American Revolutionary, Transformation in 82 Minutes. Tawana Petty


TawanaPettyAmerican Revolutionary, Transformation in 82 Minutes.

“I feel so sorry for people who are not living in Detroit,” says 99, then 98 year old Grace Lee Boggs at the intro to the film by Grace Lee (no relation), American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs.

As she gazes at the once vibrant, now dilapidated, and enormous Packard Building, Boggs provides a powerful analysis of the postindustrial city struggling to reinvent itself, after the job system has failed it. “Detroit gives a sense of epochs of civilization in a way that you don’t get in a city like New York. It’s obvious by looking at it, that what was, doesn’t work. People are always striving for size, to be a giant, and this is a symbol of how giants fall.”

I’ve had the pleasure of screening American Revolutionary at several venues in Detroit, and in Metro Detroit, and have traveled with it nationally. Even after a dozen viewings, I discover something new each time, and that amazes me. I can truly say that the filmmaker Grace Lee did an incredible job with this film.

Although, Lee follows Boggs over a period of 10 years, she was able to capture so much more than the story of one remarkable woman’s life. American Revolutionary is not just a film about Grace, although that alone would be significant, it is a film about transformation in our country, our society, individual transformation, and transformation in Detroit.

It is through Grace’s rootedness here, and the fact that she has been an active member and maker of community in Detroit for more than six decades, that inspires activists of my generation, particularly women who were fortunate enough to see the film, to continue forward in this struggle for our humanity, while embracing the evolutionary, and sometimes very difficult process. I often find that people need something and someone to look at that’s inspiring us to continue to evolve. Grace is absolutely one of those beings.

At 99, Grace is still pushing for new ideas and ways to determine how we treat each other as human beings, and at this time, “on the clock of the world,” as Grace would put it, how we treat each other is not only significant, but it necessary for our survival during these times.

This is a film that I recommend to anyone who is seeking answers to questions like, “what does it mean to be a human being?” A question I believe, if answered, or at least pondered over, is a huge step forward to our becoming the beloved community.

American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs will be screening, Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. at the Hannah Community Center, 819 Abbot Road in East Lansing. The event is being sponsored by the Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame and the East Lansing Film Festival. Tickets are $10, $8 for seniors and $5 for students.

It will also be screening during the North End Urban Expressions Art Festival: The Healing II on August 22, 2014 at 6pm.

Both screenings will be followed by a discussion led by representatives of the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership

For more information about the film or to purchase it online, visit

Tawana Petty

Mother, Organizer, Author, Poet

Coordinator for New Work New Culture Conference

October 18 – 20, 2014