Remembering Revolutionary Community Scholar Grace Lee Boggs (1915-2015)
It is with a heavy heart and great sadness that the UCLA Asian American Studies Center and Department read the news of the passing of the remarkable and revolutionary activist scholar Grace Lee Boggs. She is well-regarded for her bold theories in advancing social movements at the intersections of black radical thought, labor, civil rights, environmental justice, feminism, and praxis. For many in Asian America, Grace Lee Boggs is an inspiration and represents how Asian Americans, in particular female activists, could work in coalition with Black and other social justice movements.
Based in Detroit, she was a co-founder of Detroit Summer and the Boggs Center, but her impact was felt beyond that city. Grace Lee Boggs engaged students, researchers, staff, and faculty across the nation in meaningful discussions at universities, such as UCLA Asian Americans Studies and beyond. In 1970, she spoke at the Asian-American Reality Conference at Pace College in New York, and expressed, "Revolutionary students are those who have the courage both to develop and to internalize revolutionary ideas and to relate these ideas to the people in the community, to learn from them as well as to teach them." [December 6, 1970. Copy of talk provided by the UCLA Asian American Studies Center Reading Room/Library]
In 1998, the Center had the distinct honor and privilege of co-hosting a conference, "Serve the People: Asian American Community Activism", which featured Grace Lee Boggs along with legendary activists Yuri Kochiyama, Bill Gallegos, and Leon Watson in a plenary panel entitled, "Interracial Unity and the Struggle for Liberation". This event was organized by students and activists, such as Scott Kurashige, who was a UCLA Asian American Studies MA student at the time and is now professor at University of Washington, Bothell. Kurashige co-authored a book with Grace Lee Boggs -- The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century in 2011.
Grace Lee Boggs gifted us and future generations with a body of work and scholarship that is second to none. The Asian American Studies Center's Press was fortunate to publish a few of her rare and powerful works in Asian Americans on War and Peace and in Amerasia Journal (Issue 25:2 "Crossing the Color Line: The End of the 20th Century" and Issue 26:3 "Across the Colorline 2001"). Jennifer Jung Hee Choi also profiled Lee Boggs in the article "At the Margins of the Asian American Political Experience: The Life of Grace Lee Boggs" that was featured in issue Amerasia Journal 25:2.
Most recently, the Center, through the generosity of the Yuji Ichioka and Emma Gee Endowed Fund in Social Justice and Immigration Studies, co-sponsored a community event "Grace Lee Boggs: A Conversation on Revolution" in June 2013, which allowed Grace Lee Boggs to travel to Los Angeles and share insights on the direction and future of activism, in particular how we think about revolution and evolution. Lee Boggs teachings and scholarship remain among the most significant studies of how we critically think about race relations, capitalism and revolution in America.
Grace Lee Boggs died at the age of 100 in Detroit.
Our deepest condolences go out to her family and friends. May she rest in power and peace and the impact of her teachings and activism be remembered for generations to come.