our Detroit episode, Motor City Rebound, produced during SOTRU’s research and development year. What really caught my ear and sent the sentiment of, wow, she is different, she’s really in it to better things and she understands human nature was when she said:
“It starts with a few people. Human beings are not like fish, they’re not like a school of fish they don’t all move at the same time. People are not just masses, people have to wake up first before they begin acting.
She speaks in specifics, in solutions, and recognizes that Detroit is simply not going to re-industrialize. Instead she believes that the every day people have to do something to create real change. Where most activists call on government for change, Boggs notes that in Detroit, people are taking matters into their own hands. She cites resident-driven movements to create real self-sufficiency with products and services that derive from within the community like the urban agricultural movement. “If people can feed themselves, people can free themselves,” Grace cites. She has helped start programs like the Detroit Summer Collective, a training ground for the next generation of citizen activists that explore the most crucial components of a community, like education. Boggs also found the Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership, a nonprofit community center and think tank.
Grace, who released the book, The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the 21st Century, was recently honored at an event at the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Detroit in early April. It was scheduled to coincide with the 43rd anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. You can read more about the event here.
We Want to Know:
- Have you seen the type of activism Grace Lee Boggs teaches, that is people taking change in their own hands rather than calling on the government, in your community?
- Do you have solutions on how resident-led efforts can solve a problem in your community? What are they?
You can hear Grace Lee Boggs in our episode Detroit – Motor City Rebound.
*Photos By: David Coates of The Detroit News