Grace Lee Boggs Sees a Looming “Great Sea Change”

Grace_Lee_BoggsPhilosopher-activist Grace Lee Boggs (1915-2015) was active in social change for over 75 years, most of that time in Detroit. She lived a life of creative social change as a participant-witness to the great social struggles of our time.

The following quotes are a sample of Grace’s take on the prospects and possibilities for our future.

1.   The struggle we’re dealing with these days, which, I think, is part of what the 60s represented, is: how do we define our humanity?

2.  The physical threat posed by climate change represents a crisis that is not only material but also profoundly spiritual at its core, because it challenges us to think seriously about the future of the human race and what it means to be a human being.

3.   The quagmire of war, the outsourcing of jobs, the drop-out of young people from the education system, the monstrous growth of the prison-industrial complex… the planetary emergency which we are engulfed at the present moment is demanding that instead of just complaining about these things, instead of just protesting about these things, we begin to look for, and hope for, another way of living.

4.   People are aware that they cannot continue in the same old way but are immobilized because they cannot imagine an alternative. We need a vision that recognizes that we are at one of the great turning points in human history when the survival of our planet and the restoration of our humanity require a great sea change in our ecological, economic, political, and spiritual values.

5.   In order to grapple with the interacting and seemingly intractable questions of today’s society, we need to see ourselves not mainly as victims but as new men and women who, recognizing the sacredness in ourselves and in others, can view love and compassion not as some “sentimental weakness but as the key that somehow unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality.” (Martin Luther King Jr.)

6.  I was privileged to participate in the great humanizing movements of the last century, but I can’t recall a time when the issues were so basic, so interconnected.

7.   Can we build an America in which people of all races and ethnicities live together in harmony, and Euro-Americans, in particular, celebrate their role as one among many minorities constituting the multiethnic majority?

8.  The world is waiting for a new dream… We are shaking the world with a new dream. Feel it! Guard it! Treasure it! These opportunities do not come often.

9.   It takes a whole lot of things. It takes people doing things. It takes people talking about things. It takes dialogue. It takes changing the whole lot of ways by which we think.

10.  These are the times to grow our souls. Each of us is called upon to embrace the conviction that despite the powers and principalities bent on commodifying all our human relationships, we have the power within us to create the world anew.


Many of these Grace Lee Boggs quotes are from the Heroes of a Better World website.

Visit the website of the Boggs Center, a longtime nexus of progressive social change in Detroit, where Grace and Jimmy Boggs lived and organized together.

Read WagingNonviolence.Org’s article: “Boggs Standard Time – In Detroit and Beyond.”

Grace’s last blog post concludes with her classic refrain: “I want people to ask themselves and each other what time it is on the clock of the world.”