grace-lee-boggs

Being a victim of oppression in the United States … is not enough to make you revolutionary, just as dropping out of your mother’s womb is not enough to make you human. People who are full of hate and anger against their oppressors or who only see Us versus Them can make a rebellion but not a revolution. The oppressed internalize the values of the oppressor. Therefore, any group that achieves power, no matter how oppressed, is not going to act differently from their oppressors as long as they have not confronted the values that they have internalized and consciously adopted different values.
—  Grace Lee Boggs
Did You Know These Black and Asian Activists Were Connected?

[image description: A side-by-side image of Yuri Kochiyama and Tupac Shakur]

Last Saturday I gave a workshop on the history of Black-Asian solidarity at the University of Maryland’s FUEL conference. As part of my workshop, I brought up 5 high and low profile examples of Asian American and Black activists that were connected to one another. Of course, in the white supremacist, divide and conquer discourse of America, these connections between our communities are frequently overlooked. We must understand the nuance differentiating our racialized experiences in this country as “People of Color”, but just as important is that we also know our shared histories of struggle and collaboration. And so in this spirit so I wanted to share some of these examples from my workshop here as well.

Here are 5 examples of Black & Asian American Activists whom you may or may not know were connected to one another:

1. Yuri Kochiyama & Malcolm X

[image description: A side by side sepia image of Yuri Kochiyama and Malcolm X]

Japanese-American civil rights activist Yuri Kochiyama passed away this year, but her legacy lives on. She and her family were sent to internment camps during World War 2, and in 1960 she moved to Harlem where she met Malcolm X. The two became close friends and associates and she was a member of Malcolm's Organization of Afro-American Unity as well. She was present at his assassination, and if you look at the newspaper clipping of his death, you can see that Malcolm X died in her arms.

Their collaboration inspired a lifetime of collaborative solidarity efforts between Yuri Kochiyama and the black community, including a high profile documentary with black feminist activist Angela Davis titled, “Mountains That Take Wing

2. Grace Lee Boggs & James Boggs

[image description: A photograph of Grace Lee Boggs & James Boggs, Image via Wikipedia: x]

James Boggs was a black civil rights activist, auto worker and organizer and Grace Lee Boggs is a Chinese American feminist activist and organizer. They married in 1953 after working together for the radical leftist Johnson-Forest Tendency founded by Marxist theorists C.L.R. James and Raya Dunayevskaya, whom Grace Lee Boggs had joined as a third co-founder. After marrying, the Boggs’s moved to Detroit together where they continued to organize and write until James’s death in 1993. In addition to founding organizations like the multicultural intergenerational youth program, Detroit Summer, they also interacted with some of the biggest players in the Civil Rights movement including Malcolm X (x). Grace Lee Boggs is still alive and politically active and was the recent subject of a documentary  American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs.

3. Fred Korematsu & Rosa Parks

[image description: A black and white image of Fred Korematsu with Rosa Parks, Image via The Korematsu Institute: x]

Fred Korematsu was a Japanese American civil rights activist. During World War 2, he knowingly violated the US government’s orders to report to an internment camp and was subsequently arrested by the US government. He argued in court that the order to intern him and other Japanese Americans was unconstitutional and his case eventually went all the way to the Supreme Court, in Korematsu v. United States, where Korematsu’s conviction and the constitutionality of internment were upheld in a 6-3 decision. Despite this, Korematsu’s stand was and still is a major galvanizing point in Asian American history. Some people laud him as the “Rosa Parks of Japanese Americans” which I think removes historical nuance and is inaccurate as these are separate stories and histories, but his contributions to civil rights struggle in this country are without dispute.

Rosa Parks is much more known than Korematsu for her stand in Montgomery, Alabama against bus segregation. We must acknowledge the respectability politics and colorism that were central in why Rosa Parks was chosen by the NAACP to spark the 1955-56 Montgomery Bus Boycott over the poor, dark skinned, teenage mother Claudette Colvin, who proceeded her stand by 9 months, but Parks's enormous contributions and sacrifices for the black Civil Rights struggle are also without dispute. Korematsu and Parks both not only took important stands for their respective communities, but they also knew each other and met at least once as pictured above.

4. Rev. Jesse Jackson & Vincent Chin

[image description: A side-by-side image of Rev. Jesse Jackson with Vincent Chin]

Vincent Chin was a Chinese American man living in Detroit who was racially profiled, stalked and beaten to death in 1982 with a baseball bat by a white auto executive and his step son at the height of tensions between American and Japanese auto companies. At one point in the assault on Chin, one of the assailants, Ronald Ebens, allegedly shouted, “It’s because of you little mother fuckers that we’re out of work!” in the midst of a litany of other slurs as they murdered Chin in cold blood. 

