“Do something local. Do something real, however small… We are the leaders we’ve been looking for.” Grace Lee Boggs
I enjoyed watching another video of Grace Lee Boggs. Her words and person emanate through my field placement at the James and Grace Lee Boggs School. Her legacy runs deep in Detroit. When she spoke of revolution, she talked from a place of having seen the aftermath of revolution and wondering if that reality is the future that she initially sought. This revolution she spoke of in her later years, however, had likenesses to a garden more than a wrecking ball. Revolution was not simply the overhaul of old systems, but also the [r]evolution of the human soul, one in which people understood their worth and the worth of others. I liked the imagery she spoke of of the garden, where the cultivator relates to the earth in a way that sees the passage of time differently. The analogy of the garden also resonates with the vision of seeds of hope that are cultivated quietly and patiently, of “small groups making a cultural revolution.”
As a fairly young person, transplanted to Michigan for reasons only known to God more than myself sometimes, I’ve asked myself repeatedly, how do I make a difference? What’s helpful, but also, how do I make a living? Meeting David, my future husband, has shifted my perspective profoundly. More so than before, I’m thinking of how to best support our future family and life together, of jointly partnering with him and paying off our student loans together. So many Millennials like ourselves feel saddled by student loan debt. It’s a lot of pressure, and it’s frustrating. Acquiring student loan debt was easy, but now we’re left paying them with interest and the repercussions are yet to be fully seen.
Ultimately, I know we’re going to be okay. I’ll find meaningful work, soon hopefully, and I know that I can do something local, and something real, even if it looks small to everyone, including myself. Change, as Grace admonished, takes discussion and doing things. We have to remember that “we are the leaders we’ve been looking for.” And hope for better certainly grows.
But just because we are working “quietly and patiently” doesn’t mean we’re working without fire and grit. And it doesn’t mean that we work with oppressed spirits, head down and discouraged by life. Clearly, that’s not what she means. Instead, we are people very much living and thriving in hope, because a new horizon is closer than we believe.
One very tangible way that we live hope is through intergenerational partnership. The article by Wernick (et. al.) regarding Participatory Action Research and theater correlated nicely with the work at my field placement as I learn to foster a youth leadership group to welcome people to the school. Not only am I figuring it out as I go, I’m thinking about how to make the work sustainable, even when I leave. It is a great challenge, because in some ways I started laying down the tracks without knowing where they were heading. In hindsight, there are certainly things I would do differently, but I suppose that’s part of what an internship is for. I’ve been doing more research now on the meaning behind youth leadership and “scaffolding youth capacity,” and am even considering what more work like this would look like in the future.
Another aspect of living with hope, but also working actively for change (aka revolution), is understanding that the battle is not physical as much as it is spiritual. I understand Grace’s words in this way, but also know that what we’re up against in terms of confronting corporate greed, political indifference to real lives of human beings, division within our own homes and private spaces. The article by Castells mentioned that “torturing bodies is less effective than shaping minds,” but if you are only living for the day and moment, then it doesn’t matter how many bodies are broken as long as you get yours for you and your people. I suppose that’s part of what makes effective dictatorships, when a dictator is able to tap into the psyche of the people and catalyze on their rage or fear to dehumanize others. Many dictatorships have manifested change, but when those reigns end and rulers fall, the aftermath is truly devastating.
What is the revolution that we’re seeking? Collectively? Individually? What is the vision that drives you, me, and how do we work together for good? I certainly think its possible, but returning to the garden, it takes conversation and cultivation. But with time, patience, and lots of hard work, I see how these seeds of hope grow.