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American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs | POV | PBS
[Quotes from the film (watched on Netflix), all are Grace Lee Boggs, with the exception of the one noted as being from filmmaker Grace Lee:

“The Montgomery Bus Boycott was about not only transforming the system, but an example of how we ourselves change in the process of changing the system.”

“The word power strikes white power as something dangerous, threatening, and we were only talking about blacks being in office.”

“We realized a rebellion is an outburst of anger, but it’s not a revolution. Revolution is evolution toward something much grander.”

“Ideas matter and when you take a position you should try and examine what it’s implications are. It is not enough to say, “This is what I think, this is what I feel.””

Grace Lee: “It all goes back to Hegel — for Grace, conversation is where you try to honestly confront the limits of your own ideas in order to come to a new understanding.”

“There are times when expanding our imaginations is what is required. The radical movement has overemphasized the role of activism and underestimated the role of reflection. ”

“One of the difficulties when you are coming out of oppression and out of a bitter past is that you get a concept of the Messiah and you expect too much from your leaders. And I think we have to get to that point that we are the leaders we have been looking for. One learns very soon that the changes we need are not going to come from the top by electing somebody else.”

“Why is non-violence such an important, not just a tactic, not just a strategy, but an important philosophy? Because it respects the capacity of human beings to grow. It gives them the opportunity to grow their souls. And we owe that to each other.”]

"Grace Lee Boggs, 98, is a Chinese American philosopher, writer, and activist in Detroit with a thick FBI file and a surprising vision of what an American revolution can be. Rooted for 75 years in the labor, civil rights and Black Power movements, she challenges a new generation to throw off old assumptions, think creatively and redefine revolution for our times. Winner, Audience Award, Best Documentary Feature, 2013 Los Angeles Film Festival. A co-presentation with the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM)."



"Grace Lee Boggs, 98, is a Chinese American philosopher, writer and activist in Detroit with a thick FBI file and a surprising vision of what an American revolution can be. Rooted in 75 years of the labor, civil rights and Black Power movements, she continually challenges a new generation to throw off old assumptions, think creatively and redefine revolution for our times.

Right at the start of American Revolutionary, director Grace Lee makes clear that she isn’t related to Grace Lee Boggs. She met the older woman through her earlier documentary, The Grace Lee Project, about the shared name of many Asian American women and the stereotypes associated with it. Philosopher, activist and author Grace Lee Boggs, then in her vigorous 80s and very much a part of Detroit’s social fabric, began applying a spirited analysis to the film project itself. She habitually turned the tables on the filmmaker with a grandmotherly smile that belied her firm resolve, probing the younger woman’s ideas and suggesting she consider things more deeply. Thus began a series of conversations over the next decade and beyond.

Director Grace Lee always knew she’d make a film about the woman with a radical Marxist past, intimidating intellectual achievements and enduring engagement in the issues — a sprightly activist who can gaze at a crumbling relic of a once-thriving auto plant and say, “I feel so sorry for people who are not living in Detroit.”

In some ways, the radicalization of Grace Lee Boggs typifies an experience many people shared during America’s turbulent 20th century. Yet she cut an extraordinary path through decades of struggle. As Angela Davis, an icon of the 1960s Black Power movement, puts it, “Grace has made more contributions to the black struggle than most black people have.” Actor Danny Glover and numerous Detroit comrades, plus archival footage featuring Bill Moyers, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee and Boggs’ late husband and fellow radical, James Boggs, all testify to Boggs’ highly unusual position.

How a smart, determined, idealistic Chinese American woman became a civil rights movement fixture from its earliest post-war days and, later, a spokesperson for Black Power (often the only non-black — and only woman — in a roomful of unapologetic activists planning for a revolution they believed inevitable) is a riveting and revealing tale.

American Revolutionary shows that Boggs got in on the action — and the action got going — long before the turbulent 1960s. As she reminds a group of students, “I got my Ph.D. in 1940. Just imagine that.” Born in 1915 in Providence, R.I. to Chinese immigrants who moved to New York and prospered in the restaurant trade — Chin Lee’s opened in Manhattan in 1924 — she grew up relatively privileged and excelled at the nearly all-white Bryn Mawr and Barnard Colleges.

Then two things happened. First, she read the works of German philosopher Hegel, the founder of “dialectical thinking” whose work influenced Marxism, which steered her into philosophy and a more critical stance toward society. Then, after finishing school with doctorate in hand, she found herself blocked by “We don’t hire Orientals” signs. So she took a train to Chicago, where she found a job at the University of Chicago’s philosophy library and an apartment on the South Side and began organizing her new neighborhood against rat-infested housing.

The rest is a people’s history of the American left. American Revolutionary deftly follows Boggs’ path from her first community campaign — as a tenants’ rights organizer — through the 1941 March on Washington movement, which demanded jobs for African Americans in defense plants; her mentorship under the West Indian Marxist writer and theorist C.L.R. James; her move to Detroit; her 1953 marriage to Alabama-born James Boggs (auto worker and author of The American Revolution: Pages From a Negro Worker’s Notebook); her split with orthodox Marxism in favor of Black revolution; her preference for the ideas of Malcolm X over those of Martin Luther King, Jr.; and her emergence as a spokesperson for Black Power.

