Activist and philosopher Grace Lee Boggs, 95, continues to implore people to get involved in their communities.

With a panel of fellow activists and scholars, including actor Danny Glover, Boggs spoke last night at a forum called “Sustainable Activism for the 21st Century.” The forum was held to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy on the 43rd anniversary of his assassination and to honor his anti-war speech “A Time to Break Silence,” which he gave one year before he was killed.

University affiliates and members of the local community gathered in an almost full auditorium in the Modern Languages Building to attend the event, which also marked the release of Boggs’s new book, “The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century.”

In addition to a wide range of activism efforts in a variety of fields, Boggs co-founded Detroit Summer, an organization that promotes leadership among youth in the city. The University honored Boggs during Winter Commencement in 2009 by giving her a Doctor of Humane Letters. Last April, the University named a multicultural lounge in Baits II Residence Hall in honor of Boggs.

Panelists at the event discussed the past and future of social justice and called Boggs a role model for future activists. The panel members talked about issues such as what they consider to be King’s legacy, the relationship between King and Malcolm X and current and past concerns about war and racism.

One of the panelists, Robin Kelley, a professor of American studies and ethnicity and history at the University of Southern California, said there is historical evidence that activism works. He said it may be difficult to see the end of the cycle of change, but change is possible, and people have to keep working toward it.

“The fact that we have historical evidence of change means that sometimes you may not see the end of the cycle, but you are definitely making it happen,” Kelley said.

Discussing “sustainable activism” — how to be an activist today and in the future — the panel members encouraged the event attendees to take action, even when it is difficult.

“Start with something small, start with something local, don’t try to change the world,” Boggs said during the forum.

Boggs added that it was up to students and other activists to make the changes they desire in the world.

“We have to look into ourselves and understand the time has come…to grow our souls,” Boggs said. “Every crisis is not only a failure but an opportunity.”

Students who attended the forum were inspired by the words of the panelists, particularly Boggs.

LSA junior Sara Schreiber-Rose said she was familiar with Boggs before she came to the event and is inspired by the work Boggs has done.

“She has this great power,” Schreiber-Rose said. “That’s really inspirational where you see someone who has dedicated her entire life to making everyone else’s lives better.”

LSA senior Gabrielle Butterfield said she had never been to an event so focused on social justice and activism.

“Grace Lee Boggs talked a lot about racism, militarization and materialism, which are things that I learn about in my classes, but I don’t know how it translates into the real world,” Butterfield said. “It’s honestly kind of reassuring to know that other people care about those issues.”

LSA junior Sierra Eschrich, who attended the event for a class, said she also found the event relevant to her coursework.

“I really like how my studies of history and political science were kind of tweaked by their take on (these issues),” Eschrich said.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.