"Redefining {R}evolution" by Grace Lee Boggs

As we enter the second decade of the 21st century, we are blessed with the opportunity to redefine {r}evolution to help us resolve seemingly insoluble problems of national, state and personal budget deficits.

This has become clearer to me since reading a final field study paper by a university student who interned with Growing Power in Milwaukee and then spent a few days in Detroit.

Here are some excerpts from her paper:

"I am not writing this paper in order to spout abstract anarchist statements about revolution in America. I am interested in pointing out where the system has failed us, and where ordinary people are stepping in to try, as Grace Lee Boggs puts it, 'to create the world anew.' I will be discussing the model of social change embodied by Growing Power, Sweetwater Foundation, and Walnut Way Community Conservation Corporation in Milwaukee, as well as by the independent and inspiring activists I encountered in Detroit. I will analyze the concepts of resistance and change in terms of changing paradigms in economics, education, health and the food system, and community.

In Blessed Unrest Paul Hawken speaks of the threshold we have reached in our human existence as we move towards a 'fundamental change in understanding about our relationship to nature and each other.' At this point in time it is not about the left or right, it is about creating something entirely new. It is about a solution-based {r}evolution made up of millions of voices and neighborhoods, hands and feet and breath and dust, people old and young. The face of this {r}evolution has no color, no name, and no form but that of a people and a world crying out to survive during a time when this is no longer an outcome that can be taken for granted.

In Blessed Unrest Karl Polanyi explains how in only a few hundred years, nature and the earth became reduced to the commodity of land, people and their work to the commodity of labor, and capital to the power of the purse. 'We are in the midst of a great transformation back,' says Grace Boggs, 'from land into earth, and from labor into work. We have to do this, because thinking of earth as land has created a huge ecological crisis. We have to make this change, because jobs are no longer available (due, among other things, to outsourcing and automation).'

Will Allen, founder of Growing Power, has focused a great deal of energy and attention on job creation in his community, framing urban agriculture as a growing industry rife with employment opportunities, and creating jobs through alliances with the Milwaukee Public Schools and the Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board. Through these alliances, Growing Power is able to provide job training and internship and employment opportunities to the youth who are a part of the community that Growing Power is striving to uplift. Detroit is a city left by the wayside to fend for itself. But the residents of the city are slowly seeing that when the alternatives offered from the outside fail, it becomes necessary to look within ourselves and our own communities to step up and create new options. The citizens of Detroit are doing this by recognizing that social capital is as valuable a resource as any.

Wayne Curtis and his wife Myrtle, founders of Feedom Freedom Growers, stopped waiting for answers from the outside, and started growing food on a small piece of land beside their house that had been vacant for over 20 years, in a neighborhood of boarded-up houses, empty lots, and liquor stores. They eat the food that they grow, and sell the surplus at markets and to local restaurants interested in supporting local farmers. There are now over 1,000 community gardens in the Detroit area, It is not a utopian situation or a thriving economy by any means, but people are surviving in Detroit and coming up with their own solutions to their very real economic woes.

Martin Luther King spoke of "beloved community," an idea that Grace Lee Boggs continues to nurture in her vision for how we must relate to each other in this world, re-creating community that has been lost in this age of electronics and survival of the fittest, in the age of industry and machines where many people have been taught to work more for money than for the well-being of themselves and their fellow peoples."

Published on January 8, 2011 by BoggsBlog.org

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is a philosopher and social activist. She's also the author of Living for Change: An Autobiography and a board member of the Boggs Center.

Richard Feldman

is an community activist and board member of the Boggs Center.

is founder and CEO of We Want Green, Too!

Myrtle Thompson and Wayne Curtis

are co-founders of Feedom Freedom Growers.

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