【5/11/2021 】CAPA-NoVA Distinguished Chinese American Project

(Author: Yuyan Zhou)

陈玉平 (Grace Lee Boggs) (June 27, 1915 – October 5, 2015) was an activist, writer, and speaker whose seven decades of political involvement encompass the major U.S. social movements of the past hundred years. Grace Lee was born in Rhode Island in 1915, the daughter of Chinese immigrants. She studied at Barnard College and Bryn Mawr, receiving her Ph.D. in 1940. Her studies in philosophy and the writings of Marx, Hegel, and Margaret Mead led not to a life in academia, but rather to a lifetime of social activism.

Grace Lee Boggs’ activism began in Chicago, where she joined the movement for tenants’ rights, and then the Workers Party, a splinter group of the Socialist Workers Party. In these associations, as well as in her involvement with the 1941 March on Washington, she focused on marginalized groups such as women and people of color. In 1953, she married black auto worker and activist James Boggs and moved to Detroit, where she remains an activist today, writing columns for the Michigan Citizen.

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Grace Lee Boggs embraces a philosophy of constant questioning – not just of who we are as individuals, but of how we relate to those in our community and country, to those in other countries, and to the local and global environment.  She rejected the stereotypical radical idea that capitalist society is just something to be done away with, believing more that “you cannot change any society unless you take responsibility for it, unless you see yourself as belonging to it and responsible for changing it.”

 

She believes that it is by working together in small groups that positive social change can happen, not in large revolutions where one group of power simply changes position with another. “People are aware that they cannot continue in the same old way but are immobilized because they cannot imagine an alternative. We need a vision that recognizes that we are at one of the great turning points in human history when the survival of our planet and the restoration of our humanity require a great sea change in our ecological, economic, political, and spiritual values.”

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With this philosophy, she and her husband founded Detroit Summer in 1992, a community movement bringing together people of all races, cultures, and ages to rebuild Detroit — a city Boggs has described as “a symbol of the end of industrial society…buildings that were once architectural marvels, like the Book Cadillac hotel and Union Station, lie in ruins…and in most neighborhoods people live behind triple-locked doors and barred windows.”  Working from the ground up, Detroit Summer’s activities include planting community gardens in vacant lots, creating huge murals on buildings, and renovating houses.

 

Grace Lee Boggs’ published writings include Revolution and Evolution in the Twentieth Century (with James Boggs, Monthly Review Press, 1974; reissued with new introduction by Grace Lee Boggs, 2008); Conversations in Maine: Exploring Our Nation’s Future (with James Boggs, Freddy Paine, and Lyman Paine; South End Press, 1978); Living for Change: An Autobiography (University of Minnesota, 1998), and and weekly column for the Michigan Citizen. Her writings and interviews with her have also been widely disseminated through newspapers, magazines, websites, and academic journals.

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Right up until her 100th year, Grace remained much in demand as a public speaker and exceptionally active as a community activist. Her many honors included honorary doctorates from the University of Michigan, Wooster College, Kalamazoo College, and Wayne State University; lifetime achievement awards from the Detroit City Council, Organization of Chinese Americans, Anti-Defamation League (Michigan), Michigan Coalition for Human Rights, Museum of Chinese in the Americas, and Association for Asian American Studies; Detroit News Michiganian of the Year;  and a place in both the National Women’s Hall of Fame and Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.  She is the subject of a Peabody Award-winning documentary, American Revolution: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, directed by L.A. filmmaker Grace Lee.

 

For more information:

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/chinese-american-woman-behind-black-power-movement-n126651

https://www.boggsschool.org/grace-and-jimmy

 

【Not only do we live among the stars, the stars live within us! 】

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