Visionary Organizing

Grace Lee Boggs’ message to Occupy Wall Street from American Revolutionary.

At the age of 96, Chinese American grassroots activist, organizer, philosopher and author Grace Lee Boggs has more than seven decades of experience in Civil Rights activism, the Black Power movement, feminism, labor rights, Asian American rights, and environmental and food justice. Boggs, along with her husband and fellow activist, James Boggs, founded Detroit Summer — a multiracial, inter-generational collective based in Detroit. This collective has been working to transform communities through youth leadership, creativity and collective action for over 20 years.

Boggs notably called for a re-imagining of activism, stating in an interview with Hyphen,

I would say to a young activist, “Do visionary organizing. Turn your back on protest organizing and recognize how that leads you more and more to defensive operations, whereas visionary organizing gives you the opportunity to encourage the creative capacity in people and it’s very fulfilling.”

Grace Lee Boggs and Jimmy Boggs. Image courtesy of the Neahtawanta Research and Education Center

Grace Lee Boggs and Jimmy Boggs. Image courtesy of the Neahtawanta Research and Education Center

In addition to Detroit Summer, the Boggs Educational Center focuses on nurturing creative thinkers to contribute to their communities. Programs like these reflect her commitment to a re-imagined activism.

Similarly, organizations like the Campaign for Stronger Democracy work to encourage high levels of civilian participation in the democratic process through collaboration, transparency, and community problem solving. As Grace Lee Boggs exemplifies, grassroots organizing like this enhance social justice and encourage growth and change in our society.

You can learn more about the life of Grace Lee Boggs in the upcoming documentary American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs. You can also read more about her brand of activism in her book The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century.

By Lauren Silver

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1 Comment

  1. Savanna Kustra

     /  September 28, 2015

    I grew up in the suburbs outside of Buffalo, NY. I felt such angst and discomfort growing up, and I used to think, why is there nothing left to fight for- all the battles for equality have been won.

    Much to my surprise, they were not- a hard reality I faced early on in my adolescence. First I began seeing how my gender impacted my roll in the world around me, then sexual orientation and race. My eyes soon opened and I began to see the world through the eyes of an activist. After several failed attempts to organize petitions, and write letters to my middle school principal, I realized I was speaking to the wrong audience- and I did not have my voice.

    Listening to the small excerpt from the movie, Grace Lee Boggs speaks directly to the occupy wall street organizers. She speaks to the values that they are developing and to rethinking how you see your protest. Evaluating how you became part of the culture you are protesting is a pivotal step in changing it. Taking a hard look at yourself, would you gladly become part of the wall street culture for a job? But this is just as easily a question we can pose for many other movements. I often think this of the Black Lives Matter Protests. So many white youths are involved, they march and yell obscenities at the police, I once saw a white protester spit on an officer and I thought ‘ are they part of this culture’. After all, we are marching, signing petitions and speaking out so that Black lives are valued on the streets, that they have the right to feel safe in police custody, and while living their lives walking on a city sidewalk. Again, is your white privilege showing as white students brag about being arrested during the protests- they have the privilege of knowing they are safe, there will be no police retaliation and from arrest to booking and release they are safe in police custody… the same cannot be said for so many others.

    Grace thanked all of the protesters for breaking their silence, and I do believe that the being vocal is the first step and as Boggs mentioned, there is a long way to go.

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