Q&A with Grace Lee Boggs

April 13, 2010

Equal opportunity activist Grace Lee Boggs, 94, has been significantly involved in most of the major movements of the 20th century. At age 77, she founded an intergeneratlonal youth program to uplift Detroit, the city she has made her home since 1953. From her days of Marxist factionalism with AfroTrinidadian theorist C.L.R. James to the 1974 book on revolution she co-authored with her husband, labor activist James Boggs, to her own autobiography, Living for Change (University of Minnesota, 1998) - Boggs has always closely connected her work on the ground with intellectual practice. In fact, she found it impossible to stick to the confines of our usual Top Three section, when asked which books most influenced her work. Nowadays, Grace continues to be heavily involved in work at her nonprofit, the Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership in Detroit and writes a column for the Michigan Citizen, a progressive weekly newspaper.

Detroit is facing an increasingly difficult time during this economic crisis because of the collapse of the car industry. What is the view from the ground there?

I think that because Detroit experienced early the disaster that the rest of the country is dealing with now, as early as the 1 980s and 1 970s - we are ahead. The Detroit "City of Hope" campaign (launched In 2007 and includes ideas like replacing punitive justice with restorative justice and reinventing education) embraces the types of things that are becoming Important practice in the rest of the country, especially urban agriculture. People come from all over the world to see what we're doing here.

How has being a writer and reader affected your life as an activist?

Being a writer as well as an activist keeps me reflecting on and evaluating my activism, and helps me avoid mindless activism. That's why I am so glad the Net encourages so many activists to blog. It's like keeping a journal.


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