Please support our programs

Grace Lee Boggs in Conversation with Angela Davis — Transcript, web extra only

Never miss a show! @ symbol icon Email Signup Spotify Logo Spotify RSS Feed Apple Podcasts

TRANSCRIPT (web extra only) see below.

A conversation between Grace Lee Boggs and Angela Davis at University of California, Berkeley in 2012.

“On Revolution: A Conversation Between Grace Lee Boggs and Angela Davis” on Friday, March 2nd 2012 at Pauley Ballroom, University of California, Berkeley

Part of the 27th Empowering Women of Color Conference,
‘A Holistic Approach: Justice, Access and Healing’

ANGELA DAVIS: First of all it’s really good to see you Grace it’s an unimaginable honor for me to share the stage with you this afternoon.  I would like to begin by acknowledging the Indigenous people who are the original inhabitants of the land on which we meet this afternoon.  And let us never forget that our presence here is very much related to the genocidal violence inflicted on this area’s native people and if we stand for justice we must stand for justice for native people in the 21st century.

Now, I have to say I received incorrect information.  I was told we would each speak for half an hour and then engage in conversation so I’m going to have to cut my remarks.  I also want to thank Scott Kurashige who as you know collaborated with Grace Lee Boggs on her last book and he is the one who I met at an American studies conference somewhere and suggested we engage in conversation and I said it would be the absolute honor of my political life to engage in public conversation with Grace Lee Boggs.  I’m also really happy that this is part of the Empowering Women of Color Conference.  I spoke last year, I spoke in 1995, in 1992 and also in 1985.

We are speaking this afternoon about revolution.  I want to first say that I came to revolutionary struggle through the Black freedom movement.  And I say this in vast appreciation of the contributions that Grace Lee Boggs and her late husband James Boggs made to the Black radical tradition-

I was very fortunate to grow up in a family of activists.  My mother was very active in a whole range of struggles in the Southern Negro Youth Congress in the campaign to prevent the Scottsboro 9 from being executed.  I must say when I became involved in organizations like the Black Panther Party both my mother and father were quite upset especially because they perceived figures like Stokely Carmichael, Kwame Toure, H Rap Brown with whom I was associated as inappropriate revolutionaries.  And I say this because I want to make the point that radical and revolutionary movements always have to be spearheaded by young people.  And by those who are not afraid to identify with the boldness and imaginativeness and courage of young people.

And I really agree with the point that Grace always makes that we have to move beyond the stage of merely protesting the oppressions in this world and we have to begin to imagine what a fundamentally transformed society would look like, not only what it would look like, what it would feel like?

I mention the Black radical tradition in an important moment in my own trajectory in revolutionary struggle.  I think it’s important that we acknowledge that this was not simply by people of African decent but by people of many racial, ethnic national backgrounds and especially women of color.

And we know that Grace Lee Boggs has played an absolutely formative role in the forging of what we call the Black radical tradition. And because we are in Berkeley in the Bay Area- I also want to mention Elizabeth Betita Martinez and I want to mention Yuri Koshiama

We’re talking about revolution this afternoon and I think the major point that I would like to offer you is that revolutionary approaches require us to open up and make our ideas and our movements broader and more capacious so that what is revolutionary is not narrow and exclusive but rather broad and inclusive.  And the linkages and connections we must make if we are attempting to move toward revolutionary struggle are of the sort evoked by women of color feminism. We all know the term ‘intersectionality’ now.  And I think that radical women of color feminists especially those whose feminism is inflected with Marxism have produced some of the most important revolutionary ideas and strategies.  Now I was going to talk a little about the Black radical tradition and the fact that it is recognized all over the world.

