grace-lee-boggs

Name: Grace Lee Boggs
Dates: 1915-present

Why she rocks:
She is an author and feminist, still alive at age 95, and writing books such as “The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century”. She focused on activism in all areas of the country, but specifically in Detroit.

Quote: “We are at a stage in human history that is as monumental as changing from a hunter/gatherer society to an agricultural society”

Because of this woman… we have books on how to become better leaders and activists today. 

Love isn’t just something you feel. It’s something you do every day when you go out and pick up the papers and bottles scattered the night before on the corner, when you stop and talk to a neighbor, when you argue passionately for what you believe with whoever will listen, when you call a friend to see how they’re doing, when you write a letter to the newspaper, when you give a speech and give ‘em hell, when you never stop believing that we can all be more than we are. In other words, Love isn’t about what we did yesterday; it’s about what we do today and tomorrow and the say after.
—  Grace Lee Boggs, The Next American Revolution, page 96-97

We are saddened, angered, and defiant. It’s okay to feel grief, anger, and sadness. As Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, we must protect and support one another – and we must continue to support our Muslim, Black, Latinx and Indigenous communities. We will continue to organize against the forces of xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Black racism and misogyny that made today possible. This election doesn’t change the fact that we’ll continue to love, support, embrace, and nourish each other. We will create bolder, love deeper, and work harder to dismantle systems of oppression. We will organize for a world where our humanity is fully present and a world that allows people of color, Black, Indigenous, LGBTQ folks to thrive and not just to survive. Hold on tight to that vision of the world we want to create. Together, we are unstoppable.

The trained professional agitator, the revolutionary socialist type of Lenin’s day is today the basis of the bureaucratic machines of the unions, the political parties, and the governments. Society has moved on since that time and these elite types have now become the greatest obstacles to that release of popular energy and creative power which has always been the most powerful motive force in the creation of a new society. Propaganda of the so-called “Free World” against totalitarianism has obscured the fact that this particular social and political type is not necessarily a Communist. According to the political climate of the country he lives in, he may be a Communist or a rabid anti-Communist. In the United States or in Britain, you will find him on every rung of the ladder of the union or the Labor Party. Often selfless and devoted, he is not infrequently engaged in a desperate struggle against a union or political bureaucracy. But his only perspective is that of substituting a more democratic, more capable, more honest set of bureaucrats. On whichever side of the Iron Curtain he is, he is the mortal enemy of the shop floor organization, of Workers Councils in every branch of the national activity, and of a Government of Workers Councils as the essence and content of a new society. Whether he is Communist or anti-Communist, for him the working class is incapable of acting successfully without a trained or dedicated leadership.
—  [C.L.R. James and Grace C. Lee (Boggs), Facing Reality, 1958, p. 89.]
I think it’s really important that we get rid of the idea that protest will create change. The idea of protest organizing, as summarized by [community organizer] Saul Alinsky, is that if we put enough pressure on the government, it will do things to help people. We don’t realize that that kind of organizing worked only when the government was very strong, when the West ruled the world, relatively speaking. But with globalization and the weakening of the nation-state, that kind of organizing doesn’t work. We need to do what I call visionary organizing. Recognize that in every crisis, people do not respond like a school of fish. Some people become immobilized. Some people become very angry, some commit suicide, and other people begin to find solutions. And visionary organizers look at those people, recognize them and encourage them, and they become leaders of the future.
—  Grace Lee Boggs
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)
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
A vanguard is a vanguard only in special circumstances and in relation to very narrow purposes. It has no advantage in itself. There is not, and cannot be, any permanent selection of a group of individuals able to direct the working class. In ordinary times the only chosen body of leaders who can lead the workers is the one which helps to keep them under the yoke of capitalist exploitation. What else is the daily function of Stalinists and union bureaucrats? And periods of great social crisis are periods of great social crisis precisely because workers are no longer listening to leaders but are acting independently in independent organizations.
—  [C.L.R. James and Grace C. Lee (Boggs), Facing Reality, 1958, p. 93.]

