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“I Am Coming to the End of a Long Journey”: Legendary Detroit Activist Grace Lee Boggs in Hospice

StoryOctober 10, 2014
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As we broadcast from Detroit, Michigan, we get an update on Grace Lee Boggs, the 99-year-old activist, author and philosopher based in Detroit. She is considered a legendary figure in the struggle for justice in America. Throughout her life, Boggs has participated in all of the 20th century’s major social movements — for civil rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights, and has inspired generations of local activists. In 1994, she co-founded Detroit Summer, “a multi-racial, inter-generational collective” that functions as a training ground for activists, attracting young people across the country each year. Boggs has been in hospice care at her Detroit home, largely bedridden after taking a bad fall last month. She recently posted a statement on her website that read in part, “I am coming to the end of a long journey — a journey that began over 70 years ago at the beginning of World War II.” We broadcast an excerpt from our 2011 interview with Boggs, and speak with her longtime friend, Alice Jennings, who is one of two people in charge of her care.

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StoryApr 14, 2011Grace Lee Boggs on Detroit and “The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century”
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to, finally, switch gears a bit and ask you about Grace Lee Boggs.


AMY GOODMAN: She stated recently on her Facebook page, “I am coming to the end of a long journey—a journey that began over 70 years ago at the beginning of World War II.” Grace is now 99 years old. She is the well-known activist, author, philosopher, based in Detroit. And as she has dealt in her life with grace, I think you could say, like her first name—

ALICE JENNINGS: Mm-hmm, with much grace, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: —she is talking about transitioning now.

ALICE JENNINGS: Yes, and with the same bravery that she stood and marched in front of drug houses and organized labor movements. And it’s very difficult for us who are very close to her, but she’s taken it on.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re in charge of her care?

ALICE JENNINGS: I am one of the two people. Shea Howell is also her other trustee. And we’re just trying to love her and make her as comfortable as we can. But she’s still saying, “What time is it on the clock of the world?” And we’re accountable to make sure we continue the type of work she and James Boggs were known for.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to a clip of Grace Lee Boggs talking about Detroit.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I moved from New York, where I had lived a good deal of my life and where I went to school, to Detroit, because I thought that the working class in Detroit was going to rise up and restore, reconstruct the city. And I arrived at a time when the population was beginning to decline, when the working class was shrinking. And I had to begin learning from what was taking place. And that learning process is something that a lot of people are undergoing.

And I think it’s very difficult for someone who doesn’t live in Detroit to say you can look at a vacant lot and, instead of seeing devastation, see hope, see the opportunity to grow your own food, see an opportunity to give young people a sense of process, that’s very difficult in the city, that the vacant lot represents the possibilities for a cultural revolution. It’s amazing how few Americans understand that, even though I think filmmakers and writers are coming to the city and trying to spread the word.

AMY GOODMAN: Grace Lee Boggs took a fall last month, and she is in hospice care at home. Rarely do you talk about someone as directly saying they’re dying, but Grace is acknowledging this.

ALICE JENNINGS: She is, and, in the face of it, trying to let us know what it’s going on and what it’s like. And we’re—again, we’re just there with her and loving her up.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Alice Jennings, I want to thank you for being with us, lead attorney for Detroit residents fighting against the city’s controversial campaign to turn water service off for unpaid accounts, also a board member of the James and Grace Lee Boggs School and a close friend of Grace Lee Boggs.

That does it for the show. I’ll be speaking at the Lensic theater in Santa Fe, New Mexico, tonight. I’m Amy Goodman, broadcasting from Detroit.

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Grace Lee Boggs on Detroit and “The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century”

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