Eight years ago amid the heat of a Detroit summer, legendary Chinese American scholar-activist Grace Lee Boggs sat in her Eastside home with a small group of Black, white, and Asian American activists to discuss the changing racial dynamics in the city and the nation. At the age of 99, she had a lifetime of experience to reflect upon. For most of her life, Grace had established her reputation as a movement organizer in the Black community, in partnership with her husband, Jimmy Boggs, a Black autoworker from the Jim Crow South.
By her eighties and nineties, however, Grace began to speak more directly to and about Asian Americans, as she did in her home on that day in the summer of 2014. “I think when you’re an Asian American, you’re not regarded as very significant,” she said. “But I think we have to change our thinking about that.”
This was, to the best of my knowledge, the final recorded address Grace made to any grouping of people before she entered hospice care. Today—June 27th, 2022, and 107 years to the day Grace Lee Boggs was born above her family’s restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island—I want to reflect on the dual challenge she presented to us in that address in 2014. Why did she choose this moment to condemn the dismissive attitude toward Asian Americans? How was she calling for us—Asian and non-Asian alike—to “change our thinking”?
The Next American Revolution by Grace Lee Boggs and Scott Kurashige
By Guest Contributor: Michelle Lyu
The article was originally published on the Organization for Positive Peace blog.
History is changing and the minds of Asians are bending as they search for a world beyond whiteness. The crises of 2020 exposed America’s moral failure to regard its own people as human. Meanwhile, despite tremendous Western propaganda, China has not perpetrated the kind of imperialistic wars which have marked centuries of rule by the West and is instead seeking to govern on the civilizational value of peace. As America slips from dominance as the world’s predominant military, economic and political superpower, China is poised to take its place as the new global power with a new leadership, guided by moral principles rather than sheer might.
Within America, Asians are on average the most successfully integrated immigrant group into the dream of white elite life. Young, educated Asians are placed at the helm of productivity and expertise within prestigious American universities and corporate business. Liberal media and institutions celebrate the inclusion and visibility of western-thinking Asians in the name of diversity. Many young Asian Americans achieve ultimate material success early in their careers as academics and professionals yet they live in spiritual crisis, unable to reconcile their place, purpose and identity as people who have subsumed the damaging ideals of the west. In reality, an Asian who has ‘made it’ is strategically positioned by the American ruling class to serve as a bulwark of American empire by defending and propagating western ideology, which assumes dominance and exploitation of the darker nations of the world.
Grace Lee Boggs on a poster for CAAMFest 2014. (Photo credit: Flickr / Erica Mooney, https://www.flickr.com/photos/24325464@N06/)
By: Scott Kurashige
Twenty years ago, I wrote to Grace Lee Boggs completely out of the blue. She had no basis for knowing who I was or what I was involved in. In fact, I had only recently learned about Grace through the research of my friend, Jung Hee Choi.
In the spring of 1998, I was 27 years old and officially a PhD student at UCLA. However, I had little prospect or expectation that I would finish my degree or become a professor. Instead, my life revolved around student activism and community organizing. Foreshadowing the Trump counterrevolution at the national level, Pete Wilson’s terms as governor served as the last reactionary gasps of power from the white soon-to-be minority and the conservative political forces in California.
Similar to today, we activists were toiling 24/7 to organize protests and build the resistance. Communities of color led a series of massive, inspirational demonstrations in response to Propositions 187 (attack on immigrant rights), 209 (banning affirmative action), and 227 (outlawing bilingual education), as well as police brutality and assaults on workers rights. Nevertheless, we fretted that we were constantly on the defensive—not just from the Republicans in California but also from the Clinton administration’s pursuit of corporate globalization, mass incarceration, and neoliberal austerity measures.
I was convinced we needed a revolutionary movement; and I would do my part to ensure that Asian Americans would step up and join with other communities of color at the forefront of the struggle. Much of my time in this period was devoted to organizing two connected events held in Los Angeles in May 1998. The “Serve the People” Asian American community activism conference brought several hundred people to UCLA to recount the historical lessons of movement building and share strategies from contemporary organizing.
Giving Tuesday typically publishes a database of non-profit organizations that will receive your donations, but I’ve found in the past that AANHPI were woefully underrepresented. So, for the last several years, I have published my own (long, but not comprehensive) list of quality AANHPI non-profit organizations to support for Giving Tuesday. This year is no exception: after the jump you’ll find 2015’s updated list of great AANHPI-focused non-profits.
Before we get to the full list, however I’m going to give you my personal top five picks for 2015. This is, of course, a tough list to make since I think every organization in the larger list deserves our charitable support.
Reappropriate’s 2015 Giving Tuesday Top 5:
CAAAV: Organizing Communities is one of my favourite local-level, community organizing non-profit groups. Founded in 1986 in response to a spate of anti-Asian hate crimes, the group has metamorphosed into a powerhouse for NYC-area community organizing, with a specific focus on interracial and interethnic coalition-building for fair housing and tenants’ rights. Not only does CAAAV do essential grassroots work, but I’m particularly struck by their unapologetic framing of their work as part of a larger fight to combat institutionalized anti-Blackness and anti-Asian racism.
The Sikh Coalitionis one of several groups that have done stellar work this year highlighting instances of anti-South Asian (and, often, anti-Muslim) hate crimes, and advocating for victims and their families. I choose The Sikh Coalition for particular attention given how I have personally relied on their campaigns this year to keep me abreast of news on this front; other noteworthy groups also doing this work include SALDEF and SAALT.
NAPAWF is a national organization that focuses specifically on advocacy for AANHPI women, with one of their primary interest areas being reproductive rights. They have been very active in elevating the voices of AANHPI women in the current fight to defund Planned Parenthood, and even in the fierce urgency of the moment with regard to the fight to preserve abortion access, NAPAWF has done an excellent and necessary job injecting race into the national conversation.
Boggs Center was given a place of honour in my 2014 Giving Tuesday list, but I feel it necessary to once again include it in this year’s Top 5, in memory of Grace Lee Boggs whom we lost earlier this year. Boggs’ legacy of social justice and activism indelibly changed the modern Asian American Movement, and the Boggs Center continues to do important community work in the Detroit area.
I encourage you to make a Giving Tuesday donation this year to one or more of the listed organizations in this post. You can either join me in giving to one of my 2015 Giving Tuesday Top 5 (above), or you can pick any of your favourites from the larger list of equally deserving organizations (after the jump)!
Don’t see your favourite organization on the list? Please leave a comment to have it added!
The headline says it all: shame on Asian American House Representatives Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Ami Bera (D-CA) for casting votes earlier this evening to essentially block 10,000 Syrian refugees from resettling in the United States.
Earlier tonight, the House passed the sweeping bill (HR.4038, or euphemistically, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act) which would have placed such severe restrictions on the process of admitting refugees from Syria or Iraq as to essentially block their entry. The bill’s author claimed that the legislation was designed to protect America from national security threats posed by incoming refugees, yet refugees are already subject to the most stringent, and one of the lengthiest, vetting process of any incoming immigrant group. Since 2001, 750,000 refugees have been admitted and resettled in the United States, and none have gone on to commit an act of domestic terrorism.
Nonetheless, House Republicans authored and passed a bill that blocks entry of refugees from Syria and Iraq — refugees who desperately need our help — and they did it with legislative language crafted to explicitly target a specific group of people for exclusion based on their ethnic origin.