Detroit Public Square: Readers' Choice
Best Local Social Activist
Grace Lee Boggs
Published: April 9, 2014
At 98, Boggs has earned the title “living legend.” The daughter of Chinese immigrants, she earned a Ph.D. from Bryn Mawr and then went on to make her mark as a lefty intellectual, a feminist, and a social activist. She’s co-written three books — including collaborations with husband Jimmy Boggs, who died two decades ago ago — and authored two books on her own, including a remarkable autobiography titled Living for Change. In 1994, she co-founded Detroit Summer, “a multi-racial, inter-generational collective” that serves as a training ground for activists, attracting young people from around the country each year. And her longtime home on the city’s east side has been transformed into the nonprofit Boggs Center, which was created “to nurture the transformational leadership capacities of individuals and organizations committed to creating productive, sustainable, ecologically responsible and just communities,” as described on its website. “Through local, national and international networks of activists, artists and intellectuals, we foster new ways of living, being and thinking to face the challenges of the 21st century.” In her view, the crumbling of Detroit represents the failure of capitalism, and its rebirth will come not from the actions of elected leaders, but through action at the grassroots level, building up. She’s one of the reasons the urban agriculture movement is now a key part of the city’s regneration. In progressive circles around the world, she is revered. And here at home, we know that she’s truly the Best.