New School News

Part of the Solution: Pioneering Activist Grace Lee Boggs Visits The New School

Grace Lee Boggs has been a leading force in social justice for more than 70 years. Photo by Boggs Center.

At this point in the continuing evolution of our country and of the human race, we urgently need , to recognize that we must each become a part of the solution because we are each a part of the problem. , Grace Lee Boggs, The Next American Revolution: Sustainable Activism for the Twenty-First Century

Over the course of the past year, New School students and faculty have been actively engaged in the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Through marches, teach-ins and other activities they have demonstrated a commitment to social justice that reflects many of the core values of the university. This weekend, The New School, through its Office of Social Justice Initiatives (OSJI) and Student Senate, will further these goals by hosting a rare New York appearance by Grace Lee Boggs, a pioneering activist, who at age 96, has participated in most of the significant social and political movements of the past century.

On Saturday, April 21, Boggs leads a workshop with 30 students who are involved in various forms of activism and organizing at The New School. This includes Melina Pelaez, a graduate student in Sociology at The New School for Social Research: [Grace Lee Boggs visit to campus] creates a space where students can gather for urgent, critical and meaningful conversation about political issues they care about, an alternative space outside of a classroom setting created by students for students.,

On Sunday, April 22, Boggs engages in a conversation at Tishman Auditorium with Pelaez and Bill Gaskins, a noted photographer, scholar, and teacher at Parsons and The New School for Public Engagement. The conversation takes the historic 1967 Martin Luther King, Jr. speech Where Do We Go from Here?, as a starting point. The event is free and open to the public, and the entire New School community is encouraged to attend.

I am part of the generation who basically said that if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem,, said Gaskins, who met Boggs in 2011, when she took part in his first cinematic project, The Meaning of Hope, inspired by a 1967 sermon by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. After participating in a workshop given by Boggs, Gaskins invited her to come to The New School. On the heels of the global Occupy movement, and The New School’s Occupy movement, I thought it was important to provide an opportunity for the students to learn what Grace says is ‘understanding the difference between rebellion and revolution’. Her method is very Socratic. She helps us realize that the answers to our questions are all within us, and we have more power than we realize. You are left with a greater sense of responsibility rather than a sense of burden in her presence.,

Larger social justice initiatives at The New School include a university-wide committee composed of students, faculty, and staff, and an administrative office (OSJI) overseen by the Provost. There are fundamental questions we need to be asking at this moment because of what we represent as an institution,, says Jesse Villalobos, associate director of Social Justice Initiatives. What are our individual and collective roles in bringing about social justice, here and in our society? And in what ways might we be advancing or hindering equity? Having Grace Lee Boggs on our campus is an opportunity to engage with someone who has been involved in so many social movements that have shaped us. She brings a wealth of experience, knowledge, and wisdom, all of which are imperative when we think about intergenerational collaboration. As Grace often says, another world is not only necessary, but another world is happening.,

Beyond the event, OSJI and the Social Justice Committee have been engaged in organizing leadership workshops for students, a yearlong faculty learning series and a curricular research project. In addition, the OSJI has just launched a blog that serves as a hub for the university and wider community on these issues, with a resources section about racial, economic, and gender justice, and information on how to get involved in these initiatives. For more information, including details about the Grace Lee Boggs event, visit the Social Justice Initiatives Blog.


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