Below is the Citation for Grace Lee Boggs read by student, Kelsay Myers, at the Kalamazoo College Commencement Ceremony of 2007 where Dr. Boggs received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree on June 10th.
For over sixty years, activist, writer, philosopher Grace Lee Boggs has played a major role in U.S. social movements: Labor, Civil Rights, Black Power, Asian American, Women's, and Environmental Justice. A daughter of Chinese immigrants, Boggs was born in 1915 in Providence, Rhode Island. She received her B.A. from Barnard College in 1935 and her Ph.D. in philosophy from Bryn Mawr in 1940. In 1953 she married James Boggs, a prominent African American labor activist, writer, and strategist. Through their collaborative political work, Grace Lee Boggs deepened her commitment to African American social justice movements in Detroit. In 1992, she helped develop Detroit Summer, a multicultural, intergenerational youth program to rebuild, redefine and reinvigorate Detroit.
In 1998 the University of Minnesota Press published her autobiography Living for Change -- now a key text in Ethnic Studies, Asian American, and African American Studies college courses for its sweeping account of dynamic, multifaceted histories of U.S. and “Third World” social movements. The late African American actor Ossie Davis, when reflecting on the significance of her memoir, once said,
“Through these pages walk causes, gatherings, confrontations, movements, and the men and women who made them: workers and students and committees of the People; Christians, Black Muslims, Black Panthers, labor unions; C.L.R. James, Reverend Cleage, Reverend Franklin, Coleman Young, Malcolm and Martin; artists, musicians, poets, actors, strikers, and seekers of revolution.”
At 92 years old, Dr. Boggs remains active in various local and community organizations and continues to write a weekly column in the Michigan Citizen.
Among numerous honors, Dr. Boggs has received the Distinguished Alumna Award from Barnard College; the Chinese American Pioneers Award from the Organization of Chinese Americans; and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Anti-Defamation League. A plaque in her honor is displayed at the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, N.Y.
This past Winter Quarter I had the privilege of doing an independent study in Asian American Cultural Studies, in which I read the work of Grace Lee Boggs. In Living for Change, she asks us: “What kind of an economy, what kind of technology would serve both human and economic needs? What kind of transformation do we need in our values, institutions, and behavior to reconnect us with the rhythms and processes of nature? … What does it mean to care? What is the purpose of education? How do we create community? … Why is community a revolutionary idea?” (156). We must ask ourselves these questions if we desire to continue our education and create change in the world.
Students and faculty have been struck by her encouragement to move from a “life of contemplation to a life of action.” Grace Lee Boggs, by “keeping [her] ears close to the grassroots,” shows us that we can change the world by changing our selves. She urges us to “…begin to see ourselves as part of the continuing struggle of human beings, not only to survive but to evolve into more human human beings.” (255)