August 22 + 23 | Roulette | Brooklyn

#Speech4Breakfast – Day 15

Grace Lee Boggs – “Building a Movement to Grow Our Souls”

Read by Jermaine Rowe

*We recognize that no figure, group, or movement is without complexity. In highlighting each of these speeches, we seek to honor first and foremost the act of speaking truth to power.

Over the last 60 years I have had the enormous privilege of participating in most of the great humanizing movements of the second half of the last century: labor, civil rights, black power, women’s, Asian American, environmental justice, antiwar. Each was a tremendously transformative experience, expanding my understanding of what it means to be an American and a human being, and challenging me to keep deepening my thinking about how to bring about radical social change. However, I cannot recall any previous period when the issues were so basic, so interconnected and so demanding of everyone living in this country, regardless of  race, ethnicity, class, gender, age  or national origin.

What is going to motivate us to start caring for our biosphere instead of using our mastery of technology to increase the volume and speed at which we are making our planet uninhabitable for other species and eventually for ourselves?

Where will we get the imagination, the courage and the determination to reconceptualize the meaning and purpose of Work in a society that is becoming increasingly jobless?

How are we going to redefine Education so that 30-50% of inner city children do not drop out of school, thus ensuring that large numbers  will end up in prison? Is it enough to call for “Education, not Incarceration” Or does our top down educational system, created a hundred years ago to prepare an immigrant population for factory work, bear a large part of the responsibility for the escalation in incarceration?

How are we going to build a 21st century America in which people of all races and ethnicities live together in harmony, and Euro-Americans in particular embrace their new role as one among many minorities constituting the new multi-ethnic majority?

And, especially since 9/11, how are we to achieve reconciliation with the two-thirds of the world that increasingly resents our economic, military and cultural domination? Can we accept their anger as a challenge rather than a threat? Out of our new vulnerability can we recognize that our safety now depends on our loving and caring for the peoples of the world as we love and care for our own families? Or can we conceive of security only in terms of the Patriot Act and exercising our formidable military power?

We live at a very dangerous time because these questions are no longer abstractions. Our lives, the lives of our children and future generations, and even the survival of the planet depend on our willingness to transform ourselves into active planetary and global citizens who, as Martin Luther King Jr. put it, develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual society.

So it is not only idealism but realism that calls upon us to seize this opportunity to engage Americans in widespread and wide-ranging conversations to explore the ideas of Dr. King to help us redefine what it means to be an American in the 21st century.