Monday, March 2, 2009
Grace Lee Boggs and the call to action
Grace Lee Boggs is a force to be reckoned with! Born to Chinese immigrants in Providence, RI in 1915 she made a life of activism -fighting for the rights of all people through labor, civil rights, black power, asian american, women's, and environmental justice movements. Her achievements are so wide ranging that I was really surprized I'd never heard of her before. Yet, even today, ninety four years, later she's saying what needs to be said.
In this video from about a year ago she talks to Amy Goodman (Democracy Now) about her hopes for Obama. Its interesting to hear someone whose seen so much explain her support of him. Though she acknoweldges that Dennis Kucinich has much better policy plans, she's direct enough to point out that Obama has the leadership qualities that people need to feel inspired, and that is what will eventually put policies into place. Yet, the most important point she makes is that change and progress depend on all of us taking an active role in the direction of our country... filling the roles of local leadership and "and reassessing what it is within our capacity to do."
One of my favorite authors, Naomi Wolf, put out this book last fall about what we can do to start actively participating in our democracy. Give Me Liberty gives an explanation of the concept of democracy that our country was founded on, for instance that the Declaration of Independence is not so much about what we deserve but that we have a duty to hold our government accountable when they abuse their power. The latter half of the book is dedicated to explaining direct and practical methods for participating in local government. This is especially important to remember in a time when everyone seems to be watching and judging Obama's moves. The direction of our country depends on more than just the president.
Everyday I've been meeting people who confuse Obama's stimulus package for a big bandaid in an effort to not think about whats happening on a local level. Lately, for a job I've been working for the Working Families Party. I've mostly been working on the issue of the New York State budget deficit. Governor Paterson's proposed budget would cut huge amounts from schools and hospitals, not to mention other health services, senior centers, and the police force (and tuition increases for SUNY and CUNY). So we've been getting New Yorkers to write their state senator asking them to instead support the Fair Share Tax Reform Plan which would follow the example of states like Connecticut and New Jersey in creating a more progressive tax system to help bear the burden of the NY budget defecit. Yet, every day I talk to people who only follow the huge headlines of Obama's latest move - which won't protect them from the cuts to so many state services.
Involvement doesn't have to involve something so extreme, as Lee Boggs points out it could involve starting a community garden or simply being open to a dialogue.
As Grace Lee Boggs herself says "I think we have to rethink the concept of "leader." 'Cause "leader" implies "follower." And......I think we need to appropriate, embrace the idea that we are the leaders we've been looking for. "
Here's a video a co-worker made about what we're working on. You can see me around the 1:06 point looking like I'm thinking about something.