There are perhaps two struggles that have this kind of international stature and that is the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and the Black freedom movement in this country.  I mention them not because they are the most important struggles but simply because people are aware of them.  There is probably no one on the planet who has not heard the name Nelson Mandela.  And probably very few people on the planet who don’t recognize the name Martin Luther King.  I’m mentioning this because first of all we here in the US, because although the Black radical tradition was forged in the Americas we cannot claim that tradition because it belongs to everyone.  I want to mention very specifically the Palestinian people because as we know last November young Palestinians associated with the BDS movement, Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement, decided to desegregate public transportation in the occupied territories.  They were inspired by the freedom riders of the 1960s of 1960.  As a matter of fact they boarded buses that were meant for the exclusive use of Jewish settlers that were meant for the exclusive use of Jewish settlers within the occupied territory of Palestine and they were arrested. And others challenged the roadways because there are highways that are only intended..

Is that ten more seconds?

I’m going to try to speed this up… So the point that I’m making is that the Black struggle for freedom here in the Americas has profound implications for people in other nations, for other people of color for people struggling for freedom everywhere, for members of LGBT communities, for women of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, for working class people, for people with physical and mental disabilities.  We can also think about the implications of that struggle for our current efforts to save the environment as Grace Lee Boggs has been to doing for some time.  And to save the environment not only for generations of human beings that will hopefully follow us but also for generations of non-human beings.

And I also want to invoke food politics.  Why does the food we eat poison us? Instead of nurturing our bodies and our minds.  How many people have diabetes and heart disease as a direct result of consuming industrially produced food that is designed to produce profit more than it is designed to nourish our bodies our minds and our souls.

In November I had the opportunity to participate in several of the major occupy mobilizations here, in Oakland as a matter of fact.  How many of you were there?  The general strike?  I think that when we experience such moments we have to preserve them for the revolutionary promise that they offer. Obviously revolution is not going to happen in a single day or a single year.  But there are moments that inspire us.  I can remember on that day looking around at the people, at that gathering – the march- it was multi racial, it was multi ethnic, it was multi gender it was multi generational .  There was something very palpable about the community of resistance that we were forging.  And what is most encouraging about the upsurge in activism in the recent period,  Including in Wisconsin, let us not forget the workers struggle in Wisconsin. In Cairo in New York.  What is most important is that perhaps for the first time since the 1930s that we saw depicted in the wonderful film about Grace Lee Boggs that we saw-  is that perhaps for the very first time since the 1930s we can speak openly and publically about the perils of capitalism.

And so what Grace Lee Boggs calls the ‘New American Revolution’- and you should really read the book- that revolution will have to be a feminist revolution- a feminist of color revolution- against capitalism against racism against hetero-patriarchy.  And it will have to be a revolution that emphasizes education and  health and an end to the prison industrial complex.

Let me conclude by saying that if we pose revolutionary demands for justice- our demands for justice will lead us to demands for prison abolition and our demands for prison abolition will lead to demands for free quality education and our demands for free quality education will lead to demands for free quality healthcare and housing and an end to racism and sexism and homophobia and transphobia.  And all of this requires us to think very seriously about the role that capitalism plays in this.

And as I conclude I would like to pay tribute to the great Black feminist revolutionary poet June Jordan who spent the last years of her life teaching students on this campus how to produce poetry for the people.   She was a great revolutionary poet and she was the one who wrote the words ‘we are the ones we have been waiting for’.  Thank you

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Thank you all for coming.  And thank you women of color planning this event.  How are we doing?  It’s a fantastic time to be meeting and talking about revolution.  You know, to come and listen to two women who are both philosophers and activists that’s quite privileged too.  I’m a very old woman.  I was born in 1915 in what was later known as the 1st world war- two years before the Russian Revolution.  And because I was born to Chinese immigrant parents and because I was born female- I learned very quickly that the world needed changing

But what I also learned as I grew older was that how we change the world and how we think about changing the world has to change. When I was about, when I was in college and shortly thereafter, most people looked to the Russian revolution as the model of revolution- but that was beginning to change.  And in the 30s the Italian Marxist Gramsci began to talk about revolution not as an assault on state power

And not as a war of movement but as a war of position- where there was much more horizontal than vertical where we transform ourselves and our institutions and challenge the cultural hegemony of the ruling class.  And that began to change concepts of revolution and how we internalize that enormous and important change and recognize that that is now what we have to talk about today

