Author shares 60 years of experience in activism

By Courtney Klemm

Political activist and writer Grace Lee Boggs spoke at Allen Hall on Sunday night about her involvement in major social movements in the United States for more than 60 years. Boggs is this week’s guest in the Allen Hall Guest-in-Residence program through Unit One.

Boggs, author of the book Living for Change, emphasized the connection of each social and political issue in the country.

“People get frustrated because they can’t handle more than one issue,” she said. “Once they connect (the issues), solutions start appearing.”

Boggs, a daughter of Chinese immigrants, was born 89 years ago in Providence, R.I., and decided to move to Chicago after she received her Ph.D. in philosophy. It was there that she said she decided she wanted to be a movement activist.

Boggs lives in Detroit, home of the Boggs Center, a community center named in honor of Boggs and her husband that brings individuals and organizations from diverse backgrounds together. She said many people who visit the center are confused by empty lots in the area. She explained the vacancies as visions for the future.

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    “We are trying to see these not as wastelands, but as opportunities, places were we can make community gardens and give young people a sense of progress,” she said.

    Boggs has taken part in major issue movements such as those for civil rights, black power, Asian Americans, women and, most recently, environmental justice.

    Student who attended her speech said they were impressed by Boggs’ history and experiences.

    “I’ve seen her before and read her books. She’s wonderful,” said Michael Simon, senior in LAS. “She forms questions in such helpful ways regarding issues of community building. The experience she draws on and the projects she’s been involved in are just inspiring. She’s successfully brought hope into an area that was devastated.”

    Savannah Gabriel, sophomore in ACES, said she felt Boggs had a lot to share because of the extensive number of years she’d spent participating in various movements.

    “Her age is significant because she has been through so much,” she said. “She has so much to talk about.”

    Boggs related many issues she discussed to the recent election and shared what she has learned from her experiences.

    “What I’ve found over the years is to keep moving in our minds,” she said. “Each movement gets a change in politics at the top; politics don’t make each change.”

    She also stressed her view that each local effort makes a part of the national movement. Each person needs to take their own actions and not just leave it up to their leaders, she said.

    “The world of 2050 will be what you make it,” she said.

    Boggs said her overall goal was change for people of all nationalities and backgrounds.

    “We are at a place where we have to change our whole way of life,” she said. “We have to live simply so that others can simply live.”