Living For Change: Autobiography of Grace Lee Boggs
by Grace Lee Boggs
University of Minnesota Press, 1998
344 pages, $18.95 paperbackBuy this book from Powell's, an independent bookstore
Grace Lee Boggs' autobiography is a fascinating story both for the accounts of a long life of activism alongside her husband, Jimmy Boggs, and for the first-hand glimpse of key social movements that are part of the unwritten history of this century.
Grace, a Chinese-American born to a middle-class family, married Jimmy Boggs, an African-American from Alabama, who worked in Detroit factories for most of their life together. The two became deeply involved in Black power organizing - Grace often one of the only non-African American involved - and in left-wing groups.
Grace and Jimmy rejected strategies that played on a victim mentality, choosing instead to encourage factory workers, African Americans, and others on the margin of society educate themselves and accept responsibility for building a new society. Grace is not without misgivings about some of the approaches taken by herself and her comrades throughout her years of activism. But she is unafraid to ask hard questions, and her struggle to understand the broad sweep of history and the possibility for evolutionary transformation of the human condition are present throughout. This style of leadership, grounded in their city of Detroit and in a commitment to a better future for all, shines through in this inspiring autobiography.
I was familiar with the Boggs from years ago when I read their book, Revolution and Evolution in the 20th Century. I had not met Grace until the summer of 1997, however, when I invited her to speak on a panel which also included David Korten (see page 40) and evolutionary biologist Elisabet Sahtouris.
Grace brought stories from Detroit where she has been working with SOSAD (Save our Sons and Daughters), an organization of moms and dads working with youth to address the violence and hopelessness experienced by so many Detroit young people. She also talked about Detroit Summer, a project she helped organize that brings youth from around the US as well as from Detroit to help rebuild the city and to show all involved that young people are a valuable asset to any community. And she shared the story of the People of Color Environmental Justice Symposium held in Washington, DC, in 1994, which resulted in a visionary statement of principles that incorporate the human and environmental dimensions of a sustainable future. These, and many more stories of activism - recent and from decades past - are to be found in Living for Change.
Reviewed by Sarah van Gelder, executive editor of YES!