In the 1950s Einstein said the splitting of the atom has changed everything but the human mind and thus we drift towards catastrophe.  and he also said that imagination is more important than education.  In other words the time has come for us to reimagine everything.  We have to reimagine work and go away from labor.  We have to re-imagine revolution and get beyond protest- we have to re-imagine revolution and think not only about the change not only in our institutions but the changes in ourselves..  We are at the stage where the people in charge of the government and industry are running around like chickens with their heads cut off.  And it’s up to us to reimagine the alternatives and not just protest against them and expect them to do better.

We are at the point of a cultural revolution in ourselves and in our institutions that is as far reaching as the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture 11 000 years ago and from agriculture to industry a few hundred years ago.  How do we re-imagine education? How do we reimagine community? How do we re-imagine family? How do we re-imagine sexual identity?  How do we re-imagine everything, in the light of a change that is so far reaching and that is our responsibility to make?  We can’t expect them to make it. We have to do the re-imagining ourselves.  We have to think beyond capitalist categories. We have to reimagine.

And how do we do that?  We do that, I have found, by combining activism with philosophy.  And that’s why it’s so important that Angela and I are here on this platform.  We are both philosophic activists we are both activist philosophers.  We can’t think any more that all we have to do is act- we have to do a lot of thinking, we have to do a lot of imagination

We have to do what I call visionary organizing.  We have to see every crisis as both a danger and an opportunity.  It’s a danger because it does so much damage to our lives, to our institutions to all that we have expected.  But it’s also an opportunity for us to become creative for us to become the new kind of people that are needed at such a huge period of transition..  That’s why it’s so wonderful to be here today- that we dare to talk about revolution in such fundamental terms.
I came to Detroit nearly 60 years ago and since that time I’ve lived in the same house most of the time.  When I came to Detroit there were 2 million people there.  The Chrysler plant where my husband worked, employed 17000 workers within another year.. I mean outside my house if you threw a stone up in the air you’d hit a Chrysler worker on the way down… Within the next year the 17 000 workers dwindled to 2000.  And within a very short time, automation high tech- was eliminating the jobs that had made Detroit the arsenal of democracy during World War Two

How do we grapple with a change as remarkable as that? How do we take advantage of high tech to create a new mode of production.  How do we use it to make ourselves more self- reliant and more productive?

We have to reimagine work- we can’t talk about jobs any more.  We can’t beg for jobs or hope for jobs.  And we have to recognize that jobs in the industrial period were actually a way to fragmentation of our humanity.  And we began to depend on higher wages and consumer goods to compensate for our dehumanization.  We have to create forms of work that create community and expand our humanity.  I mean that’s where we are!

And that’s why we have to talk about revolution these days.  We have to get rid of the old ideas of leadership and followership and use our imaginations to create the new.  We have been lucky in Detroit- that out of the devastation of de-industrialization, we have recognized the need to create a post-modern, a post industrial society.  We are doing that, and I urge you to come to Detroit this July and get the idea and share the experience of the American revolution we are creating.  And to begin your own visionary organizing back in your own community.  We have the opportunity, we have the challenge in this period of the clock of the world, to create a new humanity, to create a new society to create a whole new paradigm of education.  We have to think of education and young people not as a problem but as a solution. We have to enlist them in the solutions to the problems of our communities.  That’s a whole new way of reimagining of youth and the relationships between generations.  And that’s an enormous challenge, that’s an enormous task.  And it’s up to you.  I’m very old, I’m  very hard of hearing-  I’m very shaky on my feet.  Thank goodness <INAUDIBLE> is here captioning everything that is said so I can read it because my eyesight is better than my hearing. And, alright, that’s all I have to say.

Now, where do we go from here?

ANGELA DAVIS: May I ask the first question? I was totally impressed by your notion of transforming the very nature of work- because of course we find ourselves in a period with rising unemployment.  The tendency is simply to demand more jobs.  Also with education the tendency is to demand greater access to education- but we don’t necessarily ask ourselves what needs to be transformed about education and what needs to be transformed in the way we conceive of work.

