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Sovereignty, solidarity, (r)evolution: Lessons from the Sunflower Movement

sunflowerBy Marcia Lee
Special to the Michigan Citizen

Have you heard of the 300-plus young people who took over their legislative halls in response to the ruling party’s dismantling of democracy through the selling and giving away of the resources of the people? Have you heard of the 500,000 people who rallied because of the violence of the police in the executive hall and to say they will no longer allow their homes to be sold out from underneath their feet?

You probably have not heard, because mainstream media has not been properly reporting. But doesn’t this sound similar to the ways in which Detroiters’ rights and resources are being continuously taken by those in power?

On March 18 young people in Taiwan took over their legislative halls. They did so in response to a trade agreement with China that would effectively strip the Taiwanese of their sovereignty for the sake of quick economic growth. The name comes from the sunflower because it follows the movement of light. Sunflowers are also used to remove poisonous chemicals and heavy metals from soil. As we in Detroit live with the aftermath of industrialization and decisions being made for the sake of quick economic growth, we can learn from the sovereignty, solidarity and (r)evolution in the Sunflower Movement.


The Taiwanese people were conquered in the 20th century by the Japanese and the Chinese. In both, there was violent oppression of people’s rights. Since Taiwan has become a democracy, they have relationships with other countries, and yet, Taiwan has not been recognized by the United Nations. This trade agreement with China would strip the Taiwanese of their ability to self-govern.

In Detroit, we have lost control of our schools, government, and pensions. We may lose our water, art and much more. We can learn from the Taiwanese in their deep sense of identity and their clear struggle for sovereignty.


The young people have stood not only against the taking of their own sovereignty, but also in solidarity with those who are marginalized in their own society. Indigenous Taiwanese, LGBTQ, and other groups, who have been marginalized in the past, have been welcomed and their struggles voiced in the movement. In addition, they have reached out to other countries for allies.

In Detroit, we can easily surround ourselves with people who live like us and think like us. Let’s take this example of solidarity to reach out to other groups who are marginalized in Detroit.  Let’s also reach out to allies and invite them to support our process.


Grace Lee Boggs talks about true revolution as the re-evolution of ourselves, our community, and our world. (R)evolution is not about protests or taking power, but a deep transformation of the soul. This is what the Sunflower Movement is doing. When the government was willing to engage, they left the legislative halls peacefully. When they vacated the premises, they not only declared that they would continue the fight, but they also vacuumed and took out the trash. They are in study groups to learn about their own history and how other people around the world (r)evolution.

This is not a competition of who is stronger, but one of deliberate, persistent, and compassionate change. We cannot fight as if ‘the other’ is not our kin. In Detroit, we have to stand firm in our values and invite those who are dismantling our sovereignty to change themselves.

The Sunflower Movement is not perfect and neither are we. We can learn from each other, but only if we educate ourselves not only on what is happening in our beloved Detroit, but also in the rest of the world. We must stand in solidarity and invite others to do the same. Then, the (r)evolution will grow and we can create a more just and compassionate world.

Marcia Lee is a Taiwanese Detroiter. 

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