Along the way, she studied, wrote influential books, engaged in protest and, together with her husband (who died in 1993), discovered increasing tolerance for what they saw as revolutionary violence in the face of violent repression. Then Detroit exploded in the 1967 riots, which, as American Revolutionary reveals, were watershed events for Boggs. Indeed, she instructed PBS’s Bill Moyers to call them “a rebellion.” After a short period of community solidarity, disorder and lawlessness took over the streets. Rebellion did not become revolution. Boggs and her husband began to reexamine their ideas in the light of experience. Though there are many who would argue with her, and she’d be ready for the argument, Boggs has maintained her dedication to humanist and even radical ideals, while tempering her understanding of revolution as an evolutionary process.

Grace Lee Boggs can feel hopeful about Detroit not despite the city’s unstable financial and social condition but because of it. She retains the radical’s abiding faith that a new way of living can dawn. “We are in a time of great hope and great danger,” she tells Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman. Yet, as American Revolutionary chronicles, this faith has also been tempered by mistakes, lost battles, unintended consequences, age itself and the sheer evolutionary force of social change. “It’s hard when you’re young to understand how reality is constantly changing because it hasn’t changed that much during your lifetime,” says Boggs. Still, channeling Hegel, she challenges people to “not get stuck in old ideas. Keep recognizing that reality is changing and that your ideas have to change.”

Boggs’ approach is radical in its simplicity and clarity: Revolution is not an act of aggression or merely a protest. Revolution, Boggs says, “is about something deeper within the human experience — the ability to transform oneself and transform the world.”

“From the moment I met Grace Lee Boggs in 2000, I knew I would have to make a longer film just about her,” says director Grace Lee. “Over the years, I would return to Detroit, hang out and watch her hold everyone from journalists to renowned activists to high school students in her thrall. I recognized myself in all of them — eager to connect with someone who seemed to embody history itself.

“This is not an issue film, nor is it about a celebrity or an urgent injustice that rallies you to take action,” she continues. “It’s about an elderly woman who spends most of her days sitting in her living room thinking and hatching ideas about the next American revolution. But if you catch wind of some of those ideas, they just might change the world.”"

[See also: http://americanrevolutionaryfilm.com/ ]
via:caseygollan  activism  civilrights  detroit  dissent  graceleeboggs  documentary  hegel  2014  gracelee  nonviolence  understanding  conversation  evolution  revolution  rebellion  anger  change  systems  systemschange 
march 2016 by robertogreco
Bill Moyers Journal . Watch & Listen | PBS
"GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, I had no idea what I was gonna do after I got my degree in philosophy in 1940. But what I did know was at that time, if you were a Chinese-American, even department stores wouldn't hire you. They'd come right out and say, "We don't hire Orientals." And so the idea of my getting a job teaching in a university and so forth was really ridiculous. And I went to Chicago and I got a job in the philosophy library there for $10 a week, And so I found a little old Jewish woman right near the university who took pity on me and said I could stay in her basement rent-free. The only obstacle was that I had to face down a barricade of rats in order to get into her basement. And at that time, in the black communities, they were beginning to protest and struggle against rat-infested housing. So I joined one of the tenants' organizations and thereby came in touch with the black community for the first time in my life.

BILL MOYERS: One of her first heroes in that community was A. Philip Randolph, the charismatic labor leader who had won a long struggle to organize black railroad porters. In the 1930s. on the eve of World War II, Randolph was furious that blacks were being turned away from good paying jobs in the booming defense plants.

When he took his argument to F.D.R., the president was sympathetic but reluctant to act. Proclaiming that quote 'power is the active principle of only the organized masses,' Randolph called for a huge march on Washington to shame the president. It worked. F.D.R. backed down and signed an order banning discrimination in the defense industry. All over America blacks moved from the countryside into the cities to take up jobs — the first time in 400 years — says Grace Lee Boggs, that black men could bring home a regular paycheck.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: And when I saw what a movement could do, I said, "Boy, that's what I wanna do with my life."

GRACE LEE BOGGS: It was just amazing. I mean, how you have to take advantage of a crisis in the system and in the government and also press to meet the needs of the people who are struggling for dignity. I mean, that's very tricky.

BILL MOYERS: It does take moral force to make political decisions possible.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Yeah. and I think that too much of our emphasis on struggle has simply been in terms of confrontation and not enough recognition of how much spiritual and moral force is involved in the people who are struggling.

BILL MOYERS: Well, that's true. But power never gives up anything voluntarily. People have to ask for it. They have to demand it. They have-to--

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, you know as Douglas said, "Power yields nothing without a struggle." But how one struggles I think is now a very challenging question.