I was always really impressed by Marx’s notion that through our labor we externalize our own creative impulses and that actually work should be fulfilling- workers should possibly be able to have the same relationships with that which they produce as artists have with their art.  And because you brought up the issue of technological innovation and automation and so forth it occurred to me that we really need to talk about a shorter workday.

It seems to me that by now given all the struggles for shorter work days that have been going on for decades and decades and some how or other we got stuck with 8 hour day.  I don’t understand why we didn’t go to 6 hours- and from there why we didn’t go to 4 hours.  By now the work day really should be 4 hours, even if the work isn’t as fulfilling as we’d like it to be, we would have the rest of our time to engage in more creative and more fulfilling activities.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: It seems to me that we don’t need to talk only about the hours of work but about the difference between they way women look at work and the way you have a job.  You have jobs that demean you, that dehumanize you that fragment you. That make you an appendage to the machine-and we make up for it by demanding higher wages or shorter hours.  What we need is the kind of work that women do not counting the hours because they care- and that’s a real transformation from a patriarchal concept of work to a matriarchal concept of work.  And that’s where we are.  I mean, we are so deeply fundamental in terms of our human identity at this moment.  Until we approach this moment with that challenge in mind we’re going to get lost.

ANGELA DAVIS: It reminds me I was in Colombia about a year ago. I had the opportunity to visit a community in La Toma which is outside Cali. A large community of African descended people who lived on top of this mountain and the Colombian government was trying to evict them from their land.  Almost everybody there was a miner, a gold miner.  As a matter of fact their history was of being brought from Africa as slaves to do gold mining.  I was so impressed by the relationship they had with their work.  They were engaged in the kind of gold mining that does not affect the landscape you could hardly tell that gold mining was being done. Women were miners, and children were miners.  And the women we spoke to said they felt they had been miners ever since they had been in their mothers’ wombs.  And they loved the work of mining for gold.  It struck me because I don’t think I ‘d ever heard anyone talk about that kind of relation to work unless that person was an artist.  In the process of doing this mining as I said before, they did not disturb the landscape at all. The entrance to the mine was about half the height of a human being so you could not even tell that the area was being mined.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I think that’s a wonderful example of the paradigm shift that we need to make.  If we can think of the work as the work that the artist does and the love of the material and the vision that he or she has instead of thinking of the way we have colonized material, we have colonized people, we have colonized the earth.  I mean, the abuse that we have done not only to each other not only to people of color but to ourselves to people of humanity is horrendous.  And to recognize how horrendous that has been and therefore the need to create an alternative that is more human is the kind of revolution we need to make.  And all the good that the Occupy Wall Street movement has done- I don’t think their language their ideas are profound enough.  They are against the corporations, rightly, they are against the greed and the avarice that corrupts our society. But the need to imagine an alternative in philosophical and human terms the need to grow our souls, to say that proudly and unashamedly to talk about the kind of tremendous human transformation we have to make.  We must be courageous enough to think that way, and to talk that way and to relate that way

ANGELA DAVIS: I do think that the Occupy phenomenon is important- but it isn’t a solution it’s an opening it’s a beginning…

GRACE LEE BOGGS: How do we take advantage of the opening?

ANGELA DAVIS: Exactly.  That’s the question: how do we take advantage of the opening?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Let’s all talk about that

ANGELA DAVIS: One of the things I heard people saying was ‘there are a lot of homeless people around the encampments’- but why wouldn’t there be homeless people around the encampments?  One of the things I thought was important when there were 900 encampments in cities around the world- was that people who were relatively affluent had to learn to cohabit the same space with homeless people and begin to work through strategies of being together.  And again I think that was a promise, that was a moment of promise. Maybe I’m the inveterate optimist.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: No- I think you’re right.  When we stopped just marching and stayed in one place and began to face the issues we were challenged with, like the homeless, we could move. Imaginations of a new way of creating a harmonious society were challenged.  And that’s where we are. It’s a wonderful, wonderful time to be alive.

