Barbara Stachowski – accept the Max Mark-Cranbrook Peacemaker Award on behalf of Grace Lee Boggs.

My name is Barbara Stachowski and I am honored to accept the Max Mark-Cranbrook Peacemaker Award on behalf of Grace Lee Boggs.

I am a member of the Board of the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership.

Barbara  StachowskiAt the Boggs Center we strive to create a safe space for multigenerational conversations to develop the transformational leadership capacities of individuals and organizations to foster new ways of living, being and thinking for the 21st Century.

Grace had really hoped to be here today but she is flying back from New York as we speak. Grace was in New York for the New York City premier of her documentary “American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs” at the DOC NYC film festival.

The film has been winning awards at festivals across the country and will air on PBS’s POV program in 2014. The film documents Grace’s 70 years of activism and her strong belief that ideas are important.

If Grace were here, she would say, “I am a very old woman, with very few teeth and three hearing aids, BUT, I still have most of my marbles!”

And, boy, does she know how to use those marbles! Walking into Grace’s flat, there is a feeling of anticipation, joy and, sometimes, mischief, as you peek around the corner and spy her in her chair. As she makes eye contact with you, her face lights up in anticipation of the conversation most likely to ensue.

The game of marbles is on! One realizes very quickly how keen and sharp her attention is as she authentically engages WITH you. This is a conversation, not a lecture. And, once engaged, YOUR marbles have been IMPACTED! You are then energized to go forward and carry on the dialogue with another through quantum human connections. And, most times, you will be given a reading assignment by Grace.

There were three main influences in Grace’s life.

Grace’s late husband, James Boggs was a southerner from Alabama whose mother taught him how to “make a way out of no way.”

Grace and Jimmy knew that, by themselves, they were nobody. It was only in relation to other bodies and many other somebodies that we are anybody!

Malcolm X challenged audiences to think differently about their lives. Grace admired that Malcolm was able to embrace change toward the end of his life.

MLK taught Grace that nonviolent resistance is important because it respects the ability of others to change. King spoke of the need to create the Beloved Community by undergoing a radical revolution of values. King knew young people needed to get involved in local urban projects. To this end, Jimmy and Grace founded Detroit Summer in 1992.

Detroit Summer is an intergenerational multicultural youth program/movement to rebuild, redefine, respirit Detroit from the ground up.

Grace and Jimmy knew that young people needed to learn a new sense of time. Turning vacant lots into gardens can teach us that real change takes time.

In glorious celebration of that, Julia Putnum, who was 16 years old and the first Detroit Summer volunteer in 1992, recently opened the James and Grace Lee Boggs School on Detroit’s east side.

Grace explains, “Today we need to combine learning with work, political struggle, community service and even play.” The students at the Boggs School are not being educated to get OUT of Detroit. Rather, these students are learning to be solutionary revolutionaries. They are taught to be of use in community and make Detroit an even more wonderful place to be.

Grace’s book, “The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the 21st Century”, coauthored by Scott Kurashige, is being used increasingly at universities across the country. Marygrove College has made it required reading for all incoming freshman and the Wayne State Center for Peace and Conflict Studies will be using it in its Social Change and Conflict class.

The Peacemaker Awards given today are given to individuals who are not only peacemakers in their own right. Their gift is that through their words, music and activism, WE become peacemakers by making quantum human connections as we go through our own lives expressing our passions in our own voices.

One Detroit philosopher, without even being aware, touched the hearts and minds of countless South “Afrikaans” at the height of Apartheid and helped them see the reality of what “The Establishment” was. Rodriguez did this not by using fancy political rhetoric, but by using lyrics like, “A monkey in silk is a monkey no less.” Simple, elegant.

As the War in Iraq rages across the ocean, Ron Scott, with whom I am honored to serve on the Boggs Board, embraces the young people desperately engaged in the War on Mack and challenges them to de-escalate violence and create Peace Zones for Life.

Finally, Grace would ask us to always to remember that ideas are important. Grace wrote these words….

We are the children of Martin and Malcolm

Black, Brown, Red and White

Our right, our duty

To shake the world with a new dream.

Thank you.


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