Ten Lessons from Years of Activism
In Detroit Community Struggles and International Solidarity
And “Lessons in Grace,” a Poem Celebrating the Life of Grace Lee Boggs
By Gloria House, Ph.D. (aka Aneb Kgositsile)
Presented at the Panel on Detroit Movement History
United States Social Forum
COBO Convention Center, Detroit
June 23, 2010, 6:30 p.m.
1.Your priorities for struggle arise out of the deepest aspirations, hopes, needs of the people with who you are united. These deeply felt needs and aspirations provide the powerful energy for revolutionary struggle, and they offer greatest capacity for generating qualitative change in social conditions.
2.Work with those most severely injured by the recklessness of imperialism and the effects of the global economy as we are experiencing them currently. With our brothers and sisters who are suffering most, we will be able to correctly identify the priorities of our work.
3.Respect the cultural, religious and spiritual realities and allegiances of the people with whom you are working. These important characteristics of the community will influence the forms the struggle will take. Stay true to those cultural realities. Stay indigenous, stay local. Remain rooted in the culture(s) of the people with whom you are working. This rootedness and deep understanding of the struggles of the community where you are will prepare you to be truly in solidarity with distant, international struggles. Avoid imposing imported ideas/formations from other situations. Then watch closely to see how in your daily practice established cultural patterns will be modified, will evolve into new forms that respond to the current needs of the community. Study the new genres and directions being created by the youth. Examine with them which new directions lead toward a higher humanity, which do not.
4.Remain independent and self-determining. Avoid corporate/foundation funding if possible. These funds require/influence you to conform to others’ interests and expectations.
5.Protect and secure the children – through alternative educational processes designed to free their minds and prepare them to be creators of a new world; through determined actions against police brutality, war, and militarization of our cities; through working for food security and decent housing.
6.Build principled alliances and collaborations. Require the powers (transnational corporations and ruling class) to fight on many fronts at once.
7.Allow for human weaknesses such as egotism among our fellow activists, but when enough is enough, say so!
8.Work for balance in your personal life and in your community. Don’t wreck your health by assuming that you have to do more than you can manage. However, when you commit, try to follow through. Be reliable.
9.Love and protect those who stand by you, and send out love to universe through affirmations, and by living mindfully, aware of our relation to and dependence upon the natural world. The love will come right back.
10.Trust that no matter how insurmountable a social change task appears, there are ways to resist and to eventually create alternative ways of living. Though the impact of the global economy of the transnational corporations has dismantled vital aspects of our cities and communities world-wide, remember that the wrecked terrain that has been left offers us a field of opportunity for rethinking, recreating, claiming a higher quality of human life. Of course, this requires our greatest effort of collective work and responsibility, of hope, and of unswerving faith in the people’s ability to make “a way out of no way!”
Lessons in Grace
(For Grace Lee Boggs,
Chinese American Revolutionary, on Her 75th Birthday)
by Aneb Kgositsile
Face like stone sculpture,
Features rounded, softened by the wind.
The flesh concedes to weathering,
but the eyes will not relinquish
their keen measuring of the world
where you have chosen
to put down roots.
From you we learn
the costs of commitment,
the clarity of courage;
how, even, to withstand the trivia
that assails a spirit in search of sanity.
You are the lesson of balance, grace:
where to invest
to forward battle or fashion beauty,
where to withhold;
bold when strength is wanted,
silent when words are futile;
knowing when to be gentle
because there is pain,
where to object
because there is deceit.
inscribes this terrain of human striving
who would travel the road
you have braved.
You planted your life
in African American soil.
Now it seems
China and Africa
are married in you.
The example of your life
weds us to the whole world.
From Shrines, Third World Press, Chicago, 2003.