ANGELA DAVIS: I totally agree with you. Those of us who have been around for a little while- I’m often referred to as an Elder- I’m not sure exactly what that means-

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I know what it means! It means being hard of hearing!

ANGELA DAVIS: But I also think it means that you’re expected to have the kind of wisdom that you’ve imparted today.  You’re expected to…perhaps… sometimes I feel those of us who are older are expected to be the people who young people want to be approved by- and I think that can sometimes be problematic.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Well, I had six young people come to do an interview with me this morning.  I’m really very happy about this moment.  The human race has evolved because we have not had the segregation of the generations- but in the last period that’s what we have suffered.  I think the segregation of the generations, is more.. I shouldn’t use a comparison, it’s extraordinarily destructive and the young people really want to bridge that gap and that’s why I’m still here.

How many old people are in this room? Raise your hand! How do we reintegrate the generations- lets begin tomorrow to do those things, those very human things to begin creating those relationships that we need to evolve to continue evolving- let’s see that as our work.  Martin Luther King said we must rapidly make the transition from a thing oriented to a person-oriented society.  Let’s take that as our challenge. How do we take responsibility for all our security? How do we restore the neighbor to the hood.  How do we take responsibility for growing our own food instead of depending on these huge corporations which use all this gas and produce global warming, and also produce polluted contaminated foods with additives.  These are very human questions- and the revolution has to be around questions like that and not just around how do I get more money.

ANGELA DAVIS: I’m really interested in the work you’re doing around food.  Because I think that that’s the next major arenas of struggle.  I’m sometimes really disappointed that many of us can assume that we are these radical activists but we don’t know how to reflect on the food we put in our own bodies. We don’t realize the extent that we are implicated in the whole process of capitalism by participating uncritically in the food politics offered us by the great corporations-

I usually don’t mention that I’m vegan but that has evolved… I think it’s the right moment to talk about it because it is  part of a revolutionary perspective- how can we not only discover more compassionate relations with human beings but how can we develop compassionate relations with the other creatures with whom we share this planet and that would mean challenging the whole capitalist industrial form of food production.  It would mean being aware driving up the interstates or driving down the 5, driving down to LA seeing all the cows on the ranches.  Most of people don’t think about the fact they’re eating animals.  When they’re eating a steak or eating chicken, most people don’t think about the tremendous suffering that those animals endure simply to become food products to be consumed by human beings.  I think the lack of critical engagement with the food that we eat demonstrates the extent to which the commodity form has become the primary way in which we perceive the world. We don’t go further than what Marx called the exchange value of the actual object- we don’t think about the relations that that object embodies- and were important to the production of that object whether it’s our food or our clothes or our I-pads or all the materials we use to acquire an education at an institution like this.  That would really be revolutionary to develop a habit of imagining the human relations and non human relations behind all of the objects that constitute our environment

MODERATOR:  If you could tell us- about this concept that Grace talks about growing our souls in community by building community?

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I first used the concept of growing our souls about 10 years ago in a speech. Radicals don’t usually talk about souls- but I think we have to be courageous enough about what I mean by souls. What I mean by souls is the capacity to create the world anew which each of us has.  How do we talk about that with one another? Because it’s important to talk- it’s not only important to act, it’s important to talk because when you talk you begin to create new ideas and new languages.  We’ve all been damaged by this system, it’s not only the capitalists who are the scoundrels who are the villains, we are all part of it.  And we all have to change what we say, what we do, what we think, what we imagine

MODERATOR: Angela if you can also say what resonances that has for you, thinking about souls and growing in community?

