Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Civil Rights Activist Grace Lee Boggs, a Champion for the People, Dies at 100

Grace Lee Boggs. Credit: Quyen Tran.

Grace Lee Boggs. Credit: Quyen Tran.

October 5, 2015–Grace Lee Boggs died peacefully in her sleep at her home on Field Street in Detroit this morning. She had recently celebrated her 100th birthday at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.

“Grace died as she lived, surrounded by books, politics, people and ideas,” said Alice Jennings and Shea Howell, two of her Trustees.

Ms. Boggs was an internationally known philosopher activist for justice. She had been politically active since the 1930’s working with A. Phillip Randolph’s first march on Washington and later C.L.R. James. For 40 years she worked closely with her late husband James Boggs in advancing ideas of revolution and evolution for the 20th and 21st Centuries.

Grace Lee Boggs and Norman Mineta at the OCA Convention in Atlanta in 2000. Photo by Lia Chang

Grace Lee Boggs and Norman Mineta at the OCA Convention in Atlanta in 2000. Photo by Lia Chang

She helped organize the 1963 March down Woodward Avenue with Dr. Martin Luther King and the Grass Roots Leadership Conference with Malcolm X. Grace Lee Boggs was active in Labor, Civil Rights, Black Power, women and environmental justice movements. Later, with her husband James, she helped organize SOSAD, WePros, Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, Gardening Angels and Detroit Summer. Ms. Boggs was a founding member of the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership and was a strong advocate for place based education and supported the James and Grace Lee Boggs School.

American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, a documentary by filmmaker Grace Lee, garnered a George Foster Peabody Award in May. Click below to view the film.

President Obama released a statement at the news of Ms. Boggs’ passing.

“Michelle and I were saddened to hear of the passing of author, philosopher, and activist Grace Lee Boggs. Grace dedicated her life to serving and advocating for the rights of others – from her community activism in Detroit, to her leadership in the civil rights movement, to her ideas that challenged us all to lead meaningful lives. As the child of Chinese immigrants and as a woman, Grace learned early on that the world needed changing, and she overcame barriers to do just that. She understood the power of community organizing at its core – the importance of bringing about change and getting people involved to shape their own destiny. Grace’s passion for helping others, and her work to rejuvenate communities that had fallen on hard times spanned her remarkable 100 years of life, and will continue to inspire generations to come.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Grace’s family and friends, and all those who loved her dearly.”

A memorial celebrating her life will be forthcoming.

Ming Cho Lee, Martin Yan, Grace Lee Boggs, Margaret Fung, Helen Zia, Jack Tchen, Judge Thomas Russell, Fay Chew Matsuda at the MoCA Benefit Dinner in New York City in 2002. Photo by Lia Chang

Ming Cho Lee, Martin Yan, Grace Lee Boggs, Margaret Fung, Helen Zia, Jack Tchen, Judge Thomas Russell, Fay Chew Matsuda at the MoCA Benefit Dinner in New York City in 2002. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia Chang and Grace Lee Boggs at the OCA Convention in Atlanta in 2000.

Lia Chang and Grace Lee Boggs at the OCA Convention in Atlanta in 2000.

I was fortunate to have met Grace at the OCA Convention in Atlanta where I received the Organization of Chinese Americans 2000 Chinese American Journalist Award for an article that I had written about my mother, Bev Umehara, a prominent union labor activist.

Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and Hide and Seek.
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Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.
All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2015 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

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