I didn’t know what I was expecting the Boggs Center to look like, but it definitely wasn’t one house amongst many others in a residential neighborhood; the house’s red and brown exterior gave no hints of the electric conversations and discussions happening within its walls. Find The Boggs Center, founded in the 1990s by friends of Grace Lee and James Boggs, in Detroit, Michigan. Grace Lee Boggs, born in 1915 to Chinese immigrants, recently left us in 2015 with a legacy I can’t begin to give justice to in less than 400 words.
Boggs lived a life as an activist and philosopher. She went to study at Barnard College, then received her Ph.D. from Bryn Mawr College. Taking on a job at the University of Chicago Philosophy Library, Boggs became involved in the Workers Party and in the African American community. In 1953, she married fellow activist and from then on, lifelong partner, James Boggs. After moving to Detroit, the couple continued to support the Civil Rights Movement and Black Power Movement (Boggs worked with key figures like Malcolm X). Boggs and her husband went on to write a number of books on community activism, focusing on lived experiences in Detroit. Her life is documented in the 2013 film, American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs.
Along with 10 other Georgetown students on an Alternative Spring Break trip, I went on a Boggs Center tour around Detroit. I saw firsthand the development of factories in Detroit, and how modes of production continue to physically and economically distance themselves from communities. Gates went up, and community interests were pushed aside with the arrival of capitalistic interests (see: 1981 demolishing of Polish community in Detroit to make room for a General Motors Detroit/Hamtramck Assembly plan). Our tour guide stressed a society ruled by militarism, materialism, and racism, the last of which shares an intimate relationship with capitalism.
Our guide drew eerie similarities between the brutal Detroit wind and the worsening effects of privatization and capitalism for locals around us. How do we, as Georgetown students, contribute to this system, and what does active resistance look like for us?
For more information on Grace Lee Boggs, James Boggs, and the activists continuing their legacy, please visit http://boggscenter.org . The Boggs Center is a non-profit community organization aiming to help activists through providing a space for development of ideas and strategies, with the goal of rebuilding communities from the ground up.