ANGELA DAVIS: I can say very briefly that in this era of neoliberalism we have all learned to imagine ourselves as individuals it is as if we have forgotten that we are always members of communities.  I’m totally seduced by your notion of growing the soul- and growing a soul that experiences itself in the context of communities and collectivities there is the tendency to think of ourselves as isolated individuals and of course this is what the capitalists have achieved and capitalism is grounded in that notion that the individual, that the possessive individual is the primary unit of society- and if we are to move toward revolutionary approaches we have to relearn and I say relearn because I think somewhere deep inside we have to recognize that we are connected to each other and every single being on this planet so thank you so much for that wonderful notion of growing our souls and community.

MODERATOR: I also want to take advantage of having these two amazing intellects on stage today to help us think about nonviolence today. How do we produce change through non-violence? And are we talking about non violence on the individual personal level as well as the social.  What is the relationship that both of you see in the practices and politics of nonviolence on the personal level as well as the communal levels?

GRACE LEE BOGGS:  I think this relates to what we were talking about with growing our souls.  I was not a supporter of Martin Luther King during the early period, because I was in Detroit talking about Black power and Malcom.  But when violence began to break out amongst us I think we had to begin rethinking- why is non-violence such an important, not just a tactic, not just a strategy, but an important philosophy? Because it respects the capacity of human beings to grow- it gives them the opportunity to grow their souls and we owe that to each other.  I used to think of it in very political purely narrow superficial terms but you know you grow older you grow wiser.

ANGELA DAVIS: That’s a very complicated question for me.  Because when we raise the question of non-violence I think in the very first place we have to acknowledge the purveyors of the vast majority of violence in the world are the nation states with the vast militaries, the US government for example, Israel for example- yes we need nonviolence but I would say let’s start by abolishing the military and disarming the police.  Because it seems to me that so much of the violence that we inflict on each other- is linked in some way or another to that institutional violence.  And this is one of those wonderful insights of what has often been called women of color feminism- that private violence, or intimate violence or privatized violence is very much connected to institutionalized violence.  Violence in the streets is connected to violence in the suites- violence that happens in terms of sexualized violence- is linked to the fact that violent strategies are embraced by corporations and governments.  I think a truly revolutionary strategy would allow us to imagine ways of abolishing violence in all of its manifestations.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: All of you who are clapping; I suggest you do some more thinking!  You know, it’s a philosophic question it’s not just a tactical question.  When I was a Sophomore in college I decided to drop all my courses and take philosophy- if you had asked me what philosophy was all about I wouldn’t have been able to tell you I was only in my late teens. But as I’ve grown older I’ve realized that philosophy has to do with how we value ourselves as human beings and how we look at ourselves and how we relate to reality.

And it’s something that requires a lot of courage because everybody else wants to act.  And they quote ‘philosophers just contemplate reality the point is to change it’- my thesis on Feuerbach. But that’s a false counterposition.  And if we think about it a great deal more and talk about it a great deal more, we will learn that out of respect for ourselves and respect for each other nonviolence is something we have to embrace…and its taken me a long time to learn that

MODERATOR: I want to ask Grace and Angela if they would also say one more thing to us.  How do we work together in community- sometimes we ask ourselves ‘are we doing enough, is this group too small?’.  I’d just like to ask you your thoughts on grassroots community work and its impact on the larger kinds of social justice issues to which we’re committed

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I’d like to say something about the crisis we faced in Detroit in the 1980s.  In the wake of the rebellions a lot of violence had broken out in the city.  Out of many of the veterans who were coming back from the Vietnam War, we were developing a crack society a lot of crack, a lot of violence against one another- what Coleman Young proposed was that we should create a casino industry to create jobs- because he said a lack of jobs was responsible the violence. We said ‘no’ the alternative was to involve the young people in the rebuilding, the redefining, and the re-inspiriting of the city from the ground up and we created this program called Detroit Summer.  And Shea Howell was the co-coordinator of the first Detroit Summer and for many years after.  I think that is visionary organizing.  How do we rebuild, how do we redefine, how do we re-spriit our communities and one another-.  And we can’t say and expect Obama or Mitt Romney, whatever, to abolish the war in Afghanistan. They have put us in those wars they have created the crisis they are not going to solve it.  We’re the ones who have to solve it by creating another kind of society and by taking advantage of their helplessness and their powerlessness to do it.

