Visionary Organizing By Grace Lee Boggs


Visionary Organizing

By Grace Lee Boggs

Michigan Citizen  Aug. 28-Sept. 3, 2011


I’m looking forward to a public conversation this week with University of Michigan Professor Bunyan Bryant at the EPA Conference taking place in Detroit.

 Bunyan and I have been asked to speak at the Conference luncheon about how the social justice/racial justice/environmental movements have grown over the last few decades.

 Iplan to talk about Bunyan’s visionary organizing because I believe too few activists appreciate the tremendous difference between it and   Alinsky-style protest organizing .

Bunyan was one of the conveners of the First People of Color  Environmental Summit which produced the 17 Principles of

Environmental Justice in October 1991.  These principles are a model for 21st century revolutionaries struggling to write their Constitution after freeing themselves from dictators like Mubarak.

 In 1992 I participated in a workshop Bunyan conducted during Martin Luther King week at the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and the Environment (SNRE) where he has taught for years. 

 Shortly after introductions, he challenged each of us to write a story of  how we see the world 30-40 years from now, giving us  a half hour to complete the assignment.

 It was not whet I had expected, and at first my mind was blank.

But before long I found myself writing a story of how, on January 14, 2032, the eve of MLK’s 103rd birthday, there had been a record-breaking snowstorm that Detroiters feared would keep them from getting to the city-wide celebration at Ford Auditorium.

 However. within hours,  the streets had been cleared by Youth Block Clubs because ever since 1992 when Detroit Summer had involved young people in rebuilding, redefining and respiriting  the city from the ground up,  our schools and Detroit youth had been transformed.

 A normal and natural part of the school curriculum and the daily life of Detroit youth was now serving the community by activities like recycling, growing food and organizing neighborhood health festivals .

 Subsequently In Context  published our stories with a memorable  introduction entitled  Rehearsing the  Future by Bunyan.

 “ While many of us will become students of history to help interpret and understand world developments,” it said,, “some of us will have to become students of the future.

 “Futuring is based upon hope. Hope gives not only direction and meaning to our visions and actions, but also confidence in what we can become,

 “We have the capacity to create images and stories of the future that nourish new visions and provide us with unconventional alternatives. We must allow ourselves to think creatively about the future, about the kind of world we want for ourselves and our children.”