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RE-Imagining power

By Grace Lee Boggs
Special to the Michigan Citizen

Last month, veterans of the movements of the 1960s met in Greensboro, N.C., the city made historic by the February 1960 sit-down of four Black students at a Woolworth lunch counter.

They founded a National Council of Elders (NCOE), composed the Greensboro Declaration and agreed to launch it at simultaneous press conferences on Sept. 12 in three cities: New York, Washington, D.C. and Detroit.

I was unable to attend the Greensboro gathering but plan to participate in the Detroit conference at the New Bethel Baptist Church, which has been organized by Detroit elders Gloria House and Ron Scott.

At this conference we will be highlighting key passages from the Greensboro Declaration:

–  “Our country is gripped by an interlocking, multi-layered economic, educational, social, political and moral crisis. This is part of a worldwide crisis that reflects the end of the industrial era.”

-“As a new era dawns, we are challenged, therefore, to not only hold political and social leaders accountable but we the people must strive, with love at the forefront to forge more democratic, just and creative structures and ways of living that are consistent with the emerging era that affirms the dignity, worth and unrealized potential of all the people of our country.”

In highlighting these passages, we will be sharing with younger generations the most important lesson we learned in the ‘60s:

–  That power is in the people, not in the capitol or the Oval Office. In the ‘60s, Congress and the president acted only after rights had been won on the ground. Thus the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1964 only after the right to vote had been won at the grassroots by thousands of Blacks who risked their lives to register and to found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

–  Likewise, the Vietnam war was formally ended because the Viet Cong had defeated the U.S.-backed forces and thousands of American youth had torn up their draft cards at public rallies, declared themselves “conscientious objectors” and that the Viet Cong had never called them “nigger.”

At the press conferences we will inform people that in Detroit, a city devastated by de-industrialization, thousands are already engaged in developing post-industrial ways of living — e.g., growing their own food and creating community safety by bringing the neighbor back to the ‘hood. The documentary “We Are Not Ghosts” provides the most complete picture of the many inspiring activities at the grassroots level. “Requiem for Detroit?” a BBC documentary, is available for free viewing on the Internet.

In his acceptance speech at the recent Democratic National Convention, President Obama suggested a tantalizing similar re-imagining of power when he said, “The election four years ago wasn’t about me. It was about you.”

Conventional wisdom tells us that the U. S. presidency is the most powerful position in the world. That is why so many people struggle to achieve it for themselves or for one of their own.

But while Obama enjoyed the trappings of power during his four years as president, he also suffered incredible powerlessness.

That is why re-imagining power and revolution is an idea whose time has come.

Contact Grace Lee Boggs at boggscenter@boggscenter.org

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