In the original murder trial, the two white assailants got no jail time and were just slapped with a $3,000 fine and 3 years probation, and this ruling led to massive rallies and organizing efforts by Asian American activists (including Helen Zia) in Detroit and across the country. His murder and the ensuing trials which exonerated the white killers of all criminal charges remain as one of the most important galvanizing moments in Asian American history.

Less known, however, is that black civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson was also actively engaged in the struggle for justice for Vincent Chin. He spoke at rallies and press conferences and pushed the issue in solidarity with Chin’s mother and community. This is well depicted in the PBS documentary, Who Killed Vincent Chin?. Also shown in that documentary are many pictures and videos of the rallies in Detroit for Vincent Chin, which clearly show a large representation of black community members and activists marching in solidarity with Chin’s family and the larger Chinese American community of Detroit.

Not only is Vincent Chin’s story regularly erased from American history and racial discourse, but so is this large show of inter-community solidarity that occurred throughout the 80s in the struggle to bring his murderers, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz, unsuccessfully to justice.

5. Tupac Shakur & Yuri Kochiyama

[image description: A side-by-side image of Yuri Kochiyama and Tupac Shakur]

Last but not least, and my personal favorite example of solidarity was between Tupac Shakur and Yuri Kochiyama.

We discussed Japanese-American activist Yuri Kochiyama above for her collaboration and solidarity work with Malcolm X, but did you know that she was also connected to Tupac? Tupac was not only one of the best rappers of all time who regularly spoke truth to power in his lyrics, but he was also deeply politically involved from a young age as an activist. The unlikely connection between these two figures was recently covered by Hyphen Magazine and described below:

Dubbed “Grand Central Station” or the “Revolutionary Salon,” this Harlem apartment and Kochiyama family residence was a hub for activists, artists, students and other community members for much of the last four decades of the 20th century. [Laura] Whitehorn recalled a then 9-year-old Tupac Shakur speaking eloquently and passionately about the need to free political prisoners at a meeting in Yuri’s house. This 9-year-old Tupac was, of course, not just talking about abstract historical figures, but members of his own family – his stepfather Mutulu Shakur, his godfather Geronimo Pratt, Sundiata Acoli, Sekou Odinga, and others. 

(emphasis added mine)

And the connections ran even deeper and further back as Taiyo Na continues in their piece:

Yuri and Pac’s families were profound friends, comrades in intense post-Malcolm struggles for Black and Third World Liberation. Trace the lineages, and one can see how the legacies of both families and their communities catalyzed movements that transformed the nation and world twice over. Whitehorn’s snapshot of Yuri and Pac was like listening to “Free the Land” by Chris Iijima, Nobuko Miyamoto, and Charlie Chin on the A Grain of Sand album. Pac’s stepfather Mutulu Shakur is literally singing there with them on that record, and they are collectively singing the ethos of Malcolm’s call for the self-determination of all oppressed people. 

(emphasis added mine)

You can read more about the connection between Tupac and Yuri Kochiyama here, but it, along with the other 4 examples above go to show just how interconnected the struggles between Asian Americans and black people in this country have been for decades. And if we are to overcome the divisions between our communities which have especially emerged with the 1960s advancements of the “model minority” myth that is explicitly used as a lever of white supremacy, then it’s critical that we meditate on all of this shared history between our communities as well. Because ultimately, only by working together in tandem will we be able to fully overcome and defeat white supremacy.

This was just part of my workshop at UMD’s FUEL conference, but if you’re interested in learning more please feel free to reach out to me on my blog or via email at thisischukwuma@gmail.com.

Related Posts:

+ How Not to Use the Term “PoC” (2 Step Guide)

+ POC can enact racism against other POC

+ Trayvon Martin & Vincent Chin: a study in similarities and contrasts between two brutal cases of racial profiling

Rest in Peace & Power, Grace Lee Boggs (1915-2015).

You remain a visionary, an inspiration, and a beacon in dark times. Your intellect, foresight, and persistence will remain with us for many times more than your 100 years. - CM

[IMAGE: Grace Lee Boggs sits in an armchair at the end of two rows of bookcases. Text reads: “A revolution that is based on the people exercising their creativity in the midst of devastation is oen of the great historical contributions of humankind” Grace Lee Boggs, June 27, 1915-Oct. 5, 2015]

democracynow.org
Remembering Legendary Detroit Activist Grace Lee Boggs (1915-2015)

Democracy Now! has learned the longtime Detroit activist and philosopher Grace Lee Boggs died this morning at the age of 100. “She left this life as she lived it: surrounded by books, politics, people and ideas,” said her friends and caretakers Shay Howell and Alice Jennings.

