Editor’s note: We at YES! were saddened to learn that our dear friend and long-time collaborator Grace Lee Boggs passed away on Monday. Here, we offer some remembrances, both from our staff as well as from others who knew and loved her. We invite you share your own thoughts in the comment section below, or on social media with #RememberingGrace.
“Grace Boggs held an unshakable faith in the power of ordinary people to shape the future—especially when they come together across race, age, and all the divisions that normally separate us. Her eloquent articulation of that faith has inspired me for more than two decades. I will miss her voice and her presence. But her vision lives on in my heart—and the hearts of many, many others who will carry forth in love and struggle.”
Fran Korten. Fran is publisher of YES! Magazine.
“Grace was a great soldier in the struggle for justice. Her loss is a painful one for all of us in that struggle.”
Danny Glover. Danny is an actor, film director, political activist, and YES! board member.
“Rest well, dear friend. Millions of us have been enlivened and empowered by your wisdom and spirit. We’ll keep on asking ‘What time is it on the clock of the world?’ and we’ll keep on working to create a world where ‘growing our souls, rather than the economy, is our aim.’”
Sarah van Gelder. Sarah is co-founder of YES! Magazine.
“I have such treasured memories of our conversations over the years. Each of her words was a gift that keeps on giving. Her legacy and spirit of ‘love and struggle’ will continue to inspire and challenge us to never tire in our efforts to bring about, what she called the [R]evolution. RIP, Amazing Grace!”
Tanya Dawkins. Tanya is founder of the Global‐Local Links Project and a YES! board member.
— Hampton Institute (@HamptonThink) October 6, 2015
For Grace Lee Boggs’ 100th Birthday
June 26, 2015
A long curve of life,
forging the dense tides of human strife
in one era, celebrating victory,
in another, marking time at an impasse,
and seeking a way forward.
Resilient, hardy of mind and heart,
you have outlived
the comrades you loved.
Outlived the retreats to Maine and the ocean’s
Outlived there in Maine and elsewhere
the cacophony of contentious ideas,
your own cantankerous certitudes, unrelenting and venting about all the rest —
friends intent upon shaping a vision of a new America.
Outlived your beloved books, even,
whose theories you mastered —-
those pages now brown and flaking
dusting the desks and shelves
of the Field Street rooms.
These days, your persistent will,
floats between two worlds –
this world of comrades new and old,
sliding in and out to care for you in
daily rhythms of rising, eating, sleeping;
the other one, a flood of bright, unfamiliar sightings that pull
you away for a spell, then release.
Daunted by that shifting, holy space
of your present between worlds,
I do not visit.
I send prayers, a poem, wishes for your comfort.
I do not venture to that space,
but turn to my store of memories:
moments on Field Street at the table with you, Jimmy, Stu and Max,
in churches where we met and planned so many strategies,
in circles with Detroit Summers’ young faces,
on the streets in protest against the killing of our children in drive-by shootings,
or the corruption of our neighborhoods by drugs;
in loving gatherings where we nibbled and sipped and talked philosophy and the essential roles of art, spirituality and culture.
In such moments, Grace, you gave
energy, gesture, laughter, you gave flesh and bone to the idea of revolution.
In your steadfastness we witnessed
that being a revolutionary
requires patience and faith
to walk the evolutionary path
day by day
towards the beloved community.
For your determination to live for change,
and for your agitated bravery now
in facing the change
to which you can only surrender,
you remain our treasured mentor and guide.
Aneb Kgositsile (aka Gloria House). Aneb is a poet, university professor, and political activist living in Detroit since 1967.
100 and sap still rising
my woman asks me a poem
this morning in the midst
of our own upheavals and words
–to be offered as a monument
to a duration of hope etched
in a face of resolve
a graced bogg of burning pith
an adamantine eloquence
in a set jaw
a gift of tongue clear to
the roots of now
plowing all our fictions and derelictions
our fantasies of a new mission
with raw truths
as sharp as a spade on a clod
of black bottom
sowing seed, yet again at every
year of digging toe into the soil of
paradise valley derision, a house of
incubation on a horizon of decimation
a living womb of vision
she is a medium now for 3 generations
taking her talk in all 4 directions
elders and youngers, colors as bold as
the hunger in any eye starved by
the colonial clamor and cry
a detroit summer even in the winter
of our collapse and wondering why
a motown mama like a spirit-possession
calling every jaded desire-for-change
to full height
laughing her rebuke
muting hard logic only in the magic of compassion
like a composted cucumber transforming
brick-shard into table-top nutrition
a beloved hallowing
as simple as a gathering
in an old house
as stark as dawn
on a january street
in a detroit storm of sleet
unrelenting as jimmy boggs
heat for failing to sail
the flag of transformation
in the full wind of evolutionary revolution
as tart as an invincible tongue
shooting bullet-darts of incineration
straight through the farts of old men
high on department of correction
defecation, flushed back downtown
by a ron scott declamation
shea howell howls of alternative education
re-mediating the pollution, while
rich feldman growls of exclamation
excoriate union halls of any temptation
the situation today is a conflagration
the end of industrialization
but in the ground of the pounded down
a glimmer of a new round of
resounding sounds of a hound of vitality
on the rise
as wise as a 95-year-old gaze
looking straight into the dark
and seeing the prize
that has never not started up again
. . . like a new beginning
bursting from a harsh end.
James W. Perkinson. James is an educator, activist, and poet living and working in inner-city Detroit.
— AsianAmericansUnited (@AsAmUnited) October 5, 2015
“Unlike so many other left-wing stars, [Grace] genuinely spent a lot of time encouraging others to become more sophisticated political activists and organizers, to no benefit to herself. She did not try to cultivate sycophants or followers.”
Spencer Sunshine, PhD. Spencer is an Associate Fellow at Political Research Associates.”
— Amy K. Senese (@AmySenese) October 9, 2015
“Michelle and I were saddened to hear of the passing of author, philosopher, and activist Grace Lee Boggs. Grace dedicated her life to serving and advocating for the rights of others—from her community activism in Detroit, to her leadership in the Civil Rights movement, to her ideas that challenged us all to lead meaningful lives. As the child of Chinese immigrants and as a woman, Grace learned early on that the world needed changing, and she overcame barriers to do just that. She understood the power of community organizing at its core—the importance of bringing about change and getting people involved to shape their own destiny. Grace’s passion for helping others, and her work to rejuvenate communities that had fallen on hard times spanned her remarkable 100 years of life, and will continue to inspire generations to come. Our thoughts and prayers are with Grace’s family and friends, and all those who loved her dearly.”
President Barack Obama
How did Grace Lee Boggs touch your life? Share your stories in the comment sections below or in your social media posts with #RememberingGrace.