At 99, Grace Lee Boggs is rather matter-of-fact when you ask her about aging: “It’s like preparing for disability,” she deadpans.
“You have a lot of time to think and a lot to think about. I have reflected more on particular episodes of my life than I ever thought I would.”
Boggs has had quite a life to reflect on. The story of the erudite daughter of Chinese immigrants who morphed into a civil rights and black power activist in Detroit is told in the documentary “American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs.” The film is an episode of the PBS series POV, airing June 30 (check local listings). It snagged the audience award for best documentary feature at the 2013 Los Angeles Film Festival.
Boggs and her late husband, James, an African-American auto worker and writer, worked together as community organizers and founded Detroit Summer, an intergenerational youth program. They’ve organized marches and rallies, encouraged inner-city youngsters and challenged the status quo. “He was an amazing man and an incredibly thoughtful writer,” Boggs says of the man she was married to for 40 years.
Boggs, a philosopher and prolific writer herself, has authored or co-authored six books and numerous articles that deal mostly with change and activism. She rises early each day and keeps on top of what’s happening in and beyond her beloved Detroit, which has seen its share of hard times. Although she never had children, she laments the fact that physical distance separates so many grandparents from their grandchildren, making intergenerational interactions between them few and far between.
Boggs has received plenty of accolades, honorary degrees and awards for her work locally and nationally, but she says she wants to be remembered as flexible and articulate. She pretty much had to be just that for the POV documentary. Cameras followed her around for months, capturing her thoughts, actions and reactions. But she adjusted. After awhile you get used to them, she says. “You just relax and enjoy it.”
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