Grace Lee Boggs was a pioneer of the modern American feminism movement and a legendary leader in the Black Power revolution. Her legacy is not just the books she authored or the film she directed, it's also the many young people whose lives she transformed and who continue to carry on her work today.
She may have been born into a world of assimilation, but she made her mark by using her unique philosophical insights to build community in Detroit and beyond. Her life's work covered a range of issues, including civil rights, black power, labor, feminist, and environmental justice.
Her most impressive achievement was collaborating with her husband, Jimmy Boggs, a Black autoworker from the Jim Crow South, to build a multiethnic community in Detroit. Their efforts led to the creation of an award-winning youth program and the founding of a cultural center where activists from all walks of life could gather.
The most important message of her long life is that women, men, and young people from all walks of life can and should be involved in the movement for social and economic justice. As she said, “The most successful social movements are the ones that have as their central purpose the creation of new human beings.”
Seeing Grace's name in the Stop Asian Hate Movement can be disconcerting, but it's worth noting that she spent much of her life as an underdog. She was a Chinese/Asian American woman who lived on the margins of society and often felt marginalized by the radical organizations to which she dedicated her life. Her political evolution is a fascinating lesson for anyone who hopes to make the world a better place.