Grace Lee Boggs died today at the age of 100 — and what a life she lived.
The globally respected Detroit-based activist and philosopher wasn't just special because she was a legendary leader in the 1960s Black Power movement as a Chinese American woman.
And it's not just because she was still fiercely loving and supporting young people through her award-winning youth program in Detroit at the age of 100.
And it's not just because she refused to be put into an "cause" box, seamlessly using her voice for education reform, anti-racism, environmentalism, urban revitalization, and countless other issues that she saw as all undeniably connected.
Nope. Grace's greatest contribution to those of us who care about making the world a better place is that she was, above all, a thinker. She didn't believe in mindlessly doing in the name of good. She knew that we had to think deeply and critically about the world around us. Her deep commitment to the role of philosophy in social change led her to ideas that didn't just help wage political campaigns or fights — they helped people live better, richer lives.
But you don't have to take my word for it.
Hundreds of people have shared what they learned from her life using the hashtag #GraceLeeTaughtMe.
Here are just a few more lessons she taught us:
Grace knew we couldn't stand on the sidelines and fix a society that we don't believe is our own. Her idea is simple yet profound: In order to make things better, we must dig in and take responsibility.
Grace always remained committed to the city that she believed held so much beauty and power. Times changed, the city changed, the nation changed — but through it all, she never abandoned her beloved city even as it became the national poster child for blight and neglect. Grace always saw the beauty of its landscape and its people and never stopped believing in it. She knew where she belonged.
Grace will forever be known as an activist who believed in the necessity of self-transformation. She once said that being human didn't just happen because we dropped out of a womb. It wasn't just a biological assignment. It was a practice — something we have to work at and can always grow to be better at. According to Grace, that work — the work of becoming more human and changing ourselves — is essential to changing the world.
To Grace, activism wasn't just about a political goal or a social outcome. She believed there was beauty and value in the process of working together, of building community, of changing ourselves in order to change the world.
This one pretty much speaks for itself.
Grace's life was a life of love...
...a love for the world that she was so determined to fix and a love for the people that she was blessed to share the planet with. She will be sorely missed. But as she rests in peace and power, we'll reflect on all she taught us. And we promise to never forget.