Grace Lee Boggs was involved with the civil rights, Black Power, labor, environmental justice, and feminist movements over the past seven decades. She was born to Chinese immigrant parents in 1915. In 1992, she co-founded the Detroit Summer youth program to rebuild and renew her city.

Grace Lee Boggs was a regular guest on Democracy Now! for many years.

I think most people do not imagine how things can change. In Detroit, there are community gardens that are only an indication that the country is coming back to the city. And that is something that actually is necessary to stop the real imminent danger of the extermination of our planet. When I came to Detroit, if you threw a stone up in the air it would hit an autoworker on its way down. A few years after that, if you threw a stone in the air it’d hit an abandoned house or a vacant lot on its way down. And most people saw those vacant lots as blight. But meanwhile during World War II, blacks had moved from the South to the North. And they saw these vacant lots as places where you could grow food for the community. And so urban agriculture was born. And that came about not because anyone planned it, but because the vacant lots, produced by abandonment, created the opportunity for bringing the country back into the city, and actually saving the planet in the process.
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Today I wanted to share some quotes by several-decade-spanning American activist and self-identifying revolutionary Grace Lee Boggs. Here’s a near-release documentary which she is the subject of.

Grace Lee Boggs is a 98-year-old Chinese American woman in Detroit whose vision of revolution will surprise you.

A writer, activist, and philosopher rooted for more than 70 years in the African American movement, she has devoted her life to an evolving revolution that encompasses the contradictions of America’s past and its potentially radical future.

More here: http://americanrevolutionaryfilm.com

These image quotes are all available to share on Facebook via The People’s Record Facebook page as well. 

99-year-old movement legend Grace Lee Boggs is in hospice care, and our thoughts are with her as she completes her life’s journey.

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. This journey has basically been to show that there is an alternative to the Bolshevik revolutionary prototype. It has taken us a long time to accomplish this, but we have been able to do so both as a result of our historical vision and because of the very practical efforts of comrades who have risen to the challenge of creating a revolution unlike any revolution that has been in the past.

Because of my increasing physical limitations in the last few years, I have not been able to play the role that I might have played. But that is not as important now as recognizing what has been achieved. A revolution that is based on the people exercising their creativity in the midst of devastation is one of the great historical contributions of humankind.

We will be finding ways and means to celebrate this, one of which will be the Reimagining Work and Culture conference in October. We want people to understand how much this concept of new work and new culture is based upon not only enormous activity but also on vision and on imagination.

Grace Lee Boggs, Detroit, MI, 9/23/2014

- CM

The will of too many Americans has been to pursue private happiness and take as little responsibility as possible for governing our country. As a result, we have left the job of governing to our elected representatives, even though we know that they serve corporate interest and therefore make decisions that threaten our biosphere and widen the gulf between the rich and the poor both in our country and throughout the world. In other words, even though it is readily apparent that our lifestyle choices and the decision of our representatives are increasing social injustice and endangering our planet, too many of us have wanted to continue going our merry and not-so-merry ways, periodically voting politicians in and out of office but leaving the responsibility for policy decisions to them. Our will has been to act like consumers, not like responsible citizens.
—  Grace Lee Boggs, “These Are the Times to Grow Our Souls,” The Next American Revolution (2012)
Remembering Legendary Detroit Activist Grace Lee Boggs (1915-2015)

“Democracy Now! has learned the longtime Detroit activist and philosopher Grace Lee Boggs died this morning at the age of 100. “She left this life as she lived it: surrounded by books, politics, people and ideas,” said her friends and caretakers Shay Howell and Alice Jennings.

Grace Lee Boggs was involved with the civil rights, Black Power, labor, environmental justice, and feminist movements over the past seven decades. She was born to Chinese immigrant parents in 1915. In 1992, she co-founded the Detroit Summer youth program to rebuild and renew her city.”

Rest in power, Grace

Read More

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RIP Grace Lee Boggs (June 27, 1915 – October 5, 2015) 

Boggs, who had turned 100 earlier this year, was the daughter of Chinese immigrants and a lifelong political and social activist. The specific contours of her political beliefs evolved over the course of her work - she began her activism as a member of various Trotskyist parties - but she is perhaps best known for her leadership and activism, beginning in the 1950s, in Detroit’s black community and black power movement - her thick FBI file mistakenly identified her as “probably Afro-Chinese.”  In 1953, Boggs married auto worker and activist James Boggs (pictured above), whom she met in Detroit, and the two remained married and, together, politically active until his death in 1993. Their work spanned a wide range of race, environmental justice, feminist, and labor movements. 

