By Robin Markle
“We are so fortunate to be living now because the challenges are so many and we need to use our imaginations in new ways.”
This quote from Grace Lee Boggs is one I turn to when I feel distraught. It is comforting that someone who has been alive for nearly a century and participated in struggles for justice for seven decades thinks that 2015 is a fortunate time to be alive. If Grace believes that we have the power to grow out of the oppression surrounding us, maybe I can believe it too.
Grace Lee Boggs is celebrating her 100th birthday on June 27 in Detroit, where she has lived for over 60 years. A first generation Chinese-American woman with a PhD in philosophy, Grace moved to Detroit in 1953 to write and edit a socialist newsletter. There she met fellow contributor Jimmy Boggs, a Black auto worker who had moved north from Alabama in the Great Migration. One night Grace invited him over for dinner and he asked her to marry him. Their partnership lasted 40 years and together they were leaders in Detroit movements for economic and racial justice.
For much of Grace’s life, she participated in oppositional organizing: coalitions fighting back against job losses, budget cuts to schools and racist policing. In recent years, her focus has changed. Yes, opposition is important, but just as important, she says, is visioning the new world we want. If we could create a new education system from scratch, what would it look like? In a world where technology is increasingly entwined in our lives, what does it mean to be human? What kind of work is meaningful? Grace feels lucky to be living in Detroit, a place where capitalism has failed so fantastically that there is nothing left to do but start anew, find new ways to work, live and learn. Her vision of a new Detroit is alive in the Detroit Summer program and Allied Media Projects. It was through the Allied Media Conference and Grace’s books that I learned about her life and philosophies. They have inspired me over the years as both an artist and activist.
When Grace entered hospice care last Fall and her friends asked for donations toward her care, I had to contribute. It is part of building this new world: finding ways to support our elders outside of nuclear family and state structures. As part of a residency at the Anchor Archive Zine Library in Halifax this Spring, I created a poster and zine about Grace to fundraise for her care. I encourage you to check out the zine as well as Grace’s books and other writings. Perhaps she can inspire you to vision beyond the current world too.
Click here to make a donation to Grace’s care and receive a copy of Robin’s gorgeous poster!
Robin Markle is an artist, organizer and revolutionary witch practicing her crafts in West Philadelphia. She is a coordinator of the Philly Childcare Collective, a member of Decarcerate PA, and an instigator in her housing co-op, the Life Center Association. When she’s not in a meeting, she can be found cooking up a scheme, a spell or a meal and selling queer altar candles at FlamingIdols.com.