Grace Lee Boggs: Looking Back at 2010

It was the worst of times

In 2010 joblessness and foreclosures reached record heights.  In cities like Detroit and Milwaukee, 50% of African American males, ages 18-60, were unemployed.

In Afghanistan Obama’s troop surge and U.S. air strikes were killing so many civilians that the Afghan people were viewing the U.S. military and NATO as foreign occupiers.

Meanwhile, most Al Qaeda operatives have scattered across the Mideast, Central Asia and Africa.  Only a few dozen remain in Afghanistan.  Yet our government continues to squander billions on the Afghan war, swelling government deficits and fueling Tea Party discontent.

In the midterm election Obama was shellacked because, stuck in a dysfunctional and obsolete political system, he has no inkling that another world is not only both necessary and possible but in the making, and that our national security depends not on a war vs. terror but on our continuing to make it known that this other world is in the making

But it was also the best of times.

In June 20,000 people, believing that another world is both necessary and possible, came to Detroit for the 2nd USSF.  Once here, they were surprised and delighted to discover that Detroiters are in the process of creating a 21st century self-healing, sustainable city from the ground up, growing our own food in over 1000 community gardens and turning war zones into peace zones to bring the neighbor back to the ‘hood.

Since then, it has been hard to keep up with the growing number of articles in national publications spreading the news of Detroit’s rebuilding, redefining and re-spiriting activities.  Journalists and documentary filmmakers are flocking to our city.

In March 2010 BBC aired Requiem for Detroit? A powerful Julien Temple documentary linking Detroit’s devastation to the rise of the auto industry and suggesting that with its decline Detroit is undergoing Rebirth.   So maybe we should be playing Beethoven’s “Ode of Joy” rather than Requiem.

In 2010 the number of loyal Detroiters multiplied when Robert Bobb, the Public Schools Emergency Financial Manager appointed by Michigan Governor Granholm, announced that he was closing dozens of public schools.

Outraged that this decision to gentrify our city was being made unilaterally from the top down, community parents  and school alumni rallied not only in defense of  their schools but for Democracy and Dignity, determined that we, the people and not politicians and bureaucrats,  will be the ones deciding the future of Detroit.

In 2010 it became clear that in Detroit we are faced with the choice between two roads: that of the old corporate class and that of democratic creatives.

Nolan Finley, editorial page writer for the Detroit News, summed it up it in his September 26 column after viewing the 32-minute “Detroit Lives” film from Palladium Boots hosted by “Jackass” star Johnny Knoxville.

“I’m part of a generation.” Finley wrote, “that sees Detroit’s future in reclaiming as much of its past as possible. Our version of renewal comes in billion-dollar packages funded by big sugar daddies.

“So I rolled my eyes at first when a young artist told Knoxville, ‘Detroit doesn’t need a savior. Detroit doesn’t need a big box store.’

“That’s the difference in mindset between the corporate class and the creative class.”

Grace Lee Boggs has been an activist for more than 60 years and is the author of the autobiography Living for Change.