But we’ve had revolutions, and we’ve seen how the states which they have created have turned out to be like replicas of the states which they opposed. You have to bring those two words together and recognize that we are responsible for the evolution of the human species. It’s a question of two-sided transformation and not just the oppressed versus the oppressor. We have to change ourselves in order to change the world.

PBS: American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs

Grace Lee Boggs on the influence of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr.

NPR: Grace Lee Boggs, Activist And American Revolutionary, Turns 100

UC Berkeley, 2012: Grace Lee Boggs in conversation with Angela Davis

Director Grace Lee just won a Peabody Award for American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, a film about 99 year-old Chinese American activist that premiered nationally on PBS’ POV series, co-presented by the Center for Asian American Media. The film was also CAAMFest 2014’s Centerpiece Presentation.

“I’m so honored on behalf of everyone who worked on this film to be recognized by the Peabody Awards,” Lee said in a statement. “For me it means more people might be exposed to this story about the visionary life and ideas of Grace Lee Boggs.”

Congratulations!

actionnetwork.org
Support Grace Lee Boggs

Dear Friends of Grace Lee Boggs,

We are writing to ask for your support in keeping Grace Lee Boggs in her home in Detroit as she makes her final transition. As you are well aware, Grace is now 99, and has devoted her life to the struggle to stretch our humanity. Like her partner Jimmy Boggs, she has done so with minimal regard for personal advancement or riches. Grace has been living on a fixed income for quite some time.

Grace has always put the needs of others before her own. But now she is in need of your support. In September 2014, Grace went into hospice care. Over the last month she has become stronger, and it seems will be with us for much longer. She has been welcoming old friends and keeping up on world events. Still, she requires 24-hour care.

As you might know, there is very little public support for quality care to keep our elders in their homes. Grace’s resources are nearly depleted and those of us around her are limited in how much financial support we can all provide. Her care costs $8,000 per month. This is frankly more money than we have ever raised.

So we are making this appeal for assistance to raise these vital funds. Grace has established a Trust to which you can contribute directly. The funds from this page will go directly to the trust.

Because we expect that Grace may very well celebrate her 100 birthday with us, we envision a sustained responsibility. If you are able to commit to a monthly contribution, please select that option when you donate.

We also know that many people around the country have been sending energy, light and prayers to Grace and holding small gatherings in her honor. We encourage you to reach out to your community and host a fundraising event.

We also ask that you consider hosting a public showing of American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs where you could share conversation about Grace, her ideas and vision of a new country. We will send you a copy of the newly released DVD and are happy to work with you in creating such an event. Please contact us about hosting a house party or fundraiser at InLoveandStruggle@gmail.com

We will post the results of our efforts on the Boggs Center website and on Facebook. All of the contributions will go directly to Grace’s care. Please note these contributions are NOT tax deductible.

Any funds in Grace’s trust account at the time of her passing, will be placed in a non-profit, the James and Grace Lee Boggs Trust.

We deeply appreciate all the warmth and thoughtfulness sent to Grace during this time.

In love and struggle,

Shea Howell, Trustee

Alice Jennings-Edwards, Trustee

Richard Feldman 

Scott Kurashige

Women in Philosophy and Activism

Because you’ll probably never learn about them in a philosophy class.

Angela Davis

Angela Davis is known for her activism and work as an abolitionist, bringing us to think about the prison industrial complex as a form of slavery. However, Davis is also a philosopher. In her undergrad years, she became a student of Herbert Marcuse, a Marxist scholar. She earned her Ph.D. in Germany at Humboldt University. In 1969, she began an assistant professor position in the philosophy department at UCLA. Ronald Reagan did his best to get her fired from this position, citing her membership in the communist party, but ultimately failed. Attempts at firing her remained unsuccessful until 1970, when she was fired for offensive language speaking the truth. 

Grace Lee Boggs

Grace Lee Boggs has devoted her life to fighting racism and capitalism in the US. She focuses her activism in the black community in Detroit, Michigan. As a philosopher, Boggs earned her Ph.D. at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. In addition to a number of books, Boggs also worked to translate Marx’s work into English. She will be 100 years old in June. A documentary about her work, called American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, is available on Netflix. 

To listen to Grace Lee Boggs and Angela Davis discuss the role of philosophy in reimagining activism, growing our souls, and the expectations of being an “elder” in activism, watch this video!