ANGELA DAVIS: I’m going to say something that might be a little bit controversial.  Since we’re talking about revolution- I’m remembering when Obama was elected a little over three years ago and that was a moment that was so incredible for a few days the whole world was transformed- do you remember? I keep telling myself, I have to remember what it felt like to walk down the streets of Oakland and people who did not know would come up and hug you and people were singing in the streets and dancing in the streets- and of course we’ve forgotten that. An enormous amounts of grassroots organizing enabled that victory- that was a victory not of an individual but that was a victory of people all over this country who refused to believe that it was impossible to elect a Black person who identified with the Black radical tradition.  Everybody said it was not possible, the vast majority of Black people did not support Obama initially, they supported Hilary because Obama was unelectable.  The problem was I think we all assumed that was all we had to do; was elect him and then go back to doing what we were doing before.  The reason I said I’m going to say something controversial.  Is that I think that despite all the disappointments and we could go on and on and on about what Obama has not done- about Afghanistan, about Guantanamo, about healthcare and all of that… Exactly about immigrant rights, I mean the Dream Act which was this really puny Bill that would have been just a minor baby step in the direction  of immigrant rights, the rights of undocumented immigrants.

But anyway, what I’m going to say is I think we have to figure out how to prevent someone like Mitt Romney from being elected.  Let me just say one more thing, I think that this time around we have to engage in that campaign with our eyes open. And I say this as someone who never voted for a candidate representing one of the major parties until I voted for Obama.  That was the very first time I hadn’t voted for Communist, Peace and Freedom or Green or whatever.  And I think this time around we have to recognize that we’re not campaigning for an individual, we’re campaigning for ourselves.  Because as June Jordan says ‘we are the ones we have been waiting for’ and we can’t go home after election night, we can’t assume all is well.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: Let’s talk about that

ANGELA DAVIS: See I told you it was going to be controversial!

GRACE LEE BOGGS: The civil rights struggle was a tremendous victory to be celebrated.  But it created new contradictions- it created a Black middle class, it created Black legislators, it created Black presidents.

ANGELA DAVIS: One Black president thus far!

GRACE LEE BOGGS: So how do we understand that every victory creates new and more challenging contradictions? How do we prepare for that?  How do we always think dialectically and recognize that one always divides into two.  Otherwise we get stuck.  And that’s why philosophy is so important.  To think dialectically and not biologically. Because the danger in society is to think biologically

ANGELA DAVIS: I totally agree with you on that.  I know we’re starting a whole new conversation and there’s a big sign saying ‘Finish’.  We haven’t had the opportunity this evening to speak very much about issues of gender and sexuality and the point you make about not thinking biologically is so important- we’re just now starting to realize how binary thinking about gender has completely allowed us to internalize the state.  And since you spoke early so eloquently about the need to transform ourselves how can we detect the extent to which the state is present in our heads, in our emotions, how are our emotions structured by that kind of binary biological thinking that you were talking about? So I just want to say that we need to think really deeply about issues of gender and multiple notions of gender. And what I find so exciting about being involved in revolutionary struggle is precisely what you pointed out Grace each time we win a victory, we have simply created a terrain for the recognition of a whole new set of issues. And so we cannot imagine where you will be fifty years from now, we can’t imagine how you will think about issues of gender, of race of sexuality.  And I think that possibility of infinite transformation is precisely what Hegel was talking about when he said that history is progress in the consciousness of freedom.

GRACE LEE BOGGS: I’d like to encourage folks to not only think dialectically and philosophically but also to think more about our brains about neuroscience- and about the capacity we have to think anew, but how we can only do that if we understand that there’s a tendency in the structure of our brains to get fixed in old categories to get locked into old concepts.  And that’s why philosophy is so important.  So I hope everyone will emerge from this conversation thinking dialectically, thinking philosophically, thinking about growing our souls.

Author: IreneFlorez

Share This Post On