Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Next American Revolution- Detroit: Grace Lee Boggs

Grace Lee Boggs, age 93, is a Detroit activist, writer and speaker whose more than sixty years of political involvement encompass the major U.S. social movements of this century: Labor, Civil rights, Black Power, Asian American, Women's and Environmental Justice.

The Boggs Center website details the vision and programs that have resulted from Dr. Boggs' determination to make Detroit and all of America a better place in which to live. Her autobiography, LIVING FOR CHANGE, , is widely used in university classes on social movements. In 2004, she helped organize the Beloved Communities Project, "an initiative begun to identify, explore and form a network of communities committed to and practicing the profound pursuit of justice, radical inclusivity, democratic governance, health and wholeness, and social / individual transformation.

Back in 1975, Dr. Boggs compared the two types of civil uprisings:

"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."

Olga Bonfiglio, a professor at Kalamazoo College where she teaches a class in urban revitalization, wrote an article for Common Dreams referencing Dr. Boffs titled, You Say You Want a Revolution? She quotes Dr. Boggs:

"We are at a stage in human history that is as monumental as changing from a hunter/gatherer society to an agricultural society and from an agricultural society to and industrial society. Where we’re headed now will be different because we have exhausted planetary space and human space for us to continue to look at things through the Cartesian measurement of material things.”

Grace Boggs said that the turning point occurred in 1999 when protesters’ demonstrations effectively closed the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting held in Seattle. A worldwide movement was kicked off to challenge the rapacious global economy that was shifting the labor market to the lowest bidder in a kind of race to the bottom.

“We usually think of revolution as violence,” said Grace. “However, revolution is more about envisioning what is possible when it appears that things are changing.” She believes that Detroit, in particular, is fertile ground for this next revolution because it is such a devastated city.

I wonder what she has in mind regarding the city of Detroit? I would be most interested in seeing her plans because I lived in Detroit for 6 years during my college years and feel a natural pull to the empty hulk of a city. She says that Detroit has 70,000 vacant lots where neighborhoods and commercial properties once stood. And although the city looks like it has been bombed, Grace sees a silver lining: the city no longer has to adhere to the usual capitalist mantra of growth and expansion because it is absolutely clear that the industrial system is finished. This fact allows citizens to respond by starting something new all over again.

The Bonfiglio article continues:

This revolution urges citizens not to stand around and wait for leaders to initiate needed changes. Instead, individuals are learning that they can enlist others to help them rebuild their communities. Interestingly, it’s the young who are especially stepping up to this challenge through local service programs, college projects, and the creation of small businesses and organizations.

“We have the opportunity to take a great leap forward in these very challenging times,” said Grace. “We need to change our institutions and ourselves. We need to seize opportunities. We need to launch our imaginations beyond the thinking of the past. We need to discern who we are and expand on our humanness and sacredness. That’s how we change the world, which happens because WE will be the change.”

Yes We do; We the People. Boggs seems like a libertarian without all of the hate that is usually associated with that end of the political spectrum. Or an anarchist. But what the hell, the politics doesn't matter when progress for the people is the end result.

You go girl!

Bill Moyers interview with Dr. Boggs LINK

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