The Profoundness of James Boggs and Grace Lee Boggs

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Grace Lee Boggs, Chinese American, passed away peacefully yesterday, October 5, 2015 at the age of 100. She was the wife of James Boggs, African American, and together they were one of the earliest Asian and Black couples of prominence. They were married in 1953, two years before the first African American Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, married his Filipino wife, Cecilia Suyat Marshall. James Boggs, was an American political activist, auto worker and author. He was married to Grace for 40 years from 1953 until his death in 1993. While Grace was Chinese American, she was very much a part of the Black community in Detroit and the Black Power movement nationally, as well as later in life, an important figure in both the feminist movement and the Asian American movement. Grace was an author, social activist, philosopher, and feminist well into her 90s and her mind was very sharp all the way until the time of her death. Both James and Grace wrote several important works in political activism.

Yesterday, upon her death, #GraceLeeTaughtMe started trending on Twitter with many people around the world tweeting what they learned from Grace. Asian Black Couples added our voice to the #GraceLeeTaughtMe tweet stream with this tweet:

that love trumps race – every time! Rest in power James and Grace Lee Boggs!

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Both James and Grace lived amazing lives. The film maker, Grace Lee, produced and directed the definitive documentary film, American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, which chronicles the life of Grace, and obviously James as well. It is a superb film and if you have not seen it, you really need to see it. You can watch it for free or very little charge at Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Itunes, and at POV, the PBS documentary film website. In fact, to get the most benefit out of it, you should consider organizing a viewing party and invite as many people of different cultures as you know to watch it together. It really is very good and the film will have you thinking for many weeks to come.

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Grace Lee Boggs and filmmaker, Grace Lee.

I encourage everyone to go and study the history of James and Grace for themselves, but in this article, I want to share just a few of the profound statements from and about James and Grace that I have come across. There are many lessons to be learned from both James and Grace and I am happy to count them as one of the first prominent Asian and Black couples.

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From Grace Lee Boggs, Evolution is not linear. Times interact. 

From Grace Lee Boggs, If we stick to those categories of race and class and gender, we are stuck. 

From James Boggs, For the last 45 years, while our leaders have been telling us that our enemies were over there, they have actually been increasing over here, among and within ourselves …

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From Grace Lee Boggs, The revolution is the transformation of ourselves.

From Angela Davis, a prominent African American leader of the Black Power movement, Grace has made more contributions to the Black struggle than most Black people have.

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From James Boggs, Fortunately there are a few people in our country who are beginning to recognize that our country cannot continue on its present course, that we can no longer depend on runaway corporations or on big government for our social and economic well-being, and that somehow we must begin to create new economic, social and political ties in our communities in order to gain some control over our lives.

From Grace Lee Boggs, I don’t think that Whites understand the degree to which Blacks do not want their Whiteness. I am trying to suggest that Blacks are striving to become equal to a particular image of themselves that they have achieved. They are not trying to become equal to Whites. 

From Ron Scott, a prominent African American Detroit Activist, Nobody really thought of Grace as a Chinese American. She was Grace, she was just one of us.

From Grace Lee Boggs, The radical movement has overemphasized the role of activism and underestimated the role of reflection.

From James Boggs, Let’s view the question of change that has to take place in society, not as something that just somebody ought to do just cause they don’t like what’s going on, but because what is going on is making us less of a human being everyday.

From Grace Lee Boggs, We have to change ourselves to change the world. We have to get to the point where we realize that we are the leaders that we have been looking for. The changes we need will not come from the top.

From Ossie Davis, legendary African American actor and activist, Nobody in the whole wide world is more dedicated to the promise and the challenge of America than James and Grace Lee Boggs.

From James Boggs, Grace and I being ourselves is nobody. It is only in relationship to other bodies and many somebodies that anybody is somebody.

Scott Kurashige, an Asian American Historian at the University of Michigan, In the 21st century, Grace represents the uniting of people from different races and different backgrounds in a way that is now defining America.

From James Boggs, All of us know of the struggles that have been waged in this century around racism, not only in the United States but all over the world…But as we approach the 21st: century, the issues we face, especially in the United States, are even more complex than those of racism. The struggle of the 21st century is going to be over what will become of our cities.

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And finally, a great closing quote and one of my favorite quotes from Grace Lee Boggs, Let me make a challenge to you. With people of color becoming the new American majority in many parts of the country, how are we going to create a new vision for this country? A vision of a new kind of human being, which is what is demanded at this moment. So that’s your challenge.

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Rest in peace, James and Grace.

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