BILL MOYERS: She would learn a lot more about struggle from the man she married in 1952 — Jimmy Boggs, a radical activist, organizer, and writer. They couldn't have been outwardly more different — he was a black man, an auto worker and she was a Chinese-American, college educated philosopher — but they were kindred spirits, and their marriage lasted four decades until his death.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I think that I owe a great deal of my rootedness to Jimmy because he learned to write and become a writer because in his illiterate community nobody could read and write. He picked cotton, and then went to work in Detroit. He saw himself as having been part of one epoch, the agriculture epoch, and now the industrial epoch, and now the post-industrial epoch. I think that's a very important part of what we need in this country, is that sense that we have lived through so many stages, and that we are entering into a new stage where we could create something completely different. Jimmy had that feeling. "



"BILL MOYERS: And you think that this question of work was at the heart of what happened-- or it was part of what happened in Detroit that summer?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I don't think it's that they were conscious of it, but I thought-- what I saw happen was that young people who recognized that working in the factory was what had allowed their parents to buy a house, to raise a family, to get married, to send their kids to school, that was eroding. They felt that-- no one cares anymore.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: And what we tried to do is explain that a rebellion is righteous, because it's the protest by a people against injustice, because of unrighteous situation, but it's not enough. You have to go beyond rebellion. And it was amazing, a turning point in my life, because until that time, I had not made a distinction between a rebellion and revolution. And it forced us to begin thinking, what does a revolution mean? How does it relate to evolution?"



"BILL MOYERS: The conundrum for me is this; The war in Vietnam continued another seven years after Martin Luther King's great speech at Riverside here in New York City on April 4th, 1967. His moral argument did not take hold with the powers-that-be.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I don't expect moral arguments to take hold with the powers-that-be. They are in their positions of power. They are part of the system. They are part of the problem.

BILL MOYERS: Then do moral arguments have any force if they--

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Of course they do.

BILL MOYERS: If they can be so heedlessly ignored?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I think because we depend too much on the government to do it. I think we're not looking sufficiently at what is happening at the grassroots in the country. We have not emphasized sufficiently the cultural revolution that we have to make among ourselves in order to force the government to do differently. Things do not start with governments--

BILL MOYERS: But wars do.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: There's big changes--

BILL MOYERS: Wars do. Wars do.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Wars do. But positive changes leaps forward in the evolution of human kind, do not start with governments. I think that's what the Civil Rights Movement taught us.

BILL MOYERS: But Martin Luther King was ignored then on the war. In fact, the last few years of his life, as he was moving beyond the protest in the South, and the end of official segregation, he was largely ignored if not ridiculed for his position on economic equality. Upon doing something about poverty. And, in fact, many civil rights leaders, as you remember, Grace, condemned him for mixing foreign policy with civil rights. They said; That's not what we should be about.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: But see, what I hear in what you're saying is a separation of the anti-war speech of the peace trajectory, from the other things that Martin said. He was talking about a radical revolution of values. And that radical revolution of values has not been pursued in the last forty years. The consumerism, and materialism, has gotten worse. The militarism has continued, while people are going around, you know just using their credit cards. All that's been taking place. And so, would he have continued to challenge those? I think he would. But on the whole, our society has not been challenging those, except in small pockets.

BILL MOYERS: He said that the three triplets of society in America were; Racism, consumerism or materialism and militarism. And you're saying those haven't changed.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I'm saying that not only have those not changed, but people have isolated the struggles against each of these from the other. They have not seen that they're part of one whole of a radical revolution of values that we all must undergo. "



"BILL MOYERS: Yes, but where is the sign of the movement today?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I believe that we are at the point now, in the United States, where a movement is beginning to emerge. I think that the calamity, the quagmire of the Iraq war, the outsourcing of jobs, the drop-out of young people from the education system, the monstrous growth of the prison-industrial complex, the planetary emergency, which we are engulfed at the present moment, is demanding that instead of just complaining about these things, instead of just protesting about these things, we begin to look for, and hope for, another way of living. And I think that's where the movement -- I see a movement beginning to emerge, 'cause I see hope beginning to trump despair.

BILL MOYERS: Where do you see the signs of it?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I see the signs in the various small groups that are emerging all over the place to try and regain our humanity in very practical ways. For example in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Will Allen, who is a former basketball player has purchased two and a half acres of land, with five greenhouses on it, and he is beginning to grow food, healthy food for his community. And communities are growing up around that idea. I mean, that's a huge change in the way that we think of the city. I mean, the things we have to restore are so elemental. Not just food, and not just healthy food, but a different way of relating to time and history and to the earth.

BILL MOYERS: And a garden does that for you?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Yes. A garden does all sorts of things. It helps young people to relate to the Earth in a different way. It helps them to relate to their elders in a different way. It helps them to think of time in a different way.

BILL MOYERS: How so?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, if we just press a button, and you think that's the key to reality, you're in a hell of a mess of a human being."



"BILL MOYERS: You know, a lot of young people out there would agree with your analysis. With your diagnosis. And then they will say; What can I do that's practical? How do I make the difference that Grace Lee Boggs is taking about. What would you be doing?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I would say do something local. Do something real, however, small. And don't diss the political things, but understand their limitations.

BILL MOYERS: Don't 'diss' them?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Disrespect them.

BILL MOYERS: Disrespect them?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Understand their … [more]
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june 2015 by robertogreco

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