I spent a brief time in New York this past week for a memorial event for Grace Lee Boggs, organized by Matthew Birkhold and Dr. Amaka Okechukwu. I was accompanied on the trip by Michael “Doc” Holbrook. My last visit was two years ago to this hustle and bustle town as part of a group accompanying Grace to a film screening of the documentary “American Revolutionary the evolution of Grace Lee Boggs.” So I was excited to return and visit Brooklyn where Matt and Amaka made the trip memorable with rich conversation and warm hospitality.
The memorial was well attended despite the rain that fell all day in NY. It took place at the restored Audubon Ballroom where Malcolm X convened many meetings and gave speeches upon his return from Mecca. This is also the place where he was killed. Grace and Jimmy Boggs had deep connections to Malcolm who shared their commitment to the black Power struggle. They played a pivotal role in organizing Malcolm’s Message to the Grass Roots speech, delivered in Detroit shortly before his death.
The audience at the memorial was intergenerational and diverse. In attendance were people who had known Grace personally for over 40 years such as Rosa Naparstek, an artist and activists who lives minutes from the Audubon. The speakers, activists and organizers shared stories and reflections on the inspirations from the writings, theory, and practice of Grace and Jimmy Boggs.
I am inspired by such work and shared my own memories of Grace, and her nurturing of leadership through conversation steeped in critical questioning and urgings to rethink ideas and how to create a better world for the future. Grace, through a lifetime of love and struggle, has inspired many to create change through activities and organizing. She encouraged us to study historical events and theories and learn from them so we could evolve into more human human beings.
(R)evolution means changing this world into a more democratic, inclusive, and environmentally sound place, one family, one neighborhood at a time. Personal and political, is how it happens. We have the right to humane policies, we have to push back against created crisis that are damaging our existence and feed capitalism. I am inspired to continue to reflect on the decisions I make as part of a collective not on an individual basis. We know we can grow food to fight hunger, organize against home foreclosures and water shut offs, and stand in solidarity with the weak and voiceless, as well as rallying and protesting loud and long. This work is a struggle of loving ourselves, others, and the world enough to change it through personal reflections and participation. Yes we have to protest and rally. But we can also build relationships with one another. Like the relationship between NY and Detroit, we are learning that despite our differences our struggle as human beings is the same. It is not enough to throw out what doesn’t work. It is crucial to have a vision for what is to be created, and we can do that “if our imaginations are rich enough.”
If you’ve written something for another outlet, please consider re-posting here. If you think you shouldn’t contribute because you didn’t know her well, or because you haven’t read all her work, we’re here to tell you that’s totally fine! If Grace or her work resonated with you, or helped you look at the world in a different way, please consider contributing to this project. 20 words is fine. So is a 2,000 essay. A poem ? Perfect.
How to share your story:
1.) Join Cowbird (it’s free).
2.) It’s easiest to build a story with a computer rather than a phone if you have the option. Once you’ve joined, sign in and in theright hand corner of this page, click on the blue button that says “sprout this seed” which will direct you to the story building page with the prompt, “What did GLB teach you?” From there, come up with a title, and type away.
3.) If you’d like, find a photo and/or some sound (in mp3 format) to illustrate your story by clicking on the photo/microphone icon in the left column. The good people at “On Being” with Krista Tippet have given us access to their extraordinary, unedited interview with Grace. If you have the tools (garage band, pro tools, audacity, etc.), feel free to pull quotes from the interview, remix them, score them with your own music. Here’s that link.
4.)You can also add your story’s data ( date, location, and other tags).
5.) When finished, click the “publish” button at the top! Your story will be automatically archived in this collection. Share it. Tweet it out with #GraceLeeTaughtMe