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Dec 22, 2008

The Detroit-based activist and philosopher sees an America with the chance to remake itself for the better.

By Alan Stoga

In FLYP Media’s video interview, social activist Grace Lee Boggs draws on her decades-long experience of participating in the most important social revolutions of our time to provide an insightful vision of the future. Arguing for how we can think differently about our opportunities to change our world, Boggs offers up a paradigm shift from disaster to hope.

 “All these years we’ve acted as if we didn’t have to care for each other…and we didn’t realize how much we’ve lost.”

At a time when the economy is going from bad to worse, long-time social activist and philosopher Grace Lee Boggs is not just optimistic—she’s enthusiastic.
“It’s the end of the industrial epoch. Now, we have the opportunity to regain our souls,” she says.
Boggs has been thinking, writing and working for change since her first march on Washington in 1941. That protest led Franklin Delano Roosevelt to issue Executive Order 8802, thereby desegregating the defense industry. She has been on the front lines of social agitation—and change—ever since.
Surrounded by stacks of books—The Limits of Power (by Andrew J. Basevich), Team of Rivals (by Doris Kearns Goodwin), Expanding the Boundaries of Transformative Learning (by Edmund V. O’Sullivan, Amish Morrell and Mary Ann O’Connor) top piles next to her chair—Boggs, 93, lives and works in Detroit’s east side.
The city has decayed around her—and that was before the auto industry entered into what appears to be its death spiral. Her once proud, working-class neighborhood is now littered with abandoned and burned out houses. The sense of a dying city seems to confirm Boggs’s contention that the consumer-driven, resource-intensive model of post-war America is exhausted.
“We’re on the verge of a transition as profound as when society moved from hunting and gathering to agriculture, and from agriculture to industry.” That shift, she argues, will require a very different view of what it means to be a human being—namely, “a new sense of ourselves in the universe and with responsibilities to it—or we face the risk of extinction.”
With her late husband James, Boggs wrote Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century in 1974. In its recent reissue, her new introduction ends with this declaration: “This is our time to reject the old American dream of a higher standard of living based upon empire, and embrace a new American dream of a higher standard of humanity that preserves the best in our revolutionary legacy. We can become the leaders we are looking for.”
This chance to see America remake itself animates Boggs: “It’s a great time to be alive. I’m so lucky.”


FLYP presents an interactive infographic on how much Americans are feeling alienated from and losing confidence in the system. 

 

Biography

A social activist and philosopher, Grace Lee Boggs participated in most
of the defining social movements of the 20th century—including the
civil rights, labor, environmental and feminist movements. In 1992, she
and her late husband, James Boggs, founded Detroit Summer, a community
movement to rebuild Detroit.
Her books include Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century (with James Boggs) and Living for Change: An Autobiography.
Boggs continues to write a regular column for the Michigan Citizen.
Created to continue the work of Grace Lee and James, the Boggs Center
promotes community leadership, urban agriculture and environmental
justice. 


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