LIVING FOR CHANGE
James Boggs – Born Again!
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, June 16, 2009
Jimmy Boggs, my husband and partner in struggle for forty years, made his transition in 1993. This year he has been born again in a new edition of his first book, The American Revolution: Pages from a Negro Worker’s Notebook. Published by Monthly Review in 1963, it was soon translated and published in French, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Catalan and Portugese.
The 2009 edition will be introduced by me and six other Detroiters who have continued the “on the ground” struggles which provided the context for everything Jimmy wrote.
My introduction explains that this book is even more timely today because Jimmy was a visionary. Thinking and acting dialectically, he was always aware that reality is constantly changing and creating new contradictions, so that once liberating ideas can become fetters on our imagination.
Shea Howell, Jimmy’s fishing buddy and Detroit Summer coordinator, writes that Jimmy was able to love deeply, without illusions, because he believed so completely that we all had the potential to transform ourselves and become more fully human.
Attorney Carl Edwards explains how, after Brother Malcolm was murdered by black men in cold blood and the old ruling social order had newly masked itself in black skin, he needed this book because Black Nationalism, race consciousness and Pan Africanism were no longer enough to describe the social and economic reality in post-industrial Detroit.
Boggs Center webmaster Larry Sparks writes that “Jimmy’s wisdom gave me pride and hope for our country, even with its dreadful practices of racism, materialist greed and militarism. By proposing that we ‘love our country enough to change it,’ he gave me a dialectical historical understanding that we are more than our anger and fears.”
Julia Pointer-Putnam met Jimmy in 1992 when she became a Detroit Summer volunteer because at 16, she was “tired of wondering what I could do to make a difference in my life instead of feeling a victim of it.” She remembers being moved that “this man who knew nothing about me was proud of me because I was ready to put my time and energy towards creating a Detroit that I could be proud to live in.”
Jenny Lee, Detroit Summer Live Arts Media Project and Allied Media Conference organizer, writes that “the group James Boggs described as the Outsiders has grown exponentially since 1963,” and how the organizations she works with provide “a space in which these young people can self-initiate and self-organize around their
collective visions in the spirit of community and family. “
Labor organizer Rich Feldman concludes the introductions with thoughts about the Next American Revolution.
“Today we are on the edge of a cliff. The view of what’s behind and what’s ahead is vivid. Community or Chaos. Middle class economic dreams are over. Achieving security and quality of life based upon our relationships and our commitment to creating community is our mission.
“This is an opportunity for activists, radicals and revolutionists to face the challenge of this historic moment. We should no longer be fighting for full employment. We should be imagining and creating new forms of Work that provide for our Needs rather than our Wants and reaffirm our connection with the Earth. A job ain’t the answer. We need Work that creates community and dignity. And we need an economy that no longer separates the two.
“The next American Revolution will involve a two-sided transformation of both ourselves and our institutions. In the spirit of that revolution I offer some questions to encourage conversations about the principles we need to guide us in creating a new American dream, and some visions of a future economy that will inspire even more visioning and eventually the realization of an economy that provides sufficient goods and services to satisfy the basic needs of our communities, which are not only material.”