We need much more than ‘reform.’ We need a paradigm shift  in our concept of education…

At the core of the problem is an obsolete factory model of schooling that sorts, tracks, tests, and rejects or certifies working-class children as if they were products on an assembly line. The purpose of eduction, I said, cannot be only to increase the earning power of the individual or to supply workers for the ever-changing slots of the corporate machine. children need to be given a sense of the ‘unique capacity of human beings to shape and create reality in accordance with conscious purposes and plans’…

These conditions of postindustrial society especially challenge educators to reexamine conventional assumptions and to create a new community-based person-centered model of education. Schools need to leave behind present methods geared to producing workers for highly repetitive work. They should instead seek to incorporate learning into work, political organizing, community service, and recreation. More learning needs to occur outside of the classroom. Education should involve real problem solving. Instead of rigid age segregation, young and old should mingle. The years of compulsory education should grow shorter, not longer. Education should be spread out over a lifetime.

—  Grace Lee Boggs, “A Paradigm Shift in Our Concept of Education,” The Next American Revolution (2012).

“We urgently need a paradigm shift in our concept of the purposes and practices of education. We need to leave behind the concept of education as a passport to more money and higher status in the future and replace it with a concept of education as an ongoing process that enlists the tremendous energies and creativity of schoolchildren in rebuilding and respiriting our communities and our cities now, in the present.”

–Grace Lee Boggs
An Educational Summit on the Urban Crisis State Theatre, Detroit, August 20, 2002

» It’s funny because I meet so many social justice minded people who are extremely career-focused. Whether it’s about becoming a non-profit executive director or running for office, our ideas about success are often quite skewed and not actually transformative. I think the question we have to ask ourselves is, do we want an academic/political career, or do we want a revolution?

Ron [Scott] has since become a leading figure in the Coalition against Police Brutality, which is devoted to the creation of Peace Zones for Life. After repeatedly mobilization demonstrations and filing lawsuits against authorities, the organization launched this project after finding that many instances of police violence occurred in response to calls regarding domestic conflicts. Thus, to get at the root cause of police abuse, the organization seeks to reduce and eliminate the need for citizens to call the police in the first place. It promotes ‘community-based conflict resolution and mediation initiatives,’ using 'methods that will allow the citizens options to submit their grievances for resolution by their neighbors or persons whom they trust; thereby, remaining outside the police / criminal justice system and eliminating conflict within our communities.’

Moreover, the organization seeks to involve neighborhood youth themselves, many of whom had once been sucked into gangs or drug dealing, into conflict resolution practices and community-oriented, small business development. Above all, Peace Zones for Life is a grassroots initiative driven by people who are taking responsibility for the social, economic, and physical health of their community. It does not assume that inner-city residents themselves are solely responsible for the deterioration of neighborhoods ravaged by decades of race, class, and gender oppression, but it does insist that they are the necessary change agents to remedy our crisis situation.  

The idea of Peace Zones is a transformative one that builds on the concept of restorative justice. In response to the cancerous growth of the prison industry and the now widely recognized problem of overcrowded prisons siphoning away scarce resources, the restorative justice movement offers methods to heal both ex-offenders and their communities. Our present criminal justice system is based on the concept of punitive or retributive justice. Punitive justice views antisocial behavior as an offense against the state, which therefore has the right and responsibility to punish offenders and which does so primarily by isolating them. But now that prisons clearly serve as warehouses for the millions whom capitalism has made expendable, now that our families and communities are being devastated by the incarceration (often for nonviolent offenses) of millions of brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers, our survival depends on our making a paradigm shift in our own approach to justice. We need to take it upon ourselves to practice a concept of justice that will empower offenders and the community to work together and build a healthy community.

—  Grace Lee Boggs, “”Let’s Talk About Malcolm and Martin,” The Next American Revolution (2012)