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Arts and Culture

Grace Lee Boggs, American Visionary

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Posted on Jun 26, 2014

By Emily Wilson

(Page 2)

EW: There are more women in the Senate now. Do you think having more women in politics changes it?

GLB: There’s a very wonderful book written by a woman Silvia Federici, who teaches at Hofstra College in New York. She has a book, “Caliban the Witch.” I think that the opportunity for a new feminism is emerging, and it’s epochs different from the old feminism. Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan and the feminists of the ’60s were close, but this is very new, and I think somehow the film is going to help people make that leap. I think we’re going to understand the witch hunts very differently. Starhawk has a wonderful essay about this, “Burning Times.” That philosophic leap is in the offing for us.

My autobiography has just been published in China, and the Chinese editor says it’s going to have quite an impact. It’s very amazing up to now we don’t have any idea what feminism in China is going to mean. All our knowledge of feminism is European and American. We are in a period of spiritual expansion, and there’s a fantastic book, “Translating Feminisms in China,” by two women professors. I think we have had very little understanding of that.

EW: How do you see the youth program Detroit Summer and the community garden focus as part of the movement and what inspired you to start it?

GLB: I’m going to introduce the concept of visionary organizing. I think most people are not conscious of the fact of the difference between human beings and fish. Fish respond the same way to outside stimulus. Human beings respond very differently. Some people are immobilized, paralyzed and other people begin to say, “What can I do?” and what was happening in the ’60s is that young people in the cities were feeling that young people down South were doing marvelous things, and they wanted to know what they could do. Somehow we were able to capture that desire and create a program that met their needs to do something different.

EW: Why that though? Why gardening?

GLB: It all goes back to people who came from the South thought that people born in the cities needed transformation. They had the idea of quick fixes and push-button change without any idea how long it takes things to change, and they thought the vacant lots in the cities had a great use to help young people make a call for transformation.

It was so interesting to see how different people who are raised in the cities and people who were raised in the country respond—I don’t know if you saw the clip of me with Bill Moyers, and he said, “You think a garden can do that?” I don’t think that had ever occurred to him.

EW: In the movie, a young woman asked why you don’t burn out, and you say you’ve been in the same place for more than 60 years. Why does that prevent you from burnout?

GLB: I’ve been in the same house for 50 years. It’s surrounded by vacant, abandoned houses. But it’s been named a historic site by the City Council because so many struggles that have taken place in the city have been strategized there. There’s a book by Vance Packard called “A Nation of Strangers.” He talks about how Americans move, and when you don’t move, you think differently from someone who’s moving all the time. You have a sense of yourself as more meaningful. Coming here on the plane, I watched people looking at movies. And I was thinking what it’s like to be up in the air all the time without any sense of agency of your own. I think the American people need to be more conscious of that concept of agency.


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