When the beloved and visionary Asian-American civil rights activist Grace Lee Boggs speaks, people pay attention. And for good reason. At 96, Boggs has been engaged in labor, black power, Asian American, feminist, environmental and food justice struggles for over half a century. And it’s work she’s still involved in today. Together with her husband, the late activist James Boggs, the two organized Detroit Summer, now in its 20th year.
Boggs sat down with Hyphen Magazine, and in her trademark way, quickly dispensed with fuzzy feelings and self-congratulatory encouragement for progressives. Instead, she gets straight to the point, with sharp analysis of the current political moment offers her thoughts on the work ahead for people who want to fight for social, economic and racial justice.
“I would say to a young activist, ‘Do visionary organizing.’” Boggs told Hyphen. “‘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.’”
At a time when people are re-evaluating their relationships with money, work, and people in their communities, Boggs says these dire economic times provide the political space to answer serious questions about our common social values. It’s the lesson that she learned early on in her life, growing up in America the daughter of Chinese immigrants.
“I had the idea, for example, from my father that a crisis is not only a danger but also an opportunity and that there is a positive and negative in everything,” Boggs said. “Being born Chinese meant a big deal to my life, I think.”
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