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Two incredible women Revolutionaries you should know…

Grace Lee Boggs (GLB), who is now 96 years old, is a Chinese-American philosopher-activist and feminist who has been involved in activism for over 60 years, working on civil rights, sustainability, and the economic struggles of her city of Detroit where she was lived for the past 50 years.

Angela Davis (AD) is famous for her activism against the prison-industrial complex. She was a Black Panther and active member of the US Communist Party, and is now a retired professor from UC Santa Cruz’s History of Consciousness department. The focus of her philosophy and activism centers around critical theory, feminism, African American studies, and Marxism.

Typed excerpts of their talk is HERE 

Also see:

– PBS –  Angela Davis & Grace Lee Boggs, on revolution


– 

Today is International Women’s Day. We wanted to commemorate by sharing what one of our heroes, Grace Lee Boggs, wrote last month about her understanding of feminism.

As we approach March 8 and Women’s International Day, I’ve been thinking about how my understanding of Feminism has evolved over the years.

I was born female to Chinese immigrant parents above my father’s Chinese American restaurant in Providence, R.I. My mother did not know how to read or write because there were no schools for females in her little Chinese village. When I cried, the Chinese waiters used to say, “Leave her on the hillside to die. She’s only a girl baby.”

So I realized at an early that huge changes in women’s rights and lives are necessary in our world.

That is why as a teenager, after reading Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s, Women and Economics, I decided I was a feminist. What I meant mainly was that I would never become dependent on a man for my livelihood.

I didn’t begin to think more deeply about the role of women until ten years later when I became a movement activist in the black community. That was how and when I learned that the 13-month Montgomery Bus Boycott which launched the civil rights movement had been organized by women.

Within a couple of hours after Rosa Parks’ arrest on Friday afternoon, December 1, 1955 for refusing to give up her seat to a white man, the Women’s political Council had blanketed the city with 50,000 “Don’t ride the bus” leaflets and was busy organizing the boycott.
To keep people off buses, they created an alternative means of transportation, contacting and pooling hundreds of volunteer drivers, mapping out routes to get workers to all parts of the city, following regular bus routes so that workers who “walked along” the streets could be picked up.

It was a model of Visionary/Solutionary Organizing. On Monday, December 5, the buses were empty.

In recent years, as Detroit has been devastated by deindustrialization and the struggle for a new non-capitalist society has been developing in Detroit, I have discovered that when one society is coming to an end and a new one is emerging, women play a solutionary/revolutionary role because women’s work, of raising and caring for the home and family is ongoing.

Thus in Detroit today Asenath Andrews has created the Catherine Ferguson Academy, a public high school for pregnant teens. The Boggs Educational Collective is starting a place-based school. Time Banking is being organized by Kim Hodge et al. Ann Heler is pioneering a Free Health Clinic.

Thanks Grace. Thanks to all the women in our lives who do such important work every day.

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Civil rights activist Yuri Kochiyama has died at the age of 93. Yuri, a Japanese American woman, was actually the person cradling Malcolm X’s head when he was assassinated.

Yuri was among the first legendary Asian American activists I had heard of. I had also known of Grace Lee Boggs whose lifetime of activism (she’s now 98) originated in the civil rights movement. And only recently had I heard of Fred Ho, the recently passed ‘jazz’ musician and activist.

In Toronto, I am inspired by activists like my now passed away professor Roxana Ng who did various work connected to immigrant women; the labour activist Winnie Ng; and her now passed away partner Eugene Yao who was one of the founders of Urbane Cyclist Worker Co-op. These are all people I had grown up never knowing of, and who really challenge the stereotype of “model minority” and/or politically apathetic Asians.

When I was recently in Brooklyn, I really wanted to see this exhibition but it unfortunately had already passed. Serve the People: The Asian American Movement in New York. http://culturestrike.net/taking-back-chinatown

‘When I grow up I want to be just like Yuri Kochiyama’

It seems odd to reinvent oneself after 95 years, but in 2011, Grace Lee Boggs, a Chinese-American philosopher turned radical civil rights activist, basically started afresh. In her last book, “The Next American Revolution,” she began to call for a new, holistic way of human development that braided environmental and social justice; she urged activists to looked to direct action in the community, not law or government, as a wellspring of urban change.

Last year she told me about her new vision of social renewal in one of her final interviews, published in Guernica after the release of a biographical documentary. I pressed her on the need for poor people to seize control of their lives and political systems, expecting her to agree. But she demurred on the question of power, turning instead to the question of healing souls. “I think that at some level, people recognize that growing our economy is destroying us,” she said. “I think there’s a great human desire for solutions, for profound solutions — and that nothing simple will do it. It really requires some very great searching of our souls.”

These were searching words from a woman who never stopped questioning.