Tuesday, March 4, 2014
In 2000 award-winning Korean-American filmmaker Grace Lee met Grace Lee Boggs while making The Grace Lee Project, a documentary that explores and debunks stereotypes about Asian American women who share the same name. Not content with a single interview, American Revolutionary Director Grace Lee went on to spend the next ten years filming Boggs in her home city of Detroit, an evolving relationship that has proven fruitful for both women. The daughter of Chinese immigrants who owned a restaurant in New York City, Grace Lee Boggs studied at Barnard and eventually received her Ph.D in Philosophy at Bryn Mawr. Despite her credentials, Boggs, as an Asian woman, was not able to get an academic job much less a position in a department store. She decided to move to Chicago where she could get a low-wage job at the University of Chicago Philosophy Library. While living on Chicago's south side, she started working as a tenants rights organizer within the African-American community -- her introduction to a lifelong commitment to activism.
Boggs eventually moved to Detroit, where she met her husband James ("Jimmy") Boggs - an African American autoworker and activist. Together, they formed a partnership that engaged them in the major U.S. social movements of the last century: from labor to civil rights, to Black Power, the environmental justice movements and beyond. Although Grace Lee Boggs is most well known for her involvement in the Black Power movement, her scholarship and actions defy easy categorization. In the years since James' death in 1993, Grace has become an icon in particular for Asian-Americans as well as activists of all stripes. As Director Grace Lee wrestles with this hybrid political legacy, she dives into Grace Lee Boggs's past as well as her identity as a Chinese-American woman, a background that Boggs herself has only recently acknowledged in her work. More than a decade in the making, this portrait of an author/activist whose work has touched multiple communities and generations, will appeal widely to college students.