Civil rights icon Grace Lee Boggs has graced the planet for nearly a century, and she’s still growing.
But on the same day the nearly 98-year-old shook a fist, smiled and — more than once — advised youngsters in the room to “see revolution as evolution,” she signed up for Twitter. Move over, Kanye West.
Boggs, one of this year’s V3con honorees, joined MSNBC dayside anchor Richard Lui for a conversation about race, politics and activism for V3con’s closing. But age was the string of the conversation, sponsored by Union Bank. Boggs often pointed toward fresh faces in the audience, who nodded briskly as she told her own story, which started in Providence, R.I., in 1915.
“You’re a lot younger than me,” Boggs said, “but not than I was when I got started.”
She talked about her husband, James Boggs, who died in 1993. The two were a force for reuniting broken neighborhoods in Detroit, which Boggs still calls home.
Which of her husband’s words, Lui asked, resonate today?
Without missing a step, Boggs recited, like a sermon.
“He said, ‘Nobody knows how to run this country better than me.…’ and people sort of snickered. He said, ‘You better think that way. You better stop thinking like a minority, because when you think like a minority you think like a victim.’ We have to start seeing ourselves as responsible for what’s happening now and in the future and see that as an opportunity and as a challenge rather than burden.”
The only time Boggs paused was when Lui asked if she’d learned anything recently.
“It’s no fun being old,” she said. “I hope you all grow old also. It’s amazing — on the one hand people pity you. You’ve been very active, and then all the sudden you’re physically disabled. You’re dependent and yet, particularly in the Asian American community, you are honored.”
Afterward, the crowd stood up. People clapped. The show was over, and it was time for Boggs to start signing autographs.
But she wasn’t done. Lui put the mic back in front of her.
“These are the times to grow our souls.” And then she waved.
What exactly did she mean? She’ll save that for her next order of business.
Photos by David Schub