Friday evening. After the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage I went to an event at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History celebrating the 100th birthday of Grace Lee Boggs, a local activist, feminist, and philosopher (among other things). She’s known to many here as “Mama Grace”; she’s been involved in one social movement after another from Labor to Civil Rights and Black Power, and for the last sixty years has lived in the same house, a block and a half up the street from where I’m writing this letter to you. Here is Mama Grace in 2005, at the age of 91 and still razor sharp, being interviewed by Bill Moyers on PBS.
While I haven’t yet met her in person or read her books, from interviews like these and from listening to the guest speakers and poets at the event on Friday, it’s clear that here is a woman who has been through SO MUCH LIFE, both literally and spiritually. She has taken so many positions and learned immensely from each of them, and through the years arrived at a philosophy of her own, a philosophy that’s deeply compassionate to all people. That respects how complicated the world – and changing the world – actually is.
My favorite part of the Moyers interview is when she says she’s starting to see signs of a new movement, and he asks her where and she gives an example of a community garden started in Milwaukee by a former basketball player.
BILL MOYERS: And a garden does that for you?
GRACE LEE BOGGS: Yes. A garden does all sorts of things. It helps young people to relate to the Earth in a different way. It helps them to relate to their elders in a different way. It helps them to think of time in a different way.
BILL MOYERS: How so?
GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, if we just press a button, and you think that’s the key to reality, you’re in a hell of a mess as a human being.